A few months ago, I checked back into my Vermont hotel room and accepted my fate: snowed in; no way out. I took some time that night to sit out on the hotel balcony, watching the snow continue to fall, staring out at the monochromatic landscape, and listening to the utter quietness. That night, I was introduced to a phenomenon not often present where I live. Loud cracks, sharp breaks, distant crashing sounds. It took me a few minutes to discern the noise, then I saw it happen.
A perfectly healthy-looking branch, weighted down by the snow, just fell free from its tree and crashed to the ground. Weight; I have seen this happen before, in myself and those around me, in my workplace and out in public, out in the open and kept behind office doors. Weight, whether tangible or intangible, can be burdensome, can slow you down, and, given enough time and inattention, can literally render you unable to maintain.
How often do you check your own weight or the weight of those around you?
How much does your audience weigh?
We marketers spill a lot of ink online about knowing our audiences, and that is solid advice and a great goal to strive for. But knowing them and weighing them are two different things, the latter being a much more intimate knowledge. Ask yourself some questions: Do you know how much weight your audience is carrying? Do you know how much weight your brand is asking them to carry? And do you know where your brand can alleviate some weight? (Hint: that last question is the way to win.)
To illustrate, I am currently carrying the weight of a commercial playground project for my neighborhood. Nothing about this is even close to my area of expertise, which makes the weight much, much heavier (the weight I’m carrying). Each time I start to research online, I’m hit with forms, toll-free numbers, and requests for personal information (the weight brands are putting on me). All I really want to do right now is learn about the process, look around a bit, and see what options fit within my budget. Actually, that’s not true; all I really want to do right now is find a company to help alleviate the weight. Beyond anything else, being able to share the load or, better yet, hand the load over to someone else (a helpful brand, for example) is the shortcut to get me through the sales funnel.* Instead of putting the weight on my shoulders, I need someone knowledgeable to take weight away, and that’s what your audience wants, and needs, from you.
It’s a funny thing about this kind of weight; it is not equal. Your expertise is light for you to carry, while someone else is so overwhelmed by the same subject that it seems impossibly heavy. In a case like this, taking your audience’s weight should be easy for you. So do it. Carry the weight for your audience, and they will be thankful, grateful, and reward you for it.
How much does your team weigh?
In the last few years, brands have talked a lot about the health of their employees. And that’s awesome. Healthy workplace equals happier employees, higher productivity, less work-related stress, and lots of other goodness. But there is no scale for this other kind of weight, the non-physical pounds we continually carry around and that fluctuate much more quickly and much more drastically. Have you ever started the workday weighing X, but found yourself weighing X2 by lunchtime, maybe even X5 by the end of the day?
Managers, if you do not have an accurate idea of the weight your team members are carrying, both as a whole and especially individually, it’s time to check in. When the branch has fallen, when the weight has done its damage, there is rarely a chance to go back. The crack, break, and crash come fast; you’d be wise to see it coming.
Here at SME, I am asked every single day to check in, and that is ideal. I am asked whether I’m stuck anywhere, if I need help with anything, and even if I have feedback to improve processes or workflow. I have my weight checked by my manager constantly, which helps me keep everything in balance. If you haven’t checked the weight of your team lately, I urge you to do so. Yes, it’s impolite to ask someone’s weight, but do it anyway. We’ve all been there when a team member falls in the forest, and it definitely makes a sound.
How much do you weigh?
Have you checked your own weight lately? If you, as an employee, cannot carry one more thing, if you are weighed down to the point of cracking, start shouting, waving, telling. Or if you are just now feeling the effects of the cumulative weight, begin the process of unburdening yourself now. The landscape just wouldn’t be the same without you. If you are too heavy to move, then you are too heavy to help others with their weight; and, if you are too heavy to help others with their weight, then you are playing a dangerous waiting game. This last point is the shortest, but definitely the most important. In the immortal words of Wishing Chair, “Don’t wait; that’s all”. Take a moment and weigh yourself; once you’ve snapped, it’s so hard to get back.
The weigh in
My metaphors rarely hold together, but that moment in Vermont is worth remembering. Your audience’s weight matters; don’t add to it, take it away. Your employees’ weight matters; when branches begin to fall, it’s too late. And your weight matters; don’t wait until it’s too much to carry.
How is my weight? Lesser now that I have spent the night writing; that always helps me. And your patience and thoughtfulness in reading this post lessens my load even more, so I thank you for that. How is your weight? Is there anything that I can personally do to help lighten your load? What about SME; is there anything that we can do to unburden you or to help shift your weight? If so, don’t wait; let us know in the comments section below.
*If you happen to be someone who can help with commercial playground equipment, shoot me a note on Twitter: @mhollowell.