Monday, November 15, 2021

Tips for Brand Storytelling, Respectful Workplaces, and Paradigm Shifts

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing people from all over the world. One inspiring individual who I met on Twitter is Lillian Lake. We recently discussed brand marketing, the workplace, and leadership, and highlights follow below Lillian’s bio.

Living in the Western Mountains of Maine, Lillian Lake is a journalist for Sun Media Group. She uses her skills and broad knowledge of the importance of world compassion and equity as a Compassion Policy Consultant, Human Trafficking Educator, Caregiver/Youngcarer advocate, and food enthusiast. All of these areas reflect on the health of humanity as we work toward a world of peace and enlightenment. Lillian can be found online at and on Twitter @llake.

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet and in your email signature, you include the following sentence, "When people tell us their story, we are to hold it as delicately as a flower, with as much honor and respect." How do you interpret this for a brand's story?
LILLIAN LAKE: Every customer and client come to a brand with a personal history, and while that history may seem directly related to a specific product, it's likely not the case. Take Campbell’s soup, for example. Generally, no one buys cans of soup for the taste. Instead, they believe it brings them comfort. Each spoonful represents an emotional memory that soothes the customer. Perhaps they are grieving, or work is difficult. Maybe they miss their grandma. Perhaps all of those reasons. Campbell’s gains trust by showing ordinary people living ordinary lives, looking for simple solutions. To honor and respect the customer, Campbell knows that "ordinary" represents safety and hope. The company serves generations, never straying from understanding why people buy their product – to be comforted, understood, and respected.

Before launching a product, successful companies listen. They empathize with what they hear. Then, with authenticity, they offer a solution that makes the customer feel better about themselves and their situation. They lean in because people remember when you listened and sought understanding.

I'm a grief facilitator. I see every week how people respond to knowing that I care about their story. It keeps them coming back until, eventually, they feel able to be on their own. You can be sure that when sharing their experience with other people, they will tell them, not necessarily in exact wording, that the center where we meet is empathetic and respects and honors their grief journey.

My quote is about honoring people where they are on their journey. That's what companies need to understand. That's what will give them longevity. They aren't selling a can of soup. They are selling an experience that makes people feel heard and valued.

Oh, and one more thing! Successful companies will use the message of honor and respect throughout their company because employees who feel they are seen and appreciated will stay for the long term and also recruit other team members looking for the same experience. Everyone wins. Everyone is part of the brand’s story.

TWEET THIS: Companies need to understand: they are selling an experience that makes people feel heard and valued. -@llake #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote that the buddy system is a good form of self-care: "The buddy system is a great source of strength to help us learn and remember the different aspects of self-care. What works for some doesn't work for us all; what works for us as individuals may not work for anyone else. A buddy or buddies helps remind us we are not alone, and we shouldn't give up." How can buddies help when there is strife in the workplace or when supervisors do not treat employees equally or fairly?
LILLIAN LAKE: If every organization, institution, or company created caring policies with compassion and reviewed them for compassionate ideas, we would have less strife, inequities, and lack of fairness. Buddying up would be a natural piece of caring workplace development. However, we are souls having human experiences. Strife and inequities are going to crop up.

Nearly everything I’ve read seems to focus on what the buddy system can do for an organization. I think that the buddy system should be about what it does for the well-being of the employee, and the company will benefit.

I want to focus this moment on the employee who is new to the company and locale and likely has additional relationships and struggles at home. Why does the latter matter in a buddy system? Because the best buddy relationship is going to pick up on cultural differences, language barriers, and those days when their buddy comes in with slumped shoulders and is extra quiet.

These are opportunities for caring conversations. People who feel cared for will feel safe speaking up. They’ll convey difficulties with language differences, time schedules that conflict with caring duties at home. They are likely to express how other people make them feel about how they dress or express their concerns. They feel connected and necessary. Empowered to create positive change within the organization pertaining to gender, age, religion, and other cultural issues. Much of the strife we have in the workplace comes from lack of understanding.

Without a buddy system, an individual may think of themselves as "the only one," which can lead to self-doubt and other mental health issues. That's not healthy for the individual or the organization. Humans thrive better together because we can offer each encouragement, understanding, and reminders that work isn't all there is to life. We must remember to enjoy life's joyful moments. The buddy system should not be relied upon to answer all problems, but rather as a tool to engage and empower, and to establish confidence and self-empowerment.

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote that "2020 witnessed the power of people to help each other. Against all odds, people have willingly stepped up to take action to make the world a better place." Since the pandemic began in early 2020, what inspiring stories have stood out to you?
LILLIAN LAKE: I think of moments when people have made the most simple, kind gestures. I baked for first responders and checked on the elderly. I made them fresh bread, soup, casseroles, and cookies. Neighbors helping neighbors as though everyone is our neighbor.

Around the world, people offered to shop for other people and set up Zoom meetings to keep in touch or created lists of people to text "Hi. I remember you. Do you need anything?"

Teachers checked up on students who were in particularly trying situations. As a journalist, I wrote a story about a student who lacked access to reliable Internet. Libraries were closed, but this particular student would ride his bike to the library, even in bone-chilling conditions, to sit on the steps and use the library's Internet. The story was a catalyst for change.

When the local paper mill severed 231 workers soon after a mill explosion, the former employees leaned in and checked on each other. Local communities cooked, baked, shopped, and donated food to the newly unemployed. Friends randomly handed cash to those struggling due to COVID-imposed isolation with no place to go or people to be with.

People gave of themselves when they had little else but themselves to give. These were simple gestures from the heart. Each express what the heart feels when words fail. I see each as a bearer of light, lighting another's path so that they don't stumble and lose their way.

QUESTION: Your Twitter bio features three awesome directives: "Empower, Inspire, and Encourage." How can leaders embrace and execute these actions?
LILLIAN LAKE: Empower, inspire, and encourage are all action words. They require leaders to be positive, intentional, deliberate, and compassionate. They work very neatly together. Before action, consider them and how you are about to apply them. Listen for understanding and trust building.

We always have the opportunity to communicate better at the soul level. Our souls are of love, so when we feel "empowered, inspired, and encouraged," we react accordingly. Positive words create positive energy, and that's good for everyone.

When we empower, inspire, and encourage, we affirm that a person matters. For example, "Times are difficult; I need you to work hard." OR "I know you're doing your best in these difficult times. Is there anything I can do to lighten your load? What do you need?"

The first statement causes an employee to think, "I'm a failure. I can never do enough." It's about the "leader" not the employee. The more positive second statement recognizes the employee and their effort, leaving an opening for the employee to ask for help, which opens the conversation, shares information, and by assisting, affirms that the employee matters. I am a big fan of asking what a person needs, so that I'm already putting them in the place of power.

TWEET THIS: When we empower, inspire, and encourage, we affirm that a person matters. -@llake #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How do you recommend becoming a paradigm shifter in the workplace?
LILLIAN LAKE: Here are my recommendations:
(1) To be effective, the first step is to know self-love and practice self-care. When we love ourselves, including understanding ourselves and who we are, we can better understand our surroundings and everything and everyone in those surroundings. We can't effectively create change if we don't know why and how things need to change. As I like to say, "Change without thought is not change."
(2) Stay rested and balanced from within and without. Tired people are cranky people who can't think clearly and react lovingly.
(3) Develop strong communication skills. Communication isn't just about words. Communication is about taking information, transforming it, and transmitting it while being a solid cultural translator.
(4) Be with those who encourage you and support you. Support should include people who will tell you when you're wrong and offer suggestions without judgment. Likewise, develop trust and faith with co-workers. Be authentic. Be quiet and listen.
(5) Research. Know your subject but also keep an open mind and update it! Remember that truth is "always somewhere in the middle."
(6) Finally, don't rush in. Observe, don't absorb. Respond, don't react. Know your mission and goal.

My thanks to Lillian for sharing her insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Read more about the stories referenced in Question #3:

Image Credit: Lillian Lake.

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