What’s New

Virtual Sign Off

In today’s hyper-connected world, social media is omnipresent. Recent research revealed that 25% of smartphone owners ages 18–44 can’t recall the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them and that a new person joins LinkedIn every two seconds.

Constance Ward of Thought Leader ZoneMy own email auto-signature offers a list of about a dozen channels for reaching the virtual me. I invite respondents to contact or even cyberstalk me through any of these channels that allow round-the-clock, on-demand access. That made sense for a consultant working globally, where the sun never set on my clients.

Now, however, I have taken a full-time position in Switzerland; so I will no longer be updating the articles on my website. You can still reach out to me through this channel –or any of the others — but I won’t be accepting new clients.

In closing, I want to thank all of you for your support over the last couple of years. I sincerely hope that you continue to “ask, assess, then act” even though we won’t be here to help in the future!

For more information, download the Media Release:
Lonza Appoints Former Journalist to Head External Communications

Endings and Beginnings

nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new endingAs 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on newsworthy events of the year.

The media in 2013 frequently focused on endings and beginnings. Nelson Mandela’s passing this month inspired a large number of articles about the leadership and brand lessons Mandela can teach us. However, by Googling “Prince George” and “leadership lessons,” I came up with no relevant hits; so at least in this respect, the future monarch has had humble beginnings.

This time of year is one of endings and beginnings for me, too. I’m closing my communications consultancy and taking on a full-time professional role here in Switzerland. That means the next article posted here will be my last.

In the meantime, do you have any lessons as a thought leader that you’d like to share with readers? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Church Leader Zone

pulpit at church in Horgen Switzerland

Horgen, Switzerland

As I looked through the hundred or so articles published on this website, I recognized that some of the blog posts applied to a specific type of thought leader – a church change  leader.

Click here for a document that includes many of those adapted articles that apply to the specific situation of running a church.

Would you like to be a church change leader? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Prompting Participants’ Performance

large audience awaiting an apprehensive speakerSo how is a town hall meeting like a theater production or a church service? That’s not a clever riddle, but an actual comparison that came to mind during a sermon by a Zürich preacher who pointed out how a church service and a theater production were alike.

Similarly, in the business world, a town hall meeting or an all-hands meeting or some other staged event for employees is also like a theater production.

It’s easy to draw parallels with the two types of venues; there are stages with microphones, some kind of backdrop and perhaps some props.

Leaders can ask questions and facilitate a dialogue of sorts, with the role of the person on stage as a prompter for that discussion.
But another analogy is that in both cases the people on stage should be the prompters and the audience in employee meetings should be the performers. That role reversal may sound counterintuitive as usually the actors are active and the audience is passive.

Employee events, on the other hand, should engage the audience and encourage them to participate, prompted by the company’s leaders on stage. Instead of just presiding over the meeting and presenting to the audience, the leaders can ask questions and facilitate a dialogue of sorts, with the role of the person on stage as a prompter for that discussion.

Do you need guidance on how to orchestrate an employee event where the audience is less passive and more participatory? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Illustration credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Flickr

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Another Peek at the Secret Sauce Recipe: Great Consultant Questions

keyboard with WHY keyI once was a journalist, but I’m OK now! As a journalist I prided myself on practicing the trade without too many compromises or comma faults. One of the established tricks of the trade was the interview heuristic that uses the wh-words ”who, what, where, when, why and how.”

Moving into a career in consulting, I tailored that set of questions to suit my needs in the field of communications. I also adapted my ”Great Consultant Questions” from ones I used as a former high school teacher and university lecturer to elicit better writing from my students, such as the dig-deeper, go-further question ”which means what?”

When advising thought leaders on strategic communications approaches, I often relied on some other tried-and-true questions, like ”what then?” or ”why that?” or ”what’s most important?” or ”what keeps you up at night?”

Are you, as a thought leader, answering questions and questioning answers? Are you asking the right questions of yourself and your team? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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A Peek at the Secret Sauce of a Brand Campaign

Stirring the secret sauce of a brand campaignRecently I developed a communications plan for a Company X that was changing to become both a commodity brand and a solutions brand. In designing the campaign, I pulled together a sample campaign theme that emphasized what was the same and what was different after the change.

At the end of this post is a link that leads you to a presentation with some sample themes and tactics and tools for running a rebranding campaign internally and externally. Another resource, also linked below, is a communications plan template for designing your own brand campaign.

Are you ready to launch a rebranding campaign? Do you need help with themes and tactics and tools and templates? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

ThoughtLeaderZone Company X Brand Presentation (pptx)

Company X Brand Communications Plan Template (docx)

Photo by Theresa Carle-Sanders

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Silver Lining Playbook for a Crisis

lake meade with quote from silver linings playbookAt the recent GWI American Water Summit in Washington, D.C., Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, made a comment that brought spontaneous and knowing laughter from the normally staid audience.

Ms. Mulroy was talking about how drought conditions in the Seven States made it easier to sell the message of mutual cooperation and declared: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste!” She said she used the opportunity to raise awareness of conservation issues and to change the public’s mindset about water.

Crisis communications is a frequent topic on this site (read a few relevant posts here, here and here), and the focus is usually on reacting to a crisis and minimizing its negative impact on a business. But if handled well, a crisis can also have a positive impact.

That, however, takes planning and forethought about the types of benefits that might arise from a particular type of crisis.

Have you already outlined some positive, “silver lining” messages in your crisis playbook? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Global Water Thought Leaders Meet in Washington, DC
Top Tweets from American Water Summit 2013 in Washington, DC

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Trains and Ladders

train passengers are you meeting your goal or reaching your destinationAs usual, the Zurich to Milan train was about a half hour late, which gave me precious few minutes to catch the next local train to Lecco, the university town on Lake Como. I ran through the crowded Milano Centrale station at top speed and dashed down the designated platform in time to pull on the handle of a locked carriage door and another and then another. Someone further down the long platform gestured wildly that I had to run around the train to get into it through doors on the other side. I did.

Jumping onto the first wagon, I asked a passenger inside the door if this train went to Lecco. It didn’t. My excitement and feeling of success for having reached my goal on time dissolved instantly. I managed to catch a train, but it was the wrong train.

The experience reminded me of the well-known business metaphor about the man who is climbing and climbing a ladder that unfortunately is leaning against the wrong wall.

As a thought leader, are you sure of your destination? Or are you running to catch the wrong train? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo credit: sacks08 on Flickr

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Global Water Thought Leaders Meet in Washington, D.C.

speakers at american water summit 2013Thought leadership in the water industry was on full display at the fourth annual American Water Summit, organized by Global Water Intelligence (GWI), from 5-6 November 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Several hundred global water leaders attended sessions with US mayors and other elected leaders, Environmental Protection Agency and US Army leaders, trade association leaders, industry specialists, venture capitalists, private equity analysts, etc.

Highlights of the full water conference can be found in this “Top Tweets” list from the Twitter feed #aws13.

On the night before the conference, a CEO-level roundtable dinner was sponsored by GWI. Christopher Gasson, publisher of GWI, welcomed about three dozen members of the Global Water Leaders Group (GWLG).

William Muhairwe, head of the GWLG and former director of the Uganda water utility, opened with a comparison of operational performance of utilities with that of an airline. Both try for perfect performance and public safety depends on that success.

Among the goals of this particular 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 debate ways to improve operational performance among utilities

For further information about the Global Water Leaders Group and the findings from its qualitative research, click here.

Are you as a thought leader concerned about communicating positive messages about your operational performance? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!


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Top Tweets from American Water Summit 2013 in Washington, DC

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