Branding Purpose

How Branding your Strategy Drives Purpose

One higher education client I worked with years ago implemented an entirely new student administration system to run their operations. This change was going to impact almost every stakeholder, including the entire faculty, all students, and most of the administrators. We wanted to name this project something other than “The New Student Administration System.” This seemed impersonal, too long, and didn’t really resonate with the needs of the students – the primary customer. This west coast institution has a large population of international students, which ultimately led us to name the project “Passport,” signaling that the new system would make it easier for students to become part of the institution. With Passport, students gained access to many resources the college had to offer.

Another client I worked with restructured their organization to drive greater customer satisfaction. This leader inherited an organization with abysmal employee morale and double-digit unfavorable attrition. Ultimately, we branded the restructuring effort, “Every Engagement Counts,” to help employees understand that everyone’s work was crucial to the success of the company. Within a year, we doubled engagement scores and slashed unfavorable attrition.

Both examples demonstrate how branding your strategy helps convey the goal of the transformation in the simplest terms. It helps answers the question, “why?”

These brands also clarify the purpose of the transformation in a simple way that people easily understand. The purpose of implementing a new student administration system wasn’t to implement technology. The purpose was to make it easier for students to access more college resources faster and more efficiently. . The purpose of restructuring the organization wasn’t to have a new org chart. The purpose was to dramatically improve both customer service and increase  employee enrollment.

How do you develop a brand? There are lots of ways. In the first example above, we held a contest among employees to identify a name and awarded a prize to the winning entry. Sounds cheesy? Maybe, but it was quite effective.

In the second example, the brand came   from the leadership team after months of building a stronger coalition among them, and collectively defining more clearly the outcomes they would achieve.

One question that surfaces when I talk with clients about branding is, “What’s the difference between clear purpose and branding?” Sometimes they are interchangeable. “Every Engagement Counts” was both. It expressed clear purpose for the transformation, and it was a phrase that everyone could easily remember, and it mattered to them.

More often, branding comes after clear purpose is identified. Once a leadership team defines clear purpose, it becomes easier to identify a few words or a phrase that embodies the purpose.. There’s no real science here as it depends on so many factors. Here is a process I use with leadership teams.

1.    Identify factors regarding the current state of major stakeholders of the change, especially customers and employees.

2.    Identify how implementing purpose will impact these stakeholders in both the near term and a few years out.

3.    Brainstorm a list of “what will be different” phrases.

4.    Select key words or phrases from this brainstormed list.

5.    Identify potential synonyms for words that might better describe the outcome in simple words.

6.    Pick two or three options; let it simmer over a few days.

7.    Reconvene to collectively select the final branding statement.

This process is messy, and you may skip or rearrange steps. It’s the collision of science and art – the structure of a clear purpose statement versus artistic flair to capture the imagination of what is possible with the change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


Powerful Purpose

How to Ensure that Powerful Purpose Produces

Clear purpose is essential to the success of any strategy implementation or change. Clear purpose that describes tangible outcomes enables lower- level leaders and front-line employees to truly understand and act toward the desired change. As a leader, your role is to ensure you and your leadership team develop this clear purpose with clear outcomes and  model it every day.

Let’s look at this in more detail, through the lens of both structure and behavior.

Clear purpose with clear outcomes drives the structural approach to driving purpose. This means, that at minimum, the transformation team will be structured to drive various elements. For example, if your transformation is about preparing for exponential growth, you will dedicate resources to hire, place and develop new employees. This may include major efforts to reevaluate job structure. Another example, if your transformation is about merging two organizations, you will dedicate resources to understanding how financial statements may need to change, or how to incorporate both sets of employees into the new organization.

These structural approaches are logical and are not often missed. More important are behavioral approaches to driving purpose yet are often overlooked if not altogether ignored.  In the case of mergers and acquisitions, we can cite many failures due to underestimating the impact of culture.

This clear purpose with clear outcomes not only needs to make sense,  it needs to be built from passion.  This passion starts with the leader and cascades throughout the organization. Leaders need to believe the purpose and outcomes themselves, and then inspire their organization to believe it with them.

There are a few things a leader must do to ensure there is a behavioral or cultural element to defining and implementing purpose.

  1. The leader must be open- minded with their leadership team when creating purpose. Recognize that you don’t have all the answers. Leverage the combined knowledge of your leadership team to develop purpose everyone can support.
  2. Drive clarity. Drive to better rather than “good enough.” Remember that once you leave the meeting room, you and your leaders need to be able to communicate this message throughout the organization. If your purpose and outcomes are not clear, it will leave employees wondering and confused about your message.
  3. Support dissenting views. Both in the leadership team and with all employees, invite criticism. Be vulnerable. Allow people to weigh- in. If they don’t weigh- in, they won’t buy- in.
  4. Be truthful. When you avoid telling the truth in the guise of being kind, you are unkind. Employees want to hear the truth, even when it is messy, or puts their jobs at risk.

These actions may seem simple and straight forward on the surface, but they may require a new and different set of behaviors from the leader and their team.

  1. To be open- minded, you must have a degree of vulnerability. You recognize that you don’t have all the answers, and you are willing to listen to others. Further, you are willing to admit when you are wrong. Employees don’t see this admission as a weakness, rather they see it as a strength.
  2. You need to trust your leadership team to do what’s right for the organization, and that they will be open with you about opportunities and challenges. This takes time to build, but if it’s based on the foundation of vulnerability, it will happen.
  3. Honest dissent. With trust in the organization, leaders and employees alike are better able to challenge each other, with the goal of seeking the best solution for the organization.

These behavioral elements pave the way for a more successful achievement of purpose. You can have all the structural elements in place, but if you aren’t also driving the behavioral elements, your success is in jeopardy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,



Multiple Purpose

How One Purpose Leads to Another

In the video linked here, I share how over time one purpose leads to another. You might think this rather elementary since as companies grow and change, they implement multiple strategies over time. Yet there are elements of the original purpose that are expanded upon that keep the organization focused on its long- term mission.

This month we’ll take a closer look at purpose. We’ll examine the often overlooked behavioral elements required to be successful with purpose and we’ll look at branding. Finally, there will be a case study where we share one leader’s experience driving purpose through an organizational transformational change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


Emotional Intelligence

How Emotional Intelligence Speeds Transformation

Organizational health is crucial to success. One element of this is the emotional intelligence of employees. In short, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to accurately assess body language or other cues, non-verbal and verbal, and  and act accordingly.

When an organization has enough EQ, it will execute change faster and with fewer missteps since employees and leaders alike are able to swiftly and accurately communicate with each other. They consider body language, tone or other non-verbal cues during their exchanges. Prerequisites include a certain level of organizational trust and the ability to engage in productive dissent.

Here are a few examples of indirect cues and how to handle them:


Example Non-EQ Response EQ response
Sarcasm They meant what they said. Clarify, “I can’t tell if you are serious.”
Arms crossed over chest They don’t agree. Acknowledge or ask, “Is this hitting the mark? Is there something else about this you would like to hear about?”
Fiddling with phone or other items They are not interested. Ask, “Are we using this time most effectively, or is there another course of action we need to follow?” Or it could be as simple as, “Do we need a break?”
Constantly challenging details They are completely resistant, or the idea is all wrong. Reframe the discussion to ask “We are here to discuss a specific topic.” You might also ask, “Is this going in the right direction? Are we addressing the opportunity as you see it?”
Happy, smiling It’s in the bag! It’s good to close more broadly with asking “Have we addressed your major objectives?” or “is there anything else you’d like to see?”


You can see how the EQ response acknowledges behavior that might otherwise be misinterpreted. The EQ response will contextualize observed behavior and should lead to further open dialog. Beware, though, you may have several iterations of this before you reach alignment.

The EQ response speeds results. It reduces the guess work in communications.

Assessing your culture and doing something about it doesn’t have to be difficult. There is a free assessment on my website that you can use to assess your culture. Let me know if I can help you with the assessment at or call me 269-326-1576.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


Learn Vs Execute


How Too Much Focus on Results Hurts a Transformation

We’ve all heard it, and certainly the Wall Street Analysts pound the drum. “Focus on Results.”

While this is crucial to short term, bottom line performance, I believe it creates a barrier to an organization’s ability to drive long-term transformational change.

From a cultural perspective, I look at this as a continuum between learning versus accomplishment. Worst-case scenarios are at either end of the spectrum. If your culture values only learning,  you may never accomplish anything. On the other hand, if your organization only values accomplishment, or results, you may repeat similar mistakes over and over without knowing what is happening.

There must be a balance. Effective cross-functional teams take the opportunity to pause  key-points in their process to step back and assess lessons learned and how to adjust the plans accordingly.

Focusing purely on accomplishment can create a scenario where you might miss important changes in the environment. Worse yet, if you have a high-risk culture, it hinders your evaluation of lessons learned.

How do strike this important balance between learning and accomplishment?

  1. First, make your own assessment about your culture. Do we take time to learn? Do we have mechanisms in our transformation projects to pause to evaluate? These can be as simple as occasional project reviews where you ask questions about how the team has applied learnings from challenges along the way.
  2. Implement post project lessons-learned activities where the team shares both positive and constructive feedback. Ensure positives are reinforced and constructive items are folded into upcoming initiatives.
  3. Reward your leaders and teams for striking the appropriate balance. Again, accomplishment is important, but not at the expense of learning how to improve.

I’ve worked with organizations that fell too far on both sides of this spectrum. Organizations that were more focused on learning spent a little too much time philosophizing, creating challenges in meeting deadlines. Organizations more focused on accomplishment stumbled more than it needed to in executing large projects.

Assessing your culture and doing something about it doesn’t have to be difficult. There is a free assessment on my website that you can use to assess your culture.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


How Culture Impacts Transformation

See this month’s video to learn about cultural factors that impact your transformation success. Then use the assessment on my website to assess your culture.

Over the next two weeks we’ll dive into a couple of these factors.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,




Boeing, the 737 Max, and Cross-Functional Dysfunction

Boeing, the 737 Max, and Cross-Functional Dysfunction

Cross functional dysfunction is the root cause of the issues Boeing is facing with the 737 Max.

A brief history.

In 1997, Boeing with its engineering culture purchased McDonald Douglas. The latter had a bean-counter culture. Over time, market and investor pressure won out and the newly formed company became more focused on financials than it did on engineering. Soon, all ideas were scrutinized for financial viability. The 737 Max was designed to hold more people without a major change to the base design – rather than start from scratch. An attempt was made to resolve some design issues with software, but these failed. As problems started to surface, employees faced great pressure to keep costs down. A few who tried to express concerns were squelched. Passenger safety was sacrificed.

Since last year, Boeing has lost over $60 billion in market value. That’s a lot of beans.

Volumes have been written about this, and undoubtedly many more volumes are yet to come. My perspective? Boeing’s culture needs to change to focus more on listening. Sounds easy. No. This leadership team now needs to begin to  build a culture where people trust one another to speak up and offer their ideas. A culture where they can challenge each other, regardless of hierarchy, to make better – and safer – decisions. This takes work. It means people put aside their egos. It means having a willingness to accept and act on difficult feedback. It means listening. Not listening to judge, or listening to speak, but listening to hear..

What’s the lesson for all of us? Stop. Be quiet. Listen. Do what’s best for the customer.

Especially if their lives are in your hands.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.


Be Kind

Be Kind

One of my heroes has died.

Clayton Christensen died last Friday, January 23, 2020. He was one of my personal and business heroes. Never mind about his groundbreaking work about disruptive innovation, it was his approach to life, and teaching leaders that stood out most to me.

I met him in-person once perhaps 20 years ago. Our visit was short. He was warm, genuine, and made me feel like I was the only other person in the room.

He saw his role as teaching people how to think, not what to do.

He said of business leaders, “It’s more important to develop people than it is to chase profit margins.”

He believed it was important to help others become better people.

His brand was to “Be Kind.”

Steve Salisbury

An Interview with Richard Allred, President and CEO ATS, LLC

An Interview with Richard Allred, President and CEO ATS, LLC

I recently had the opportunity to interview Richard Allred, who is the President and CEO ATS, LLC ( ATS has a four-fold mission focused on clean drinking water, providing sustainable waste-water treatment, developing green, organic chemicals that protect crops from disease and providing safety showers to cleanse employees from potentially harmful contact with chemicals. ATS performs this mission in for profit, not for profit and philanthropic sectors.

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Richard: I have learned that people want to give their best to the job. They generally want guidelines to help them focus their efforts and it’s my role to provide those guidelines.

Steve: Tell me about a time when this was particularly challenging or rewarding for you. What was the situation, and what did you do?

Richard: I purchased this company in 2012. At the time, the firm’s leadership was not very focused. I determined that we needed to bring in stronger talent and transform the way work was completed. My vision was to serve those who are underprivileged, and provide opportunities for smart and great people who haven’t been as lucky as I have been. I also wanted to scale the organization from regional to become global.

Steve: How did you clarify the purpose of your transformation?

Richard: I make the message as clear as possible and put it out in front of your people in many ways. We have an annual meeting to discuss our work and how it impacts employees, then we engage them in feedback sessions to help us to prepare for more focused, purposeful communication. I also ask employees many questions to clarify their understanding and help me improve my messaging.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address this?

Richard: I have two examples. The first is that we offices in Brazil as well as the United States. The differences in management styles, language and cultural create a communication gap. I have found that by clarifying the messaging between my office in the States and in Brazil I am able to close the gap most of the time. It takes focused effort though, and discipline to ensure this happens every week.

The other example is that sometimes employees may not understand why sales team members who travel have bigger expense accounts. Often, they may treat themselves to expensive steak dinners when they are on the road. This can feel unfair to some employees. I have found that when I take the time to explain the trade-off, that those sales folks enjoying a steak dinner are not always home to watch their child’s football game or school play, I can narrow that gap of understanding.

A couple of other things I look for when hiring someone in an executive position is I try to find people who have experience managing the weighty responsibility of covering payroll. The stress related to making payroll provides a perspective that I want on my leadership team and it’s one we can easily rally around. I also look for individuals who choose to continually educate themselves, whether by reading or taking classes.

Steve: Here in the United States, were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Richard: When I first purchased the company, employees were a tight-knit family and extremely loyal to the mission of the firm. Growth requires you to make changes which we did by increasing the geography from where I recruit. I try to hire people who are smarter than me in whatever their specific strength. We’ve been successful in maintaining that loyalty while expanding our diversity and knowledge base. It requires more focus more on coaching employees to effectively work together, but the payoff is big.

Steve: How did you enroll others in the transformation?

Richard: Plain and simple – we engaged front- line employees in the planning process. Afterall, these are the folks that live with and operate in the new environment and no one understands their work better than they do.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Richard: First, I must be comfortable with a great deal of ambiguity. I find it most effective to sit with my leaders and their teams and have a conversation about how I can help, focusing on their requirements to be successful. I have also hired and work with a mentor that helps me improve my coaching effectiveness.

Steve: If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Richard: To create a transformation, you must connect with the team and their hearts. You must understand individually who they are. For example, to help connect with one of my employees, I sponsor a sports team and ask the coach to waive their fees. This is an easy thing for any leader to do.

Steve: Richard, thank you for sharing your insight on successful transformational leadership. Good luck to you and your firm.

Note: Richard recently published his book, Purify. This is a business book about the metaphor of how water treatment teaches us to make better business decisions. Find it here.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How to Recognize and Fix the Choke Point

How to Recognize and Fix the Choke Point

An Advanced Shipment Notice (ASN) is a document, usually electronic, that is sent from a supplier to a customer to advise the customer of an in-process product shipment. The ASN gives the customer the capability to plan their manufacturing or distribution even though they do not yet have the product in their inventory. It’s quite a useful tool, allowing customers to optimize their inventory and reduce working capital, while improving on-time delivery to their customers – the customer’s customer as it were.

While the ASN sounds like a gift from heaven above, it does not come without significant effort. It is, perhaps, one of the most likely victims of cross-functional dysfunction. Multiple supplier departments must contribute to the information required of an ASN including but not limited to order management, warehousing, inventory control, accounts receivable, and transportation. In fact, the transportation department must also rely on the supplier’s carrier to provide information such as truck details, route information and estimated times of arrival (ETA).

Remember the old saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link?” This certainly applies in the case of an ASN. That weakest link is also known as the choke point – that point in the process that is most likely to cause the process to fail. Identifying and mitigating the impact of the choke point is crucial to the success of the ASN.

It all comes down to process. In the case of the ASN, there is one master process, and each of the functions contribute their portion to it. When all the functions contribute to the process accurately and timely, everything works well. When one function fails, this becomes the choke point.

When a supplier develops an ASN, it’s important to bring all of the representative functions together to collaborate on the master process, designing in detail how this will work, and contingencies when something goes haywire, such as an electrical outage at a warehouse, or weather- related transportation delays.

The ASN is a great metaphor for leaders optimizing their organizations, whether it be process related, technology, culture, and regardless of the drivers of that optimization – company strategy, mergers, acquisitions, divestures, or new leadership. Leaders at the appropriate level must come together and collaborate openly on expected outcomes. They also need to  design a path forward to address these requirements, ensuring that any choke points are identified ahead of time, and steps are taken beforehand to mitigate any issues that chokepoint might present.

The bottom line is this: the company must come together to openly collaborate. This means putting aside pre-conceived notions of good or bad within each function and challenging each other to think through the ramifications of their work. This requires open discussion of how changes in one area will impact the ability of other areas to work successfully.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.