Watching your Company Develop

Two video “memes” making the rounds right now in cyberspace are taken from photographs of children growing up from babies to teens. Using time-lapse photography, the videos capture the changes that occur as the children mature. What’s so special about these videos is that the photos reveal not only the children’s physical changes but also their personality changes as they develop.

As a company grows, it, too, develops and matures in its physical form, its outlook and its personality, which is often called its culture. You, as a thought leader inside your company, are responsible for guiding this maturation process, but how are you capturing the firm’s development for posterity? What snapshots in time best reflect the growth of your company’s culture?

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

Leadership Means Demonstrating the “Power of We”

blog action day logo

Bloggers from 108 countries around the world are taking part in this year’s Blog Action Day focused on “the Power of We.”

Did you know that today, 15 October, is Blog Action Day 2012? For the sixth year in a row, Blog Action Day is bringing together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day.

Past topics have included water, climate change, poverty and food with thousands of blogs, big and small, taking part. This year the theme is the ”Power of We.” You can follow what’s happening online with either of these two hashtags: #powerofwe  or #bad12

We – as thought leaders, as business leaders, as a community – can make change happen in a positive way for our environment. That’s the “Power of We.”

Take the opportunity today to donate to a charity of your choice so you, too, can demonstrate that “Power of We” at work.

If you’re looking for a good cause, why not consider one of three key water charities: www.wateraid.org, www.waterforpeople.org or www.water.org.

Are you ready to show the “Power of We” inside your company, too? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Pompeii and Circumstance – Planning for Crisis in Today’s Organization

view of mount vesuvius from pompeii ruins

Vesuvius (seen at left in the background) has erupted around 30 times since it caught the people of Pompeii totally unprepared in 79 A.D.

A friend of mine was taking a tour of Pompeii when her husband asked the tour guide, ”What would happen to Naples if Mount Vesuvius erupted again?”

The tour guide replied, ”We are certainly concerned about that! In fact, a few years ago we practiced all emergency procedures in case that would ever happen.”

”How did that practice go?” he asked.

”Oh, it was chaos! It all fell apart, and nobody did what they’d been instructed to do,” the tour guide replied.

”So what did you do to solve that problem?”

”We stopped practicing,” she said with a wink.

Your company may not be facing a Pompeii-type disaster at this time, but are you prepared for the time when circumstances become ripe for a ”volcano” erupting inside your organization because of an unfortunate event or a bad decision or a rapidly worsening business environment?

Do you have plans in place for such crises? Do you practice them on a regular basis to make sure they work? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Related post:
10 Questions to Answer Before a Communications Crisis Hits your Organization


Views with a Viewpoint on a Busy Commute

Two buildings in Zurich ”speak to me” – not literally, of course, and not in the architectural aesthetic sense either. They both present business lessons and life lessons for my edification during my daily commute.

On the side of one Zurich high-rise building belonging to Migros , the main nationwide grocery chain, is a neon sign proclaiming: ”Everything is going to be alright!” These soothing words at the end of a long day at work reflect the values of the firm, which has a strong reputation for good business practices.

Fischli & Weiss, How to Work Better

Fischli & Weiss, How to Work Better (1991) Hüttisstrasse 6, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland; Photo by rytc on Flickr

Through a tunnel and past the historic Oerlikon building  that was moved this summer, another building reminds me to think more deeply about the meaning of success. The sign on the side of this office building lists the following rules for “How to Work Better”:

• Do one thing at a time
• Know the problem
• Learn to listen
• Learn to ask questions
• Distinguish sense from nonsense
• Accept change as inevitable
• Admit mistakes
• Say it simple
• Be calm
• Smile

Despite the first rule, I’m compelled to do more than one thing on my commuter train – I’m prompted daily to think about these mini-lessons and apply them to the day just ending, even though I probably would rather not think at all and just read the paper!

If your company were to put its own “rules for working” on the side of its headquarters building, would those values come as a surprise to the public? Are the values you yourself display clearly reflecting the firm’s values? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Where’s Your Company’s Newsroom?

Our newsroom Swiss National Railway advertThe Swiss National Railway is running an ad campaign right now that shows a comfortably crowded train carriage filled with smiling commuters.  Now I’m not going to comment on the truth displayed in that picture of people happily standing on a busy train during rush hour ”en route home”. But I do want to point out that the ad’s caption seems appropriate: ”Our Newsroom.”

In this virtual newsroom, commuters appear to be multitasking rather than focusing on what they’re reading. They’re reading news from their iPads, mobile phones, magazines and newspapers, like 20 Minutes.

That particular newspaper features prominently in the Swiss commuters daily consumption of news, as evidenced by the number distributed (circulation 700,000). Five Swiss cities have their own ”freebie papers” given out to commuters in the morning (20 Minutes) and the evening (Blick am Abend). The content is generally the same in all editions, with some tailored stories, specialized ads and local weather reports added in. All of these papers have short, lively content and colorful photos that attract readers.

Despite the already-frenetic pace, media consumption is growing. The Swiss Media Association recently published a surprising statistic about how Swiss are ”media hounds.” The average Swiss household spent 3150 CHF in 2011, about 8% more than the previous year.

And that brings us to the point of this blog: Today your employees are getting their information on a wide range of topics, on a wide range of devices, in a wide range of settings, tailored to their interests and needs.

Are you offering that wide range of options for them? Are you offering short, readable pieces that are attractive to your ”distracted” employees?  Are you meeting them where they are…in their ”newsroom”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Being a Social CEO–At Least Virtually (Part 2)

think about the impact thought leaders can make with social media

In Part 1–”Being a Social CEO–Literally”– I discussed the perils of being a shy, introverted “un-social” senior executive and mentioned that Thought Leader Zone offers guidance for maximizing your impact in a range of face-to-face social situations.

But it’s also important to be a “social CEO” virtually…and we can help you with that, too. You need to be able to connect and interact comfortably in the virtual world, as well as in the real world. As the “face” of your company, you need to be able to interface effectively even when you’re not face-to-face.

Some of the do’s and don’ts for virtual interactions are similar to those for face-to-face interfaces:

  • Don’t shout (with all capitalized words)
  • Do use words people can understand
  • Do find and use your authentic voice
  • Don’t talk (blog or Twitter, etc.) unless you have something meaningful to say
  • Do listen to what others have to say
  • Etc., etc., etc.
Basically, just follow the rules of social politeness and good manners your mom taught you…

But to be a great communicator on social media you need to follow a few more tailored guidelines:

  • Communicate on a regular basis — more often when you have something to say and less often if you don’t. Don’t be a slave to a schedule.
  • Adopt a tone that reflects your personality, not just conveys content.
  • Use diction more suited to a chat room than a boardroom.
  • Make sure you have a point to make and make sure it isn’t self-serving.
  • Use personal stories to illustrate key ideas.
  • Have an opinion.
  • Be brief and concise.
  • Respond respectively to legitimate positive and negative feedback as quickly as possible.
  • Show rather than tell. Offer advice rather than issue orders or tell people what to do.
Finally, a recent article, Are You a Social Executive? The CEO’s New Role in Social Media by Margery Myers of Bates Communications explains that CEOs who have mastered social media do the following things right:
  • “understand that to anyone outside their immediate family and friends, they are the company;
  • stay close to public sentiment;
  • build strong relationships before they need them;
  • don’t ‘wing’ it.”
Are you ”doing things right” when it comes to social media? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Part 1: Being a Social CEO–Literally
Part 3: Do Keep Up!

Being a Social CEO–Literally (Part 1)

Leadership demands many social obligations. In my experience, senior executives can sometimes be, well, not exactly anti-social but perhaps uncomfortable in business social settings, like conference receptions or cocktail parties or industry events.

CEO and executive social obligationsThey know they have an important obligations, roles and duties in these situations — representing the company, meeting as many people as possible, remembering names and faces, impressing people with their charm and authenticity, oh, and not spilling anything while ”gripping and grinning.”

Some leaders are able to handle all of this better than others. It’s more difficult for those who moved up the ranks from being a technical expert to join management and lead people if they aren’t naturally adept in social situations. You’ve probably heard this old joke before, but I’ll tailor it here:

“How do you tell an outgoing thought leader from an introverted one? They stare at your shoes during a party.”

Are you maximizing your personal impact in different social situations by being extroverted–and that does not imply you should be wearing a lampshade as a party hat– or is your natural shyness a hindrance to getting the most out of every event? Do you need some guidance and tips to help you maneuver around social obstacles outside the office?

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

See related posts:
Part 2: Being a Social CEO–At Least Virtually
Part 3: Do Keep Up!

Measure for Measure — How much info is too much info? Part 2

measure your thought leadership strengths and weaknessesThe first blog in this series looked at an article published in August in The Atlantic about a brainy computer scientist and astrophysicist, Larry Smarr, who was measuring all aspects of his body chemistry, his bodily functions, etc., in order to ensure his health.

Smarr began this quest partly as a result of finding success in weight loss by following the biochemist Barry SearsZone Diet, according to Mark Bowden, author of the article, ”The Measured Man.

What are you doing to measure and then ensure your Thought Leader health? Are you ready to get rid of leadership and communication excess and go on a Thought Leader Zone Diet? Take the Thought Leader Zone self-assessment quiz and find out. Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

Photo credit: HeavyWeightGeek on Flickr

Measure for Measure – How much info is too much info?

information overload how much information is too much

Is the challenge information overload…or the difficulty in evaluating it objectively?
Illustration by hikingartist.com

An article in the August edition of The Atlantic talked about a brainy computer scientist and astrophysicist, Larry Smarr, who was instrumental in the development of the internet. He’s now turning his research skills inward and is documenting minute details about his body and then monitoring and measuring any changes. No body part or organ or bodily function will be spared careful, objective analysis.

Mark Bowden, author of the article, ”The Measured Man,” commented that Smarr is ”in the vanguard of what some call the ‘quantified life,’ which envisions replacing the guesswork and supposition presently guiding individual health decisions with specific guidance tailored to the particular details of each person’s body.”

Smarr may be taking self awareness to an extreme. But how much information is too much information, when it comes to knowing yourself? Can you know too much about yourself as a leader?

The bigger risk, in my opinion, is to know too little. As a leader you need a clear picture of who you are and who others think you are, a picture based on actual data, not like Dorian Gray.

Once you’ve gathered sufficient data — whether qualitatively in performance feedback sessions, systematically with 360 degree reviews or more immediately with the Thought Leader Zone self-assessment tool — you need to evaluate the evidence objectively.

That analysis should be the basis for fully understanding any reputational opportunities you have so you can capitalize on them or any reputational risks you might have so that you can better manage or mitigate them.

Do you have all the information you need about yourself as a leader? Do you need specific guidance tailored to your specific details? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.*

*Performance feedback sessions: We help executives and senior-level leaders assess and improve their communication strategy and technique. Sessions can be conducted face-to-face, via video conference or with consultative assessments of existing recorded or written communications. Contact us for more details.

Never-Ending Stories–Still Time for Summer Reading and Classic Business Books

business thought leaders summer readingAlthough the “Never-Ending Stories” headline here is similar to the one on  my last blog posting, the focus of this piece is instead on the great classics of business books.

Defining “classics” in literature is always a challenge. To be a classic, a book shouldn’t just be good, but be timeless and have a universal appeal. That’s why the recent inclusion by Penguin Modern Classics of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch sparked such fevered debate, as described in The Independent article by Charlie Cooper, “Critics sneer as hit football novel becomes a ‘classic.'”

Classic business books also should include wisdom of the ages for the ages and translate well to other business cultures, not just Anglo-Saxon ones. They should be popular and widely read by well-read people.

The following business books, in my opinion, are some that can be considered modern classics. Why not pick one of these books off your shelf, dust it off and stick it in your briefcase or carry-on to re-read on your next flight:

  • Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind and Drive
  • Malcolm Gladwell, Blink
  • Jim Collins,  Good to Great
  • Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules
  • Ken Blanchard, The One-Minute Manager
  • Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese
  • Patrick Lecionni, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars
  • Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (see my recent blog on his passing)

And finally, here’s a shout out for a few lesser-known but excellent niche books by authors I know and respect — books that should be considered modern classics:

You’ll find even more suggestions in this article from PRdaily.com: It’s not over yet: Books you can still read this summer

How many of these classics have you read? What business books were or still are on your summer reading list? Why do you consider them classics? Click here to submit your nomination, or share your suggestions in the comments.

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