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In an article written by Tony Schwartz and published by Harvard Business Review, Schwartz addressed six “secrets” leaders need to know in order to create a culture of innovation. Schwartz points out that no company follows all six innovation secrets – and most aren’t able to even manage three of the six.

Wow!

You can read the article by clicking here.

The United States has been losing its innovation advantage for a couple of decades. Just look at the industries the U.S. once created and turned into multi-billion dollar businesses: automobiles, steel, medical devices, plastics…the list is long – but the staying power and leadership position the United States once held in these industries is gone. Why?

I believe much of the answer lies in Schwartz’s third and fourth secrets: Nurture Passion and Make the Work Matter.

In these two components to create a culture of innovation lies the secret sauce to most any successful organization: its people. But more than that, in nurturing passion and making the work matter, we see how critically important it is to not just employ bright, intelligent, hungry-for-success men and women, but to engage with them on a daily basis. When companies stop engaging with its people, de-valuing work, demanding more and more without adequate appreciation, recognition and, yes, compensation – its best and brightest people will exit the organization and find something better to do.

People want to feel engagement with the organization they work for and with sound engagement, your best people will do nearly anything to “get the job done” and exceed expectations at every turn.

So Mr. and Ms. Leader, it’s not enough to be engaged yourself. You must identify and prioritize how to engage with employees and create and maintain that passion for the work at hand. You must serve as the voice that explains to your people why the work matters — beyond the creation of shareholder value. Nurture passion. Create a connection to how and why the work matters. Every day.

If you manage to accomplish just two of the six secrets to creating a culture of innovation you’ll be a third of the way there. And, I predict, your team will help get the organization the rest of the way.

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Many of my peer-to-peer communication discussions ultimately turn to that age-old question: “What would you do if you had the top communication post – VP of Communications or Chief Comms Officer?” Seems the actions reserved for that first 100 days can make or break anyone, no matter how much experience they have traveling through the bloodstream.

So those first 100 days boils down to a few critical components. PR firm Weber Shandwick published an e-book on this topic a couple of years ago and the info really hit the mark. I’ve summarized some of that content, below, and have included my own thoughts as well as comments from my friends who practice PR and communication every day. I hope this creates more discussion on the topic – so feel free to comment and share your ideas.

The First 100 Days In The Life of a New CCO

  1. Get aligned with the organization’s culture as well as the CEO’s vision, strategy and objectives. How does the CEO communicate? What are his/her expectations? What behaviors are most valued by the executive team? What’s the political landscape?
  2. Get to know your communications team. You’re inheriting a team that has its own expectations, strengths, weaknesses and past successes. You must prepare to adjust your perspectives to fit in with the group, not vice versa. Listen carefully during one-on-ones with each communications staffer and take time to get to know the team as individuals. You can gain their respect by involving them in your planning and learning process. And don’t forget to acknowledge the great work they’re doing.
  3. Get to know the business. Spend time with each business leader. Attend their team meetings and meet individually with each of them. And yes, go to them. Use your interviewing skills to identify their challenges, desires and perceptions about how communication can help their business. These sessions will help you build support for communication across the company. Take copious notes as you have these meetings. You’ll use many of their ideas to create your comms plan.
  4. Talk to key stakeholders and get their opinions on the organization’s reputation. Ask similar questions of reporters, customers, strategic partners, and vendors. What has the company done well? What could we do better? Understanding the nuances from various stakeholders will help you craft a plan that nets results.
  5. Create the foundation of your plan by Day 100. Be proactive with goals, objectives and tactics that you and your team can drive. Don’t wait and let others come to you. There will be plenty of that along the way. Apply what you’ve learned listening to your team, the business leaders and the C-suite. Take the communication wheel or con or rudder, align PR plans with business strategy and your research steer your efforts. (And don’t forget to involve your team in the development of this plan!)
  6. Measure something. Media impressions, interactions with stakeholders, or issues and crisis situations avoided because of proactive engagement. You’ll know the C-level expectations when it comes to metrics and analytics. Include the measurement component in the comms strategy and create an executive summary or dashboard that focuses on results – at a minimum this should roll up once a quarter.

There are many more pieces to this puzzle, but these six steps are the crux of what will help you have a great experience as the chief communications person.  No matter what level you’re at in your career, think about how you would approach the role. Do you and your comms team currently work from a plan that is tied to business strategy? If not, perhaps it’s time to ask why.

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