Yesterday, I had the honor of being the opening speaker at the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional’s Summit. Great event, great people, lots of observations I could share. Here’s one that really stood out for me:
At lunch, a number of sponsoring organizations spoke and showed videos. These were highly polished, tightly scripted videos. One in particular was an employer branding video that had a number of people talking about the company’s values. They described how people were important, how customer focus was baked into everything the company did, and how integrity was paramount to decision making. It was a slick video, and would have been awesome if not for what happened right after it was shown: the Honorable Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, took the stage.
Cory Booker did not talk about how important people were. Instead, he highlighted how people in Newark were coming together to support dads coming out of jail, and how the programs being implemented have reduced recidivism from 65% to 3%.
Cory Booker did not talk about how important his constituents were. Instead, he introduced us to characters from Newark—living, breathing people. he told us their stories and how the city was mobilizing to help them change their city.
Cory Booker did not talk about how important integrity was. Instead, he talked about real struggles and described a situation in which he was proud to have made good on a promise made (but not yet executed) by the previous mayor.
The branding video described. Mayor Booker set an example. The difference was striking.
Describing something isn’t helpful. After hearing the mayor talk, one realizes that the video could have talked about learning, culture, diversity, or a common love of chocolate ice cream—it wouldn’t have mattered, because it was all just descriptive talk. When you take action—when you live your story—communicating your values becomes as easy as telling stories about what you’ve done and what you’re doing.
The next step
Maybe the next time one of your teams sits down to discuss a problem for an hour, they should immediately stand up, go spend 45 minutes taking action—any action at all—and then come back for 15 minutes to compile their stories of what just happened. This way, they will have achieved three things:
- They will have made progress.
- They will have created stories to help them communicate the issue is a positive, forward looking, action-oriented way.
- They will have provided leadership by example to the organization.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.