Sunday, February 5, 2012

7 Ways To Keep Naysayers From Ruining Your Brand

Hate Your Guys - Ethan
Image credit: Solid Bond via Flickr

In today's sermon (Feb. 5, "Knowing What To Ignore") Joel Osteen talked about critical question, one that every person confronts sometime:  

How do you handle the naysayers in your life?

"Naysayers" are not constructive critics. They are people who try to tear you down, bit by bit, under the guise of offering "feedback." But somehow, no matter what you do, they just don't like you!

These people always seem to have something to say. Naysayers don't like your:
  1. Identity - nothing you do is ever right
  2. Beliefs - values, philosophy, conscience, spirituality, religion
  3. Relationships - your choice of friends, or a mate; you're not a good enough parent
  4. Profession - you should have been this, or that
  5. Manner, style, even looks - too formal or not formal enough, introvert or extrovert, so on
Even ordinary criticism is hard to take. Osteen recalled a time when he would give a sermon, and it seemed that most people had truly gotten something out of it. But if even one person would come up to him and say something like, "Joel, that really didn't work for me," he would "drive home all depressed."
Over time Osteen learned that disapproval from some was inevitable. And that the more you progress in life, the more you will find that there are people who oppose you. It's not just that you will always have critics. It's that you will always have people who just don't like you no matter what you do.

The more you accomplish, the higher you go, the worse this problem will get.

Jewish people believe this too. Life is basically a series of tests, and it's designed to be hard. The more we take on, the more we achieve, the bigger the obstacles.

Opposition exists because we exist.

What do you do with that personally? How do you handle it when you're running a company?

A useful model that Osteen referred to briefly is the incident in the Bible when the Jewish prophet Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of the city of Jerusalem. He faced intense opposition. Nothing stuck. So the enemy accused Nehemiah of wanting to build the wall so that he could be king.

In a corporate or brand situation you can imagine the parallels. You build up a company with a unique philosophy - Google and Zappos.com come immediately to mind - and there is tons of interest in your terrific corporate culture. People intuitively "get" how your culture helps your brand. But lurking in the background is a secret desire to rip you apart, to bring you down to the level of the rest of us.

Nehemiah wasn't a corporate leader. His task was much more important - had to build that wall to fortify Jerusalem's defenses. A city without a wall was defenseless.

In the sermon Osteen emphasized that Nehemiah kept going, despite his detractors. But if you look at this simple summary of the events closely, he did that and a whole lot more:
  1. Kept going: As Osteen said, no matter what happened on the outside, the work had to continue: "So we all returned to the wall and each of us continued our work."
  2. Prayed, continuously: Understood that he needed direction from a higher power
  3. Obtained written support from a legitimate authority: It's not enough to count on God or your intuition; people look for tangible evidence that your efforts are legitimate. "And I said to the king, ‘If the king is willing, please give letters to me." 
  4. Faced the problem by responding: Nehemiah sent a message directly, in writing, replying to the lie. Didn't dwell on it, but took care of it. "I sent this reply to Sanballat, ‘What you are saying is not true. You are making it all up.’"
  5. Confronted "the enemy inside": Building a security wall takes time and effort, and the poorer members of the community suffered. Worse, the wealthy were profiting from them: "Then I accused the chief men and the officials. I told them, ‘These people are your own relatives. But you are making unfair profits from them....They were silent, because they had no excuse."
  6. Reassured the team: "I said, ‘Do not be afraid of our enemies. Remember that the *Lord is great and powerful. Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters. Fight for your wives and your homes.’"
  7. Let authority change hands: When his part of the work was done, put somebody trustworthy in charge - proving that he was not a power-monger.
In his sermon, Osteen talked a lot about choosing your battles. If somebody hates you or the brand you represent, that's a fact and there's not a thing you can do about it. There's no way to win them over and no point in even trying.

At the same time, it's clear from Nehemiah's experience that you can't ignore the detractors either. They are actively trying to bring you down. They use communication, particularly, to harm you. And it's not hard to imagine how your external enemies and your internal ones can work together, in a way, to perpetuate a negative state of affairs.

It seems to me that the most important thing a brand leader of any kind can do is to trust their vision. You have to know in your heart that what you're doing is important - whether you can get support for it or not. The second most important is to assemble and take care of your team. And the third is to confront and remove any obstacles in your path.

If you focus on the task, rather than getting sidetracked by the people who want to make it an issue about you personally, you stand a much greater chance of success than if you start to question who you are - and whether your vision is legitimate.

There is only one you, and you were put here for a purpose. So do everything you can to achieve your goals, and don't let the naysayers distract you.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

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