A Thanksgiving Blessing

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I’ll never forget the holiday our family grew. Early in our marriage, Melissa the kids and I would either visit her family or mine for Thanksgiving. Well one particular year, we were hosting everyone at our house. It made us feel like grown ups!

I was really excited and talked about it at work with a few co-workers. To my surprise, a few of them revealed they wouldn’t be able to go home for the holiday. It didn’t take long for me to offer them the opportunity to come to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. 

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2 NKJV)

Two of the younger guys from work took us up on the offer. These guys fit in like family. They shared stories about holidays with their families. They played video games with our kids. They helped out as much as they wanted and marveled over my wife’s cooking. One of them said the cake was so good it could be served in a war zone and cause world peace!

On that day, we were blessed with good fellowship, fresh perspectives on the holiday, the opportunity to share our faith, and the joy of giving. Ultimately, we received more than what we gave. That’s my challenge to you. We all know someone who could use some holiday cheer. Let God use you to be a blessing to others. 

A Little About Branding

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Last week, I spent some time talking with a few friends about branding identity. When I speak of branding I mean the overall organizational image, The brand communicates the organization’s mission, and promise of performance, to the public, even if in subtle ways, such as the way customer service is delivered or the color of product packaging. Ultimately a company’s brand affects how the public will engage with the organization.

For example, if I mention Disney, Google, Baptist, Catholic, Kraft, or Betty Crocker, each of these brands may bring to mind experiences or feelings one may associate with these brands.; whether good, bad or indifferent.

As a part of the process of defining the brand for our organization, my friends and I engaged in an exercise to find one word to use to describe our organization. Discovering the one word that communicates clearly and easily to all of our stakeholders (staff, investors, customers, etc.) can mean the difference between instant brand recognition and brand obscurity. Eventually we will seek to define every aspect of our brand identity.

Here are some ideas on how to define your brand identity.
  
Look within. What passions and desires motivate you?. That passion will help to clarify your perspectives and the reasons that the brand is important to you.  Ask questions like “what positive feelings do I experience when I think about our organization?” “What are the take-aways I foresee for our clients/customers?”

The answers to these questions and others like them will help us realize the true starting point for brand definition. If you don’t have any passions for your business, church, or organization in it’s current form, then describe what the organization would look like in order to ignite your passion.
  
Look without. Once you’ve done your introspective search to define your passion  then envision how this will be perceived in the minds of stakeholders. You can use tools like surveys, focus groups, or  market demographics to help gather data on target market preferences.  Also, keep in mind that your individual perspective and preference may not be identical to those you are trying to reach.
  
Look across.  Are your values and goals for the organization’s brand shared by major stakeholders? Are you communicating the intended meaning well?
  
Look around. What colors, textures, words, images, shapes, are being used to communicate your message to your intended audiences.  Here’s an example: The car company, Ferrari typically presents their cars in red or black, not softer colors such taupe because those softer colors don’t communicate the intended message of speed, excitement, and power.
  
Look to Communicate. Now that you’ve defined your passion, how the brand is perceived by the intended audiences, and determined specific elements that communicate your brand well, it’s time to communicate. In order to communicate well, you need to know the best mediums to use in order to share this brand message with your intended audience.  This may be print media, broadcast media, digital media, email marketing, social media networks, blogs, etc.

Regardless of the medium, The brand message must be consistent. Having the same look and feel across platforms will help build brand awareness and hopefully, lead to brand loyalty.
  
Keep looking. Always provide a means for  your audience to provide feedback allowing communication with the brand to become a dialog instead of a broadcast. Consumers today want to engage with the brands they follow and brands should listen and make the necessary adjustments. 

Put People First

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The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3 NKJV)

Before setting out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah’s chief concern was for the people in Jerusalem at that time. His passion was for the “great distress and reproach” and the wall just happened to be “also broken down”. This may come as a surprise but the book of Nehemiah isn’t about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It’s actually more about making reforms in the lives of the Israelites. 

More than half the book is dedicated to chronicling Nehemiah’s efforts to restore a God centered culture among the people. The rebuilding of the walls was necessary to create a controlled environment where deep change and transformation could take place. As a leader, Nehemiah put people and their greatest needs first. Leaders today must do the same in order to be successful. 
 
The people we lead may be team members, family, employees and staff, or customers and clients. Regardless of where we lead them or the personal goals we have for leading them, we must remind ourselves to put them first. We may have a goal to grow a ministry through our leadership but the people we lead also have a goal to fulfill their spiritual purpose in our ministries. We may want to increase sales for products and services at our businesses, but we can’t forget the customers and clients make purchases to fulfill their own needs. The focus must always remain on the people, not profits. 

We have a responsibility to lead those on our teams to opportunities for success and fulfillment. We can lead customers and clients to helpful products, services, and solutions. Our programs and strategies are only vehicles designed to carry people to the place where their needs can be met. Once they reach their goals through our leadership, they will help us fulfill our goals.