There is one thing an organisation needs to do

I am often asked by leaders “what’s the one thing I can do?” My return question is most usually: “To do what?” Because it depends.

Sometimes there is one thing. More usually there are a series of one things. But organisations seem to be hard-wired to look for a silver bullet. Business books and magazines are full of “one thing” prescriptions; that one thing that will deliver customers through the door, increase sales of products and services, keep employees happy and engaged, have people talking about you in a good way …

Customers can only come through the door if they know you are out there and the door is open. Yes, marketing matters and not just marketing communications, but Marketing with a capital M (discipline and practice).

Sales of products and services will only increase if they solve a problem (even a problem I didn’t know I had). Oh, and looking great and being easy to use doesn’t hurt either.

Happy and engaged employees don’t appear out of thin air, they are the result of a thriving culture. Don’t have that and you can expect a steady stream of unhappy, disengaged people leaving.

Then on top of getting the basics like marketing, product and services and culture right, the microscope on organisations has never been greater. Scrutiny of the masses is the new norm. So why do so many still make like it’s the 1990s and act as if no one is watching?

People will hold organisations to what they say, and whether they sit on top of the ASX or Fortune lists or are the local dry cleaners, what they do will get out. Does anyone really believe otherwise?

There are lots of other reasons why the many “one things” aren’t working. But here’s something that I firmly believe is the “one thing” you can do that will have a positive impact on all the other aspects …

Keep your promises.

All of them: the ones in your marketing, the ones about your products and services, the ones to your employees, the ones built into what you do.

On my business card I have two questions: What promises are you making? How are you keeping them?

To keep your promises, for them to be the one thing that can make a difference, you’ve got to think about them before you make them. And a great place to start being more deliberate and conscious about your values is a promises audit.

Make a list of the promises you’re making – explicit and implicit. How many are out of alignment with the elements of your organisation’s identity (purpose and values)? Do you have a mish-mash of competing values that make it impossible to keep some of them? Do your implicit values make a mockery of your explicit ones?

Next week I’ll be writing a refresher blog on making promises you can keep. See you then.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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