After a failed first attempt, #Starbucks #CEO Howard Schultz’s second departure announcement went much smoother. In a post for The CEO Magazine blog, I share why effective communication during a transition means more confidence from your stakeholders.
Here’s a preview of the post. (Visit the full blog post here.)
The steps necessary to mount a successful transition depend on whether the new leader comes from inside or outside of the organization. In both cases, investing time to understand and build on the relationships of the business is crucial.
Here are five keys to success for any new CEO:
- Carefully respond to and set expectations.
- Connect with employees.
- Identify and exploit quick wins.
- Get to know the influencers.
- In dire situations where market share is evaporating or where a company is losing money, a new CEO especially must act quickly.
For many U.S. voters, today (Inauguration Day) is a day of reckoning. Depending on your perspective, it’s the day you’ve been longing for or the day you’ve been dreading. If there is one thing to be learned from this past U.S. Presidential election, it is this: As a society, we haven’t been listening. And, as a result, we also haven’t been heard.
Business leaders have noted that election results have fragmented their companies. PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi said that her employees were “crying.” Some CEOs have even encouraged such division; GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney said Trump supporters weren’t welcome in his company. Now that the outcome is a done deal, what can CEOs and other business leaders do to heal such divisions and move their companies forward?
When people are denied a voice, for whatever reason, they begin to feel marginalized. That feeling of being unseen and taken for irrelevant, can build in intensity, and over time, lead to hostility or worse. PepsiCo’s Nooyi said that the real issues that face us as a country “such as technological unemployment, global trade, immigration” were not addressed in the lead-up to the election. Instead, the focus was personal and emotional.
Lacking dialogue about meaningful, substantive topics that affect us all has created a deep divisiveness that is not surprisingly finding its way into companies and other organizations. Unmitigated, leaders risk this deeply personal and vindictive energy overtaking the corporate narrative. In that kind of environment, divisions run even deeper and lead to employees becoming disengaged with their company’s purpose, strategy and outcomes. That’s not good for their customers, their shareholders, or our economy.
The most important lesson we can take from the surprising outcome of this election is that open, civil and thoughtful consideration of divergent perspectives is the glue that binds any society – be it a country or a company. And that presents a spectacular and critical opportunity for today’s business leaders.
Strategy #1: Dust off some fundamental communication skills
The road to healing requires leaders to practice four skills as part of their everyday interactions with colleagues:
- Active listening: Make a choice to listen for understanding rather than simply listening to hear. This means clearing your mind of your own thoughts, preconceived ideas and agendas in order to thoroughly consider what is being shared.
- Model constructive dialogue: Repeat key ideas that you are hearing in your own words to confirm alignment and ask probing questions to dig for deeper understanding. Adopt the mindset that you are studying for an exam rather than ramping up for a debate.
- Provide context: When sharing your thoughts, decisions or direction for the business, frame the issue thoughtfully. Many leaders forget that employees have not been immersed in analyzing an issue as thoroughly or for as long as they have and jump straight to the punchline. This robs the workforce of the opportunity to make the mental journey with you, arriving comfortably (or at least rationally) where you have.
- Create forums for open, hierarchy-free dialogue: Activate a mix of contemporary, digital platforms and traditional, in-person ones so that employees across the demographic and preference spectrum have opportunities to participate. Participate regularly in these forums, and clearly share with direct reports your expectation that they do so as well.
Strategy #2: Check your ego
Participating in the respectful exchange of views and ideas is one of the most humbling activities a leader will undertake. To be genuine, you must relieve yourself of the notion that you have all the answers. Isn’t that how we got here in the first place?
One person can change the world. Just look at inventors, politicians, political activists, religious figures, business leaders… History is full of people that have made a difference – for better or worse. What do these people have in common? Is there a formula for their success?
While many people may have wonderful ideas that could change the world, there is a core set of characteristics that define successful change makers. They are:
Curious and Creative Problem Solvers: Change makers become passionate about solving a problem (or problems). Inherently, they ask questions and look for creative ways to find solutions.
Risk Takers with Confidence and Courage: Instinct and intuition as their guide, change makers trust in themselves and preserver into new frontiers or against popular opinion.
Open-minded with a Positive Perspective: In order to succeed, change makers are optimistic about their results and success, and are open to different and new perspectives. This positivity and openness is what helps them see the solutions that lead to great change.
Engaging communicators: By the nature of a change maker’s passion for the change they seek, they must be able to inspire and motivate audiences for support. Change makers are storytellers that inspire action.
Doers with Ambition and Drive: Because of their passion for results, successful change makers will roll up their sleeves and dig into the work. They set up lofty goals and are willing to put in the hours until they reach them, very committed to success.
Who is your favorite change maker and what should we learn from him or her?
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period. (Definition from Investopedia.com.)
The higher the growth rate of our GDP (the more we’re producing), the better the outlook is for our economy.
Where are we today? Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO of General Electric said earlier this year that, “In a world of 2 percent G.D.P. growth, you really have to be good at everything you do.”
What does “being good at everything” mean? How has work – and focus – changed in a lower than typical GDP world? Here’s what we’re seeing:
1. Focus on one thing. Organizations are refocusing on the one thing they want to be good at moving resources there. What’s your one thing? Your company’s?
2. Look at where your industry is headed and prepare now for the future. Think Artificial Intelligence (AI). Think digital industry. What’s changing and what do you need to know/do to be on top of those changes?
3. Change is a constant. Learn and practice the skills you need to be agile and flexible amidst constant transformation and ambiguity.
4. Be a business person first and a functional expert second. Understand the needs of your business, your customers and your team, and apply your functional expertise to meet those needs.
What are you seeing?
Google “gratitude in business” and you’ll wind up with thousands of results. And not just because it’s November – a month in which the topic is top of mind for Americans preparing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s because, as it turns out, gratitude is good for business. And that is because, as neuroscientists have discovered, gratitude actually changes our brains.
According to a Huffington Post round-up on gratitude and the brain, here are three of 10 ways gratitude affects our performance at work:
Gratitude improves social behaviors which makes it easier to network. Studies show that those who are 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital.
Gratitude stimulates goal achievement. In one study, participants instructed to keep a gratitude journal for two months reported more progress toward their goals.
Gratitude enhances decision making.
Expressing gratitude in the workplace helps leaders create connections (between actions and outcomes, effort and performance) and build relationships (among team members and with others more far-flung in the organization).
Like working any muscle, with repeated practice, the behavior becomes more natural. Here are three ways to make the most out of the gratitude you offer every day – in person, by phone or via a hand-written note:
Be specific about what you’re thankful for, e.g. “Thank you for taking the recent uptick in cost of quality so seriously, and for the focused analysis you provided in your process review.”
Explain what you liked or the next steps, e.g. “I learned two things from the perspective you provided and believe we can make significant progress in reducing defects.”
Continue to build the relationship, e.g. “I’ll take this work forward to the Quality Council and let you know what next steps we put in place.”
Research shows that those who practice gratitude every day live longer, sleep better, experience increased productivity and live happier lives.
We could all use more gratitude in our lives, and especially in the workplace. My challenge to you… smile more and thank someone today.
Here’s a look at what some of our team members are thankful for:
Talking about your accomplishments to others – and not coming off sounding like a jerk – means following the three basic rules of effective communication. Follow these rules, whether you are in a one-on-one conversation at a cocktail party or giving a speech to a room full of constituents, and you will chalk up another important accomplishment: acquiring the skills to meaningfully connect with others.
Giving negative feedback to a team member can be difficult. Here’s how to turn it into a positive experience. And for more information, see my other post on this topic. Good luck!
There are so many contexts in which people ask questions in the workplace – from peers in the office or on the manufacturing line working out a problem to a leader assessing and diagnosing a large-scale operational issue. In all of these scenarios, five rules apply. Done well, the process of asking questions can result in collaborative dialogue that allows all parties to feel they have contributed to an important solution.
The five rules are:
Taking on a new executive leadership role can be challenging. Whether you’re new to the organization or the position, it’s important to build trusting relationships from the start. These five keys will help you engage your team and employees, and set the stage for success. For more information about leadership communication, check out my article in AMA Quarterly.
Team communication can make or break your business.
Communication is an enabler of engagement, and employee engagement is the emotional and functional commitment an employee has to his or her organization. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. So… strengthening your team’s communication skills will lead to engaged employees that support a high-performance culture.
To build a strong team be clear about roles and responsibilities, play to strengths, gather the team together daily and know your priorities. For more information about leader communication and communication training, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Change is here to stay, and to a certain extent, it is always disruptive. Regardless of whether you are planning a large change or an update of some kind, engaging employees through effective communication is key. It can compress the transition and minimize the disruption. Check out our tips for navigating change here: http://bit.ly/298p7Nf. What would you add?
For more information about leading change and communicating to engage your employees, email me at email@example.com.
As a leader, you may not have all the answers. That’s okay. Leadership is about building a vision, informing employees and simplifying so people know what to do. Leaders create clarity out of ambiguity, simplify the complex, convert challenges into opportunities, and make strategy come alive… inspiring and motivating employees to action.
Tell the Story
Articulate a story that inspires and aligns employees within the organization around the vision. The story explains where we’re going, why and how, and importantly – what employees can do to help achieve the vision.
Next, the leader must provide managers and supervisors with tools so they can engage their employees in conversations about the vision and their role in achieving it.
When faced with the unknown, let your vision be your guide.