Archive for Chief executive officer

TIAA-CREF Chief Engages Employees to Steer Transformation

"Roger W. Ferguson, Jr."

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.

[tweetmeme]I was inspired today to hear Roger Ferguson, President and CEO, TIAA-CREF, describe how companies must transform themselves to succeed in this new world and how he’s working to ensure that his company stays relevant. Some business leaders, he said, are adopting the burning platform approach that emphasizes immediate and radical change, or “getting out of their comfort zone.” He calls the process in his company continuous improvement.

While TIAA-CREF is not exactly a household name, unless you happen to work in academia, this Fortune 100 financial services organization has $453 billion under management, providing retirement planning for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. So it’s a very big player in asset management.

Mr. Ferguson is one of the growing number of CEOs who are actively engaging employees in the transformation process to give them “a sense of ownership and what processes they want to see improved.” He’s started a program to train managers to be great coaches and to create what he calls “huddles” in which teams engage in problem solving and paint a picture of the company’s future. He calls it “leading from the middle.” It’s being rolled out gradually throughout the 7,500 employee organization.

Envision a Climbing Wall 

"From KMBell's Blog"

From KMBell's Blog

At the breakfast meeting sponsored by my professional organization, The Financial Women’s Association, Mr. Ferguson discussed how professionals shouldn’t think about a career ladder but rather a “climbing wall.” It’s rare these days for a person to have a perfect upward trajectory with specified steps. Instead, most of us are moving between seemingly unrelated jobs. What we need to do, he said, is be willing to take risks, and learn the “bridging steps” to our next job. Figure out how to leverage our previous experience and build the skills for our next opportunity.

His Own Skills

Mr. Ferguson was refreshingly candid about what he considers to be his strengths and where he feels he could improve. I was pleased to learn he believes his communications skills are his greatest strength: the  ability to synthesize disparate views into major messages. I personally feel this is where many CEOs are weak. As I wrote in an earlier post, entitled CEO as Chief Communications Officer, “This is the essence of the CEO’s job.” He feels he could improve his coaching skills with his senior team. Several were at the meeting and I didn’t get that feeling based on their guffaws. His personality came through as someone with empathy and I don’t think you can make this up for your “public persona,” as he calls his requirement to speak for the company.

TIAA-CREF is a 93-year-old “start-up,” he said. Sounds like the company is doing all the right things to be around for a long, long time.


Fortune 100 CEOs are Social Media Slackers, Says New Study

The website UberCEO (All Things CEO) conducted a study last month that we just discovered. The study of the Fortune 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs found:

  • Only two CEOs have Twitter accounts.
  • 13 CEOs have LinkedIn profiles, and of those only three have more than 10 connections.
  • 81% of CEOs don’t have a personal Facebook page.
  • Three quarters of the CEOs have some kind of Wikipedia entry, but nearly a third of those have limited or outdated information.
  • Not one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog.

This slide show will give you the details of the study. Pretty shocking how little engagement the top CEOs have in social media.

Why CEOs Think Differently Than We Do

[tweetmeme]Marketing and communications executives are being challenged by their CEOs 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?

Of course, there can be many reasons, from ill-conceived ideas to lack of budget, to the indifference of line managers. But another reason may be the real culprit. 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 these tough economic times.

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. Appreciate your incremental wins and then prepare for your next presentation.