Several weeks back I was interviewed by Forbes Contributor Erica Dhawan. I invite you to read the article which appeared on-line 01/27/2017 entitled How To Create A Culture Of Collaboration.
Excerpt: “When I was working at Citigroup we used to say that the traders were “speaking their position,” said Leah Johnson, a communications strategist who spent years at top posts at Citigroup and Standard & Poors. “For example, if you’re holding a lot of a certain financial instrument that you want to sell, you’re going to talk it up. That’s what teams or groups within organizations do.”
In the weeks leading up to the Summer Olympics, the media was awash with stories. Special sections of newspapers overflowed with tales of the athletes’ journeys — their sacrifices, their accomplishments and their hopes and dreams. Well produced video accompanied most of these stories, bringing the athletes, their coaches and families vividly to life on our televisions, tablets and smart phones.
The stories were deeply personal and each was unique. I think it was storytelling at its best — they drew us in, helped us to understand not only the athletes, but perhaps ourselves as well. While very few of us have dedicated our lives to breaking a world record, we can certainly relate to the rhythms of the athletes’ lives: missed opportunities, responding to setbacks, enduring defeat, encountering discrimination and overcoming obstacles, to name a few.
These stories allow us to relate to Olympic athletes, straight from our couches at home. In many ways, businesses try to do the same thing. They take a product or service that seems abstract, and try to fit it into our lives, hopefully in a meaningful way.
When working to change an organization’s culture and strategies, exactly what role should the C.E.O. play?
Years ago, a company I worked with wanted to roll out a new set of values and practices for the entire organization. Acceptance was needed and it was needed quickly. But it’s often really tough to alter a company’s internal culture. A.M. Rosenthal, who was the executive editor of The New York Times for more than two decades, once said that changing his huge newsroom’s habits and attitudes was like trying to steer an aircraft carrier with a paddle.
At the company I was working with, a board member told the C.E.O. that he should spend at least 60 percent of his time focused inside of the company; he needed to talk with employees at all levels, listening carefully to them and adapting. The message was clear — “communicate excessively.”
But given the demands on a C.E.O.’s time, spending the majority of his or her days inside the organization can be a very tall order. After all, there are clients to keep happy, as well as investors, regulators and other external audiences to win over. Moreover, in many organizations, internal and external communications do not necessarily work in tandem; they often compete for the chief executive’s time. (more…)
When confronted with a public relations problem, the question is always, is this a singular event or does it indicate a more systemic issue in the company? While working in-house, I would often have senior managers slip into my office to say, “Leah, we have a PR problem.” The first thing I had to consider was not only the issue at hand, but if there was an underlying problem and, if there was, how could we fix it. Along the way, we would also figure out how to talk about it.
Large businesses are often bound by habit, systems and processes. When a problem arises that could affect a company’s reputation, in addition to considering the different tactics that might be employed to avoid the hit to reputation, it’s vital, I think, to look at the underlying causes. (more…)