Archive for CEO

Why CEOs Think Differently Than We Do

CEOs  marketing recommendations CEOs are challenging their marketing and communications teams to help chart the future of their organizations. It is their skills as conceptual thinkers that enable these communicators to envision the possibilities for supporting the organization’s goals.

If this is the case, then why do so many chief executives resist the recommendations of the very people they have selected to help drive change throughout the organization?

There can be many reasons, of course, from ill-conceived ideas to lack of budget, to the indifference of line managers. But the real culprit may be something very different. While communicators may be conceptual thinkers, their CEOs are more likely ruled by logic and hard facts. They tend to approach problem solving in a linear fashion.

Sound recommendations may fail because they aren’t organized the way CEOs think. That is why it’s so important to structure recommendations for marketing and communications programs that immediately demonstrate how they will benefit the organization because that’s the chief executive’s bottom line, especially during a tough economy.

Winning Presentations

Here are some tips for delivering a winning presentation to get approval for important recommendations:

  • Opening: outline the broad subject of the presentation
  • Presentation objective: this is the overall statement of how your ideas will benefit the organization. This is where a lot of presentations go wrong because the presenter leads with what he or she wants. Rather, the statement should answer top management’s question: why should I listen to this presentation; what’s in it for the company?
  • Key message points: think of your message as newspaper headlines supporting the benefits outlined in your presentation objective. How will the recommendations increase sales, save money, build a brand?
  • Supporting evidence: use facts, sales projections, statistics, etc., to back up your key messages.
  • Recommendations: summarize your key points and then propose a course of action for approval. Know the decision you want in advance.
  • Discussion: This is the most important part of your presentation. As you lead the discussion, you will build commitment for your recommendations, address any objections, and refine your proposal based on the discussion so that you get a favorable decision.
  • Summary: summarize the agreed-upon desired action. Even if all your recommendations aren’t accepted, don’t leave the meeting without a commitment to some sort of action. For example, if you can’t get your entire program approved, try to come away with a pilot project.

Remember, your overall goal is to link your programs to the company’s goals. Do that and you will win more than you lose. You’ll also gain the CEO’s respect for thinking like he does.

The Flogging Will Continue Until Morale Improves

I played in a regional bridge tournament recently and stopped in my tracks when a man walked by wearing a T-shirt that said: “The flogging will continue until morale improves.”  I laughed, but it wasn’t really funny.  Flogging employees doesn’t happen anymore, but verbal abuse and unreasonable demands are all too common in many companies. (Unfortunately, punishment by flogging is still prevalent in less civilized societies).

The company shall remain nameless, but I once worked for a CEO who would simply phone senior executives with the command “get over here.”  No hi, how are you.  Oh, and he once threw an ash tray in a meeting.  Don’t think this doesn’t happen anymore.  With the bad economy, some companies are getting away with mistreating employees, who need to hold onto their jobs.  But things will get better in time, and then employees will flee.

Arrogance Doesn’t Cut it Anymore

In a Business Week in an article entitled  “Twelve Signs Arrogance is Running Your Company” leadership expert Alaina Love with Purpose Linked Consulting recounted the story of Joe, who astonished the CEO of his company by resigning because his cautions about the company’s direction fell on deaf ears.  Joe was a key player and nobody wanted him to leave so they brought in Love to try to talk him out of it.  As Love writes in her bylined article, “The significance of Joe’s impending departure was enormous, I realized. He’d grown up in the company, starting first in sales and eventually working his way up to a leadership position in marketing. Losing him would mean a tough blow for the organization, one from which recovery would be difficult and lengthy, if not impossible. With him would go years of irreplaceable institutional wisdom and history.”

Joe’s Reason for Leaving

He told Love, “We’re not positioning ourselves for ongoing success, and I just don’t think this way of operating is sustainable. I’ve done everything I can to convince leadership we should adopt a different approach, but they’re not listening. They won’t even sit down long enough to learn about the suggestions I have for changing things.”

Employee engagement has become the new mantra for forward-thinking companies, but, alas, too many CEOs take the position of Joe’s.  “We don’t need somebody around here who doesn’t embrace our way of doing things,” the CEO said to Love.  In other words, it’s my way or the highway.

How shortsighted.  As I’ve written before, the economy is bad now so employees are staying put.  But in time the job market will improve and those companies that value their employees will be rewarded by their loyalty.  Companies like Joe’s will experience an exodus of employees who don’t want any more floggings.

Feeling Safe: A Good Boss Watches Your Back

[tweetmeme]A couple of recent studies confirm that one of our most primal needs is safety.  We want to feel safe – at home, in our city’s streets and especially at the office.  Reuters came out with a report today that ranked cities on how safe they are for children.  I’m proud to say that my hometown, New York City, ranked first along with Louisville.

"Feeling safe -- he's got their backs"

Feeling safe -- he's got their backs

Another study by McKinsey this past summer discussed the importance of a boss making his employees feel psychologically safe by watching their backs.  This intrigued me because feeling safe isn’t usually found on the wish list of employees.  A good salary, a secure job (maybe that does equate with safety), meaningful work and a sense of community usually rank high.

So why is it important for a boss to “watch your back” and provide psychological safety?   According to the McKinsey study, “Why good bosses tune in to their people, “Good bosses spark imagination and encourage learning by creating a safety zone where people can talk about half-baked ideas, test them, and even make big mistakes without fear of ridicule, punishment, or ostracism.”

An Absence of Safety Can be Deadly

An absence of psychological safety, in concert with fear of the boss, can be dangerous or downright deadly….one study showed that when pilots faked mild incapacitation toward the end of a rough and rainy simulated flight, their copilots failed to take the controls 25 percent of the time—resulting in simulated crashes.

To lock in your team’s loyalty, boldly defend their backs, says the study’s author Stanford management professor Bob Sutton.

Fear Stifles Creativity and Productivity

Who wants to take a chance and suggest a new way of doing something and risk the wrath of the boss?  Says Sutton, “The best bosses invent, borrow, and implement ways to reduce the mental and emotional load heaped on their followers — followers who enjoy such protection have the freedom to take risks and try new things.”

Fear can be a motivator – of the wrong kind of behavior.  A fearful employee keeps his head down, does what he’s told and expected to do but rarely ventures out on the edge of the board.  I once worked for a CEO who screamed and tossed ashtrays.  He even resented the clack of his secretary’s fingers on the keyboard.  Do you think anyone voluntarily went to his office with a new idea?  Not on your life.

Blogging as the Centerpiece of a Company’s Social Media Strategy

[tweetmeme]I’ve been blogging about twice a week for well over a year now.  I gave my first update last summer about why I blog.  Write Speak Sell would become the focal point of my thoughts about communicating ideas, which is at the heart of what I have done professionally for over 30 years.  It’s liberating to say what you really think and believe, while always being authentic.

A blog is the centerpiece of a company's social media strategy

Since then I’ve also come to believe that a blog is the centerpiece a company’s social media strategy, both internally and externally.  The CEO is where it all starts. Wise leaders are using social media because that’s where their employees and customers are.

The CEO needs to be talking directly to the company’s stakeholders regularly with quick takes on new developments.  A blog is the perfect vehicle because the nature of a blog is to be informal and for it to express the personality and communicate the authentic convictions of the writer.

A blog liberates the CEO from his ivory tower and into conversations with employees and customers in the social media communities they populate. This is a big culture change for most companies.

With a keystroke, the CEO can distribute her blog to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites where people are getting their information now days.  She can be out there first with the news, before the rumors and misinformation start flying around the Internet.  There isn’t time for a press release vetted by a dozen lawyers before it’s distributed.  Everything is transparent now.

Employee Engagement

The CEO can profoundly influence the company’s future success when employees to buy into his vision. But employees can’t march in step with a CEO who doesn’t engage them in a two-way conversation about his goals for them and the company.  If he does that, they can become the company’s most important brand advocates and commit to providing superior customer service.

Once again, I cite Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh as the pioneer.  In his blog last year he wrote a piece, “Your Culture”  In it he said, “It’s a very different world today. With the Internet connecting everyone together, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it or not. An unhappy customer or a disgruntled employee can blog about bad experience with a company, and the story can spread like wildfire by email or with tools like Twitter. The good news is that the reverse is true as well. A great experience with a company can be read by millions of people almost instantaneously as well.”

Good advice and a good example to follow.