Welcome to the belivernomics blog


I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, May 24 2015 02:09PM

The wonderful thing about 'superpowers' is that they enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things. For a leader, the awareness and deployment of 'superpowers' means the difference between an average leader being good and a good leader being great. You could say that 'superpowers' are the defining brand of great leadership.

Take for example, the courage of Winston Churchill during the early stages of World War II and the forgiveness of Nelson Mandela during and following the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The demonstration of these leadership 'superpowers' achieved transformational change and galvanised others in the most appalling and adverse of circumstances.

Listed below are my pick of eight great leadership superpowers.

1. love - in simple terms, truly great leaders are able to transmit genuine care and concern for the well being of others. When leadership is shaped by love, people will follow their leader even when they disagree with them. Nothing will do more to evidence leadership credibility and build leadership trust than the ability to show love for others.

2. delegation - delegation is the power to lead through others. A leader who delegates, creates a virtuous cycle because people who are empowered will also feel empowered to empower others. Few leadership 'superpowers' will do more than delegation to release others into great leadership.

3. affirmation - affirmation is the power of encouragement. To affirm is to build up, energise and release others into dynamic potential and productivity. Evidence of this 'superpower' at work is when a leader is able to motivate others to perform at their very best even when they feel at their worst.

4. judgement - judgement is the power to evaluate evidence and make decisions. Good judgement relies on excellent spatial awareness and situational reading. A leader able to exercise the judgement 'superpower' will get it right even when they get it wrong. As with love, when people trust a leader's judgement they will go with you even if they don't agree with you.

5. humility - humility is the power of selflessness. In humility a leader shares credit with others, even when they do not deserve it. Humility is evidence of a confident, mature and emotionally intelligent leader. The very sort of person who can be trusted to lead others.

6. courage - courage is the power to control one's fears, often in the face of significant risk to oneself. A leader who can show courage at a time of crisis demonstrates credibility, builds confidence, wins trust and has the power to galvanise and inspire others to overcome the insurmountable.

7. resilience - resilience is the power of endurance. The ability to endure, particularly in times of crisis or in response to failure, is the ultimate test of leadership credentials. A leader able to endure not only overcomes, but also creates a pathway through which countless others can pass.

8. forgiveness - forgiveness is the power of reconciliation and healing. Forgiveness repairs the otherwise irreparable, it builds bridges and promotes understanding. Thinking about forgiveness I am often reminded of the extraordinary actions of Nelson Mandela who re-defined the leadership paradigm through his capacity to forgive others.

If there is moral to this story it is this: great leaders are not known by their 'superpowers'; great leaders are known by what they achieve through their 'superpowers'.

By pa360, Feb 7 2015 09:26AM

A brand is a unique construct. In addition to the generic reference that we use to describe the various products and services that we use, the term 'brand' can equally be applied to who we are as individuals and how we are perceived by those with whom we regularly interact. In simple terms, everyone has a brand and is a brand. Whilst that brand will not necessarily describe everything that a person is known for, it will describe their defining characteristics or the things they are best known for.

Whether you like it or not, or know it or not, your brand will likely play an influential role in your future. Particularly, the type of opportunity you have access to, the doors that open before you get there and the ones that close before you arrive. All these things and more will likely be defined and determined by your brand. Brands speak to your credibility, build confidence and win trust. With all this in mind, how can you develop a 'brand mindset'? Well set out below, are the six critical steps.

1. Introduce yourself to yourself

If you were asked to identify the three defining characteristics of your personal brand which ones would you choose? Would you go for the more commercial traits like 'driven', 'hardworking' and 'outcome-orientated' or something more person-centred like 'compassionate', 'thoughtful' and 'caring'? Alternatively, would you choose more personable and outgoing characteristics like 'influential', 'charming' and 'witty'? Whatever adjectives we use to describe ourselves, I wonder if those descriptors truly capture the essence of who we are, as opposed to how we like to see ourselves and how we would like others to see us. The key learning point here is that, however you choose to define your brand, if you do not know what it is, then you do not know who you are!

2. Ask others to tell you who you are

At some point, every brand will face two critical challenges, which will determine its survivability. The first of these challenges, is the courage to ask others for their honest and unvarnished opinion. Meanwhile the second, is the humility to own and act upon the things that others have to say. Without the opportunity to absorb learning borne of our own reflection and that of others, we are left bereft of the brutal honesty that is often needed to shake us out of our complacency. In the absence of honesty, we enter into the 'comfort-zone' of self-deception, which is probably the most damaging thing for any brand. Not least because a person who deceives themselves is just as likely to delude themselves. More likely than not, such a person may also end up perpetually frustrated as to why others do not see them, in the deluded way that they see themselves.

3. Care enough to want to do something about it

It is often said that change starts with knowledge. However, by itself knowledge will not effect anything without understanding and understanding will produce nothing without realisation. Applying this simple logic to a 'brand' implies that once a person realises the harm they might be doing to themselves or others, that alone should be enough to trigger a course correction. But what if it isn't? Assumptions of how people might behave, based on common logic, ignore the fact that logic is not as common as one might like to believe. Individuals have agency and are therefore able to think and act independently. The point being made here is that one has to care enough about the situation that they find themselves in, to want to do something about it.

4. Understand that your 'affect' and your 'image' are not the same as your 'brand'

Most of us consciously project an image, but few consciously think of themselves as a brand. Everyday we trade on what appears to be our brand, but what in reality is the projection of an image. Take recruitment interviews as a case in point. In such situations we take active steps to project a certain persona to would-be employers. We present as credible, competent, reliable, trustworthy and employable! For the most part, I am sure that these traits accurately describe who we really are. However, I am equally mindful that in some instances they may not. We do exactly the same thing in social settings, when we meet new friends or when we seek out romantic relationships. Projecting an image is part and parcel of how we communicate with each other - but your image is not your brand. The distinction between the two is simple, whilst your brand is who they say you are, your image is who you are trying to be.

5. Always have a strong sense of your positioning

In the context of developing a 'brand mindset', being constantly aware of your positioning and your bearings, will help you to anticipate and perceive risk. As a case in point, think about how 'spatially aware' high-profile businesses are about the positioning of their brands. They almost seem to have a 'sixth sense' when it comes to anything that could be commercially damaging to them and waste no time in distancing themselves from whatever might be bad for their brand. Exactly the same principle of 'spatial awareness' applies to a personal brand. You have to be constantly mindful of where you are as well as the impact not just of your actions, but also those of whom you closely associate.

6. Understand how your brand behaves

If anything you are doing is making a difference, then you need to be curious enough to find out how, where are why. The impact of a brand is not happenstance. Someone who is credible will be trusted, someone who is trusted will have influence and someone who has influence will have access to opportunity. Equally, someone who is diligent shows that they are responsible, someone who is responsible shows that they are capable and someone who is capable shows that they are dependable. The dynamics of how a brand works are not random, but they are not rocket science either.

In conclusion, a 'brand mindset' starts with being consciously aware of the things that we unconsciously do. Being consciously aware means that we are able to make better informed decisions that hopefully produce more desirable outcomes. In a nutshell, it is better to put the hard miles into building a good brand, which is an investment, than to waste time developing a bad one, which is a cost.

By pa360, Jan 28 2015 06:15AM

Ok, so let's set the context; sometimes the things that people say or do, result in outcomes that they do not expect. For example, when innocent clowning around results in a serious accident or when an email sent between friends is innocently forwarded on to others and goes viral. When this happens it is commonly known as the law of unintended consequences.

Back in 1991 a British businessman Gerald Ratner, delivered a speech to some 5,000 people in which he unflatteringly described one of his own products as 'crap'. At the time, Mr Ratner was one of Britain's most successful businessmen, with a global chain of some 2,000 jewellery outlets. At the peak of his powers Ratner was known as the biggest jeweller in the world and his empire was worth well over a billion dollars. So why did he call his own product 'crap'?

Well the comment was intended as a joke, but the joke went viral and the damage was terminal. In the aftermath of Mr Ratner's comments hundreds of millions were wiped off his company's share price, hundreds of its retail outlets were forced to close, thousands of its employees were laid off and Mr Ratner himself was eventually sacked. This commercial faux pas has since become known as 'doing a Ratner' and from the case study above, I have picked out seven lessons that you need to learn to protect your brand.

1. Handle your brand carefully, it is easier to break things than build things

If there is one salutary lesson from the Gerald Ratner case study, it is the fact that breaking things is easier than building things. Brands can be like fine art, they are painstakingly cultivated over time, but they need to be handled with care. In the unforgiving world of brand and reputation management, an item that is dropped unintentionally can break into just as many pieces as item that is dropped on purpose. As an individual or a business, you are never more than a custodian, steward or a caretaker of your brand. The key learning point here is that a brand is indeed incredibly delicate and once damaged or broken is extremely difficult to fix.

2. You can measure your value, but it is your customers who determine your worth

A smart business understands the very simple truth that its brand is determined and decided by its customers. That is why, in an effort shape the perception of would-be customers, many businesses spend so much time and energy trying to cultivate and craft their brand image. Customer perception is important because when it is positively disposed towards a brand, customers are much more likely to be confident in that brand and with confidence comes trust and with trust comes loyalty. The key learning point here is that customers bring considerable leverage to the table, because without their endorsement, there is no business.

3. Sometimes the biggest barrier to your success is your success

Nothing creates a culture of complacency more than the mistaken belief that you are above the possibility of failure. Sometimes success can create a sense of megalomania, which itself can incentivise increasingly risky or chancy behaviours. It is inconceivable that Gerald Ratner could have envisaged the extent to which an obvious joke, would be taken so seriously that it would eventually bring down a long established business empire. However, that is the inherent 'danger' of success, it can often blind us to reason and risk, encouraging us to do things that we would not normally consider. Perhaps the key learning point here is the need to constantly remind ourselves that success, like fire, is a good servant, but a bad master.

4. If you are going to 'dis' your product make sure that your customers are in on the joke

Ironically, there are times when taking a jab at your own product can actually be part of a carefully thought out marketing or branding strategy. Consumers of the UK brand Marmite, a spreadable and edible yeast extract, will know what I am referring to. The product, an acquired taste for a discerning palate, sharply divides consumer opinion. However, instead of avoiding this controversy, the manufacturer has actively courted it through marketing and advertising. The distinct difference here is that a widely known and public acknowledged fact about the product is being commercially exploited. The Ratner case implied something that, even if widely known, was certainly not publicly acknowledged. The error of Gerald Ratner is not that of commission (ie: discrediting his own product) it is of omission (ie: failing to take his customers into his confidence before doing so).

5. Build a firewall around your brand

One of the things that struck me about the comments made by Gerald Ratner is that they were from prepared remarks and not delivered off the cuff. A prepared statement implies that time was given to its content and construction, which is actually quite baffling because one wonders where was the due diligence? Who checked and signed it off? If ever evidence were needed, the Ratner case highlights the fact that organisational seniority does not equate to a monopoly on good judgement. In a healthy organisation, there are appropriate 'firewalls' in place to protect a brand from risk. One therefore assumes that no (or insufficient) 'firewalls' were in place. Alternatively, they may simply have been ignored.

6. If something gets through your 'firewall' make sure you have a recovery plan

Whilst Gerald Ratner did bounce back, the damage to the Ratner business brand was very serious indeed. Three decades after the event, 'doing a Ratner' has become something of a study in the business equivalent of self-harm. In an ideal world, no business wants to find itself in a position, where it needs to rescue its brand from self-inflicted wounds. However, stuff happens and in the event that some unintended harm finds it way through your protective 'firewall' you need to have a fallback plan. Quick and decisive action, as early as possible can prevent a growing crisis from engulfing and consuming an organisation,

7. Own your error and do it quickly

I have always believed that humility in the face of failure and even ridicule is evidence of courage and courage is a high value character trait. Owning error does not mean allowing yourself to be buried by your failings. It simply means taking responsibility for things that have gone wrong and using the lessons you have learnt to put things right. Over the years Ratner has indeed 'fessed up', taken full responsibility and even poked fun at himself for his foot-in-mouth moment. To his great credit, Ratner has recovered and is once again trading successfully in the jewellery industry, albeit under a different brand name.

In conclusion, the fact that a simple four letter word could destroy a brand and bring a long established business to its knees seems absurdly disproportionate. But that is exactly what happened. As this blog clearly sets out, brands can be incredibly fragile and customers can be extremely unforgiving. Of course, for various reasons, brands receive negative press all the time. However, the aim and intention of this blog is not to help you to prepare for the unknowable, it is to help you prevent the avoidable.

By pa360, Jan 17 2015 11:40AM

People often bemoan the lack of opportunity in their professional lives. Quite understandably, they want to have better jobs, that pay more money and offer better long term career prospects. The reality is that often-times we are competing for opportunities in markets that are saturated with our particular 'product'. At other times we are offering a 'product' that no-one really wants. Clearly, if you are uncompetitive either due to market saturation or low product value, you will not be able to achieve the benefits or generate the 'profits' that you are aiming for.

It strikes me that if you want to 'trade' successfully in the market-place of opportunity you must first have a marketable 'product' to offer. I think it was the late Apple Chief Executive, Steve Jobs who described it this way: "If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow".

Maybe at times our focus is not quite right. Perhaps we are overly concerned with making 'profit' (eg: finding a new job, getting a pay rise or winning a promotion) and lose focus on making ourselves into a great 'product'. I believe that to 'skimp' on the product (as Job's describes), simply means to cut corners or neglect the detail. However, the points of detail that we neglect and the corners that we cut, are often the very things that distinguish us from others and make our 'product' both marketable and desirable.

So what do we do about it? I think the answer is simple: 'focus on the product'. Focusing on the product does not necessarily mean doing more of the same (although it might, if you have been significantly off your game). Rather, it is more likely to mean that you should spend time developing your brand competitiveness. As a case in point, if you are looking to trade in the leadership market, then offer a distinctive leadership 'product' or brand. To do this you will need to develop leadership insights and experience that are uncommon, dynamic and agenda setting. Alternatively, you may already have a profitable 'product' on paper, but may simply lack the skills to market yourself profitably in practice. For you, focusing on the product might simply mean getting your product pitch right or finding the most profitable markets to profile yourself in.

To conclude therefore, don't focus on making profit, focus on making great product and don't just focus on making the right product, focus on making the product right.

By pa360, Jan 4 2015 09:34AM

No-one chooses to be identified with failure. A former manager of mine described it this way "success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan". That simple seven letter word 'failure' speaks volumes and implies so many things about us and our capabilities. For example, it can suggest poor judgement, indecisiveness, inadequate planning, ineffective implementation and much more.

The cumulative effect of all these things is reputational damage. Yes indeed, reputational damage - that great slayer of brands. Failure has the ability to destroy a reputation in an instant. A loss of reputation means a loss of credibility, loss of confidence and a loss of trust. The greater the failure the greater the damage.

Notwithstanding, the undeniable truth of failure is that if we have the courage and resilience and presence of mind, failure can be the making of us. In my view and experience, the most effective way to deal with failure is to own it but not allow it to become your identity. To own something it is simply to take responsibility for it. However, by not allowing failure to become your identity, you are able to see beyond it to the thing that you are really want, which is success.

Clearly, it is easier to survive failure if we have a strong brand and well established reputation for credibility and competence. I remember a few years ago not long after Apple launched the iPhone 5, reports began to surface of problems with the product. Yet, despite those problems, Apple did not suffer any lasting damage to its reputation or brand standing. Why was that?

I believe the answer to this question can be found in Apple's ability to use its powerful brand reputation to draw upon the loyalty of its millions of consumers. In other words: if you trust us to get it right, you can trust us to put it right. Clearly no brand is perfect and all brands experience failure at some point and to some degree. But the ability to draw upon the trust of others to correct error, when it occurs, is an important factor in establishing the quality and reliability of a brand.

Fear of failure is unhealthy and irrational. To fear failure is to limit our ability to acquire the skills knowledge and understanding that will enable us to learn, develop and survive.

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