Musings at 40,000 feet…

A80CBC07-052A-4CC9-91D2-84D41D78F9EA.jpegAs I write, am on flight back home to India after 100 day on/off tour of APAC countries….Singapore, Dubai and Melbourne before I take off for Kathmandu in few days. As always my lens to view, observe, reflect and comment on a what I see during my travels is culture. Only this time, it’s the culture of posturing, positioning and pitching. Whether I visited mega diversified conglomerates, worked with technology giants, partnered with small home run businesses or just spent time with local families, what struck me most is the way they are branding themselves, most of all these cities.

Singapore is all about the core values and intangibles assets of its people. Brand Singapore hits you the moment, the wheels of your aircraft hit the tarmac. It has fought their its way out of non-entity status and smallness into becoming a thriving, glittering economy, a shining case study for several global economies. Singaporeans have deeply engrained the value of honouring multiracialism, with fanatical focus on continuing learning and reskilling. Sojourners to this island-nation are now stayers. Every Singaporean is it’s brand ambassador.

Dubai on the other hand believes that brands are about people working together towards a shared purpose. It’s putting its people at the center of its vision and making a assertive statement that they have embarked on a journey to achieve ‘happiness’ for all who reach its shores. In fact, UAE has not only appointed Minster for AI but for happiness and well-being as well. Happiness per them is the ultimate metric of success. If a country’s brand can create that illusion to begin with and then make it into a reality, it’s pull will be like that of a siren drawing both trade and tourism to its shores. What a brand story.

Then there is Melbourne who has what it calls ‘Melbourne moments’. It’s the way they transform ordinary everyday activities into unpredictable and unexpected enjoyment which inspires its residents and visitors to experience them repeatedly, be it the fire spouting pillars on the yarra river promenade, pop up luxury brand retail stores or quintessential reconstructed spaces as empty parking lot, derelict garage or laneways which beckons the passerby just by their sheer promise of unconventional experiences. It’s not for nothing that Melbourne has got rated as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ for years!

If at times, you do think if spending time and money on building a brand is worth the effort, considering it’s such a intangible, well then it’s good to remember that not only these cities but mega brands such as Pepsi, Samsung, Amazon, McDonald, IPL and heaps more pour in millions of dollars into advertisements, sponsorships, events, billboards to keep their brand alive and kicking and right where it belongs…At the top. Let’s trust their reasoning.

Coming closer home, to personal branding, based on my travel observations, I am mulling over these and given that many of you ask me so much about it, thought it pertinent to share:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you come from, What matters is where you’re going. Start now.
  2. Being small does not mean being insignificant. Play the odds.
  3. Purpose fuels passion. Find yours. Fan it furiously. Make it your USP.
  4. To be remembered takes doing. Create your experience moments.
  5. To be a leader, you need fans and followers. Do good, take the stage, let the spotlight shine and say your piece. Applause will follow!

Transition, transform, transcend! Happy travels…

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Want To Build A Brand & Race Ahead… Use Culture As Your Ignition!

Ignition

The word “startup” carries a whole ocean of meaning within itself. Start what? A business obviously! The definition of business imprinted on our minds comes from many management gurus who have said,  “The goal of a business is to make profit”.

Perhaps it used to be. However, its been fully challenged now. The goal of a business is to make profit led by its larger “purpose” and societal responsibilities.  So really it’s about the fact that – Belief’s lead to Behaviors, which leads to Business. Belief is the bedrock of Culture. Culture is propelled by the purpose of the company and fueled by the passion of its people!

In the early days of getting a startup off the ground, it’s easy to sink deep into transactions that are ferocious in intensity and suck both the time and energy of the founders. During this period, founders become bodily and emotionally exhausted, thus not being able to spend time on building deep roots of culture in their organization. This very often is the death knell of most organizations.

This is where HR needs to step in and step up – continuously talk about building a strong and powerful culture of the company, get the buy-in of the board and other senior leaders, socialize with the workforce. In fact get the CEO/Founder to “be” and “become” the Chief Culture Officer. If HR is to be seen as strategic they have to get the architecture and blueprint of the organization right, which goes far beyond the mere reporting lines on paper and policies. Culture has to be the “Cornerstone”!

What I mean by Culture at a workplace is what we call “User Experience” these days. Many would claim in fact argue that the “experience” whether its customer or employee today is the ONLY differentiator. It’s what will make or mar the progress of the company as this evokes a strong emotional reaction, builds loyalty and advocacy amongst all stakeholders. If HR today is getting to sit on the boardroom table, it’s because of the power of the impact they are able to make to the business by building the strong foundation of right values and behaviors, which lead to superlative experiences in the marketplace. And to my mind, it’s not about what authority HR is “allowed” but more about what do they think they cannot “do”. HR does not need to be granted authority – they need to feel empowered to put the right culture building blocks in place.

Wikipedia defines Culture as a medley of Values, Visions, Norms, Working language, Systems, Symbols, Habits, Rituals, and Beliefs that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. The way it plays out in the corporate world is seen how committed the company is towards building a strong culture of learning, of conversations, of employee wellbeing, of strong values and behaviors and most of all – does it get waylaid on the roadside during times of crisis or does leadership lean to it in times of crucial decision making.

In essence, culture stems from the experiences an employee goes through in an organization and can become a strategic enabler acting as a beacon in tough times. Today, HR is in a strong position to lead the torch on a strategic standpoint and it is purely the responsibility of startup founders to enable, empower and energize the HR function in their startup’s to create positive and lasting employee experiences.

1st published by Business World – http://bit.ly/2yDP7KZ