Monday, April 16, 2018

Defining "Leadership Brand" and More Insights from Mark Herbert

It's time to feature one of my favorite leadership experts on my blog again. Mark Herbert and I met back in 2011 as a result of our social media activities, and I was immediately impressed by Mark's insights gained by more than 30 years of experience as an HR executive, author, and management consultant in a variety of organizational settings ranging from entrepreneurial to Fortune 100. Currently, Mark is Principal for New Paradigms, a management consulting firm in Oregon that helps companies embrace change to engage their employees. Check out the highlights of our conversation about leadership below.

[1] QUESTION: How do you differentiate between management and leadership?
MARK HERBERT: This the age-old question isn’t it? In the simplest terms, I see management as a role and leadership as a relationship. An organization can appoint you to a role as manager and give you authority to instruct me, set expectations, and make other decisions about staff and their work. It is best when we have provided you with an appropriate skills framework to make you effective in that role. Leadership as a relationship is when people place their trust in you. They follow your direction not because of the authority that you possess, but rather because of the trust that you have earned. In another way, I have often said that leadership is not something you can demand, it is a gift that others bestow upon you. It is also an awesome responsibility. The trust that comes with leadership is something to be cultivated and tended very carefully.

[2] QUESTION: On your website (, you welcome visitors with one of my favorite quotes, "Your culture is your brand." As a brand marketing professional, I applaud you for sharing that statement, but how do you define it?
MARK HERBERT: We often forget that the most important thing in relationships with our stakeholders is where our customer or stakeholder connects with our employees. That is where your brand “lives.” You can have a great product, wonderful marketing, and other tactics, but that human-to-human contact is what transcends a transaction and makes it a relationship. When an organization states one thing and acts in another, people look at the actions. Look at the impact of Uber’s culture on the Uber “brand.” As a polarity look at Richard Branson.

[3] QUESTION: You've written about something called a "leadership brand." What is it, and what are some examples of leadership brands?
MARK HERBERT: Leadership brand is another way of saying your leadership culture. First of all, it starts at the top of the organization. The leadership style demonstrated by top leadership is typically replicated throughout the organization. You get the behavior you reinforce. Leadership brands are also different, and one isn’t better or worse than the other. Steve Jobs was a brilliant man and a tough leader. He could be extremely difficult and demanding. Jack Welch led GE successfully with a style that would likely not be tolerated by many millennials today. Both those organizations enjoyed tremendous success in their times. An excellent example of leadership brand is described in Simon Sinek’s brilliant book, Why Leaders Eat Last, where he describes the leadership paradigm of the Navy Seals, arguably the elite of our U.S. Military. The key is defining your leadership brand either current or aspirational and demanding that it is the standard of performance.

[4] QUESTION: You've written extensively about why employees are disengaged, but if you could write the most-widely read personnel manual, what three activities would you include to create inspiring workplaces?
MARK HERBERT: At its most basic, I try to teach my clients to hire hard and manage easy. What I mean by that is, first of all, you hire people whose values and commitment to your “Why” are clear. When people face a values incongruency at any level with their role or company, engagement isn’t going to happen.
Second, I tell my clients they need to embrace Stephen M. Covey’s trust model. There are three distinct levels of trust: statutory, knowledge based, and identity based. Identity based trust is the goal. That is where you have alignment. It is a difficult hurdle to achieve. It doesn’t come with degrees or certifications. It comes from shared experiences.
Third, is hire the right leadership team. When I say leadership team, I mean from the C-suite to front line leaders. The best leaders possess the following in my experience:
• Technical Competence.
• Understanding and embracing the trust and congruency models.
• Emotional and Social Intelligence.
• Emotional Awareness.
• Emotional Balance.
You will notice that the “technical” skills are only one dimension, that isn’t accidental. People don’t trust and follow you for competence and intellect alone.

[5] QUESTION: You are responsible for one of my all-time favorite leadership quotes. "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What led up to the quote?
MARK HERBERT: I have watched too many emerging leaders and entrepreneurs making the transition be overly concerned with being the “expert” on everything. Spending my early career in large companies taught me that there are many facets that make up a successful strategy. One person is typically incapable of mastering all of them. The best leaders recognize the elements that need to be represented in a complete strategy and they integrate them. They don’t try to be the first chair to use a musical analogy, they conduct the orchestra. I have watched people step up and do amazing things when they were given permission and freedom to make mistakes without fear of failing. The other is being sure that credit and success are in abundance rather than scarcity. Use recognition proactively rather than reactively.

My gratitude to Mark for sharing his timeless leadership insights. I invite you to check out Mark's previous guest appearances on the Debbie Laskey Blog at the links below:

Tips to Engage Your Workforce (June 1, 2011)

Workforce Engagement and Motivational Secrets (January 11, 2013)

Why Brand Advocacy Is Closely Tied to Employee Engagement (May 7, 2014)

Why Janitors May Be Your Best Brand Advocates (March 7, 2016)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 6 Amazing #BrandExperiences

Brand experiences can be good, and they can be bad. When they're good, customers are happy and go on with their lives. But when they're bad, the upset customer tells anyone who will listen including family members, friends, co-workers, and anyone in the individual's social media circles. And while Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning," some brands don't take advantage of the opportunity. Here are six amazing brand experiences including some take-away lessons for all brands.

A man went to a hospital in Texas because he wanted to meet a famous heart surgeon. As the man left the hospital, he met an elderly janitor who was mopping the floor. The man asked, “What do you do here at the hospital?” The elderly man replied, “Dr. DeBakey and I save lives together.” The elderly man explained that Dr. DeBakey had told all employees that hospital infections kill more patients than disease, so the elderly janitor was doing his part to keep the hospital clean.


Have all the employees in your company jumped on the bandwagon to support each other and work toward the same goal?

My thanks to Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter) for sharing this story in his book, Managing Whole People, One Man's Journey.

In 1989, Gary Comer, the founder of Lands’ End, built a state-of-the-art gym for his employees. At the pool’s unveiling and once all employees had assembled near the pool, he asked them to look at the tiled wall near the pool, where the names of all employees had been added to the wall.


How many companies show their gratitude for their employees in such a visible manner? Moreover, how many companies truly realize that, in order to create satisfied customers, they must FIRST create satisfied employees?

My thanks to Jeanne Bliss (@JeanneBliss on Twitter) for sharing this story in her book, I Love You More Than My Dog – Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

When your brand is Singapore Airlines, a cup of tea is much, much more than just a cup of tea during the interview process. A group of potential hires was led into a conference room and asked to wait. Hiring managers watched from an adjoining room through one-way glass. In the conference room, chairs were placed against the walls, but there was a table in the middle of the room with a tea pot and cups. The hiring managers wanted to see who would start conversations and serve tea to others, because those were the people who demonstrated a commitment to service that Singapore Airlines expects of its employees.


When you place an advertisement for an open position, you begin the onboarding process. Applicants should realize that the process begins immediately. Employers and/or people within the personnel department should move forward through the process with respect for all applicants. That said, some businesses, based on their industries, will want to see how applicants act in appropriate scenarios.

My thanks to Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest (@MarilynSuttle and @LoriJoVest on Twitter) for sharing this story in their book, Who's Your Gladys, How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan.

In 1975, a customer walked into an Alaskan Nordstrom outpost and asked to return a set of worn-down tires. Even though Nordstrom did not sell the man the tires – and did not sell tires at all – Nordstrom honored the request. This story has become the standard for Nordstrom customer service.

Consider the tire customer: Was he a regular customer at Nordstrom? How often did he shop there? How much did he spend? Was he a brand loyal Nordstrom shopper? Should Nordstrom have taken back the tires? And now, for your business, how well do you know your customers?

My thanks to Peter Fader (@faderp on Twitter) for sharing this story in his book, Customer Centricity, Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage.


When a brand loyal customer used Twitter and joked that he was on an airplane and would love to eat a steak, he was surprised beyond belief when he arrived at his destination. He was met by a man in a tuxedo holding a Morton's bag with a full dinner including a 24-ounce Porterhouse steak, an order of shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton's famous rolls of bread, napkins, and silverware.


While Peter Shankman thinks his large Twitter following was not the reason for this unbelievable story, the fact that he was a brand loyal customer was significant. How in tune is your brand with your customers’ behaviors? Do they use social media to engage with your brand? Do you use social media to engage with your customers? Think outside the box to stand apart from your competition, and you may end up far apart.

My thanks to Peter Shankman (@petershankman on Twitter) for sharing this story. Read the entire story (and it’s well worth it) at Peter's website at

Since everyone experiences delays when traveling, there is no surprise that most people dislike flying. Along the same train of thought, most people probably don't think of airlines when asked to name their favorite brand. But here's a story that may change your mind. Recently, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant made a passenger's dream come true. The passenger had Down Syndrome, and when deplaning, the young girl passenger said it was her lifelong dream to be a flight attendant. The flight attendant made some phone calls within Southwest to get the passenger on another flight and have her work alongside her as an "assistant flight attendant," and two weeks later, on Friday, August 31, 2018, the two flew together on a flight from Sacramento to Seattle. The assistant flight attendant wore a red uniform and helped to greet passengers and also got to do a few other fun things - she even earned flight attendant wings for her service.

To quote Bill Murphy of Inc magazine, "There's no revenue involved here for Southwest Airlines. There's nothing that will make investors swoon. There's no way that doing something like this for a passenger is in the flight attendant's job description. But at the same time, after hearing this story, how can you not feel a little bit better about Southwest Airlines? Even if you've never flown them? Or even if you've had a bad experience yourself on the airline sometime." Will you forget this story? I know I won't.

My thanks to Bill Murphy of Inc magazine for sharing this inspiring story. @BillMurphyJr on Twitter. (

These six brand experiences have remained with me over the years. What are your most memorable brand experiences? I invite you to chime in and share.