Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Turn your employees into brand evangelists

Starbucks isn't known for spending much money on billboard advertisements and commercials, it seems like they prefer to spend some of the company’s resources on its people. This past October, the coffee giant spent $35 million on an employee conference, also known as its “Leadership Lab.”

Leadership LabThe Leadership Lab brought together about 9,600 store managers who experienced an interactive trade show, which, according to the fast company article, consisted of “raking coffee beans, watching roasting demonstrations, learning company history, and most importantly, soaking in the Starbucks brand as they went.” Much of the conference was focused on stressing the importance of personal accountability, along with teaching vital leadership skills such as communicating effectively.

It’s clear that Starbucks hoped this Leadership Lab would help bring its mission statement alive and help turn employees into brand evangelists. Not every company has an extra $35 million to spend on engaging its workforce, but one key take away from Starbucks is the idea of encouraging employees to be advocates of the brand.

While so much focus is spent on encouraging consumers and customers to be brand enthusiasts (the people who support the company and celebrate the brand’s success), perhaps the best “cheerleaders” for your company lies with your employees.

For instance, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote in his book, ‘Onward’ “Employees are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance and theater, and as such the primary catalysts for delighting customers.” Companies that don’t work to make sure employees are enthused about the brand are missing out on a key opportunity to not only further the company, but help keep employees engaged.

If you’re unsure of how to turn your employees into brand evangelists, we have an easy suggestion: it starts with you, the leader. Effective leaders are the ones that are energetic and enthusiastic about their work. Your team members look to you to set the pace and provide a role model for hard work and quality.

If you appear in a rut, your employees will most likely mirror your behavior.  However, when you are full of high energy and drive, this can inspire people and gets them moving toward achieving their goals. You need to show that you manage your own career well and value continuous learning and development.

Your change initiative gets energized through your enthusiasm, your energy, and your excitement.

Here are some tips on how to keep your energy levels up (other than drinking caffeine):

  • Know what aspects of the job interest and excite your employees, and then provide them with opportunities to pursue these.
  • Develop strong, personal relationships with your team members and point out how each team member will personally benefit if the team’s vision is achieved.
  • Believe that you have the power to make a difference, and accept the responsibility of trying.
  • Decide on a clear-cut, long-range goal for yourself. Then establish what you will need to do and what attitudes you will need to have in order to achieve it.
  • Put your action step for your development goals on your daily "to do" list and make it the number-one priority. Do one thing every day, even if it is a small step, to move toward your goals.
  • View your strengths as development opportunities. Typically, your greatest successes will come from leveraging your strengths. Broaden and improve your strengths by finding new ways to use these skills, by teaching them to others, and by pursuing assignments that stretch your skills even farther.
  • Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, laugh often – believe it or not, these really do have an impact on your energy level.

Bottom line: if you want a company full of brand evangelists, it all starts with you.

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