Brand Alignment: Part 2 — Cultivate a “Stewardship Mindset”

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Ever wonder who owns your organization’s brand? Surprise! It’s you, and the person sitting next to you, and the folks down the hall, and your colleagues across the country and around the world. Yes, a brand is owned by all of the people in the organization for which it stands and that ownership comes with a set of responsibilities that everyone shares, regardless of function or level of seniority.

At the core of that set of responsibilities is a “stewardship mindset” – a shared sense of personal commitment to corporate purpose and the strategies designed to help the business succeed. When everything is working, it looks like this:

Leadership is viewed not just as a role, but also as a behavior. People feel prepared to make on-the-spot decisions and they talk with each other about brand values, the work they do, and why it matters. It’s great when senior leaders set an example, but when frontline employees know they’re trusted to take initiative and be an agent of an organization’s success, the benefits are exponentially larger.

Collaboration is key to “how we do things around here.” Collaboration thrives when teams (not heroes) are celebrated and individuals are empowered to work across their organization.

  • Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Endo Surgery unit stokes innovation by forming interdisciplinary teams to develop promising commercial ideas. In doing so, these teams are liberated to tap capabilities and connections that would otherwise be trapped within individual siloes. Voila!
  • At the practical level of a nonprofit’s office environment, even using simple and ubiquitous silo-spanning tools like Google Docs can go a long way towards bringing people together through their work.

Learning is essential to managing change. We live in a fast-paced world where job-hopping is customary for millennials, and new technologies are continuously emerging. So, it’s critical to always be acquiring new knowledge, interpreting that knowledge, and applying it in valuable ways.

  • Not long ago Y-USA, the national organization of all 10,000 YMCAs in the U.S., and one of the biggest and oldest nonprofits, went through a major rebranding program. Nearly half a million people, including volunteers, needed to understand what was happening, why it was happening, and what it meant to them. New learning tools and communications processes were developed and implemented to effect change. The rebrand was wildly successful and, because change is constant, many of the tools and processes developed then have been maintained and are still in use today.

Insights come from anywhere, and people are ready to recognize and act upon them. It doesn’t matter how big or small a problem is for the tension of that problem to yield the kind of knowledge that can make a huge difference on a business. The key is to be aware and ready to act in a timely way.

Governance of brand strikes a harmonious balance between global coherence and protection, and local relevance. The people, processes, and tools (guidelines, spot checks, digital asset management tools, etc.) that support brand governance provide a framework for brand consistency. But it’s the freedom of brand expression that creates authenticity and brand power.

Planning, resource management, and organizational design go a long way toward increasing brand and marketing effectiveness. But the stewardship mindset transcends the workaday nature of these classic management disciplines.

Stewardship is no less a matter of the heart than the mind. Ultimately the big payoff of a “stewardship mindset” is the agility and responsiveness of a harmonized organization around a common business goal. To learn more about developing a stewardship mindset in your organization, contact me at


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