Monday, April 12, 2021

How Can Leaders Become Architects of Unbeatable Brands?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is Julie Winkle Giulioni, who I met several years ago after I read her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. We recently had a discussion about leadership and its connection to the employee experience and the overall brand experience. Highlights of our conversation follow Julie's introduction.

Julie Winkle Giulioni is a guardian of growth, defender of development, and promoter of potential in today’s workplace. She’s the co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 speakers, Julie offers memorable and actionable live and virtual keynotes and presentations and is a regular contributor to numerous business publications and is working on her second book (to be released in 2022 by ATD Press.) Visit her website at and her LinkedIn profile at, and connect on Twitter at @Julie_WG.

QUESTION: What traits are most important to be a good leader, and why?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here are six traits:
(1) Humility: The most effective leaders I know are the most humble. They don’t demonstrate bravado, or demand attention, or insist upon being the smartest person in the room. They value, appreciate and spotlight the gifts of others, allowing the team to get the credit and shine.
(2) Emotional intelligence: Leadership is built upon a foundation of relationships. The ability to practice self- and other- awareness, navigate the emotional contours of the workplace, and demonstrate empathy are core competencies.
(3) Perspective: In today’s world where long-term might be next quarter or even next week, it’s easy to get caught up sort-term thinking. But highly effective leaders can hold a bigger picture view which allows them to
(4) Understand how today’s mistakes (when we learn from them) can produce tomorrow’s results.
(5) View relationships as a longer-term strategy – and invest in them accordingly.
(6) Practice patience, knowing that some things simply take time.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: This is a very timely question. My team and I are working on a training project for a client. It’s focused on the skills needed within the organization to elevate the customer experience. Someone recently asked me, ‘I thought you were all about leadership… so why would you take on a project like this?’ The is a very thin line between the customer experience and the employee experience. When employees are respected, motivated, and satisfied, they engage with customers in a way that leaves them feeling respected, motivated, and satisfied – which leads to loyalty. Executive leaders who understand this – and who prioritize an exceptional employee experience – become the architects of an unbeatable brand.

TWEET THIS: Executive leaders who prioritize an exceptional employee experience become the architects of an unbeatable brand. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: In a post on my Blog, I shared six amazing brand experiences. Do you have any to add?

(Blog post referenced: Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 6 Amazing #BrandExperiences

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here’s one: Imperfect Foods. Who wouldn’t resonate with the mission of reducing food waste? This organization has found a way to make sure of overages and ugly produce with weekly home deliveries. During the height of the pandemic, they not only figured out how to continue to predictably serve a growing customer base… they expanded into more items, reducing the need for traditional grocery shopping at a time when this was challenging for many. Their marketing is fun, friendly, and genuinely helpful with a bit of a Trader Joe’s vibe. I love the routine reporting in which they calculate how my purchases have made a difference in terms of carbon, water use, and waste. And if there’s ever an issue, it’s immediately and effortlessly addressed. All of which make Imperfect Foods a pretty perfect brand in my book.

QUESTION: In one of your posts on your Blog, you wrote about employee resignation. "Given the investment made in employee development, many leaders are beginning to re-think how they help people exit. A warmer departure, friendlier handshake, and positive post-exit contact builds a better employment brand/employer brand. But it also leaves the door open for good talent to return." How can employers understand that having an exit strategy should be part of the onboarding process and that employer branding is important?

(Blog post referenced: Rethinking Your Response When an Employee Resigns

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Increasingly, there an understanding that we must attend to and be intentional around the entire employee lifecycle. Employee expectations are high; and competition for top talent is always fierce. So, structuring the relationship from day one based upon transparency, respect, clarity, candid communication, and growth creates an employee experience that encourages retention, distinguishes an employment brand, and establishes a network of alumni (employees who left but who take with them positive feelings.) And the possibilities associated with that are enormous.

Here are three take-aways for employers:
(1) Get to know employees – really know them. Understand their motivation, aspirations, and what really matters to them. This is the only way to ensure an experience that will engage and retain them.
(2) Make a commitment to ongoing learning and development. ‘Lack of growth’ is the #1 reason employees give for leaving a role or organization. Take that reason off the table by ensuring that learning is ever-present. This doesn’t require workshops or courses (although they’re good too). Some of the most relevant and powerful development comes from in-role challenges, assignments, and activities.
(3) Offer meaningful work. People want to feel like they are making a contribution and a difference.  Even mundane tasks can be infused with a sense of purpose when you take the time to help employees understand how their work connects with the customer, mission, and big picture.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you? 

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: That’s a great line. And it relates back to an earlier answer. The most effective leaders I know are the ones who enable excellence. Sometimes, that looks like blocking and tackling. Other times, it means standing back while others step forward. But in all cases, the team’s win is a leader’s greatest success.

TWEET THIS: The team’s win is a leader’s greatest success. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Julie for sharing her inspiring perspective about leadership and its impact on the employee experience. 

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

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