Tag Archives: Communication

How Do You Set Appropriate Expectations? Four Suggestions

Situation: A CEO asks: How do you help people appreciate the difference between where they want to be verses where you need them to be? How do you help them understand the realities of career and financial potential that have been set for your company? What do you do to help your employees understand what has to happen before they get to the next step? How do you set appropriate expectations?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The current labor market has yielded a different employment environment compared with 20 years ago. Many new hires are either:
    • Young – without long term expectations or perspective;
    • Possess an entitlement mentality;
    • More seasoned and possibly looking toward retirement; or
    • Have personality challenges.

 This is just current reality and will last until the next contraction.

  • If you have a clear policy on compensation and promotion you are way ahead of the game because you can communicate this clearly at onset of employment. If you don’t have this, create it and make sure that it is communicated consistently to new employees and during all employee reviews.
  • Once you have established and communicated a clear policy on compensation and promotion the question becomes, on an individual basis, whether an employee “gets it” or not. If they don’t, perhaps your company is not for them.
  • Is there value to stock options as a bonus?
    • If you are a public company, they have value because stock options are tradable within legal guidelines.
    • If you are a private company it’s a different matter. Other than as an emotional boost, without a liquidity event the stock has no value except for possible periodic distributions against shares held.

Who Do You Serve – The Customer or The Company? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company’s motto is that they serve the customer first. As an unintended consequence company projects get lower priority and action than customer projects. Frequently, the CEO finds that company projects are only half completed. What have you done to make company initiatives a priority? Who do you serve – the customer or the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a great question. Clearly serving the customer has to be top priority. However, you also have to complete company projects, particularly those which are critical to company function or which will enhance your ability to serve your customers.
  • Define the company as a customer for important projects. Call this “billable hours” to the company and credit them as such on these projects. Accompany this with employee training on how to prioritize “company” versus “customer” projects when priorities conflict. It may take time to work through this, and for the message to sink in.
  • Add completion of company initiatives to the company kudos list. LInk company award eligibility to completion of company initiatives. For mission critical projects, grant double credit for completion of company projects. Adjustment of incentives will help to get the message across.
  • In employee communications, include updates on company projects along with customer projects and give equal or greater emphasis as appropriate.
  • Have you defined your “ideal customer”?
    • Include internal customers within your definition of ideal customers.
    • This will help to clarify and prioritize opportunities and shift the mindset.
  • For mission critical projects hire additional personnel or contractors.

How Do You Bring in a General Manager? Four Recommendations

Situation: A CEO has hired an individual who is currently working on projects for the company. The CEO likes this person and anticipates that he could eventually become General Manager. There have been a few rough spots but, overall, objectives are being met. How do you bring in a new General Manager?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Transition the individual from their current responsibilities to GM in small steps. This will allow him to develop relationships and credibility with the rest of the team. These relationships and credibility are what he will need in the more senior position.
  • Coach the individual about any behaviors that you may observe, or which may be reported to you by others within the company, which are contrary to your culture. Understand, from the new individual’s perspective, what motivates these behaviors. Encourage the individual to develop alternative behaviors that are more consistent with your culture. Be open to the possibility that some of the behavior may be addressing flaws in the current culture.
  • Maintain open communication with your key managers who will be impacted as the new individual gains responsibility. As the individual gains authority within the organization, be clear that you support your new manager.
  • Your current culture is always in flux, and will continue to change as you bring in the new GM. This will create natural resistance as people adapt to the new situation. Be patient and stick with the plan. When others complain be honest and up-front that you support the new manager, and that everyone will have to adapt.

How Do You Keep Customers and Employees Updated? Five Points

Situation: A company wants to keep both customers and employees up to date on what is happening within the company. This includes announcements of new products, services and initiatives, changes in personnel policy and benefits, and other information important to both customers and employees. The CEO is considering a company newsletter. How do you keep customers and employees updated and what benefits do you accrue from the effort?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Customers and employees are two different audiences and require different communications. Externally focused company newsletters are a value-add from a marketing perspective and enhance the image of the company in the eyes of clients and prospects. Internal company newsletters are valuable to reinforce vision, understanding of company policy, and inter-departmental alignment.
  • Both efforts are justified from a time and expense standpoint, and perhaps deserve even more focus.
  • Within the companies represented around the table, frequency of both internal and external newsletters varies from semi-annual to monthly publications.
  • Both print and online newsletters have value. Employees respond positively to both. Print media make it easier for them to share important updates in benefits and excitement about company developments with their families. Online media can be updated more frequently and inexpensively, and the HR department can track the number of views to measure impact.
  • Emailed external newsletters are valuable because they enable you to measure ROI from the effort by building in tracking mechanisms and correlating web page hits to business development and revenue.

How Do You Emerge from the Recession Stronger? Five Actions

Situation: A company is encouraged by signs of a strengthening economy. They want to encourage their staff to prepare for growth and new opportunities. The CEO is curious about what other companies are doing to prepare their staff so that they emerge from the recession stronger than they were in 2008. How do you emerge from the recession stronger than you were before it began?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • One company is organizing company meetings at each site to outline their high level plans so that all managers know the plan and vision:

o    General company direction

o    Market and opportunity

o    The plan – where they are, what they’re going to do by when

  • Another company conducts a general employee meeting every two months. At the last meeting:

o    They cancelled the 20th day off without pay – and celebrated!

o    They compared revenue growth now versus last year, focusing on the positive upside and company’s potential.

o    They explained why they are now recruiting, and reinforced their business model.

o    They had kept up marketing and sales during recession and these are now paying off.

  • Another is reinforcing the belief that they will stay lean and mean.
  • Another is Increasing update communication frequency and assuring that managers are updating their teams. This maintains the soft reasons for people to stay onboard, and to stay excited.
  • What not to do: do NOT allow cuts that were made to survive destroy the long-term workable business model.

How Do You Create a Value Proposition? A Three-Round Process

Situation: A company wants to effectively position itself for a recovery. The CEO believes that it is time to sit down with his team and focus on those areas which will help them to emerge during the recovery not only stronger than they were when the recession started, but ahead of their competition. How do you create a value proposition?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Creating your Value Proposition starts by analyzing and understanding your most important strength. Is it Product Leadership, Operational Excellence, or Customer Intimacy?
  • No company can succeed today trying to be all things to all people. Choosing one discipline as your most important strength is the choice of winners.
  • To set your Value Agenda, ask your team “How do we compete and win in our marketplace?” This is not a single discussion, but requires three rounds – best done as three different sessions.

o  Round 1 focuses on understanding where you stand in your marketplace.

o  Round 2 focuses on understanding what your customers perceive as your “unmatched value.”

o  Round 3 focuses on building an operating model that enhances your unmatched value and helps to consistently communicate this to your clientele.

  • Once the three rounds are completed, formulate the top findings of each round into your Value Agenda for the company.

o  A Value-Driven Operating Model gives your company the ability to deliver on your Value Proposition.

o  Your Value Discipline is the combination of operating model and value proposition that will allow you to be the best in your market.

How Are You Staying Positive in This Economy? Seven Thoughts

Situation: The recovery continues to be uneven and uncertain. One company finds that both staff and their families are nervous about how the company will fare and the future of their jobs, and this has created strain. What are you doing to stay balanced and positive – both within your company and also in your personal relationships?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Transparency and communication. These are critical in both business and personal affairs. You have to be honest, avoiding either pessimism or unwarranted optimism.
  • Share the metrics of where you are – the reality – and projections on your expectations of how things will go. This has been a long bump in the road, but eventually things will get smoother.
  • Involve your staff in difficult decisions. Do the same with family on difficult personal or family decisions.
  • Be frank with family, but keep communicating. Time is more important to family than money – they want you to be there with them. If you’re working long hours in the evening, at least go home and have dinner with your family.
  • Staff adjustments, where necessary, have been done as single events and weren’t drawn out. CEOs have communicated more frequently about the state of business and pipeline. Assure staff that the company is solid. Show them the runway.
  • Those most worried are employees without project work. Some companies focused them on infrastructure projects to keep them engaged.
  • Cross-fertilize your teams. One company brought professional service employees into product engineering. Both groups learned and benefitted from understanding each other’s perspective.

How Do You Overcome Resistance to Change? Five Suggestions

Situation: A CEO manages more than one company and is overcome by the complexity of the task. The biggest challenge is the oldest of the companies which is increasingly resistant to change. How do you overcome resistance to change?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Regardless of the age or experience of any company, meeting on-going performance objectives is critical. The fact that strategic imperatives have led to the formation of spin-off entities does not change this. Managers and key personnel are expected to perform to reasonable expectations, whether in a family or non-family business.
  • Resistance to change may be a symptom of more fundamental issues. Is the older business receiving adequate attention from upper management? Are they receiving sufficient funding and resources to complete their objectives? Do they have the latitude to make decisions necessary to achieve their objectives? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then address this first.
  • Presuming that the answers to the questions mentioned above are positive let the key personnel in this company know that they remain a critical business entity. Telling them this 1-on-1 is not enough. They need to hear this in public forums within the company. They need to be clear on the opportunity that the company enjoys, and what this means both for the company and for them as employees.
  • You cannot over-communicate the vision, mission and opportunity. They already know that you are juggling multiple balls and need ongoing assurance that they remain important.
  • Make sure that you have a right person handling day to day matters in the core company and in each of the other entities so that as they grow that they can support themselves.

How Do You Manage Change? Four Perspectives

A company is experiencing change in both organizational complexity and culture as it grows. Employees feel that the company doesn’t have the same team atmosphere that it had when it was smaller. How do you manage change associated with growth and new opportunities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Change is an inevitable part of growth. Employees need to understand this simple fact. Change is tied to: age and stage of growth, changes in leadership, performance challenges, changes in customers and competition, and changes in the working environment. For example, the simple addition of Millennials to the employee pool will change the nature of a company.
  • What else do we know about change? That it is: an opportunity, filled with uncertainty, complex and disruptive.
  • Typical responses to change from staff are: denial, resistance, anger, fear, confusion, being divided about the impact of change, and chaos. It is important to understand this and to communicate to employees that their reactions are normal. They will also get over these reactions as they adapt to new conditions.
  • Denison Consulting has developed a model that represents four factors – Mission, Consistency, Involvement and Adaptability – with measures under each factor. The model provides a visual representation of how the organization currently measures up in each of the twelve factors, and provides a clear and understandable map of where the organization needs to focus to make the changes required to survive and thrive.
  • Special thanks to Paul Wright of Denison Consulting for his input to this discussion.

How Do Social Media Change Client Interactions? Six Ways

Situation: A company wants to upgrade its presence in social media to improve client interactions. Before engaging in this exercise, they are curious as to how others are successfully using social media as part of their overall marketing and client service strategies. From your experience, how do social media change client interactions?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The Web and the emergence of social media have enabled a much broader range of communication and collaboration options with clients, vendors, and others in any marketplace. In contrast to classic “push marketing” the Web and social media enable interactive marketing tailored to the individual needs, likes and dislikes of individual customers.
  • One of the most important changes is the opportunity for customers to post feedback and opinions about a company’s products and services. In the new reality, if you don’t have a place where customers can post feedback – both positive and negative – they’ll find somewhere else to post it.
  • Web 2.0 is generally defined as interactive, dynamic web sites that get updated frequently. From a consumer standpoint we think of eBay and Amazon.com. However, this also includes web-enabled collaborations between company members or company and client, for example collaborative project management.
  • Using cameras and built-in microphones that now usually come built-in with new monitors and laptops you can communicate less expensively and with higher quality than with traditional telecommunications. Web-enabled team meetings are virtually the same as being in the same room.
  • Through your web site you can provide digital video content at different levels of sophistication to potential and, with password protection, verified customers.
  • An underutilized resource which is truly win-win is available through local colleges and universities that can provide state-of-the-art expertise in web enabled communications through student projects in internships.
  • Special thanks to Dean Lane of the Office of the CIO (http://www.oocio.com) for his insight and input to this discussion.