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Bring the Romance Back to Leading: Three ways to Create Heart for Change



Once upon a time in America,  TV wasn't a 24/7 source of entertainment. Black & white TV broadcasting stopped at a late hour each night respectfully allowing Americans to rest. It was a stressful time for adults and kids with the possibility of atomic attack threatening post WW2 lives. Americans needed their sleep and endless broadcasting of breaking news wasn't a glimmer in any programmer's eye. Each morning Americans woke to an expected reveille of sorts in front of a TV static test pattern. A few years into this watershed communication era, product line extension featured color TV, and more programming filled the night. 

Change happened in those days as this evolution of TV shows us, but the future beckoned in those days in a way that was romantic. Black and white TV's were the window into that future. In those bygone days we were protected as we faced those future visions of what was out there for us. The messages on TV were about being  patient. We saw the promised land of products and services, but the tone was "Get Ready" because the best is yet to come.  We set our sights on it, saved for it and imagined how good it could be when it came. From where I sat as a kid, the vision of a Jetson's like-world promised a romantic view of what life would be for me. Now, as I Skype my conferences and speak to a virtual assistant it seems worth the wait.

Today, the age of impatience is here, coupled with an age of acceleration in tech and media. Wait? Who waits? Change happens at a rate that is close to breakneck speed, taking with it our time to romanticize the future, and robbing us of the opportunity to get  ready for what is coming, We've lost the chance to think our way into believing what lies ahead is better than what we are experiencing which is important in changing an attitude and action. I teach this historic view as I teach international business students about marketing and see its application to leading.

I think leadership today has lost its edge in the romance department.



Because of the rapid pace of change. Romance, the ultimate feeling of well-being that was a large part of a pre-digital world, has gone missing making life harder for agents of change today. Who has the time for romancing the future? In the world of social relationships any app will create a reasonable facsimile of romance in a matter of minutes. But that's not where organizations need to go with their future ready eye to change. An app is not going to create the human to human or H2H feeling that helps organizations grow.  A leader with an eye on romancing the near future could try out that classic view of being future oriented with a bit of patience. Remember Yogi Berra's quote, "The future ain't what it used to be!"  So true today because of the galloping rate of change that is part of modern life. We are leading our organizations into territory of robotics, VR and AR with little time to process the change these exciting tools bring. How can we lead our teams into this time rapid change? 

 Creating a commitment to well being through change and fostering some small but human behaviors can help you show the love that a fast-paced multi- generational workplace needs. Put a bit of romance, a throwback to an earlier time, into your leadership. These three touch points can inspire without buying everyone on your team  flowers and candy.

1. Create Well-being  The field of social science is a place to access  strategies that develop well-being in this tumultuous time. Neuroscience thought leaders and their content are available to you on Twitter and through platforms like Medium. Do some DIY work on brain research and give yourself a solid grounding. You will see your time spent on building well-being is worth it. It takes you back to a classic point of development for change. Don't think of leading change as a pitch or a sales job. Look at it as a change to tell the story of where the organization is and the story of the near future. Be the story-teller-in chief. Use the research on getting people into "The Zone" for change using a supportive model like Seligman's PERMA model featured in brandED. Work by Adam Grant is also an access point around creating well being. His book Give and Take is a great place to start. 

2. Think H2H  Leaders in business use a Business to Business (B2B) or a Business to Consumer (B2C) model as they develop change.  Bryan Kramer's work  is as close to being romantic in leadership as you can get. Human to Human behavior (H2H) is needed as we look ahead into our future of machines in the workplace. Look ahead to a world where "HR Dept of Machine Interface" will exist. How do we meet the change that brings this evolution of co-working with machines and more into our workplace.? We do it by valuing our human brand. Leading with an eye on the romanticizing the human experience as we move toward interfacing with efficient machines and robotics is essential. Personal brand development is needed for leading and building teams. As change occurs threading that value through leadership will distinguish  any leader 

3. The Power of Small  Wherever you are leading...in a start up, a school, a company take the romantic view of the small moments to heart. They create big gains in your organization. The pressure to innovate is high in the accelerated age. The power of new is upon us and  the noise of constant new ideas competes across media channels for our leadership attention. Don't get pressured into riding the wave of the next big thing that comes across your screen. Great leaders know how to tune out the shiny objects and dig into the small, classic pieces that are working in their organization and then refreshing them rather than getting into the next big thing. There are plenty of new things in the near future that look interesting to you, but first take a deep dive into what is the core of your product or service and do as the Sparks & Honey  cultural trend agency shows us. They offer support in following trends in an element of culture called the "Refreshed Classic". It's quite a romantic thing these days to be seen as a classic, even in a rapidly moving time. 

 Use approaches like these and pace yourself through new times as a classic leader.  What is often missing in change is the heart for it on the part of your organization. Adding a bit of business romance may help you create some magic in your role as change agent. 

Driven by Emotion: "Affective" Stories of School Brand Experience

A recent article in D!gitalist Magazine explored the progress of "affective computing", the science of adding emotion to enhance the AI experience of a human who interacts with a computer. Engineers are quickly creating algorithms that will advance the likability of the robotics we will engage with in the very near future, engagement beyond  the friendly, voice activated "Alexa". This scientific industry, whose growth accelerates every quarter, is focused on the sweet spot of what drives human connection: emotion.

As a prominent researcher, Dr. Paul Ekman, discovered in 1967 when he investigated a tribe in New Guinea living in the manner of their Stone Age ancestors, there is a universal set of emotions that form the basis of all human contact. Ekman furthered his work into the facial expressions of those shared human emotions. He developed an online Atlas of emotions, a system that has informed law enforcement and security. Today his research is  teaching robots how to feel.

Why is it so important that AI have that essence? In business, it's the bottom line. The global affective computer market will quadruple over the next five years. Feeling good about the interfacing with robotics, not just voice activated tones, will scale the industry. AI infused with emotion will quickly bring trust about in humans to invest in this new exchange. As these affective computers go about revolutionizing our world, we humans can be confident that in the present we still have the upper hand  and heart in gathering ideas, collaborating, and creating information

But this post isn't about business it's about schools. So let's keep in mind that one way our school communities can aim to improve themselves is through the sharing of expression through brand. This is an H2H...Human to Human endeavor. Even while the world takes on affective computing, we take up the challenge to brand our school community. School brand lives in the telling the stories of our schools that are filled with the power of the ages: the power of true human emotion. 

You may think your school has a brand, but think again. it may have a "brand identity system",  a handful of features of what a brand looks like:  a website featuring a logo, a calendar of events, a mascot, and a serious headline or two, but that's not a brand. And where is the emotion in that first look that people get when they type in your school name on their computer? Most school websites need overhauling to capture humanity of emotion that launches the brand experience that the school provides. And much of that comes from the simple telling of stories that create emotional connection to the viewer. When you decide to take on the joyful work of building a brand, make sure emotion is a driver for you and your team.  

The world of business is building the "emotional economy" through AI and we will see the impact of this work in our exchange with big brands like Coke and Disney before we see it in our schools. That's a good thing. What separates us from robotics, at least in 2017, is that we don't have to be programmed. We can be driven by pure natural emotion to share the story of the best news, the smallest and the biggest type of stories that show the brand of our school. 

As you consider a professional development track to increasing value, look to learning about brand. Lead a brand movement in your school. Be driven by emotion to showcase the experiences to unify your community in a unique way. Your own emotion for the journey will be easy to read from the smile on your face that comes from building a meaningful school brand.


A 2017 Ed Leader Signal: School Brand is Essential in our Post Election New Year




I’m getting front of my Marketing Strategies class ready to deliver my favorite lecture about Brand, Chapter 7 of our Strategies book, when a quick paging through the Wall Street Journal stops me in my tracks. I see the headline:  Trump’s Win Has Ad Agencies Rethink How They Collect Data, Recruit staff



I change the topic of my lecture on the spot. It’s not simply Brand….RETHINKING Brand is the topic for today


So we’ve all been touched by this need for “rethinking” since Nov 8. On a personal level, it’s changed the way we viewed each other. Rethinking . The way we size up our friends, colleagues, and even total strangers in casual ways. “I wonder what they believed on Nov 8? I wonder what brand message appealed to them? Were they part of the segments of the population that were “missed” by the WSJ reports glib advertisers and big data takers who are now Rethinking? “ All this money, all this sophisticated collection of information. And in the end the experts take the wrong temperature.  It may be the figurative death of the experts. There’ a deeper level for educators around the idea of Rethinking. Most educators haven’t even thought about "Brand" .


In class we talked about it. Rethinking.



My students come from all over the world. They are marketing business students. They learn lessons from experts in their text and the practitioners in the real world of brand every week in my class. I’m someone who loves the brand conversation. Now. Rethinking. We talked about how the missteps of the world of advertising, marketing and brand cited in the  article and what it means.  They continue to watch the developments of the transition to a new administration. And I wait until the next class to talk to them about the new lessons learned lessons.

But I'm thinking brand in education. Rethinking? 

 I see the next months will be about rethinking of brand. This  will be top of mind in the business sense. As the article suggests, advertisers will need to be more in touch with the world outside the bubbles they have relied upon to take the temperature for buying anything from a political message to laundry soap.


What about educational leaders? It has to start with YOU. Your brand thinking. Bring it to your awareness.


I see signals that impact the topic of Brand in education. Once thought only as a vehicle for sales and profits, brand is a vehicle for communicating beyond the purchase of a product. If these last months have taught something, it is a clear, defined targeted, powerful single-minded message creates an IMAGE. The targeted placement of that message is full of connecting PROMISE and the RESULT of the messaging is linked to the far-reaching channels for relationships that can be sparked and shared and formed to reach a shared brand goal.

In education as the conversation turns to the topics of choice and regulation in a new administration, leaders must understand what role Brand plays in these discussions.

Think brand. Rethink brand.

There has never been a  more necessary time to work on a personal professional leadership brand and an institutional brand than in this post-election season. Understanding of the communication value of Brand is critical to the development of the difference your school brings. It may become increasingly necessary to know how to tell a story of your school’s brand value, and essential to its well-being.  In the light of choice, parents look for IMAGE, PROMISE and RESULT. They check out your website more critically, they seek out online comments about your school. They engage. Rethinking of Brand must be a priority for educational leaders, more so than it was just  a few short months ago. Brand isn’t just for selling. It is for telling. Knowing how to communicate and engage around a unique school brand is now part of Rethinking your Leadership.