Three Actionable Steps to Make Your AGM a Thought-Leadership Showcase (Part 1)

empty speakers podiumAhhhh, the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The Chairman’s Office owns it. Legal runs it. Investor Relations designs it. Finance provides the figures. Communications and Marketing create the messages. What could possibly go wrong!

AGMs offer a once-a-year opportunity to display the best thinking your company has to offer investors and other attendees. They’re also the ideal brand showcase for you as a thought leader. Don’t waste this magic moment.

It’s soon reporting season so now is the time to take a close look at what your AGM says about your company and about you. Are you focusing only on past results or are you also presenting at least a snapshot of the present and a glimpse into the future? Continue Reading…

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How to Know If You’re Sitting in the Catbird Seat

catbird tweeting sitting in the catbirds seatWhen it comes to thought leadership, are you ”sitting in the catbird seat”? The question you might ask is, ”Would you want to be sitting there?”

The answer should be yes, but I’ve found that Americans are more familiar with that English phrase than Brits or others as it was the title of a popular short story by U.S. humorist James Thurber called ”The Catbird Seat.”

You can read more about Thurber’s short story and other uses of the term on Wikipedia. But here I’m using ”sitting in the catbird seat” in its original meaning of ”being in an enviable position.” Continue Reading…

Running and Sliding into the New Year

solitary long distance runner in urban parkI hope you’re having a good slide into the new year, as the Swiss say. Are you rested and refreshed after your holiday break and ready to start ”the race” again? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions about how you’ll run the race this year?

Before you do, think about the Zambian proverb on the homepage of this Thought Leader Zone site: ”When you run alone, you run fast; but when you run together, you run far.”

Ask yourself, have you been running alone or running together with your team?

I’m reminded of the title of the acclaimed short story and film by Alan Sillitoe that spawned several rock renditions of the same name — The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. It takes discipline and endurance to run fast alone.

“When you run alone, you run fast; but when you run together, you run far.”
— Zambian proverb

Were you lonely last year because you were running too fast for your team members to run beside you? Did you find time to stop running to think and look at whether you’re running together with others or trying to cover long distances in your business by yourself?

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah writes (12:5 NIV): ”If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”

If ”the pace of the race” threatened to wear you out last year, what changes are you going to make now to ensure you’re able to run far in 2013? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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12 Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Employees and Teams

map pushpins and connections image representing concept of managing remote and virtual employee teams In a galaxy far, far away…as a global thought leader, you may often need to ”manage by mobile” and lead from a distance. Instead of ”eyeball management,” you need to be able to focus on ”results management” and trust that your employees are capable of achieving the goals you set for them even when you’re not physically present.

Some of the leadership skills remote managers display are similar to those of on-site managers. But multi-site, dispersed, virtual teams can present particular challenges for even the most experienced managers.

What challenges have you faced? How have you handled them? Take a few minutes and click here or comment below to share some of your experiences and tips with other thought leaders.

To kick start the conversation, here are 12 general observations and tips:

Instead of ”eyeball management,” you need to be able to focus on “results management.” 
  1. Make your expectations concrete and measurable – for example, add structure by clarifying in writing short-term priorities and long-term goals.
  2. Check in regularly and spontaneously, formally and informally — for example, ”planned spontaneous interactions” might include virtual coffee chats and lunches or frequent check-ins with instant messaging.
  3. Keep it personal – for example, nothing will replace water cooler talks and coffee breaks, but take time to drop a personal note about something happening to the virtual employee – like a house move or a child graduating. Encourage a brief “sharing” time for all team members in regular meetings to help build team spirit.
  4. Be aware of the process the team is using and help them break it into manageable pieces with measurable results at key milestones.
  5. Don’t judge the process but judge the results.
  6. Set rules of engagement based on a consistent mission, purpose and values system.
  7. Agree on time boundaries — for example, what are the manager’s and the team’s expectations for sending or returning emails on the weekend, late at night or during the dinner hour.
  8. Set and model good communications practices — for example, what are the team’s rules on whom to cc: and what types of subject lines to include on emails.
  9. Listen better – for example, it’s much easier to miss subtle verbal clues when corresponding with telecommuters or distributed team members by telephone, video, Skype, etc.
  10. Remind on-site employees to listen to others on conference calls – for example, print out a photo of the remote employees and put them on the table or a chair during important meetings.
  11. Avoid engendering an ”us and them” mentality – for example, when virtual team members are mixed with co-located teams in headquarters, try overemphasizing the inclusion of voices outside the nucleus so that a “home-based” bias isn’t created inadvertently.
  12. Meet whenever possible in person, but particularly at the beginning of the distance employment relationship to minimize the virtual team member’s sense of isolation. Nothing replaces “face time”…nothing.

Do you need help improving communication as you manage remote employees from a galaxy far, far away from them? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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A Simpler Time

In a September New York Times article titled “Seeking a Simple Respite” writer Anita Patil claims, ”It seems we’re taking a collective deep breath, stepping back and reassessing our complicated lives.”

The latest marketing buzzwords, the article points out, are ”simple,” ”simply,” ”simplicity,” ”easy,” etc.

In the UK, one of the most ubiquitous — and annoying — advertisements on air (see the embedded video below) involves promoting how simple doing business with that particular insurance company can be. The end of the commercial, a meercat stands up and shouts ”Simples!” and clicks its teeth.

So even animals are catching the spirit–the Zeitgeist–of our time. Are you? Are you finding effective ways to simplify your communication, your organizational structure, etc.? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Global Thought Leaders Tackle Tough Water Issues

Global Water Leaders Group LogoOn the eve of the American Water Summit, about 40 global water leaders met in Chicago on 13 November 2012 to discuss how best to communicate the value of water to the public. The CEO-level roundtable dinner was sponsored by the renowned trade publication Global Water Intelligence and its sister publication American Water Intelligence.

Among the goals of the roundtable dinner were the following:

  • to provide a networking opportunity for thought leaders in the industry
  • to create a body of influence for promoting and communicating the value of water
  • to determine the best path forward for the group

One additional question posed at my table yielded some interesting answers: What makes a water leader a leader?

Water leaders, according to participants, are or should be conservative, compelling and clear ambassadors for the value of water. 

This question prompted a discussion of the specific skill set needed for water leaders, but the description applied equally to all thought leaders.

Water leaders, according to participants, are or should be conservative, compelling and clear ambassadors for the value of water (or their own value proposition.) They need courage and confidence as they champion the cause of water (or their company’s cause), and they should do so with an authentic voice (as all thought leaders should).

Collaboration and alignment of interests will help build a stronger sense of community as water leaders (or any other thought leader). A partnering mindset will help break down silos, which will be necessary to move the water industry (and any industry) forward with one voice.

Highlights of the full water conference can be found in this ”Top Tweets” post from the Twitter feed #aws2012.

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Top Tweets from American Water Summit, Chicago, 2012

American Water Summit Chicago 2012Key question at the conference is embedded in theme ”Business Models of the Future”: How do we advance the state of water? #aws2012

Bob Bailey, CH2M Hill, opened water conference with observation that the future is closer to now than ever before. #aws2012

Bob Bailey, CH2M Hill, explained the challenges of water industry that’s complex, fragmented and slow to react. #aws2012 Continue Reading…

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Management Coach vs. Message Coach

choosing the right message

A communications coach helps leaders clarify their message and focus messaging strategy.
Illustration by hikingartist.com

One question I’m asked frequently is how does what I normally do differ from what a traditional management coach does. It’s difficult to explain because a management coach and a communications coach actually are similar.

Both types of coaches help managers lead better, so I would certainly call myself a management coach. We both help CEOs and senior leaders clarify and then make choices.

But my unique service offering is that of being a so-called message coach. I channel rather than challenge management choices leaders make, and then I in turn challenge the leaders’ choices for communicating such decisions.

In other words, a communications coach helps leaders choose the right strategies, tactics and approaches for communicating their management choices. These types of message coaches not only help leaders choreograph their communication choices, they also help craft the best messages for a particular situation and audience.

Communicating well up, down and sideways in an organization, as well as communicating appropriately to a wide range of external audiences, requires making the right choices for the immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term horizons.

Are you at an inflection point in your career and getting ready to make some management choices? Are you prepared to make the right communications choices at the same time? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Senior Leaders versus Seasoned Leaders: Which Type are You?

four seasons with roadway

The journey to seasoned leadership: a long,
sometimes difficult road. Photo: Jeremy Wilburn

I recently ran across a candidate who described himself as a “seasoned leader.” What’s the difference between a senior leader and a seasoned leader, I wondered, so I Google-d and Wikipedia-d and Yahoo-d and LinkedIn my way to this definition:

Seasoned leaders have tenure and clout and gravitas and a broad range of experiences in different industries, geographies and situations. Seasoned leaders are more well rounded because they have perspectives not yet formed in senior leaders. The next stage in the development of a senior leader is to become a seasoned leader. Seasoned leaders and senior leaders alike can certainly be thought leaders.

Of course, it wasn’t easy to ”define definitively” what a seasoned leader is and does. And the term ”seasoned” itself could be misinterpreted. The problem is that a “seasoned” leader could refer to any season – how confusing is that! If you think about what those seasons represent, you might want to steer clear of describing yourself in that way. I’m not sure all four types of seasoned leaders can be considered complimentary.

For example, the description of a “Spring” seasoned leader seems to be contradictory. If leaders are fresh and spouting – or sprouting – new ideas, they can’t be seasoned, can they?

“Summer” seasoned leaders, I would then assume, are in the prime of their lives and careers. They’re sowing in rich, fertile soil in their companies and making hay – or moula – while the sun is shining on their careers.

“Fall” seasoned leaders are clearly not British or they would be “autumn” seasoned leaders, right? But the connotation of that season – fall or autumn – is that things are dying and falling and decaying. It seems to imply that things are ending and winding down as far as the leader’s career is concerned.

Finally, the term “Winter” seasoned leaders would seem to imply that the leaders are used up, dormant, hibernating or dead. That’s not a very appealing description of someone with great experience and honed skills of leadership, is it?

Are you a seasoned leader? What season of seasoned leader are you? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Watching your Development as a Thought Leader

great business leaders dont age they matureIn my last entry, I introduced you to two popular videos on Vimeo and YouTube that use time-lapse photography to demonstrate how the subjects grew from babies into teens. (Read the full blog entry here.)

If someone put together this type of time-lapse video to reflect your development as a thought leader, what would the result look like? Could viewers “read your face” and perceive the maturation of your leadership skills?

Are you the kind of leader you wanted to grow up to be? When you look at your photos over the years in your role, do they accurately reflect your personality and show your development as the type of leader you want to be?

Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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