We will look at The Cultural and The Visual aspects of being misunderstood and how it affects reaching your ideal future; let’s recap the foundational level of The Personal I went into in Part 2. The Personal deals with finding the right words that adequately communicate our desires to connect. The need to be understood on a personal level entails both understanding yourself and being understood by others. Understanding your purpose helps you make decisions, reduces disappointment, and saves energy. Being understood by others facilitates teamwork, reduces missed expectations, and saves time.
The cultural understanding of common purpose moves from the individual to the group and involves putting all those thoughts into a language that everyone can embrace or not. Clearly defining, expressing then communicating your purpose as a leader and as a company allows leaders to get the right people on the bus for the right reasons.
Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, said, “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” We see breakdowns in leadership when it comes to communication, and it starts when the relationship begins. When a new hire doesn’t live up to expectations, many times, their qualifications and past work experience were prioritized higher than how they align with the core values of the company. Of course, there are other reasons like lack of knowledge, experience, and ability, but those can be developed or predicted and overcome by healthy communication, education and time.
For example, I know a CEO that was having issues with his CFO. He stated that this person was a great employee and conducted all of their responsibilities of the position well but often he had to stop what he was working on to help them when something new (a change to the norm) came across their jib function. He said he liked to teach and help figure out how to handle the new situation better or add to their process. It was the time away from those projects he was working on that seemed to frustrate him the most. When I told him that he needed to define the company’s core values better, he said, “That frou-frou stuff. We are a blue-collar company. We are a large construction product company. We don’t need that corporate mumbo-jumbo.” I told him that he values “self-starters” and “independent thinkers.” He said that was true. I said if you had hired your CFO for being a self-starter rather than the qualification list, he wouldn’t be dealing with that problem. He gets frustrated that his CFO can’t handle something out of the original or develop solutions of their own when a change in the process arises. He agreed.
A UC Berkeley five-year study by management professor Morten Hansen surveyed 5,000 U.S. business professionals. He found that successful leaders are also good communicators who know how to simplify their message, needs, and priorities.
The Visual aspect—taking the language and creating visual symbols and signs that support that message affects all those inside and outside the organization. This does include the identity and name, but for simplicity and efficiency for this article, I’m combining them, although a chapter couple is written for both. Since words are written, and in the case of businesses, a logo or name, I include them in the visual aspect. Almost any graphic device to support and communicate the brand visual from UX, icons, illustrations, photos, styles, fonts, etc. would be included. Everything used to visually communicate the brand should align with the company’s purpose, vision, mission, and values.
Understanding at this level is somewhat subjective but should strive to be as objective as possible to communicate a clear understanding of purpose. It’s subjective because people take in vast amounts of information subconsciously and make snap judgments in the background in seconds. People could use this as a reason not to sweat the details of branding; however it can be even more powerful to be intentional about them. To add psychological validity to this argument, when all aspects of communication do not align and support a clear and genuine purpose, trust is suspect. Our minds will first find the discrepancy to be a distraction by calling for our attention, then once noticed — if it doesn’t make sense — becomes confused, unaccepted, and then forgotten. The distraction can be intentional by sometimes a pleasant or funny one to grab our attention, but it must relate to its purpose. One typical example of this is when you hear people say, “Have you seen that commercial (or YouTube video)? It’s hilarious! I can’t remember what it’s for, but it involves a guy that is (they go on to describe the comedic situation but have no idea what company paid 10s of thousands to produce it)….”
As it relates to understanding and arriving at your ideal future, I hear from almost every client I start working with about misconceptions potential customer has during the beginning of the engagement process. And these are with only those they have the opportunity to speak or interact. What about they never having a chance to talk? Salespeople let me know how they need to overcome preconceived ideas about what the company provides or why they exist. Filtering out clients or customers that that have the right need they are well-equipped in delivering a solution. It takes way too much time to communicate who they are. The filtering is a waste of time, energy, and money. The question is: Can this be accomplished through branding on purpose? Yes, it can.
This confusion or miscommunication is hindering the company from attracting the right people for the right reasons, both internally (employees) and externally (clients or customers). It slows down the company’s ability to reach their ideal future state because their brand is not communicating their ideal future state.
Nothing excites me more than to hear that my clients have overcome business problems and streamlined their sales and marketing process because of the branding work we’ve done together. Eliminating those communication barriers and making those outside the company quickly understand what makes their company so great is immensely rewarding.