By Mike Orlov, Partner, SteppingStone Global

There are those who struggle to describe the success of the United Arab Emirates. There are those who stand back in awe and wonder, attempting to ascribe the astonishing growth in many different ways. More often than not Brand-Dubai is the primary focus, often ignoring the successes of the other Emirates in the UAE.  Invariably conclusions summed up with agile-thinking concepts and innovative-leadership factors are often cited, explaining the stupendous changes in the brand-delivery of Dubai over recent decades.

There are those who have likened the changes in Dubai to those in Florence in the 15th century, when diverse concepts, cultures, and disciplines intersected, ultimately leading to one of Europe’s most creative eras, the Renaissance. Some have described it as another example of the ‘Medici-Effect’ – when talented people are brought together from different disciplines, from competing cultures.

This coming together causes sparks – leading to unforeseen innovation and change, building brand-delivery based on sustainable new services and products; delivering, delighting and exciting customers.

We rely on how well our brand and our company are perceived by customers for future business; will they come back for more.

All our efforts go into winning business and retaining business; delighting – even exciting – our customers. The lessons from Florence and from Dubai are clear – it’s about people and as complete a brand experience as possible.

Every time your marketing makes claims, you have to ensure your corporate personality lives up to these claims. Your customers are looking for adequate delivery; they delight in surprisingly positive service, when more is given than expected. And customers get excited when surprised by exemplary product delivery and remarkable service.

More than ever before, your employees are your brand.. From impeccably answered incoming telephone calls, to claims and promises being met, where your people are so well informed they are seen to be experts.

Customers will know it is worth coming back to your people – because they are the best in the industry. And customers will then believe your marketing claims for your corporate identity – your image and reputation will be aligned with your people and service delivery.

More than this, potential future employees will also check with your current and past employees on what it is like to work for you.

There are useful checklists to ensure successful teams of individual employees are giving of their best and coming together as true-teams. Human capital and social capital surveys will typically list the following factors which affect how hard individuals operate and how well people work together:

  • The job itself; explore job enrichment and enlargement factors
  • Teamwork within the closest unit; tribal factors
  • Information to do the job well and on wider issues; communication from bosses
  • Benefits and security; perception of stability
  • Skills improvement; development rather than corrective training
  • Status; recognition of a job well done – a positive sense of self
  • Reasonable remuneration for the job well done


There are three main reasons why employees consistently underperform, damaging the relationship with customers, blowing holes through your marketing claims and worse – damaging revenue earning capabilities, wasting money and wrecking your bottom line.

Your people are either incapable of the job you are asking them to do, or they are disconnected from you, your company and the work itself or they are unclear as to what it is you want them to do.

Poor leadership, appalling communication from senior management, lack of focus on people within the business, inadequate organizing, no discipline from supervisors, invisible development and training, no clear direction with no shared vision, poor alignment leading to no synergy and lack of an effective performance evaluation system all lie at the heart of poor performance from your people.

Sustainable high performance requires employees’ abilities fit the activities required of the job, they share the vision, values, beliefs, mission, goals and objectives of the business and they clearly know what you and their immediate managers and supervisors expect from them.

We can’t expect individuals to bring their A-game if we do not do our jobs and set them up to be successful.

Once in place, it is then fair to expect improved performance. So ask yourself whether you and your company have the following. If not, get started straight away:

  • Easily understood vision and broad goals for the future
  • Clear values everyone understands
  • Realistic and agreed mission statement
  • Unambiguous concrete objectives
  • Agreed performance indicators and metrics
  • Ongoing development and training
  • Devolved decision making – so people feel empowered
  • Honest and trusting culture
  • Clear communication
  • Easy access to senior management


Your energized and aligned employees will identify with the company’s vision, values, mission, and products, establishing a real connection to the work they do, along with a sense of pride in doing it well. They will protect your brand, will be exceptional revenue earners and will action the processes which deliver greater profitability.


About the author

Before joining ‘SteppingStone Global’, Mike has spent 35 years in industry, publishing magazines at Haymarket, Turret and Reed Elsevier, working in newspapers and on digital channels in the UK and the GCC, having been a director at Northern and Shell and on the board of the London Evening Standard. Launching media brands in Dubai for ENG, Mike was also Chief Performance Officer for News Group International, before taking the Chief Executive role at Primedia International, with offices across the GCC and headquartered in Bahrain. Mike has completed an executive MBA, achieving a distinction.