It’s no secret that we are experiencing a moment in history that is uncertain and distressing. The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of businesses around the country, leaving employees and leaders in a state of panic. Executives at these businesses hold a heavy responsibility on their shoulders to remain calm, adaptable, and resilient. As the world changes drastically around us, we are looking to these c-suite leaders to step up and set an example.
Damon D’Amore, C-Suite Advisor and Elite Performance Mentor, works with executives every day to help them build their legacy, meaning the clear and consistent message the stakeholders in his clients’ lives and businesses will share when they are gone. While he believes we all have to focus on tactical and immediate business needs, the only way to secure a legacy, the narrative of which you control, is to make tradeoffs with time and dedicate resources to focusing on what matters most. This is done by focusing on these three pillars:
Create filters to determine what time and resource demands are worthy of focusing on. You are the one who prioritizes your time, not your employees, customers, or board. The result is establishing confidence that you are focused on what matters most.
Emotional: Resilience as a Lifestyle
Resilience is not about surviving one challenge or trauma. It is being an optimist in the sense of waking up everyday knowing things will go wrong but you have the tools to survive and thrive. Knowing you will be ‘OK’ combined with the confidence that you are focused on the right priorities, you will be equipped to lead effectively.
Narrative: Share Your Story
Use the data points of your life and career to tell a unique and compelling story. Your story will gain advocacy for your goals from all of your stakeholders like your company’s board, customers, investors, family and friends. You need to know your story, believe it, and learn how to communicate it.
For executives out there that are still at a loss for how to cope with the changes that coronavirus has brought, and will continue to bring, Damon says to compose yourself and take stock of what you have and what you need. If you’re safe and have food, shelter and whatever medical supplies you need for a couple of weeks, you’re likely in a good place. You should also find a way to be present and focus. That can mean learning to meditate, breath work, or practicing gratitude. You don’t need to travel to a mountaintop in a faraway land to learn to do any of these. You can watch a video online, listen to a podcast, or download an app.
Another helpful tool is to find an accountability partner or group. Even if it’s just 1 hour per day, get on a video chat with coworkers or peers. Set an intention or goal for the next hour, mute your video, put on headphones and do the work. Just seeing others being productive will alleviate some stress and help you to focus. The reassuring news is that many of us are in the same boat and there’s no need to be embarrassed about sharing your feelings with your peers.
As we all navigate this new reality, let’s not forget that this is an opportunity to build a legacy that we are proud of. Getting your mindset right, being resilient, and having the confidence to share your story in a vulnerable way sets you apart from the masses. As an executive, your responsibility is just as large as the impact you are capable of creating.
Financial services might not seem like the most emotive industry, but consumers tend to have some of their most emotional moments connected with their finances—things like going to college, buying a house or saving for retirement. So when Citi performed an audit a few years ago and realized it wasn’t coming across as emotive, it knew it needed to make a change to better connect with customers.
According to Jennifer Breithaupt, Citi’s Global Consumer CMO, the company switched its aim to lift people up with purpose-driven campaigns. One of its major components was storytelling. Breithaupt says Citi created a simple recipe for purpose-driven marketing:
1. Stop talking so much. Up until that point, Citi was known for talking at its customers through every second of a commercial. It started using big, beautiful visuals instead of constant words to share its story.
2. Put people at the center. Storytelling is all about people, and one of the strongest ways to connect people to a message and purpose is to involve other people. Sharing stories and inspiration became the focus instead of just giving a sales pitch.
3. Use music. Citi started using large, sweeping melodies to elicit emotion and drive home that connection.
The move to purpose-driven campaigns allows Citi to build better connections with customers. It shows customers that the brand cares about more than just making sales and opening accounts, but that it really wants to support its customers and build relationships. Internally, the switch gave employees a renewed sense of purpose to do their best work and improve their customer interactions.
Modern customers want companies, especially financial brands, to do more than just make money. They want them to have a purpose, share a message and contribute to something bigger. Citi’s switch to purpose-driven marketing allows it to position itself as a life partner to walk alongside customers during their ups and downs. It also helps the company give back and contribute to charitable organizations around the world.
Emotion plays a huge role in customer experience. To feel invested in a company, customers want to connect to a purpose. Citi’s switch to purpose-driven campaigns demonstrates that showing emotion instead of sales pitches can lead to big gains.