Skip to main content

When People Are The Afterthought


A long time ago I lived in a little beautiful house in Lakewood, New Jersey.

My best memories of growing up are in that house.

·      Zayde letting go of my bike as I finally “got” how to ride
·      Feeding the birds on the back stoop with my Dad
·      Birthday party with Raggedy Ann & all my friends, in the basement.

One day I bopped through the front door and confronted my mother. She told me to sit down.

“We’re moving,” she said. “Go pack your things.”

“When?”

“Now.”

It wasn’t that moving was the worst thing in the world.

It was that they didn’t tell me until AFTER the whole deal was done.

And my confidence, my little world, melted around me.

The daughter of an IT consultant, it wasn’t the last time I moved and I became a bit of an Army brat. Learned to jump in and swim wherever I was.

But the feeling never left me: Don’t trust anyone – especially not anyone in power. Because no matter how nice they are or how much they “love” you, in the end you never know what they’re going to do.

Another experience challenged this view. It happened 30 years later.

I was working in my first high-level job. Professional communication. Lucrative, Madison Avenue. But terribly unstable, like all high-flying jobs. Everything was subject to someone’s favor, the next internal project, winning the next big client.

For awhile, with G-d’s help, we rode the dot-com boom. We seemed very successful. My boss traveled around the world giving speeches that I wrote. I gave interviews to the Chicago Tribune and other major media outlets about the marketing research we did. We had a content partnership with Reuters. I wrote a column for a European marketing magazine. Everything seemed grand.

But of course this gig did come to an end.

It’s the curse of the private sector – you can win big but lose equally as big or more, and in no time.

The difference in this case was that I knew about it way in advance. My boss foresaw that it was coming, encouraged me to prepare, and generally cushioned the blow.

My boss was an extremely high-level executive and had better things to do with her time than deal with me. But the fact that she did take the time to be a human being, and to stand in the place where I stood, helped tremendously to soften the blow.

When you’re working on a project that messes with someone’s life – it changes their processes, it affects how their work is presented to the world, it affects their duties, or it could even result in their firing – it is tempting to avoid confronting them directly.

It is tempting to drop the hit on a Friday, give people the weekend to get drunk, imagine they are throwing darts at your effigy, then pick up on Monday as if nothing had occurred.

That would be the wrong thing to do.

You have to tell people what is going on in advance.

This does not mean that you stop the project, the process or the change.

It does mean that you grant them the respect and the dignity that they deserve.

Just like in a marriage, when someone is not happy – the other partner has a right to be spoken to, worked with, and not just come home to find the closet half-empty and a good-bye note on the pillow.

You may argue that notice gives ammo to the evil detractors of all good things. That it gives naysayers time to build their case.

I can’t argue with that.

But then again, it goes back to culture.

If you are the type of organization where nobody can talk, then the voices of powerful naysayers will be disproportionately strong. And you’re right – too much advance notice can hurt.

On the other hand, if you’ve got an open culture that fosters productive dialogue around change, and that assumes disaster may always lurk around the corner, one more voice of negativity is not going to have much impact. Because there are too many other people talking.

The difference between Culture A and Culture B is really leadership.

While it’s important to have early notice and open dialogue, it’s equally as important to have someone unafraid to steer the ship in a new direction. Someone who says, “I’ve heard your opinion, thank you very much and now we are moving on.”

An organization that combines openness, communication, and firm, reasoned-decision making is well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

And it will be full of people who are grateful to be there and want to say.

In the end it’s not feedback that poses a problem. It’s the fear of saying “no” to that feedback that leads to the impulse not to ask questions at all.

Good luck!








Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …