By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

You’ve been going along and growing your company. You are a good leader, and you have a good heart. And you are good at what you do. You have confidence in your competence as a business person.

But there’s this itchy sensation that comes over you whenever you consider the way you are marketing your company. Very simply stated: it is not quite right yet.

Nagged by that one sense something is off, you’ve tried and failed to attack the issue, but truth be told: you don’t have much more insight to add, which only increases your sense of unease.

Yet, you can’t forget it. You can’t let it go. Your instinct is telling you this issue lies at the very heart of your business. As a leader who has gotten this far, you know in perfect clarity that your instincts are very important — and usually right on.

Here’s our take: This frustrating feeling — one that keeps telling you something is off.

It’s a good thing. It’s presenting you with an opportunity to address a weakness.

The weakness you feel, you sense, is that your brand has not been articulated, has not been explained and has not truly been captured.

It’s very natural to gravitate toward taking action in areas you feel the most competent. Primarily because we humans don’t like those feelings of inadequacy, so we work on what we know. And most entrepreneurs don’t really know brand and branding.

Increasing branding confidence is one of the areas we focus on with leaders and their organizations. We refer to this as brand intelligence.

Brand intelligence is awareness of and active engagement in the creation of your mission-based brand — integrating art, language, culture and experience.

Brand intelligence can only be increased with daily practice and making that practice a core competency for you and everyone on your team.

So we posit this: the key to ridding yourself of those uneasy feelings is to raise your brand intelligence.

Here are some fundamentals to explore:

  • Admit you don’t know. Entrepreneurs create blind spots by thinking they know. Once you admit you don’t know something, say for instance, when you admite you don’t know much about branding, then and only then can you truly learn about it. (Side note: that’s why one of the Elements of Trust in our Root Sessions is “You might be wrong.”)
  • Consciously and deliberately consider that your (personal) mission has a direct line of sight into your business. It is informing your business, daily, and it has been since you began. Do not panic if you don’t know what your personal mission is yet. We will help you uncover what you already know it to be deep inside.
  • Once you begin to warm to this idea, begin to shift your thinking to making your mission the center of your brand, not your business model. When your business model is at the center of your brand, there’s a tendency to let branding become a linear, short-term afterthought. You simply can’t raise your brand intelligence if you aren’t focusing on brand at a strategic level.
  • Consider that brand is how other people experience what you believe. If you are part of the founding team, you will forever and always have the role of Chief Spiritual Officer. You are responsible for not just the wellbeing of your team but the spiritual essence and belief system of your culture. This is not HR’s job to handle.

As a leader, if you are feeling anxious about how your business is showing up in the world, take a deep breath before you push that feeling away. We have been conditioned to believe that anxiety automatically means something is wrong. We see it differently, especially for entrepreneurs.

Anxiety is there to tell us something important has come on to our radar that needs your special attention. As the Chief Spiritual Officer, you are equipped to handle it, despite what your brain is telling you.

By not ignoring it, you give your brand a chance to truly come to life. And that means progress, opportunity for growth, and a chance to be excellent.

And we know you like that.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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