More Blog Posts

Dear Readers:
As business owners, we know how essential it is to feel connected to our staff, but in the hustle and bustle of this ever-moving business, it can be easy forget how important it is for our staff to feel connected to us and one another. There is research from the Harvard Business Review ( support that happy, valued employees show a return of 31% more productivity, 37% higher sales and are three times more creative. Today, I want to share a few tips for reconnecting and motivating your team ensuring a productive and positive season.
Morning meetings can feel like running down a checklist of never ending to-do’s which can leave most of your team feeling like robots spouting off what they are working on, what they have completed and what’s next. While this is important information, taking a few moments to say hello, ask “how are you?” and showing an interest in the person who performs the task will go a long way to build bonds and humanize the person sitting in the chair (which not only builds loyalty to you but also amongst your staff).
You do this by opening a discussion as opposed to simply dictating or asking closed-ended (yes or no) questions. The more you make your staff members feel heard, appreciated and understood, the more information you will gain to advance your business. Think about it: If your team feels as though they are only there to go through a list of action items, there’s little incentive to share that big great idea they have or fill a new project with added enthusiasm. You don’t need to allot more than 3-5 minutes per person, but them a moment to share their thoughts and offer feedback connects them to the project and gives often essential back information that can help to avoid misunderstandings.
We all need to get things done in order to have a successful business, but it’s important to remember these are folks who choose to give you 100% every day. The best way to keep them productive is to let them know they are a valued part of the process and progress in different ways. When a staff member stays late, goes the extra mile or does a stellar job, let them know you see it and appreciate it and reward them on occasion. They’ll be more likely to do it again.
Keeping the air clean is as easy as keeping your staff aware of what you’re thinking and feeling about things. Staying silent for too long can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings which can be downright toxic for a business, especially when there is a sense of imbalance or fear. I try and give feedback as often as possible and keep an open door policy where questions can be asked and information shared in a free exchange. This way if I don’t like something, there’s a chance to fix it and move on quickly and if something is going well, there’s no question as to whether or not to continue.
Whether it’s going to lunch together or taking a team outing, volunteering together or hosting a seasonal party for staff and loved ones, taking the time to have a little downtime together can really boost productivity when it’s time to get back to work.

What do you do to connect with your team and create a supportive and productive office culture?

Dear Readers:
I am a firm believer in the power of education and the importance of giving back, and with these things in mind, it is no surprise that I am a passionate supporter of Giving Africa, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to the exchange of wealth between Africa and the United Kingdom. Founded by my dear friend, Craig Goldblatt, Giving Africa focuses on providing much-needed funds to assist children and young people with the valuable skills to lift themselves, their families and communities from poverty. Additionally, the charity works to provide those who donate with knowledge and understanding about the vibrant and deeply spiritual African way of life.
I am proud to announce that for each paid presentation I deliver in 2017, Walking TALL will sponsor the school fees or school meals for one child for two years. Today, it is my great pleasure to share my interview with Craig about this wonderful charity and how you can support this important cause.

Thank you for taking the time to share more about Giving Africa with us. Tell us, what inspired this project?
My mother was a social worker in South Africa before she passed away twenty years ago. Both of my parents encouraged a real sense of spirituality in me when I was younger and it was their deep sense of giving and love for Africa that really inspired me. This, combined with a deep respect for the African way of community, togetherness, and spirit, draw me ever closer to this work.
We love the concept behind Giving Africa and have our own thoughts, but would love you to share your mission with our readers. Can you tell us more about the charity?
The intention of the charity is to support both our UK community and those in Africa to love ourselves and those we share our lives with. Through this, we then support the eradication of physical and spiritual poverty.
You have said Giving Africa is less about “charity” and more about a mutual exchange between those giving money and those giving spiritual support. Can you share more about this?
In general terms, we believe that Africa has spiritual wealth and physical poverty. We in the west have physical wealth and spiritual poverty. Africa does not need saving, per se, as it has been around for billions of years. In my opinion, we need to support one another to share our resources to live a better quality of life. We demonstrate this through building schools and a better quality of education on the ground. We also organise journeys to Africa to understand the cultural diversity that exists between our two nations.

What do you feel is the most valuable part of your mission?
To help people to love and take care of themselves.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries with one of the lowest literacy rates. What are the main projects you are working on in this area right now? We are working on the following projects:
We are supporting the leadership of the school in Gourcy, Burkina Faso and also focusing on the following:
We are creating a gardening project in the school. This will teach valuable skills in terms of changing the harsh and dry land into fertile productive gardens. This will also support years of tradition with recent learnings and techniques. The project trains students and produces crops to feed some of the poorest children in the school through the food programme. In the future, we will increase the crops grown and it will provide as an income source as well.
Our new sewing project will teach a life skill that will give students an opportunity to make their own uniforms and clothes to sell locally.
The planning of a vocational programme that will utilise a number of different skills for the students.
The planning of a solar project for the students and the community of Gourcy.
Connecting online people in the UK with students in Burkina Faso.
What has been your most rewarding project in this area so far?
We have created eight classrooms, toilet facilities and a food programme for over 250 of the school’s neediest students. For many, this is their only meal of the day and many will save some food to bring back to their siblings at home.
Some people worry about how much of the money they donate goes to serve the actual cause. Can you share how the process from donation to execution work? We are proud to say that, in the six years that we have been operating in Burkina Faso, we have lost a minimal amount of money, if any at all. As a small charity, we are funding directly to the hands of our local partners. Our financial vehicle is kept simple with a direct link to the beneficiaries. Charities are constantly scrutinised by both the public and the Charity Commission to ensure they give the most benefit to the people they are set up to help – and this is the right thing to do.
There is an excellent TED talk about the need to reward Charities for what they do not how little they spend. It is very important to run a charity with due diligence to governance, financial procedures and ensuring minimal risk of fraud and corruption and this takes time and money.
As an International Development charity, we are different in that we benefit both UK and Burkina communities, and therefore the actual cause is found both in the UK and Burkina Faso. With minimal staff time (two part time posts), and no office or associated overheads, our donors can be assured that every day we work to put as many of their pennies into eradicating poverty through the power of learning
Many of our readers are interested in giving back and even starting their own philanthropic organisations. Would you share the biggest challenges you have faced since starting the charity?
Working in West Africa throws up many daily challenges. I guess the biggest for us is the power cuts on the ground that can hinder our communication. Tell us what is coming up next for Giving Africa.
To build a wonderful vocational skills programme to support the entrepreneurial spirit of the young leaders within our school. and link them with entrepreneurs in the UK.
Thank you so very much, Craig. All of us at Walking TALL look forward to continuing to support this wonderful charity through 2017 and beyond.

Dear Readers:
I hope all of you are having a great beginning of the year and are staying focused on your short and long-term goals. Now that it is February, many of us will find that the new year momentum has begun to wane (there is a reason gym attendance drops drastically in February), but it is important to stay consistent. To keep us all on track, I wanted I wanted to send you all a little exercise to help as you plan your next moves. It’s important to note that in order to maximize on this exercise, we need to understand what we are selling, our target market, and most importantly the core of what our brand represents.
As you are crunching numbers and detailing your objectives, I would like to also encourage you to think about the following questions:
How clear is your strategy? When thinking about goals, it’s not uncommon for small business owners to think in large chunks (i.e. 1-5 year plans). The reality is that none of us can see that far ahead, especially in an innovative and fast-paced world. Therefore, we must remain open to unexpected changes and movement in both out business and industry. I suggest that you review and tweak your strategy every quarter, as needed.
What is my priority? Attempting major overhauls and constantly shifting priorities are just two ways brand owners shoot themselves in the foot. Immediate transformations of a business can cause chaos and not having a clear understanding of what should be done (fully) first is going to create a massive list of unchecked tasks (and some seriously stressed-out employees). Instead, break down objectives into groups, prioritize them and approach them step-by-step.
How do I treat my team? It is not uncommon for business owners to be so focused on their end-goals that they begin seeing employees as cogs in a wheel instead of paying attention to their real strengths and utilizing them to the greatest benefit of the company, and the employee. Recognize the extra work they do, the hours they put in and show respect for their downtime. Talk with your employees about their passions, backgrounds and skill sets and be open to role adjustments for employees that find they have larger interests and hidden talents and are willing to share them with you and your company.
How do I view diversification? It’s easy to always do the same thing and to work under expected patterns. However, if you take that route be prepared to see the same results. Growth takes courage. Don’t be afraid to explore other avenues of income and to look for new and innovative solutions within your industry. Risk is never easy, but it can be lucrative when you have taken the time to really explore your options.
How am I leading by example? Your personal brand is something you create and showcase with every decision you make and every interaction you have. It is essential to watch your own work, behavior, words and actions as closely as you do those who work with and for you. Be the leader who shows how to do things correctly by example.

Dear Readers:
Building a successful business and brand takes time, but there’s a big difference between creating a space for strategy and building and allowing fear to hold you back. I am a big fan of taking the initial first step to getting things moving once there are clear goals and an outline.
Today, I want to share five reasons there is no time like “real time”.
You won’t “waste” your moments. Though rushing is rarely a good idea, the notion that “time is on your side” is not always true. Daily distractions and doubt have very sneaky ways of sidelining great ideas while someone else swoops in, takes the ball and wins the game. Yes, there is real value in sitting on big decisions and creating a strategy, but taking that initial step is key.
Ignoring it won’t make something go away. The millennials will all tell you that “ghosting” has become so commonplace that it is no longer seen as the disrespectful and harmful move it actually is, but more of a way to not have to deal with uncomfortable scenarios. It’s terrible in dating and deeply detrimental in business. Ignoring an issue only feeds it. Worse, not addressing something head-on gives it far more power over your daily activities than you may realize. Think about it: it’s always there looming over you (and your team who is likely frustrated or concerned by your lack of attention to something of significant importance). There is also the issue of putting something aside so long that you forget about it or it becomes outdated and unusable.
You will remain transparent. Let’s be clear: silence isn’t golden. I personally like to talk about things in the open immediately with my staff so that we can get to the bottom of things and move on. I value transparency because there is nothing worse than feeling as though someone is not being upfront with you. This is nowhere more true than in branding where authenticity and transparency are key.
You’ll have more flexibility and freedom. Just because we decide something in an initial moment doesn’t mean we have to commit to it forever. Knowing that we are able to change our minds and tweak things gives room for real brainstorming and helps others feel more comfortable speaking up.
Finally, it creates a space of leadership. When you give people room to make decisions, you show that you trust them enough to empower and count on them. When your team feels you value, trust and respect them, they are more apt to rise to the occasion and value, trust and respect you.

What do you feel about procrastination? Do you tend to sit on things too long?

Forget what you have heard about a successful personal brand being based on authenticity, consistency and respect for your values, clients and followers. Right now ‘alternative facts’ reign supreme which is why we are sharing 10 to help you win the favor (or at least attention) of all you meet and engage.
Consistency is overrated. Don’t waste time by getting to know your true core values. Speak out of both sides of your mouth and contradict yourself at any given opportunity. You want to confuse people, so that they find it impossible to know what you stand for and how to recommend you.
Dress like you haven’t shopped in a decade. Always ensure that your wardrobe is dated, appropriate for the job you had 10 years ago, fits badly and detracts away from your true personality.
Repeat yourself constantly. Make sure that when you address an audience that you use repeat yourself over and over again, diluting the impact of the message. Also use as many cliches as possible to engage your listeners.
Bad form is the name of the game. There’s no power in being polite. Interrupt and insult people, show your team and followers that you are above all of that nicey-nicey stuff and gain respect by being as bold, brash and offensive as possible.
It’s always about you. Making it all about you and you alone is what personal branding is all about, right? Talk about yourself as though you are exceptional and take credit for every “good” idea you have.
Blame shift. When the public reacts negatively to your brand, blame your team, the competition, your spouse…anyone but yourself. If all else fails, claim the system is rigged against you.
Use grandiose filler words as often as you can. Get support for bad ideas by lacing sentences with words like “terrific”, “amazing” and “great.”
Work to destroy anything (or anyone) that challenges you. Launch an attack on every person or organization who dares to question you. The more offensive the language, the better. If possible, do this in rapid fire tweets.
Lie, deny…repeat. It doesn’t matter if they heard you say it or have you saying or doing something on camera. Tell the public it didn’t happen enough and they will believe it.
Finally, be as inauthentic as possible. It’s not about who you are, but who you want people to think you are in any given moment. Be guided by the reaction, be it positive or negative, and never forget that the fear is a very powerful drug.
*We will now return to the real world.

Dear Readers,
I hope all of you have had a wonderful and restful holiday and are stepping into 2017 with a renewed sense of inspiration and passion.
Over the holidays, I could not help but to enjoy the many heartwarming and funny posts posted by those in my network. I also enjoyed sharing my special moments with friends and colleagues. One had a bit of a bone to pick with me – my editor, Brenda, follows me on both of my accounts and faux-scolded me for not sharing my Walking TALL posts with my personal network and for not giving her some of the photos I posted on my private account to share with my Walking TALL followers. I explained that, even though I’m a personal branding specialist, it seems a little self-indulgent to do this! That’s when she asked to spend an hour on the phone with me to explain why it’s important to reach out and ask for support, and also how it can add a real benefit to those in my network (and the people in yours).

I have to say that I left the conversation with a different point of view. Though it is a new way of branding to “put it all out there” (even your desires for people to follow you as you do), the reality is that social media is not only a great way to connect with friends and loved ones and share your travel and food photos, it’s also a key driver in authentically building your business, expanding your brand and connecting with your consumers in real time. When it comes to gaining access to editorial opportunities, acquiring new followers and customers and showcasing your product, your follower count matters.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking, “How can having 1,000 people I know help my business?” The answer is simple: Social media platforms are set up to support brand expansion. For example, Instagram allows people to see what those they follow like and hashtags lead to easy location as well as allow you to show up in suggested posts. If your neighbour appreciates a post you put up and shares it, you have just gained access to their network and they have gained access to you.
So, how important is social media? Here are a few facts to put it all into perspective:
1. There are 3.419 billion active internet users in the world and 2.307 billion are active on social media.
2. The UK, Germany, South Korea, USA, France and the UAE are the 5 countries with the highest percentage of e-commerce shoppers.
3. 91% of retail brands use 2 or more social media platforms consistently.
4. There are 48 million daily users of social media and they spend an average of 5 hours on the internet and 3 and a half hours on their platforms (daily).
5. Over $3 billion was made on social media last year.
6. Engagement and connection is important. Think about it: the average adult checks their phone 30 times a day and Millennials check it over 150 times a day. This tells us there is a very real need for connection amongst the latter group, especially.
7. Millennials do their research and take brand loyalty seriously. You need to stand for something and give them a positive brand experience. Your platforms are a great way to showcase your values while also allowing them to connect with you in real time.
8. Spamming on your platforms is a no-no. 70% of your content should be engaging and consumer focused, 30% sales.
9. Social media allows brands to run real time market research that offers clear feedback on business practices, concerns, products and services.
10. Social media should follow the same rules as being social in real life: be respectful, engaging and share your opinion without dominating the conversation.

So, my challenge for all of you is to not only join the conversation, but don’t be afraid to ask those in your network (including me) to follow you and to like and share the content they appreciate.

Let’s make 2017 a year of real engagement!

Please could we ask you to follow us on:
Twitter @LesleyEverett and @WalkingTallNews
Instagram @LesleyEverett_WT
Facebook: Walking TALL

Dear Readers:
One of the most exciting parts of being a business owner is getting to build a great team with whom you can collaborate, set goals and achieve milestones. Choosing the right talent is only the first step; the next is leading them effectively. Think about it: What good is hiring a group of talented, creative visionaries if you don’t give them the tools, support and room they require to find success?
It seems like an obvious mistake when you lay it out, but the truth is many employers fall into the boss trap and go on autopilot instead of jumping into their work day as a positive and proactive leader, and the consequences can be seen in their office culture, turnover rates and bottom lines.
Since a happy, productive and respected team always benefits a brand, I am sharing 5 ways to create a culture that sets everyone on your staff up for success. Transparency is key. This is essential and goes hand-in-hand with running an authentic and trustworthy brand. I believe that being clear about situations, opportunities, concerns, and potential setbacks is a great way to overcome challenges and also an excellent way to build trust with your team. It also helps to avoid having people fill in the blanks out of fear which can create an atmosphere of anxiety and gossip.
Host an open forum. As a business owner, it is my job to make the decisions that I feel are synergistic with my values, vision, and brand. There are times when that requires an emphatic “no” or “yes”, but more often than not, my team will hear, “I am not sold on the idea, but I am open to discussing it more.” Experience has shown me that it is important to really listen to those who have an idea that they want to discuss, not only to show them that I value their input, but also because the exchange of information (in a real conversation, not in print) is the best way to clarify points and find the best possible course of action for the business and team.
Show that you’re human. It is a dangerous lie that sharing vulnerabilities and mistakes are bad for business. In fact, most people appreciate the confidence and courage it takes to show your belly, so to speak. There is also a real opportunity for bonds to be built when we accept the reality that we are all human beings, regardless of who we are or what we do, and none of us are perfect. We all have insecurities, fears, worries, and concerns and I do my best to allow a safe space for my staff and clients to do the same without judgment. I have found that this helps to create a supportive environment where we are able to address concerns and areas of opportunity effectively. When we don’t know the causes of certain behaviors,it is easy to assign reasons. I prefer to exchange facts.
Do your part to create a kind environment. This seems obvious, but anyone who has dealt with a grouchy colleague or boss knows that a smile, a “how are you,” and a “Can I help with that?” can turn someone’s day around (and the environment as a whole) in record time.
Help your team find their own success. We work in a very busy and slightly chaotic business which often includes days so full that concerns about missed items on a task list are often the focal point of texts, emails, and phone calls. We won’t always have time to tell every person on our team when they have done a good job every day, but do find time to let them know that you appreciate their hard work and ask what you can do to help them achieve new goals or overcome tasks that may initially seem a bit overwhelming.
By adopting these behaviors, personal brand and executive brand owners are able to build a great reputation and brand as a leader. This sets a great example and gets talked about.

It’s often noted that public speaking is one of the most common fears faced by both men and women, but we live in a world where the way we speak and present to clients and colleagues can build or break a brand. As a speaker and personal branding specialist, I strongly believe that in order to get noticed, be visible and progress in your corporate career, it is critical to work at becoming great at presenting and in delivering a clear and engaging message. Though fine-tuning your skill set takes time, there are steps we can all take that will offer immediate improvement. Here are my 10 tips for doing just that. You need to prepare.
This sounds obvious, but the truth is that most people wing it. Proper preparation involves fact checking and practicing your delivery. It should also include checking in with a few of your audience members in advance to see if the content you are planning on giving is what they want or need to hear. Have a compelling start.
Lead into your presentation with something memorable and valuable. The best way to avoid the boring “can you hear me at the back” is to do a proper sound check beforehand. Starting with an apology is also a huge no-no.

Stay focused
Consider carefully what your key points are and make sure that you don’t have too many. Then, omit all information that does not support these key points. Rambling and oversharing/over-explaining just dilutes the message.
Connect with your audience.
There is a time for facts and figures, but it is important to speak to your audience in a way they can relate to. Use real-life experiences, stories and metaphors to support your key points in a visual way.

Make it personal.
Expanding on the point above, it’s important to integrate with your audience where appropriate. Try and involve or mention audience members, do your research on the delegates and/or their company and show that you understand their position and needs.

What’s the Point? Make each point relevant to the audience. Think about what they need to hear, why they need to hear it and how best to deliver the message. One of the best questions a speaker can ask themselves is, “why am I sharing this and will they care?”

Be on time. Never go over the time you have been allotted. The temptation to add “‘just one more thing” can be strong, but it rarely works to anyone’s benefit.

Avoid complex slides. You may feel you’re offering invaluable information, but these often work against you as they can distract and irritate your audience. Ask yourself “does this slide add anything to the impact of my message?” – if not leave it out.
In your summary, avoid repeating everything you’ve presented.
Make it short, sharp and final. Don’t let it drag on. You should leave them in no doubt about your key message.
Keep your Q and A concise.
Allow yourself a certain number of questions and let them know when you are only taking “one more question”. Never end your presentation on answering a question – be in control and finish with something you have prepared.

When we mention the words “Corporate Branding” we automatically tend to think of logos, colours, taglines and perhaps values, mission statement and corporate vision.
We then assume that brochures, advertising, sponsorship and social media are the methods by which that brand is portrayed.
Business leaders are now starting to come round to the fact that really the corporate brand is about people – that your people are quite simply the brand. Then they will provide some internal programmes that focus on the corporate brand values and make sure that the leadership teams, team leaders, store managers and supervisors are clear about those values and reinforce them within their teams.
Of course this will get diluted by the time it reaches the people in the stores or on the shop floor as it were. However, arguably these employees are the most important community in your business for creating a real brand personality that is regularly experienced by your customers and therefore sticks and gets talked about.
When I was living in the UK, every week we would use our regular grocery home delivery service from Tesco. Every week it was a different delivery driver, but each of them was consistently cheerful, helpful, chatty and above all had a great authentic personal brand. When writing my new book (Corporate Brand Personality), I spoke to Mark Chapman, Tesco’s customer fulfilment centre’s director, to find out how they achieve this level of consistency. Amongst other things, Mark told me that Tesco ask their drivers to bring their personality to work – they want them to be authentic and project their personal brands.
Now achieving this is not easy of course – everybody needs some guidance and tools to be able to clarify their true authentic core and brand. Which is why at Walking TALL we’ve developed a methodology that helps not just leaders but front of house and ‘shop floor’ employees discover their brand and project this in their everyday work and interactions with customers. This is what creates real corporate brand personality and is what your customers remember as the brand experience. In our work with Grosvenor House, JW Marriott Hotel in London, we worked with all 500+ associates, from the executive team to the front of house associates. Grosvenor House were able to report 2 specific and significant improvements in their guest service metrics, which they accredited to the Walking TALL training programme.
They had a 5% improvement in employee engagement and an unprecedented increase of 15.9% in improvement of one of their key behaviours of “staff being warm and hospitality”. Needless to say, General Manager Stuart Bowery was delighted with these figures. They now have a Walking TALL License to continue to provide our programme in- house delivered by their own trainers.

Your corporate brand today is what your customers and clients say about your brand to their contacts. Of course that goes global instantly with social media and customer review sites used in force, as they are today.
Let me ask you how much investment are you allocating to these true brand influencers in your business? Are you focusing much more on your leaders and managers and how they communicate and behave in their roles? Whilst of course leadership development is vital, you need to be finding innovative ways in which to educate the ‘frontline’ in your business.

Lesley and Walking TALL have worked with some of the world’s largest and well-known retail brands such as ASDA/Walmart, Tesco, Specsavers, Swarovski, Read more about creating real personality in your corporate brand in my new book – Corporate Brand Personality – Refocus your Organization’s Culture to build Trust, Respect and Authenticity (Kogan Page, Feb 2016)

Employee brand and employer brand are intrinsically linked – both are projected most powerfully by your people. They are impacted by how your employees feel about working for your organisation and subsequently how they behave.
The simplest definition:
Employer brand – your company’s reputation as an employer
Employee brand – the process by which employees internalize then project the corporate brand and reputation

Employer brand is typically portrayed via the media, and advertising and recruitment campaigns. However these have become overshadowed by the human element and the reality of experience. How your leaders in particular project themselves and their level of visibility is fast becoming central to your employer brand. New talents are influenced by what they see and hear from key people in your organisation. They will ultimately choose the company they want to work for based on the ‘personality’ of that company and this will come through strongly via its leaders.
The personality of the brand will also of course be portrayed by employees – how they behave and what they say, and as a result the experience they provide to others, influences and often becomes the employer brand.
So the big question – what are you really doing to ensure your employees are fully engaged in the values of your organisation, thus supporting a strong and consistent employer brand?
You probably have some sort of focus on employer brand; you may even have a strategy. However from my experience I find deployment of such a strategy often stops short of what is needed to fully address and support your corporate reputation today.
So consider what drives behaviours in your people. Behaviours are affected by how they feel when at work and about your company, how they are valued, respected and trusted. How well do you score in these areas in your employee surveys and more importantly what are you putting in place to address the challenges? The one area that can really make a difference to your employees is giving them personal development that addresses the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor. Giving them tools to fully understand what they bring to the table, clarify what they stand for and what they value and how to project that in all they do, creates an environment of respect, trust and value in them as individuals. This way they start to reinforce the corporate brand in their own authentic way, improving both employer and employee brand.
It’s not enough anymore to just provide the big wow conferences to reinforce the company values and mission. You need to find ways to truly embed the values with your people that allow them to interpret and internalize the corporate messages in a way that works for them.

Read more on bringing authentic personality into your brand in my new book – “Corporate Brand Personality – re-focus your Organization’s Culture to Build Trust, Respect & Authenticity” (Kogan Page, Feb 2016)

When researching my book Corporate Brand Personality, I began to quickly realise that at the core of the emerging breakdown of a culture of trust and respect in many organisations, is the diminishing level of responsibility and accountability taken by individuals.
It has sadly become an accepted state in business – that of a general acceptance that people will not do what they say they’re going to do; failure to follow through with solving a problem and resolving a situation, not taking responsibility along with an attitude of ‘it’s not my job’, and lack of accepting responsibility for mistakes made or delays created. Apologies I’ve found are no longer an accepted courtesy but rather sadly appear to be perceived to be a sign of weakness in business.
The deep concern this creates is that in a world where you’re setting a high level of expectation of positive experience with your company from your advertising and social media marketing campaigns, you are instead producing a very convincing culture, internally and externally, of perceived arrogance, apathy and lack of authenticity. Of course, I don’t need to spell out the business impact of this.
So why is it that individuals don’t take responsibility anymore, and are not holding themselves accountable for solving problems and seeing things through? Perhaps it comes partly from a culture of lack of respect for people from senior management down and line managers, little empowerment and a resulting feeling of being under-valued?
You may have an internal focus on your employee engagement scores and improving them. But are they really improving at the rate and to the level you need and want them to? An improvement in employee engagement is often seen as something we need to achieve in order to retain and attract talent or to improve our ‘employer of choice’ ratings, but how about considering the impact of a decrease or even static employee engagement score on your corporate brand and the customer experience, and the resulting market share and your profitability?
Research from the Hay Group has found that companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged folks by 54% in employee retention, 89% in customer satisfaction and 400% in revenue growth. It’s no wonder that HR Directors and CEOs from around the globe agree that employee engagement is of critical importance.
Your employee engagement should therefore perhaps be more of a focus with real resources invested, than it has been until now. Leaving it to chance and not putting in the levels of effort and focus that are needed, may not be just affecting the obvious employee engagement issue, but may mean you are inadvertently losing trust and respect amongst your customer base and ultimately putting your business at risk.
Read more about this topic and the ways in which Walking TALL International help companies to address this challenge, in Lesley Everett’s new book Corporate Brand Personality (Kogan Page, Feb 2016).
Buy at or from Kogan Page

Creating an authentic personality to your corporate brand may not be something you have spent lots of time thinking about in your organisation. In today’s highly competitive and trust-seeking business world we all operate in, it is perhaps quite simply your biggest differentiator.
However, we are now starting to experience the need for leaders to really embrace this and develop a personal brand that ensures they are well known for what they do inside and outside the organisation they work for. This means taking control of their personal brand and building their own visibility beyond where it has been before.
Traditionally companies have felt that if they help employees to build a strong personal brand they will be poached from outside and leave. What we are now starting to see is that some global players are appreciating the huge benefit to their business in helping managers and leaders to develop their personal brand. Global leaders are getting on platforms that they would never have traditionally been invited onto as a supplier, because of their leaders’ powerful personal brands and proven expertise in a specialist field.
What better than having an ‘advert’ for your company than from the brand within. Your leaders are the best advert you could have for employer brand and for creating a trust and authenticity to your corporate brand.
I spoke with Andrew Grill, Global Managing Partner at IBM Social Consulting, and he said that IBM sees a direct benefit to the business with him being ‘out there and visible’ and being considered a thought-leader in his own right. He is often invited to speak at global conferences that IBM would never normally be invited to present at and as a result he is able to promote the IBM brand in a ‘human’, authentic and compelling way. Andrew now recruits leaders into his team that have strong personal brands as he’s seen first-hand the benefits this brings to the business.
The benefits that can be expected from recruiting leaders with strong personal brands, and helping others to develop theirs are:
• More opportunities to get the corporate brand messaging out externally via a human interface
• Enhancement of Employer Brand and in particular in attracting Generation Y talent
• Increase in trust of the company (as the leader is willing to put himself on a stage and personally talk about the company and its value set)
• Increase in authenticity and respect
In order to get ahead of the competition, you need to get onto this new wave of branding that is ‘leader visibility’ and enable your managers and leaders to create their personal brand in a way that truly interprets and personifies your corporate brand on the external stage.
World class means having a strong personality that is known over and above your individual products and services. Your leaders provide this personality.
Read more about Corporate Brand Personality in my new book: #corporatebrandpersonality published by Kogan Page Feb 2016.
Order from Amazon here

I recently contributed to an article on Total Jobs on how to build a powerful personal brand ( in particular they asked her how to deal with a personal branding crises. Here are the tips I shared:
“You need to ensure that every online post you make is in line with your authentic personal brand and how you want to be perceived.
Don’t create a false or inflated persona that can and will easily be uncovered at some point. If this happens online, you will be immediately branded as insincere, lacking in integrity and untrustworthy. People will start to question who you really are and a negative impression can be difficult to shake off.
So what do you do if you are suddenly faced with an online reputation crisis:
1. Try not to get angry and rant, at least online! Take 24 hours to calm down and think about the situation. It may not be as bad as you first think.
2. Consider if leaving it and not adding fuel to the fire is your best option before doing anything. Remember, adding comments will only bring more attention to it.
3. Recognise that people have their opinions and that negative comments are often more about them than you.
4. What character traits are you most proud of and what can you use now to bring about a balance again? How can you reinforce your authentic self most powerfully and quickly?
5. Don’t ever get into a heated discussion online. If you need to, clearly state your position on whatever the issue may be and leave it at that.
Your online brand is becoming the most effective way to build your brand and become known for what you’re great at, but it can easily be ruined too. Be clear about your personal brand and keep on track with every post you make.”

You can read the rest of the Total Jobs article here.

Marketing spends are increasing as more pressure builds on companies to raise awareness of their brands and stand out from their competitors via advertising, sponsorship and digital media. This is happening at a time when customers are demanding a higher level of customer experience and conversely there is an increase in corporate bad manners. It’s not difficult to see the void opening up.
In fact this phenomenon is creating a sinkhole that is devouring client loyalty and potentially losing your company $millions in brand investment.
Let me explain further – with the sophisticated marketing methods that are available to us today and the trend of brand focus on values and themes such as caring, green, social responsibility, innovation and family orientated to name but a few, teamed with the increasing brand reach, customers and all stakeholders have forgivably high expectations of their experience from their interactions with your company. We expect to receive that level of care and interest in us that we so heavily advertise, therefore when it’s not there, there is a very high height to fall from, that damages your brand. My view is that this sinkhole is going to increase if companies don’t wake up to the critical need to provide employees with the training needed to ensure that they interpret and internalize for themselves the meaning behind the values you have created. Unless your people can understand the values and live and breathe them every day, authentically, then you are wasting your corporate brand investment and ultimately your increasing marketing budgets will kill your brand due to the apparent falseness of your brand claims. It’s time to align people brand and behaviours with your corporate brand in a way that sticks.
Read more on this topic in Corporate Brand Personality by Lesley Everett, published 3rd Feb 2016 and available for pre-order now.

According to a recent article in HR Grapevine the CEO of HSBC, Antoni Simoes, says being gay has been key to his success in business. He believes it makes him more authentic as a person and better able to empathise but he adds “If we want to live in a true meritocracy, the only thing that should matter is what you can do and not what you are”. We agree with this point but believe that authenticity is what is important, not being openly gay – being openly gay doesn’t necessarily make him more authentic than anyone else.
Our Walking TALL personal branding methodology is designed around this key factor. Authenticity is essential for success in business, it goes hand in hand with building trust and being consistent in your dealings with customers and staff. As the comments to the article in HR Grapevine make clear – it’s not about what you do outside of work, we aren’t interested in that, all we care about is how well the job is being done.
I think to a degree, what you do outside of work is important to a company however, with your digital brand on show through many mediums for example! In addition, any company should be interested in more than how well the job is being done – people being valued and respected in a positive environment should be on the agenda too!
We are all for diversity – of any kind – however, being gay is not the point here. Being yourself is.
Get in contact if you would like more information on how to build an authentic personal brand for yourself or your team.

As we head towards the end of the year you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions or goals you would like to achieve in 2015. What were you thinking a year ago? Have you achieved the goals you set yourself or were there obstacles that you hadn’t expected? Maybe they were just too big or vague? Sometimes we set a goal that is a huge step for us, but we don’t think about how we are going to get from where we are now to where we want to be – it’s not usually one big leap we need to take but a series of steps that build up to that end result.
It may be hard to relate that big goal to how we spend our time and what decisions we make on a day to day basis, which is why we need to break it down to smaller chunks – you may know the saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” think of that big goal in the same way. What are the chunks you can break it down into? Then as you make decisions each day you can ask yourself “Is this moving me towards my goal?” if it isn’t what would? Remember if you are only doing what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got. What can you do that will give you different results? Think about creating two types of goals; the big life changing ones and the smaller action goals. The action goals that you set and achieve on a weekly or monthly basis will lead you towards that bigger lifetime goal. Let’s say your big goal is to be promoted to a senior role in your company – or maybe head hunted for a new company. How can that be broken down into action goals? Increasing your visibility to those who need to know who you are would be a key action but that also needs breaking down to actual steps you can take.
You need to create a plan to build your visibility, here are some actions you could take:
• Write down the top 50 people who need to know who you are and what you do.
• Is there some regular information or an article you can forward to them that may be useful?
• Are they on social media – could you engage them in conversation online? This is often a good way of contacting people via the “back door” rather than through their gatekeeper.
• What events do they attend? Can you get invited? Could you speak at an event they are attending?
• Keep a note of any personal information about them – they will be pleasantly surprised and impressed when you ask them about the holiday they took to China or the charity event they took part in and you will stand out for remembering and mentioning it.
• Send them a handwritten note with information about something you discussed, for example a newspaper article on the topic that they might find interesting.
• Get great at presenting and be aware of taking opportunities to present. This can be broken down into smaller action goals too – how do you find out about opportunities? Do you need to get some coaching on speaking?.
• Recognise opportunities to go the extra mile with whatever you’re doing. You could do a good job but doing an outstanding job is more likely to be noticed.
• Make an effort to talk to people face to face or on the phone rather than by email.
Once you have worked through the action goals that get you greater visibility you can create new action goals for personal development like training you might need for that new role. At the end of each week check over your action goals to see how you are progressing. Move to next week any that didn’t get accomplished and keep taking those individual steps to creating that big goal. Review monthly or quarterly and add new action goals for the next phase. Breaking those big goals down like this makes them easier to achieve and keeps you on course so that decisions about how you spend your time are easier to make – just ask yourself will this fulfil an action goal that moves you towards the life goal?
If you would like help contact me to discuss executive brand coaching, building your visibility and goal creation and achievement.

What do people think about when your name is mentioned? What message is your image sending out? It’s not just about what you wear; it’s about how you present yourself in total. As well as your appearance you are also judged on your expression, the way you carry yourself, your mannerisms, whether you make eye contact, your voice and your actions. All of these give people an immediate, subconscious impression of your personal brand.
There are some people that just command your attention when they enter a room, but it’s not about how loud they are (verbally or visually!). They have a positive energy and exude charisma which makes you want to listen to what they have to say or be on their “team”.
I’m often asked “can you learn executive presence?” Some of it yes, but your presence is built up over time, as is your personal brand. You can practice being confident and speaking in front of others until it becomes easy, you can lead a team with energy and fairness, you can work on staying calm under pressure and you can listen more than you talk – all of these will help build your executive presence. But it’s not an overnight “makeover”, you have to be consistent over a period of time until you have gained that “know, like and trust factor”.
Learning impactful communication skills and making changes to any negative non verbal messages you are giving, as well as dressing appropriately for your position is a starting point. Being consistent and working consciously on presenting your authentic personal brand will then be the foundation of creating your executive presence.
If you would like to find out how I can help you contact me to for more information about Executive Brand Coaching.

I’ve just returned from NSA 2014 in San Diego where I handed over the Presidency of the Global Speakers Federation to Lenora Billings-Harris. It has been an absolute honour to serve as GSF President for 2013-2014 with such a strong and supportive team. I’ve had 12 fantastic months of travelling to attend National Speaking Conventions around the world. I’ve met some wonderful speaking colleagues and had a huge amount of help, support and made many new friends along the way too.
You can also see my farewell speech and Lenora’s incoming speech in this video.

Coming soon