Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
I saw the below in Management Today and I must confess it got me to thinking;
- What’s wrong with talented 50somethings running our biggest businesses?
- Surely accountants are usually best placed to take that objective view of these businesses?
- It is a shame there are not more women in our top jobs and boards its a waste of the talent pool not to have them leading us, but shareholders are the ones that can make the difference here by holding their boards to account on getting the best hires?
- As I am neither in my 50′s or an accountant by trade it seems I am destined to stay where I am!
Article from Management Today
Since the start of the economic downturn, number-crunching expertise has become the skill most likely to get you into the top position at Britain’s leading firms, research suggests.
More than half (52%) of current chief executives in the FTSE 100 have a background in accountancy or financial management, according to the annual FTSE 100 CEO Tracker from recruitment firm Robert Half. That compares to 31% in 2008, before the global credit crunch took hold.
In the last year alone, 10 of the 18 new FTSE 100 chief executives appointed have finance credentials.
‘The risk and regulation agenda is driving demand for those with finance skills who can oversee all operational reporting groups within a business,’ said Phil Sheridan, Robert Half’s UK managing director.
At some distance behind, 21% of FTSE 100 CEOs have a background in engineering or natural resources, 9% in retail or hospitality, 8% in marketing or advertising and 4% in technology.
The number of female chief executives has also fallen in the last year, with just three women in the top position of companies in the FTSE 100 index.
The FTSE 100 lost two women CEOs last year after Dame Majorie Scardino (BBB Note – I class act, I saw her transform Pearson during her time there!) stepped down from publishing giant Pearson, and Cynthia Carroll quit the miner Anglo American. That left just Imperial Tobacco boss Alison Cooper and Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts as the only two female leaders. EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall became the third after the budget airline was promoted into the FTSE 100 in March.
Share your thoughts?……
What Style of Leader Are You?
I think leadership is such a broad topic that it is hard to define. There are some quotable quotes which I think help define leadership. Quotes such as Drucker; “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” or Tom Peters; “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders” come to mind when I think of leadership.
Whilst leadership is hard to define, it is easy to observe good leaders. We tend to know them when we see them. My observation of people in leadership positions over far too many years has led me to conclude that there are four basic types of leaders. The four types each have a core characteristic comprising one of:
- My way or the highway
- After you
- Follow me
- This is your opportunity
My way or the highway
The leader is very clear on what they expect of people. The vision (what we want to be) and mission (the boundaries of how we are going to get there) are clear even if they are not documented. The leader hires people in their own image. They are quite clear about what constitutes good performance, not only in terms of outcomes but also in terms of how the outcomes are achieved. The leader is often considered a micro-manager.
When it works
My observations are that this leadership style works when the team under the leader are very inexperienced and there is a sense of urgency to achieve an outcome to prevent a serious risk event occurring. This might be in organisation turnarounds required to prevent insolvency or in situations where the safety risk is considered to be totally unacceptable requiring a transformation of actions, resources and behaviours.
The legacy of this leadership style is normally a disgruntled workforce. The disgruntlement comes from the perception of being micro-managed and consequently feeling unable to stamp their own thoughts and values on their job. Often though, the legacy is also of a transformation.
The key to dealing with this kind of leader is to understand that they have a use-by date. They need replacing, in most cases, by a leader who has the capacity to heal the wounds created by this uncompromising style.
When it does not work
Generally, this leadership style does not work when there is no crisis or no transformation required. This leadership style is not sustainable.
It creates an underclass of people who in normal circumstances would be good performers robbed of their motivation to perform as independent, capable people. It also creates an elite who fit into two categories; people genuinely in the image of the leader and sycophants who do not have the capability of the leader but are good actors.
The leader works in the background helping people achieve their goals by providing resources and advice. They do not set direction themselves as an individual, relying on the team to take a collegiate approach and then supporting the consensus.
When it works
This leadership style can work after a difficult transformation, although I have noted in some cases that the change from dogma to democracy has its own issues. People sometimes cannot cope with the dramatic about turn in leadership style. “After You” leadership style also works well when the value of the organisation is associated with its technical strength across multiple disciplines. The leader has to ensure that the goal of the organisation and the boundaries, within which that goal is achieved, are very clear. However, after that, facilitating agreement between the multiple disciplines is probably where a leader can add greatest value.
Skilled leaders who assist their people to determine the goal in a collaborative fashion and then support them to achieve the goal leave behind a group of people who are able to work collaboratively.
When it does not work
When an organisation needs speed of decision making and clarity in the criteria used for making decisions, this style tends not to work. This is because if the goal of the organisation and the boundaries of how the organisation will get there are not clear, then the time taken to reach consensus can be too long. In addition, the criteria for decision making is unlikely to be clear and the consensus reached from time to time may be at odds with previous consensus.
When this style of leadership does not work, the legacy is often a group of people who require consensus to arrive at a decision. If the consensus becomes more important than the appropriateness of the decision, such organisations appear myopic and slow and have low productivity rates.
The leader sets direction with the team and provides leadership by demonstrating the behaviours they want people to display. They lead by example and anticipate others learning and following in their footsteps, not necessarily in their image, but with the same sense of urgency and decision making ability.
When it works
When the team is inexperienced and there is a lot to be done, a “Follow Me” leader can motivate a team by their sheer will and capacity to get things done. Motivation appears in the form of a sense of urgency to get things done and, albeit less so, in the form of a desire to learn the skills required to emulate their leader’s decision making capacity.
Leaders of this nature can leave behind a series of accomplishments and a group of people who have coalesced into a team. However, often the common purpose that the team have formed around is to follow and support the leader. In this situation, when the leader leaves, the group of people lack the sense of purpose required to form a team.
When it does not work
When the organisation is large and the skills very diverse, it is difficult for one person to get across all of the disciplines to the extent that they can lead the way with all discipline areas. When leaders of this type try to lead in this manner in this environment, they are subject to high levels of stress as they try to lead in areas well outside their comfort zone. Prioritisation of time also becomes a core issue, adding to the stress.
The most common legacy is burn out of the leader. In addition, individual members of the group being lead may try to emulate the style without having the personality, endurance and support from family, friends and colleagues required to sustain this style. The end result in this situation is not only one of likely frustration and possible burnout, but also of a dysfunctional group of people driven by the inability of the copycat leaders to deliver on their promises.
This is your opportunity
The leader sets the direction with the team and provides the opportunity for their team to grow and become leaders themselves. The leader sets challenges for the team to meet as individuals and as a collective with a mixture of resource and coaching support and tough love, encouraging their team to succeed despite…, not fail because…
When it works
Setting goals and providing the group of people that work for the leader with both the resources to deliver and the understanding that they have to deliver is the most useful and adaptable style. This style also works best when the leader has a good ability to coach people with different leadership styles.
Done well, this style creates new leaders. It provides people the room to use their own knowledge, skills and attitude to deliver, safe in the knowledge that they have the support of their leader. Individuals get to understand what it means to collaborate with the necessity of consensus. They also get to understand that results need to be achieved and that it is not acceptable to make excuses for poor outcomes rather than taking accountability.
When it does not work
I struggle to find an occasion where the environment in which an organisation finds itself causes this style to not work from the organisation’s point of view. It is clear, however, that this style is not for all people either in the leadership role or as a member of the team. It takes a particular personality and set of values to execute this leadership style. For many individuals the concept of accountability is actually a foreign concept. Even though they can explain it they do not practice it. People who cannot accept accountability find this leadership style somewhat harsh.
When this style does not work, there is potential for a spike in turnover of employees. Even when this is the case, if the organisation can weather the storm they will end up with a set of employees who are much more results oriented, much more collaborative and more aligned to the corporate vision and mission. So even when this style does not work in the short term, it does in the longer term.
Contact Kevin by email at email@example.com.
When it comes to change, we all share a characteristic which I find is often neglected in change management programs. That is, an understanding of what people perceive they have to give up. Most change management programs I have observed concentrate almost exclusively on what people have to learn new.
Bridge’s Transition Model
In 1991, William Bridges published his book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. In it, he postulated that it is not the change itself that kills a project or initiative, but the transitions that people have to go through; people who join an organisation in the midst of change tend to cope with the change much better than employees who were there before the change was initiated. His view, which I find replicated in life all the time, is that the population of people affected by a change form three groups:
- Those who welcome the change as a “New Beginning”, and adapt quickly;
- Those who waver between hanging on to the past and moving on, spending a lot of time in the “Neutral Zone”; and
- Those who have trouble letting go at all.
From the curves in the below figure which represents Bridges’ graphic of the transition, we can see that a small minority of people see the change as a good thing, characterised as “The New Beginning”. We can also see that over time a proportion of people who are oscillating in the “Neutral Zone” move to the “New Beginning” set of feelings, thoughts and actions. Some never leave the “Neutral Zone”, being eternally conflicted between the old and the new.
The curves also depict a large minority of people—sometimes the majority—have trouble letting go the past, at first. Over time they too may move to the “Neutral Zone” and some will even move to the “New Beginning” zone. Some never let go.
Understanding what people have to give up
It’s my observation that, as my wife and son experience it, the core of managing change is not managing what we have to learn new, rather it is what we have to give up. This is at odds with what organisations are generally good at when it comes to managing change.
Large organisations in particular have whole departments dedicated to helping employees learn new things. They rarely have the capability to understand, at an individual level, what people perceive they have to give up. Even at a macro level, few organisations take the time to find out what people generally believe they are giving up.
There are, in my experience, some common elements people perceive they have to give up when experiencing change. They are power, a sense of belonging, aspirations and control.
The most common element people perceive they have to give up is power. Power comes from different sources for different people, and change may diminish their access to that source of power. For example:
- Legitimacy: when a change affects a person’s place in a hierarchy, their perceptions of their own legitimacy may also be affected.
- Reference: a change compromises a person’s place in the chemistry of a group, for example, by moving into an entirely new culture or to a group with people they do not know.
- Information: a change can make it more difficult for a person to hold their place as the ‘controller’ of knowledge; for example, a change may open up controls over the database where information resides. The database may be a physical or virtual dataset to which they previously controlled the access, or it could be information residing in people’s heads and they controlled the physical access to those people e.g. personal and executive assistants
- Expertise: a person’s place in a group as the expert on a topic is compromised when they are moved to a group where that knowledge is not valued so highly. Alternatively, a change may render their expertise less valued; think of the impact the adoption of word processing software had on those high accuracy, high speed typists of the eighties who did not have the skills to transition to a new career.
- Coercive: when a change to a new empowering culture and transparent performance management system is introduced, it becomes difficult for an individual to hold power by means of overt or covert threats to an individual’s career.
- Reward: a person’s place in a team as the one who can be relied on to create and maintain team harmony through their ability to encourage others and leave them with a feeling of self-satisfaction may be diminished if the change is overwhelming for other staff. Alternatively, the person may be moved to a group where they have no existing rapport.
Sense of belonging
At a certain level, the desire to belong relates to referential power. However, the desire to belong goes further than power. As a classic element of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the desire to belong is strong in most people. Change inevitably dislocates us from our environment, or our environment from us. In the majority of cases people have a strong affiliation to something such as a team, an idea or a process that they “belong to” that is difficult to give up. For example, a work restructure may require people to give up on existing team friendships—or even family and friends relationships if the restructure causes people to move to maintain employment.
As a result of change many people perceive they have to give up on their aspirations. They see the world narrowly. For example, they have their aspirations on a career within one organisation nullified by a change in organisational goals or structure. They see the change nullifying their aspirations forever instead of just with this employer. Alternatively, they see the equation:
weighted such that taking on the ’new’ with enthusiasm in order to allow new aspirations to flourish has much, much greater risk and cost to them personally than the sum of their capability to realise the value from changing aspirations.
Some people are perfectionists and cannot bear the thought of losing control, wanting above all else to have certitude about the consequences of a change. People in this category have a daily fear of losing control. Generally, these people are well known by way of their existing control behaviours and can be dealt with individually. What is less obvious is that pervasive uncertainty about outcomes always has a far greater negative impact than the sum of disappointments in the extent of the change. The implication being that while an organisation will know about certain individuals with a fear of losing control, a poor communication execution that leaves the majority of people uncertain will create a larger unidentified group of people with a fear of losing control.
Making change happen
In order to make change happen in the workplace we need to get a critical mass of people unafraid of letting go in addition to teaching them about the new. This means designing tactics to help people let go. Those tactics have two objectives:
- To engage the organisation from top to bottom; and
- To drive individual adoption.
In order to design the tactics we need to understand what people are afraid of letting go. Surveys, on-on-ones, forums and facilitated group sessions are all potential sources of information.
Engaging the organisation
Engaging the organisation typically is a journey where engagement occurs at different speeds with different levels of success in different places and at different starting times throughout the organisation. For example, it is still unusual to have change begin at the top unless it is a hard change driven by adverse internal and external factors. Most change starts at the middle with an idea borne of some analysis. Senior managers may sign off on a budget but their hearts and minds rarely support the change at a level of intensity that helps embed the change, at least until positive results can be demonstrated. So it is important to remember that senior managers may be slow to engage even if they have authorised the change.
Despite the different speeds and levels of engagement across different segments of the organisation, the journey of engagement for the different segments is the same. The journey for all segments of the organisation is in five phases:
- Understand the change
- Believe the change is good for them
- Prioritise what they do to embrace the change
- Plan to implement the change
- Implement the change.
The point of the engagement journey where people, as a whole, begin to think about what they may have to give up is in the transition from understanding the change and believing the change is good for them. Communications at this point must be crystal clear about what people will and will not have to give up, and what they will have to learn new. Those segments of the organisation most likely to perceive they have something important to lose are the key targets for communications such as briefing notes and question and answer sessions, forums and frequently asked questions published on the organisation website or in hard copy.
Managing change through the engagement of the organisation is a good start to getting acceptance of the changed circumstances or adoption of the change in behaviours.
However, most change requires more than engagement. It needs tactics targeted at the individual to have them give up the past and adapt to or adopt the new paradigm. The tactics, to be successful in having individuals adapt to the new environment or adopt the new behaviours, must result in three concomitant elements*:
- Individuals must believe that the change is good for them and better than other elements in their life right now that are good for them;
- Individuals must believe that the change is or will become the subjective norm; and
- Individuals must believe they have the capability (skill, knowledge authority and access to data) to adapt to or adopt the change.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to encourage individuals to let go, regardless of the type of change you’re going through or your audience.
For those individuals whose influence on the success or otherwise of the change is high, organise group discussions to uncover the fears they hold about what they may have to give up, which act as barriers to change. One-on-ones can be successful, however group sessions are much better. Well-facilitated group sessions allow individuals to voice their fears in an environment where they are not alone, and potentially allows them to find answers amongst their colleagues. Initially, facilitate these discussions to enable individuals to believe the change will be good for them by showing them that what they feared they had to give up is retained in another form or another environment. Demonstrate to them there will only be a short-lived transition. As a second priority, align people to the view that everyone will be working in the same environment with the same constraints.
Naturally, a well-managed communications plan and change management framework will also assist you in leading people through the transition.
Managing change is about managing the transition to new ways of working. However, most blockers to change come less from poor training in the new way of working, and more about not understanding and not preparing for what people have to give up. Planning for change and managing the transition must include a means of understanding what people fear they have to give up and engaging the organisation and key individuals to ensure that their fears do not stop adaption to and adoption of the changed working environment.
*Adapted from the Theory of Planned Behaviour, Icek Ajzen 1985 “From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behaviour.”
This is a true story. The names have been omitted to protect the downright stupid.
The story concerns local members of a global company with over 250,000 employees and over $US 160 billion in revenues.
The marketing division and their superiors had misread the market they sold into badly. Revenues were falling as fast as market share. Costs needed cutting. Product design was told to cut costs. Marketing was told to cut costs. Sales were told to cut costs.
However, it was not all bad news. The company still had strong cash flow, a good brand and access to first rate technical, HR and marketing skills.
The company had been losing people steadily over the past few years. However, it was hardly a flood.
It was in this environment that one day an employee, a marketing planner, found that his calculator no longer worked. It wasn’t a matter of flat batteries but something more terminal.
It was now that he found out that to buy a calculator was not as simple as it might seem. He had to fill out a request form first and forward it to his manager. He noted that the form had an array of three rather senior signatures to collect. It did seem strange, I would argue ridiculous, that he had to collect the three very senior signatures for an item that cost $4.95.
Nonetheless, said paperwork was filled out and forwarded to his boss.
Fast forward a week. No calculator.
Fast forward another week. No calculator.
By the third week of using the calculator function within excel or his mobile phone the intrepid employee thought he might enquire about the calculator.
He found the hold up was with his boss.
Having been to a meeting recently where the wagons were circled and the team enthused to “work together” to get through the market problems, he felt galvanised to chase up his simple request which he knew would make him more productive in his planning role.
He noted on the desk of his boss an old calculator, I mean the old huge ones, which had a cracked case. He thought no more of it until his boss announced he would not be getting a new calculator and the old relic on the desk was his.
Notwithstanding the feelings of “You have got to be kidding!” he returned to his desk. He was surprised though to find that the calculator did not work.
He was mortified, however, to find that when he went back to his boss to pass on the news about the calculator not actually functioning he was given a lecture. The topic of the lecture was about how the team must pull together and simply could not afford extravagances.
At the time of writing the individual is contemplating leaving the organisation.
Why does he want to leave? Because he did not get a calculator? No, because the pattern of decisions made about the wrong things at the company was crystallised by the calculator episode.
Decisions whether a $4.95 calculator can be purchased or not, rather than why a senior vice president should spend hours of his time involved in such a process was normal.
Decisions to forward sell product to distributors and dealers to increase the reported sales numbers, instead of investigating what was causing the slump in sales was normal.
Decisions to cut costs evenly across the board instead of understanding which cost areas could be cut and have minimal impact on employee and customer satisfaction was normal.
According to Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
The price of the difference between leadership and management in this case was $4.95. The difference in cost was employee morale and retention.
Seven Deadly Sins of Business Planning
Planning in splendid isolation of other departments and without an overarching goal and strategy to guide you is a recipe for finger pointing at major review milestones. Functions or departments such as HR must coordinate with operational departments when planning organisation wide training. IT must coordinate software roll outs with all departments. It is not so much budgets that go wrong when departments plan in isolation, but the commitment of resources. As a result of competing priorities for employee’s time, projects often get postponed or compromised on quality.
Spending inadequate time planning in detail leaves estimations of both resource requirements and budgets out on a limb, wavering in a breeze of uncertainty. Plans need to be done in detail to understand what can be done in parallel and what must be done in sequence. Estimates of time and resources must be compared in detail with known internal or external benchmarks or, if they unavailable, challenged by experienced people in the organisation.
“My way or the highway” is no way to plan. Ensure you consider alternative approaches to planning and review alternative processes and actions to achieve the planned goals or sub-goals. For example, plan ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ and compare the differences. Ask yourself what you missed in the ‘bottom up’ plan if it does not fit within a reasonable variation of the ‘top down’ plan. Brainstorm different approaches to problems and opportunities before committing to a particular set of actions in a business plan.
Be bold in business planning. Strive to reach new heights of customer service or productivity or staff satisfaction. Plan to undertake projects which will transform your organisation. More of the same every year does two things: (1) Where you are competing for customers, it allows your competitors an opportunity to steal a march, and (2) Where you are competing for budget internally, say in a government department, it allows your internal competitors to make all the running. It also deprives your employees of an invigorating sense of purpose. Despite what we read, change planned well and handled well is tonic rather than a drag on an organisation.
Over reliance on software such as Microsoft Project and methods such as Prince 2 to create project plans in support of business plans can lead to a lack of thinking. When the tool and the process become more important than the outcome, you know you are in trouble. Get three or four people who can think, have experience in the subject matter, some Post-it notes, a large whiteboard and some whiteboard pens to develop the plan first, then record it using software. If you are using a methodology like Prince 2, challenge yourself to think about which elements of the method add value. Don’t be a slave.
Keeping your plan to yourself or to the leadership team and a few select other individuals seems like a good idea to some people, especially if there are elements of the plan that may be sensitive to some employees. This is wrong. It always has been wrong with few exceptions and will always be wrong. Taking employees and, if applicable, the unions that represent them into your confidence about your business plans results in much better engagement with employees. When there are significant changes in the business affecting employees, there is also much quicker healing of personal self-confidence and organisational effectiveness when compared with “surprising” people.
Ignore past experiences at your peril. If you have not been able to execute your business plan effectively for the last three years, what will make this year any different unless you change your assumptions or approach. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a series of hockey stick shape plans year after year, where the key metric, financial or otherwise, trends down in the years before the date of your plan and magnificently rises as straight as an arrow into the stratosphere of your graph’s Y-axis following the execution of your plan. Unless your plan has an unequivocal circuit breaker for the external and or internal forces that are causing the downward trend of your key metric, you are being unrealistic and your business plan should rightly be rejected.
We welcome your comments, this article was written by Kevin at the Change Factory,
Email and most meetings aren’t work. We all know this to be true. But huge swaths of our days are allocated to meetings and answering email. It’s impossible to accomplish much aside from information dissemination.
A close friend, who like me is a productivity nut, asked me a question that made this point clearly: What fraction of your day is spent in meetings you asked for compared to meetings that were asked of you? I didn’t know the answer but I calculated it. I was disheartened by the result. Over the past three weeks, my ratio is 6 to 4. For every 6 minutes I spend in a meeting I arranged, I spent 4 in a meeting I was invited to. What is your ratio? And what should it be?
Presuming meetings I request are more productive than meetings I’m invited to (because I’m driving the agenda and accomplishing my goals), if I could shift that ratio by just one minute to 7 to 3, I would improve my productivity by 17%. The bigger the company, the worse the problem becomes. Last week, I chatted with a friend who joined had just joined a large company. He found his team to be incredibly unproductive even though his reports were smart. After he asked the team to their tasks in 30 minute blocks, he realized 6 of every 8 hours of their days were spent either responding to emails to attending irrelevant meetings. In other words, it took four employees to accomplish the work of one focused worker.
With the new year around the corner, it’s that time to make New Year’s Resolutions. My theme in 2013 is “return to fundamentals.” Set objectives and key results by quarter. These are clear goals with quantifiable metrics. For example, spending 50% of my time helping portfolio companies. Block the time every week on my calendar to achieving these goals. Control my calendar to make sure I’m maximizing my meeting ratio (as mentioned above). Prepare for meetings. Send agendas with precise questions, agendas and rough timings for each item ahead of time. Measure and tune.
I’m going to track these time allocation metrics and my productivity goals. I hope to improve my focus and have a more positive impact with my teams. Email and meetings consume big chunks of time. And though it’s easy to convince ourselves they’re productive, they aren’t. It’s hard work that moves companies forward. Time to get back to fundamentals.
In today’s uncertain environment, companies need a sound understanding of what their stakeholders think.
To respond to the crisis, the company had to take a different approach to communicating with its stakeholders. There was a time when an organization, even in crisis, could confidently disseminate the messages it wanted its stakeholders to hear and rely on their even keel. Those times were stable. Unlike now, constituents weren’t anxious, suspicious and ready to give any message a negative spin. Today, they are. In a volatile and interconnected world, any message can easily misfire and find itself careening around the globe, stirring up trouble as it goes. To navigate its crisis, the industrial company delved into the perceptions of its diverse stakeholders, especially those with whom it was less familiar. With research findings, it created scenarios that anticipated future developments and rapidly changing opinions. As a result, the organization was well-prepared for a daunting series of government and regulatory inquiries and a grilling by the U.S. Congress.
To chart today’s decidedly uncertain waters, corporate communications strategies need to take a fresh tack: Having strategies that pull a company closer to what stakeholders are thinking prepares it for when their opinions change.
A Different Tack for a New Era
Corporate communications are about impact. Companies always have placed heavy stock on understanding how investors, customers, employees and policymakers perceive an organization. This realization has underpinned a company’s strategies to raise capital, attract customers, retain employees and, in regulated industries, influence policymakers.
Today, corporate communications strategies are even more central to these aims. But the environment is increasingly menacing. In uncertain times, people are likely to respond to ideas and news more negatively than in prosperous times. Since messages can propagate almost instantly, perceptions can change rapidly and slip out of a company’s control almost overnight. The sheer volume of information available can impede a company’s ability to hear its stakeholders — and for stakeholders to assimilate the company’s important messages.
A fresh approach is needed. Companies should probe what their stakeholders think and regularly assess their sentiment. Organizations need to conduct stakeholder research and use the insights to create scenarios of potential situations with action plans to tackle them.
Stakeholder perception research must probe the what and the why. Near real-time tracking of perceptions can alert a company to critical changes in opinion and allow it to respond specifically to what is driving the change. Keen insights into stakeholder thinking also help companies craft messages that meet constituent expectations and address concerns. By doing so, companies have a much stronger chance of convincing stakeholders to embrace an organization’s point of view.
To get insights about stakeholders, companies must survey the world as their stakeholders see it. Techniques we have found most valuable include inviting stakeholders to industry panels and jointly developing thought leadership. These efforts can build bonds between an organization and even its biggest antagonists. In fact, in times of uncertainty, stakeholders are likely to be as interested in a company’s view as it is in theirs.
Armed with deep stakeholder insights, companies can build and test scenarios. Having various game plans ready allows organizations to anticipate situations and to act on them before others do. Insights and scenarios also can drive the development of messages for any circumstance, point in time or objective. Once a communications plan has been developed and executed, continual assessment of changes in stakeholder sentiment can equip a firm to respond accordingly.
The industrial company we referenced at the beginning carved out the needed time and resources to use these techniques to navigate the aftermath of a serious accident. But the organization didn’t stop there. It has sustained its research efforts and regularly keeps abreast of frequent changes in stakeholder perceptions. It confidently anticipates flare-ups and is armed with responses that will resonate. Management has been able to quickly manage concerns and misperceptions about its business and set the record straight when others try to distort its actions.
Stakeholder research and scenario planning can serve broader communications needs, however,
than headline-grabbing crises. A global company leveraged research and planning to fortify its image vis-à-vis
a major competitor.
Communications That Helped Eclipse a Competitor
During the recession of the last decade, the CEO of a global company faced declining market share in its core segment. On top of the challenges of the recession, the industry was changing rapidly, and competition was becoming fierce. Investors were quite skeptical about the company’s growth potential — for years, its equity valuations and shareholder returns had lagged those of its main competitor.
To reverse its fortunes, the company needed to develop a bold, cutting-edge vision and long-term strategy. It needed to break cleanly and clearly from the past. For the vision and strategy to hold, however, management realized it required the buy-in of investors, customers and business partners.
To achieve that buy-in, the organization began surveying stakeholders in order to understand their sentiment. It also conducted exhaustive global research to test how the new vision would resonate and what perceptions would propel or impede it. With the research results, the company then developed scenarios for each stakeholder group: What were their expectations, and what would trigger a change in their opinions?
The company built a communications strategy that addressed the concerns of each stakeholder group, especially investors and consumers. To allay investor fears, for example, communications managers designed a program that focused on the company’s revitalized innovation-based growth strategy. The company communicated the new strategy and each milestone as it was achieved. Consequently, securities analysts formed more positive opinions of management and the company’s direction. Investors gained a deeper understanding of the reasons for the company’s success, which led to a firmer conviction that the right team and strategy were in place. But perhaps most important, investors came to recognize the connection between the strategy and the company’s improved performance.
As a result of its efforts, the company’s long underperforming share price reversed and achieved a significant premium over its primary competitor. But the biggest lesson it learned was the value of ready-built scenarios it could use to react in real time. Management didn’t have to wait for evidence to build up and then scramble to respond. It always had several quarters of advance notice to develop communications plans that would shape opinion.
Moving from Insight to Action
In these times of high uncertainty, top management teams must understand, anticipate and respond to changes in stakeholder needs. Executives must have current information on target group perceptions, filtered and amplified through stakeholder insights.
By recognizing how each constituent’s needs and opinions are evolving, organizations can optimize their communications strategy and be at the ready: Stakeholders will realize the company’s vision and plan and the yardsticks used to measure performance. As the examples above demonstrate, success is achieved when stakeholders buy into the vision, the plan for getting there and the metrics of success.
Original Document from FTI Consulting.
About The Author
Senior Managing Director
View author’s bio on FTIconsulting.com
View author’s bio on FTIconsulting.com
John Stuart Watts
View author’s bio on FTIconsulting.com
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of FTI Consulting, Inc., or its other professionals.
For an individual who is underperforming in a role or is taking on a changed role, to adopt the change in behaviours needed to be able perform the role to the standard we desire, they generally need to fulfil three pre-conditions:
- Have a strong belief in the changes required to perform well and have a positive attitude towards that belief
- Believe that everyone has to perform and believe that it is good to follow the norm
- Believe that they will be given the necessary training, get easy access to data upon which to make decisions and believe they have the formal and informal authority to make the decisions. In addition, they believe if all of the aforementioned is provided, they will be able to execute their role.
Not fulfilling any one of the pre-conditions provides a barrier to performance.
Skill, Will and Hill
To understand what pre-conditions are not being met for each individual, an analysis of their skill (capability to execute the role as desired), will (motivation to execute the role as desired) and the hill they have to climb (issues with processes, data, authority which prevents them from executing their role easily) is required.
The simple “Skill, Will, Hill” (Figure 1) nomenclature is used to determine the root causes of a particular performance challenge. Specifically, the nomenclature helps leaders determine if a performance issue results from lack of employee skill in a particular area, lack of employee motivation to achieve success, or barriers stemming from the work environment. Skill barriers can be addressed by via formal training, coaching and on-the-job training, whereas will and hill barriers are addressed by one-on-one conversations and process re-engineering.
1. Identify the performance short-fall to be addressed for a specific employee population.
2. Invite stakeholders with information regarding the performance short-fall. This may include but not be limited to:
a. Learning and Development consultant
b. HR business partner
c. Team leaders
d. Line managers
e. The employees demonstrating the performance shortfall.
3. Run a performance barrier diagnosis session, allowing a one-hour session for smaller, concrete performance short-falls and longer or multiple sessions for larger, more widespread performance shortfalls.
4. Conduct root cause analysis:
a. Describing the performance short-fall to be explored, providing an overview of the “skill, will, hill” nomenclature, and clarifying the desired outcomes of the session
b. Identify what issues exist under each title (Skill, Will and Hill).
5. Conduct a negative brainstorming session.
6. With the group, discuss identified solutions and prioritise those contributing most to achieving the goal of improved performance and that are easiest to do, using a ease of doing/impact matrix.
7. Create a project plan and make one individual accountable to creating a business case to make the changes required, and presenting, as required, to senior management.
This article was written by firstname.lastname@example.org.
The article linked to below comes from FT.COM.
I must confess i have re-read this several times and while I recongnise that all that is written is true and don’t believe that life post 40 has to be a decline. Certainly it can get a little harder to get up in the morning and the back twinges a little more than normal. But 40+ is the time to reinvent yourself and grow into the businessperson you will spend the 2nd half of your career being. I for one (currently 42) have spent the last couple of years really growing and improving myself and using the power of 360 degree appraisals this has been evidenced in me interactions and I have to say business performance in these difficult times, which has been great.
So don’t accept the inevitable, look at who you are, let that shine through and people will want to go on the journey you’d like them to follow you on!
I’ve used the enclosed, or variations on it, many times now.
It clearly sets out the background material that anyone thinking of investing in your idea, business plan, corporate change, new product development either financially, operationally or emotionally will need.
Please note this doesn’t try to do the detailed number modelling, though I plan to provides some templates for this in the future it is my experience that each business has their own preferred template for the detailed modelling.
This is designed to set you apart from your competition by making the decision to go with you easy!
Please remember I provide this for free, this means it is;
- free for you to download, use, change, pass on (please mention the website) and use
- free of any liability on my part for how you use them and any consequences that arise as result of using them or any derivative you might create themselves
- free of any warranty on my part for any errors and omissions contained in them
- I hope you enjoy using them and I hope they help you make better decisions.
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