The One Article I Re-Read Every Year
There’s one article I come back to every year because it helps me reset and refocus and prepare for the year ahead. It’s absolutely one of the best articles I’ve ever read. It is “The Brand Called You” written by Tom Peters for Fast Company many years ago. I first read it many years ago, prior to creating my company Integrated Loyalty Systems. Up to that point, I’d never really given this much thought. But after reading the piece I remember thinking with disbelief — holy crap, I am a brand?!
His words struck a chord. Enough so, that I make a point of re-reading this very article at the start of every new year. It helps me recalibrate and refocus.
Among his many great points, Peters said:
“Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers is the most important marketing vehicle you’ve got; what they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand.”
It clicked. I started thinking…
I’m either early for meetings or I’m on time (which is late, in my book).
I’m either participating as an active member of a team or I’m wasting time.
I either do good work or I do poor work.
If I failed to do the former in each of these examples, then the latter would prove I’d let my guard down. Everyone around me would know it and thus I would have tarnished the brand called Me.
My mind wandered to this article recently when I was working with a doctor at one of our client hospitals. He’s an incredibly skilled physician. Highly trained and accredited. Good at his job and charming with all his patients.
But, after talking with his staff and colleagues? Well, they didn’t seem to like him very much.
Many described him as condescending, abrupt, and oftentimes, rude. Others said they always cringe when he comes around because they feel he belittles them and focuses only on criticizing their job performance. In short, they described a joyless work environment whenever he was around.
Consider how this affected their job performance. Do you suppose they carried this feeling of negativity, resentment, low morale and lack of joy into their interactions with patients?
So the question is, how could such an accomplished doctor have two completely different reputations?
The answer of course is that he doesn’t realize that he’s a brand.
In sending different messages to his patients and his staff, he’s created a toxic workplace. Chaos is brewing all around him but he’s unaware. He’s gotten used to it.
He risks becoming like the frog in the proverbial pot. You remember the analogy: you place a frog in a pot of lukewarm water on the stove and he’s fine…until you gradually begin to turn up the heat slowly enough that the frog doesn’t even realize he’s being boiled alive.
This doctor, who is adored by his patients and disliked by his staff has (however unintentionally) created a boiling pot workplace. He shows compassion with his patients but then turns around and is screaming at one of the nurses. He has unwittingly damaged his own brand.
The challenge he must face is to refocus and connect the dots between his two distinctly different reputations. If he continues to damage his brand by sending different messages to his patients and staff, the patient experience will eventually become compromised.
As a leader at his hospital, if he expects his team to be compassionate and considerate with patients, he must first treat his staff with that same compassion and consideration. As my father used to say, “If it’s meant to be, it starts with me.”
The care team at this hospital do incredible work. Their dedication to caring for patients is unmistakable, which is why I’m optimistic that this one doctor can turn things around. Because anyone that has the ability to turn on the charm with patients and their family members in a sincere and impactful way, absolutely has the same ability to turn on the charm with his employees and staff. If he doesn’t, he risks tarnishing his brand and fostering a negative work experience. But if he embraces the challenge, he can be the catalyst to creating an exceptional patient and employee experience. The choice is his. The power is already within him.