May 09, 2016

Building a Passionate Brand Begins with Team Engagement

Crafting a Passionate Brand From the Core

Your team members are smart, capable and hard-working, but they just don't seem to be that into their jobs — and you're worried that their lack of enthusiasm may spill over into your company's messaging.

What's missing here? Passion.

Passionate companies are the ones who've built team engagement right into their company DNA. Enthusiasm, energy and innovation — it's a core part of the way they operate. And it shows in everything from their content marketing efforts to their overall branding. 

Don't worry if your team members seem to have lost some of their drive; it's never too late to start cultivating passion in your company. Here are six tips to get you started.

1. Explain to everyone the "why" behind your business.

The "why" or purpose behind your brand.The team may know what the company does and how they contribute individually, but do they understand the driving purpose behind it all?

It's easy to explain what you do, but the why is much harder. A great company and brand is full of people who "get it" and strive to fulfill that purpose. This is less about the specific solutions you provide and more about the problems or questions you're trying to solve. If the team doesn't understand why the company matters, it'll be difficult for them to fully convey it to potential customers and with enthusiasm.

"Have you had problems with [x], [y], and [z]? We decided to do something about it, and here's what we're doing," is a lot more helpful than just saying, "We provide this service."

Also, focusing on the purpose and problems you aim to solve leaves more room for innovation. It leaves open possibilities for the team to come up with new solutions and ideas as the industry changes and evolves. If you lock yourself in the solution, the company will fail to adapt, stagnate, and ultimately fade away.

2. Lead your team; don't control them.

Provide your team guidance; don't dictate.Do your team members feel replaceable or indispensable? Do they feel they have unique contributions to make, or that they're "just another employee"? 

There are a lot of things that can hinder motivation: poor compensation, under-utilization of a team member's skills, lack of autonomy, and managers who "boss around and bully" instead of lead. And that's just to name a few.

The best way to encourage team members is to be a leader — and you don't even have to be a manager to do this, although that definitely gives you greater effectiveness. These are some simple things you can start doing right now:

  • Don't punish honest mistakes or failures; focus on what can be learned. Be empathetic.
  • Communicate clearly about priorities, expectations and deadlines.
  • What not to communicate:
    • Overly detailed instructions on how to do their job. 
    • Disinterest in their input ("This is just how we do things here.").
    • Anger or negativity in response to questions or mistakes.
  • Don't micromanage; trust them to do their job.
  • Allow team members to collaborate openly on projects or suggestions.
  • The team should know they can share concerns without being afraid of repercussions.
  • Provide There are opportunities for growth.
  • Know your team members' aspirations, and help them reach their goals.
  • Show, don't tell: Lead team members by example.
  • Be human: share with the team when you mess up, too, so they know it's not "just them."

For more tips, check out 25 Ways to Lead, Inspire and Motivate Your Team to Greatness from Entrepreneur.com.

3. Make rest and reflection part of the process.

There should always be time to rest and recover before tacking the next big project.Having your team in "GO, GO, GO" mode all the time will only end with them burning out and exhausted. No human can provide their best when they're overworked or overstressed. On top of this, exhaustion can burn out their creativity (hampering possible innovation), decrease both concentration and performance, and (of course) damper normally stellar attitudes.

While you can't always avoid packed schedules and deadlines completely, whenever possible, every team member should have a chance to rest. This doesn't mean naptime — although who wouldn't want naptime? — but more of a "recharge hour" — a time to slow down and do less demanding work. This can be done through a number of ways.

One method is to alternate working more intensive tasks between smaller, simpler ones. This creates a good mental break between jobs that require more energy. Another idea is to block in time for reflection. Could the process for a project be improved? Was the latest project as successful as it could have been? What went right? Wrong? Always allow room for improvement as part of your process so the company doesn't keep repeating mistakes.

It can be tempting to keep the team glued to their desks working, but if they need a ten-minute walk around the office to recharge, don't stop them. Your team is human and need a moment to breath to perform their best! Hubspot even created an infographic to help identify when employees are unengaged and overstressed.

4. Expect — and respect — a diversity of ideas.

Ideas are diverse, respected, and expected.Team members who don't feel heard are likely to suggest things in the future, so ensure thoughts aren't immediately shot down. Decline them with care, and avoid saying, "That's good, but..." Quite a number of people will interpret that as, "Here's a positive I'm required to say, but here is what I really think."

Instead, try "I like that direction, and..." or "That's a good point. How will it work with [this consideration]?" Add on to their idea or ask a question — it shows that you're considering their thoughts. If your instincts say it's not a good idea or the right direction, and you can't think of a positive thing to say, ask how they reached that conclusion. While they may have missed something you can gently point out, there's also a chance that you're the one who might have forgotten or been unaware of an alternative perspective. Listen with an open mind.

The more they feel their input is appreciated, the more encouraged they feel to share. Don't make brainstorm sessions personal. If you make a point of one person who "always has good ideas," the rest of the team might feel they don't need to bother.

Also, not everyone is an extrovert or thinks best aloud, so avoid putting quiet team members on the spot. Introverted members might prefer to reflect on the meeting and submit ideas later in writing or one-on-one. Embrace the differences in team members and cultivate a company culture that encourages individuals to contribute the ways they think best.

To learn more on encouraging input from a reluctant team, read this article by David Marquet.

5. Allow room for individual growth.

Individual growth is happening!Don't let your team members stagnate or get bored: let them grow their skillset. What are they curious about or interested in? Encourage them to explore those areas. Provide training opportunities when possible, and let the team know they are welcome to propose ideas for personal growth, whether it's taking a class or attending a conference. Don't be afraid to give them suggestions yourself. ("I remembered you said you were struggling with [x]. This book really helped me a lot; would you like to read it?")

This kind of experience doesn't just make your team more valuable; it also gives them a new perspective they can bring back to the company and share. Their newfound knowledge can inspire new ideas they wouldn't have had otherwise. Just as importantly, your team members will understand that your brand is investing in them as an individual, which encourages them to stick around instead of seeking new opportunities elsewhere.

Take care of your team and they'll take care of the work.

6. Spread the excitement!

Celebrate accomplishments and enjoy small victories.Be an example for your team, and be real — they'll know if you're faking it. If you can generate genuine enthusiasm within yourself, your team will get onboard fast. It's infectious! All work and no play makes for a miserable company.

Let the team swap success stories, things they're proud of and excited about. Listen to them when they say what they love about the job, industry, clients, or work ... and strive to build more of it! Is there something that nobody's loving? Maybe it's time to take a deeper look and fix it. Let them be engaged with non-work-related activities, too. It's good to know that your team has a life outside work, and they'll appreciate you're awareness.

Bottom line: When the team is happy, the brand is happy. And happy and passionate teams create the best content you — and customers — can find.Request your FREE 30-minute marketing assessment today!

Laura Kajpust

Laura is a designer, developer, and illustrator because learning one thing seemed way too boring. While technology is easy, she still can't cook anything requiring more than three ingredients. Fortunately, her husband and dog are not very picky (except on weekends).