“Can you teach me how to do laundry?”

I pinched myself. Nope, not a dream. My 8-year-old, Henry, just asked me if he could do his own laundry. And, to be clear, this is the same kid whose clothes explode off of him as he walks through the door after school, with coat and shoes flying onto the floor, chair, or cat without a backward look.

So what is bringing on this sudden competency? No, it’s not a magic chore chart or new parenting technique. He just got a full-size bed in his room.

 

The power of an upgrade

For Henry, trading out his twin bed with Marvel sheets for a full-size mattress with a new Harry Potter bed set was not a minor change. He took it as a signal that he was growing up in a major way. All of a sudden, his behavior shifted. He puts his clothes in the hamper each night so the floor is clean. He wants his bed made each morning before he leaves for school so the room stays neat. He has been re-arranging each item on his shelves, organizing his toys, and getting rid of anything that seems too baby-like (except for a few special stuffies, of course).

 And then my worlds collided. I recognized this big kid behavior immediately… even though it was a little startling to see a behavior that I associated with clients in my own small human. We see this all the time when we are working with generational brands. They have been outgrowing the way they communicate who they are and the value that they are providing to the market. They are making do with materials and language that don’t reflect the power of what is going on in the team. And often they don’t even realize how much it holds them back.

Then they get their big kid bed. The leadership team goes through our strategy workshop and upgrades a cornerstone aspect of the brand. They get crystal clear on their brand architecture. They get new language that sharply articulates what they have been feeling but couldn’t say. They have clarity on their growth opportunity and how they will close the gap between where they are now and where they are headed.

From this one experience, the bar is raised for what is acceptable. Unclear or ineffective communications are no longer good enough. Marketing activity that is unproductive is now obvious and stripped away. Sacred cows, like logos, taglines, or even company names, that previously were seen as obstacles to work around, are now put on the table as opportunities to better reflect the clarity and confidence of other aspects of the brand and the team.

One example that jumps to mind is a workshop when the team had spent two intense sessions crafting a strategy to position themselves in the new, somewhat intimidating security market. They were excited about the vision, architecture, and action plan they put together… until we played their phone system’s automated message. It listed four different brand names that had sprung up over the years for various product and service lines, and none of them aligned with their new positioning strategy. The second-generation owner was sheepish, realizing the level of strategic messiness he had created and tolerated. While previously any conversations around a name change were met with a sense of loss and fear, now the choice was clear… they needed one single strong name that reflected who they were becoming. They made what would have usually been a tense and complex decision quickly and confidently.

Why does this make a difference?

I have seen this pattern so often that it does make me curious. Why does one small change… whether a big kid bed or a clear brand architecture… have such ripple effects?

It is tied to our sense of identity. As soon as Henry started thinking of himself as more grown-up, he immediately asked himself “What does a grown-up do?” Laundry, of course! When our clients start seeing a new, updated version of their brand from their customers’ perspective, their teams start asking themselves, “What would a brand that has this positioning strategy do?” And the next step becomes self-evident. Everyone steps into this new identity and changes their behavior accordingly.

Atomic Habits author, James Clear writes, “Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity. What you do is a reflection of the kind of person you think you are, either consciously or unconsciously.” So one hack to break a habit is to change your sense of identity. If you want to start working out regularly, think of yourself as a runner. Ask what would a runner do? A runner would eat more salad and fewer fries. A runner would get up early and sneak in a few miles before starting their day. That mindset will help you make the small decisions that add up to major changes over time.

Now, it isn’t a magic wand. Old behavior patterns are difficult to break. When Henry comes in from the bus, he still flings his shoes across the kitchen. But when he steps into his room, the new identity kicks in, and he is still consistently putting his clothes in the hamper and making his bed. The same for our clients. It takes time and a lot of repetition for new behaviors and standards to really start to become ingrained. But, as the saying goes, the best day to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best day is today.

 

Is your team ready for a big kid bed?

If your metaphorical feet are hanging off the end of your brand (yes, I am going to keep hitting this metaphor until the sheets are threadbare!), our strategy workshops can be the perfect starting point to get your team on a transformative path.

In four sessions with your leadership team, onsite or virtually, we can provide an assessment of the current state of your brand, get internal alignment on your best growth opportunity, and identify the gaps that are holding you back from successful execution. And if you aren’t sure whether you’ve really outgrown your brand, just reply to this message, and I will be happy to schedule a call with you. Together we can quickly identify whether you are truly at an evolution point, or simply need to readjust your current tactics. (Harry Potter sheets are not included.)

If, however, you simply have a second grader and lots of loads of laundry, I highly recommend running to your nearest mattress store.