Justin Wartell Forbes Councils Member

As business leaders, we’ve done it to ourselves: We’ve built a brand. Outlined a strategy. Added a mission and vision to please a loud board member. Allowed a group of employees to define values. Tacked on a company character. Got talked into a new tagline. Found ourselves juggling ad campaigns and purpose statements and brand commitments. Suddenly, we’re 50 frameworks deep and everyone is confused.

Learn More: Living Your Brand Purpose: Tangible Takeaways from Purpose-Led Organizations

As an industry, we’ve let things get complicated. Our toolkits are overflowing with way too much stuff that dilutes the meaning behind the business while getting in the way of people’s ability to understand, experience and deliver on it. With too many things competing for attention, a key question emerges: At the end of the day, what do we really need our people to be focused on?

The truth is, the best companies aren’t built on frameworks. They’re made possible by people deeply understanding what their organization stands for and how that impacts the way they engage with the world. And you don’t need 50 different things to make that happen — in fact, I believe simpler is stronger. Strive to keep your toolkit simple by focusing on what counts. Before adding a new element, I’d recommend asking yourself three key questions:

Three Questions to Ask Yourself When Creating Your Toolkit

Does it create connection, or are you just checking an arbitrary box?

  • Patagonia has a reason for being: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
  • Zappos has a purpose: “To live and deliver WOW.”
  • Starbucks has a mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Three different labels; three brands known for the emotional connection they’ve built with their people via their powerful North Star. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as everyone — from your employees to your board members — knows it, understands it and connects with it. Get rid of the idea that you need a character, service mantra, purpose and mission statement. Just because the category exists doesn’t mean you need one in your toolkit.

Let go of the arbitrary labels and focus on making sure your North Star — or whatever you call it — is something your people can connect with on a human level. While you’re at it, consider whether you truly need multiple articulations for different audiences. Or, can you create a meaningful connection with employees and consumers alike through a single, shared message?

Learn More: Birth of a Brand Experience

Is it adding clarity or just adding to the confusion?

If it takes several long-winded paragraphs of flowery copy or a meticulously formatted PowerPoint presentation to explain the nuances of why people should connect with your organization, something isn’t working.

To be successful, your business strategy needs to come “off the page” and live in the hearts and minds of your people. Simple language and human storytelling win every time.

Take Google, for example. Despite being a giant, multifaceted and complex organization, Google uses the most straightforward language possible to articulate goals. It’s easy to understand, easy to recognize, and easy to implement. Google’s mission is: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” TED takes this strategy even further with its powerful, simple mission: “Spread ideas.”

So the next time you’re evaluating whether to add something to your toolkit, ask yourself whether it’s making things clearer or more confusing. Five core values are better than 25. A one-sentence purpose is better than a one-pager. Guidelines that nobody understands might as well not exist at all.

Learn More: Living at the Intersection of Brand Purpose and Culture

Is it built to drive action or is it just another thing to say?

The goal of every single one of your business elements should be to drive some type of action, whether it’s strategic-level decision making, employee behavior or even the actions of the consumers you engage with. And if you have any kind of frontline staff or consumer service experience, this need becomes even more critical.

Before adding anything to your toolkit, you should deeply understand both the objective and how the new element you’re considering is able to deliver on that objective. When it’s revealed, will your employees be able to walk away knowing what they need to do, change, say or share as a result?

Take a look at Southwest Airlines. Its mission statement is, quite literally, a call to action for its employees (who also happen to be the face of the company): “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”

Another classic example is Nordstrom, a company that’s widely recognized for setting the bar when it comes to customer service. The Nordstrom experience is viewed as a gold standard, yet there is only one single guideline in Nordstrom’s employee handbook: “Use good judgment in all situations.”

Short and clear, this rule tells employees exactly what they need to know to deliver a Nordstrom-level experience: that they are trusted to deliver the kind of personalized, in-the-moment service that has made the company famous.

Asking these questions can help you evaluate whether something truly deserves to be added to your toolkit. If it doesn’t deliver connection, clarity or action, it doesn’t belong. Everything else is just noise.



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See this article in full on Forbes here.

Justin Wartell
October 23, 2019 By Justin Wartell