Am I telling the right story?

I have a dream… — MLK

The speech that accompanied these four words inspired a nation. There was no specific action plan, or execution strategy included. No manual or playbook. Just an eloquently crafted description of what the world could look like if enough people decided to make a change.

Successful brands that truly creating change know that it’s not the features and benefits that compel a customer to buy a product or service, but the feeling of participation in a greater cause. As author Simon Sinek states in his excellent book It Starts With Why “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Likewise, people often want to work for a company not (entirely) because of the pay or benefits, but rather because they believe the mission of the company. A mission that is bracketed by the company’s culture.

Culture has gotten a lot of hype recently and has been bastardized to mean ping-pong tables in the lounge or free snacks in the office. These trivial novelties do not a culture make, and like a dandelion assaulted by a fall breeze; the fluff tends to blow away and you’re left with the real culture of a company.

Does what’s left inspire your people and give them enough context to make the “right now” decisions that move thing in the right direction? You need to be able to pull any one of your team members aside and get analogous answers to these questions:

What does your company stand for?

How does it make decisions?

What kind of freedoms do employees have to fail?

Where are we planning to be in 3–5 years?

Otherwise, you could be in a canoe paddling as hard as you can, just in opposite directions.

Originally published at Devin Glage.

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