Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable Truths
Your brand can’t move forward without addressing some unpleasant issues. Here’s how to get started.
There are aspects to every brand that companies would rather sweep under the rug. The bad news is your customers can see and feel them all. To build a quality brand you must address your uncomfortable truths.
We’ve all worked for companies where there was an elephant in the room that nobody wanted to talk about—an issue within the organization that was holding everyone back from providing the best brand experience. Eventually, the elephant gets bigger and bigger and harder to avoid. So, you stop doing your best work, and the customer suffers. Or you quit and take your skillset elsewhere. Here are some tips on how to avoid losing customers or talent.
What makes you uncomfortable?
An uncomfortable truth is something about your brand that you don’t want to face. There are lots of reasons why you haven’t addressed it. Maybe it seems too big to tackle. Maybe your management is blind to it. Maybe the world changed, and you haven’t kept pace.
Perhaps your product really doesn’t do all you say it can do so your customers are disappointed. Maybe your brand experience isn’t consistent from location to location or employee to employee. Maybe there is something about your culture that is toxic—you have a troublesome employee, you made some mistakes you didn’t own up to, or your employees don’t feel heard.
Who can tell you the truth?
All organizations have these issues. So how can you get at the truth? Your customers, partners, and employees all see your business from different perspectives. You can get input from each of them through a variety of methods. Customer surveys with open-ended questions might highlight where your products or services are lacking. Regular check-ins with partners and clients are essential. A follow-up lunch or dinner can foster an honest conversation that might not happen in a conference room.
When it comes to employees consider hiring an independent evaluator to allow room for truth-telling that won’t be tied back to a specific person. 360° reviews help make sure you are hearing not just from middle management but all the way through your employee chain. Regular meetings where you encourage everyone to speak honestly with no repercussions are key. Don’t wait for an employee review to ask for feedback. Ask for it monthly, weekly, or whenever issues arise.
How do you make a safe space?
Make sure the stakeholders you are asking feel comfortable telling you the truth. Using an independent team for customer surveys will make them more likely to give you honest feedback.
Model the behavior you want from your employees. Admit something you feel is lacking in your company’s culture to start the ball rolling. Avoid being reactive when employees bring up concerns. Take time to listen and ask more probing questions before you try to defend an action. Ask for recommendations on how to solve the problem without judgement.
How do you fix the problem?
Figuring out what problems you have is important, but doing nothing to fix them only makes things worse. Take time to evaluate the problem(s), prioritizing and being real about what you can or can’t change. Create a plan with action steps to address issues. And be sure to communicate how and when you will be making changes to your customers and employees, keeping yourself accountable to those who gave input in the process.
Be sure you have enough diversity at the table when evaluating concerns and brainstorming solutions. The right cross-section from your company will bring to light issues that management may not see at first. And customers may have great ideas as well. Above all, don’t retaliate against anyone who voices an issue. They only want to help you do better. If they didn’t care, they’d stay silent and stop doing business with you.
It’s not easy but facing these issues head on will help your brand be the best it can be. Your customers will be happier, and your culture will thrive if you can eliminate any uncomfortable truths that are holding you back.