How to be different in a world that’s all the same

In the last few weeks I’ve run workshops for two audiences that couldn’t be more different to each other. One was a very commercially-focused group of media executives - mostly male - and the other an all female group of middle managers in the not for profit sector.

Two environments, poles apart, and people that - on the surface - seem to have different needs and expectations. Dive in just a little, though, and it’s plain they have far more in common then they do in opposition.

Whatever sector we work in, whether we’re in a large or small organisation, a senior role or starting our career, we’re all facing similar issues. They include burgeoning competition and a bombardment of information, driving the need for us to stand out even more than we’ve needed to in the past.

Both workshop groups turned out to be in increasingly competitive areas which have faced big changes in the last year. They’re feeling the pressure and looking at better ways to get their message through the noise and out to potential customers and clients.

They are also feeling the sting of a perception-driven client base who don’t think twice about sharing their opinions on social media and voting with both their feet and Facebook-thumbs if they don’t like a particular service.

That’s opening up both organisations to the risk that poor performance – even if only perceived - will seriously damage their reputation.

The two groups are only just coming to grips with the inversion of influence that’s handed significant power to their regular employees - now considered highly credible sources of information about the organisation through what they say to their social networks, friends and family.

Yet, neither group has seriously considered that scenario. You could see light bulbs flicking on when we talked about the fact that they need to really pay attention to what everyone in their team says about their business to the outside world.

Members of both audiences also considered the role of leaders, commenting that they need to be inspirational beacons motivating their teams, helping to join together all the dots of information bombarding people at every turn. Rather than making decisions at the top and cascading the information down, it’s about drawing together the ends of the pieces of string across the organisation and helping to make sense of them all.

Different business environments throw up specific challenges but they also have plenty in common. It still comes down to people and relationships; how we can fire our team’s passion so they’re happy to share great stories about the organisation. As the message grows, so does the reputation of the business.

Everyone’s game has changed - it’s not changing only in your sector. We all have much to learn from other professions and environments as we work to make stronger organisations in this age that’s saturated with information.