Engaging perception through customer-centric CSR initiatives

Most organisations undertake CSR programmes as having to fulfill the corporate duty of giving back to society. Often the development of the program becomes the responsibility of the marketing team and is tied to the brand being seen in good light.

 

Here’s my article on this, published in the Islamic Banker Asia:

The cultural mask of an organisation is its brand identity

visual courtesy: www.clker.com

visual courtesy: http://www.clker.com

For an organisation, culture is defined by the behaviour of its leaders, its people and the processes.

  1. People—People are diverse. When they come into an organisation they bring, along with their technical competencies and skills, their individual behaviour with regards to leadership, team-work and communication ability.
  2. Processes—Processes impact on how the employees carry out their activities. Either the processes aid daily work or they hinder and as a result be the source of a tremendous stress.
  3. Business Purpose—Leaders need to clearly articulate the vision of the organisation or and what it is they need to do to ensure the organisation is sustainable.

A mix of these three creates the organisational cultural mask.

This mask, knowingly or unknowingly, is the behaviour of the organisation on a daily basis and impacts on its brand identity. In today’s globalized era organisations operate multi-cultural teams on virtual and physical basis. As organisations reach their brand to various parts of the globe, this cultural mask goes along as an image and identity.

This is the brand image, personality and identity.

Physically this identity manifests as a logo and the people representing the organisation and the contents being offered.

But interestingly, the external manifestation of the brand is totally dependent on the value system that the organisation believes in and alignment of the same with its employees.

Coming from different corners of the world, individually, we carry with us our own baggage of diverse cultural beliefs into work. Whilst most self-development books and managers’ guides tell us to operate, in what’s possibly, two silos– a personal self and a professional self– in reality that’s a tough call!

Tough because we are governed by our emotions and our emotions come about due to the habits we have.
Habits are behaviours that we project every minute of the day.

Throw into this mix the impact of behaviour from the leaders and you end up having a pretty heady concoction! 

The importance of behaviour from the leaders cannot be understated. What the leaders, knowingly or unknowingly, display sets the behavioural indicators for employees who then emulate the same. This has serious implications on the day-to-day functioning of an organisation, on the emotional (and physical health) of the employee, and finally on the organisation’s culture, brand image and reputation.

In developing a culture leadership is a key lever that needs to be pulled & pushed!

Depending on the industry sector and the organisations’ position within that sector and its mission, leadership is the only critical element that will either build or destroy the organisation. Leadership can impact on the organisational culture positively or negatively.

Based on my personal experience, of having worked across industries, countries and developed a few multi-cultural teams, an effective work culture comes about from developing a collection of beliefs and the resulting behaviour from it.

These beliefs come about from processes and leadership. For example:

  1. Monthly management meetings are used to track progress against strategy and is not a ‘work-in-progress’ management update meeting.
  2. The way senior management manages these processes i.e. the individuals own work-style personality that is expressed in the meeting is an indicator of the leadership at-work.

The processes, impacted by the leadership style results in certain behaviours which, directly impact employee motivation and engagement, as well as the quality of work output. Overtime this set of behaviours, becomes the unwritten norm for the organisation in terms of:

  1. Interaction within colleagues  i.e. internal brand representation &
  2. External interaction with stakeholders i.e. external brand representation

This behavioural environment represents itself as the character of the organisation through staff and becomes the organisational culture.

 

People first if you want to drive organic growth

Whilst Islamic finance is in growth mode it’s sad to note that Islamic banking only caters to 38 million of the total global Muslim population. That too this number is spread over 7 countries only!

Is there something lacking?

Given the significant changes in consumer behaviour, as the effect from the financial crises & recession of the past decade, perhaps Islamic banking needs to take into account what people want & need.

Here’s my article on this topic published in the Islamic Banker Asia:

Emotions drive business actions

Empathy

Empathy or showing the understanding side of our human selves is often confused as a ‘weakness’ by many a leader.

Lack of empathy comes about from a pre-determined effort to keep emotions out of work related issues.


Yet we forget that at the core of our being, emotions are an extremely strong driver for all our actions.

A lot of literature is available on this. The purpose of my post is not to belabor this point but to highlight how lack of empathy in the leadership style of an organisation directly impacts on a brand’s’ reputation.

Most organisations operate on the classical 6-styles of leadership (Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, Directive). They often tend to miss out on the all important aspect of empathy.

These styles, whilst good in their own way, come from a management school of thought where achievement (at any cost) was the primary objective. Today much work has been done in aligning these leadership styles with both, technical competencies and behavioural attitudes, or in other words marrying logic with emotion.

Organisations have realised that employees are creatures of habit. Habits that were formed much earlier in their lives before they became employees.

Changing habit is a huge task and oft fraught in failure.

By using the right leadership styles combined with key behavioural attitudes and technical competencies, behavioral changes impacting on work flow processes can be influenced. Over time the methodology of an activity workflow results in the employee behaving in a planned way so as to provide the desired customer experience.

The way I have written it may seem to make the task, of having the right leadership style laced with the right behavioural attitudes, simple.

Whilst it is simple, the devil lies in the detail and the extent of granularity that an organisation would want to go to.

The flow chart depicts the reality that takes places:

Lacking empathy outcome

With a fragmented reputation the stakeholders interacting with the brand would be cautious of increasing their interactions. This results in a few ‘lows':

  1. Externally there would be lower referrals & lower sales
  2. Internally there would be low employee engagement, low productivity, creativity and low revenue.

End of the day resulting in shrinking profits and market presence up until the point where sustainability of the entire organisation is at stake.

A sure way to avoid this in today human-to-human interface in all facets of life, not just business, is to be able to empathise with your audience and your team and build engagement from that to be sustainable.

 

(This post was published in Linked In on Aug 14,2014.)

Developing sustainable brands in post-colonial Asia

A couple of weeks ago I had a delightful chat with Jon (Dr. Jonathan A J Wilson) on my career experience & the work I do involving employee engagement & brand sustainability.  The interview is in the “maestro” section of the Indonesian based marketing magazine– ‘www.the-marketer.com’ magazine.

The discussion provides some industry insights that aid companies in developing sustainable brands.

Your culture is your reputation

In today’s globalized era organisations operate  multi-cultural teams on virtual and physical basis. Multi-cultural team processes and culture is, in itself, a separate topic but  as organisations reach their brand to various parts of the globe, there is an image &  identity that goes along with it.

This is the brand image, personality and identity.

Physically this identity manifests as a logo and the people representing the organisation and the contents being offered.

But interestingly, the external manifestation of the brand, is totally dependent on the value system that the organisation believes in and alignment of the same with its employees.

Coming from different corners of the world, individually, we carry with us our own baggage of diverse cultural beliefs into work. Whilst most self-development books and managers’ guides tell us to operate, in what’s possibly, two silos– a personal self  and a professional self– in reality that’s a tough call!

Tough because we are governed by our emotions and our emotions come about due to the habits we have.
Habits are behaviors that we project every minute of the day.

 

From personal experience of having worked across industries and countries and developed a few multi-cultural teams, in my opinion, an organisational work culture comes about from a collection of beliefs and the resulting behavior from it.

These beliefs come about:

  1. From the organisational processes and the purpose of the specific processes for e.g. monthly management meetings and purpose of those meetings
  2. From the way senior management manages these processes i.e. the individuals own work-style personality that is expressed in the meeting

These in turn result in certain behaviours which, directly impact employee motivation and engagement, as well as the quality of work output. Overtime this set of behaviours, becomes the unwritten norm for the organisation in terms of:

  1. Interaction within colleagues  i.e. internal brand representation &
  2. External interaction with stakeholders i.e. external brand representation

This behavioral environment represents itself as the character of the organisation through
staff and becomes the organisational culture.

Is culture important for an organisation?

It’s important because it’s the work culture and the underlying behavior that allows you to know if specific changes can be brought about successfully. In leading a change management process the single most critical aspect of the change process is to have full comprehension of the organisational culture present.

How does this help?

  1. It helps identify specific leadership behaviours and work group climates that benefit the organisation.
  2. It helps in reviewing which processes are effective based on specific desired behaviours.

Lastly if a change management program is on the cards, undertaking specific behavioral changes prior to the implementation of the change management program, enables the organisation to re-train key executives on both leadership style and processes.

This has a direct impact on doing things differently in order to get the planned results.

A word of cautionwhilst training is one thing, enforcement or ensuring that employees use the new learning is another.

We human beings are creatures of habit and habit comes about through the discipline of continuous behaviours.

To bring about desired behaviours some amount of discomfort would have to be created through meticulous enforcement.
As only through continuous enforcement will behaviour change. When behaviours change, habits are impacted upon.

Thus, with a long-term approach towards the business and its operations, behavioral change that impacts on work culture, can be brought about and  along with it the development of  brand reputation.

Does your business take vitamins?

Visual Courtesy: www.blogigo.de

Visual Courtesy: http://www.blogigo.de

For those of us who manage, run or own businesses, we all know the three key ingredients that go into making sure the enterprise is healthy:

  1. Cash Flow—Liquidity is the life blood of any business. Managing and having the necessary cash flow enables a business to invest and grow.
  2. Employee Engagement—Motivation leads to productivity & efficiency. Employees represent the organisation brand and their output determines the organisational brand value. They are the heart of any business.
  3. Leadership— The right leadership provides strategic clarity & direction to the business through coaching the employees in their self-development. Leadership is the vitamin for a business to give it stamina, immunity and growth.

As a business owner or a corporate executive, whilst we give a lot of attention to the first ingredient—Cash Flow—most of the times we don’t focus on employee engagement or on the leadership the organisation has.

Without giving the due attention these two important areas deserve how do we expect our businesses to deliver growth year on year?

Here’s why:

  1. Leadership needs to be priority number 1. With the right leadership getting employee engagement becomes easier.
  2. Employee engagement occurs when the employee sees a clearly defined benefit, in doing his or her functional role with efficiency. This occurs when the leadership is able to show alignment between the employee’s individual goals and the organisational goals.
  3. Engaged employees are more productive and deliver a far better customer-experience. This results in a high cash flow for the business through sales, repeat sales and higher customer satisfaction.

So if we are looking to grow our business, the first area to study is not the new market opportunity or the pricing or doing the cost-benefit analysis. The first place is to look at the leadership of the organisation and evaluate if the leadership is:

  1. Being effective
  2. Having strategic clarity

Why are these two factors so important?

Leadership is the link to having engaged employees. In any organisation you need to have engaged employees to generate growth. Without the employees being engaged a business simply exists up until a point where the cash flow would severely be affected resulting in the closure of that business.

The way to get employees engaged is to ensure that the leader is able to clearly articulate and align organisational goals with direct benefits that impact the employees. Answering the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question brings about an empathetic connect between the employee and the leader. That aids in motivating the employee to perform.

This is why leadership is vitamin for an organisation! Leadership is that all-pervasive and all-encompassing element for a business that provides it with stamina and energy to have a sustainable brand.