Business Advice

Be present in the process and other lessons from a champion figure skater

Michel Hogan /

A brand is a result of the promises you keep and you keep those promises through every action and decision across the organisation. So, the processes used to achieve your goals play an integral part in the achievement.

People see a process as merely a means to an end, but I believe being present in and about your processes sits at the heart of achieving the brand result you want (or not).

There’s a powerful lesson about staying present in the process in the “Leave Your Mark” podcast with figure skater Scott Moir, half of the winningest Olympic figure skating team of all time Virture and Moir.

From the podcast host Scott Livingston says:

“A concept was taught to me as object-reference versus self-reference. It’s the concept of being focused on a goal, of just achieving something, and not necessarily connecting to the process of getting there, they are like I want the car, I want that job, I want that medal and two things happen. One is either you don’t get it and there’s a loss of sense of self, you’re despondent because you didn’t get it, or you get there and there’s a hollowness in it and it’s that connection to process, that sense of self-referral connection to process of doing it that’s really powerful.”

I see the different states described above at play in many organisations. Both despondence that the brand goal hasn’t delivered what they wanted and the hollowness of achievement once the hoopla has died down. Both happen when the brand is treated as an event rather than as an ongoing process that people are deeply connected to and invested in.

To learn more about why brand isn’t an event click here.

Sticking with the skating analogy, there are decades of training, meticulous attention to every detail, from choreography to music and costumes, that culminate in a four-minute performance. However as the interview notes, when that four minutes is the goal to the exclusion of presence in the process of getting there, it’s easy to see how the aftermath would leave you feeling a flat or a failure.

Organisations skate through investment in the process. I was in a discussion last week about things an organisation needed to improve that resulted in a wholly process-oriented list. It’s something that holds true when I work with people on the brand, where a connection to every-day processes is lacking.

What does it look like when it is present?

It might be the people in shipping who always pay special attention to how they stack the palette so they can take full advantage of the space and ensure nothing is damaged in transit. Or the accounts person who takes the time to double check that invoices have been paid on time so relationships with suppliers stay strong. Or the manufacturing team who closely inspect their work for defects to make sure the finished product meets their quality standards.

Focusing on process may sound strange when talking about brand. Too often a lack of understanding about purpose is touted as the missing link — make sure everyone understands the purpose and the rest will take care of itself. Except it won’t. It doesn’t. It can’t. Because people need structure (how much is a whole other article). They need people around them to help out with things they aren’t wired for.

They need a way to do things that makes sense and feels like it moves them closer to the purpose thing. They want the ‘how’, not just the ‘why’. And when organisations encourage their people to build and be present in that kind of ‘how’, a robust, resilient brand is the result.

See you next week.

NOW READ: Building a brand? Stand behind what you stand for

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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