Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reachin’ Out - Digitally Speaking

We are all so incredibly connected these days. It is a digital world. Go on-line and just throw out a topic. You know what I mean even before I finish a message in 140 characters. Here are three examples I’ve noticed just in the past 48 hours:

1.    Scott (the nametag guy) Ginsberg likes to challenge his facebook followers with an unfinished sentence. For example he might post: Life is_____. I know I’m not alone in wanting to finish the sentence. I read some of the other responses…a bowl of cherries…a b*tch…a roller-coaster… wonderful… I want to add something clever, surprising or at least thought provoking. I don’t want to linger on this problem too long so I settle something like Cat Stevens lyrics. Life is …like a maze of doors that open from the side you’re on. I move on.

2.    I visit a LinkedIn group I have neglected lately -The Dallas Fort Worth Chapter of the American Marketing Association (DFW-AMA). A group discussion starts with a query. Does anyone know a good branding firm that can help me redesign my logo? Naturally, there are a dozen quick answers from a mixed bag of consultants, advisers, design firms and ad agencies. Ultimately the guy that started the dialogue posts: Thanks everyone, I have decided to let my web designer do it. (Ha. The answer was there all along – like Dorothy and those ruby slippers.)

3.    A new design shop in town is anxious to generate content for its website BLOG. The owner of the start-up invites copywriters, strategists and creative marketing people to contribute to this effort. In fact she has been so successful that it is almost impossible to keep up with the rolling posts. A typical BLOG is 250-300 words. The website is quickly becoming a mind-numbing source of stuff. How to write a better resume. 10 things you should do before you buy you next car. 7 most common mistakes people make when planning a vacation. (It’s kind of like that junk drawer in your kitchen that drives you nuts when all you are looking for is the take-out menu from your favorite local Chinese Restaurant.)   

Before I close this article I just have a few questions. Are we more or less connected now that these fragmented social engagements allow us to reach out and/or recoil? Are we really connecting or are we becoming more fragmented? Are we adding content or clutter? OMG. LOL.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Servant Leader

A Conversation with a CEO
July 3, 2012

You can’t help but be impressed by a CEO who is comfortable in his role as leader. Today I had the opportunity to meet with such an individual. He was invited as a guest of a small group of consultants of which I was one. The purpose of the meeting was to get a better sense of what leaders are struggling with in our current business environment and understand more fully what kinds of challenges they might be encountering. Of course, I’m listening for opportunity. I am an expert in marketing and communications with an emphasis on techniques for sustainable efforts. I am listening for problems that might be effectively addressed with improved messages, mission and shared values. My colleagues are listening for issues that might be related to personnel alignment, organizational process, effective selling or culture.

We asked the CEO what he thought a leader needed to accomplish to be successful. The question was a little awkward and maybe even a little open-ended but our CEO wasn’t perplexed, confused or bewildered in the least. He spoke in measured tone with confidence and self assuredness. He was not pompous or arrogant. In fact, he was quite humble in his manner. There was, however, absolutely no doubt that he was a man who had studied and pondered the qualities and dynamics of leadership.

His answer was concise and to the point but at the same time comprehensive. I may not do if complete justice here but in essence this is what he said:

A leader does three things.
1.       Direction – “He or she must first provide direction. That direction needs to be clear and well defined. It must be accessible to everyone in an organization and easily translated to each and every functional responsibility. If a leader does this well, people can feel a sense of accomplishment each and every day knowing that they are making a meaningful contribution to the company.” Our CEO described a process of annual strategic planning along with meaningful metrics to help the company board, senior management team and everyone else measure progress.
2.       Resources – “Once direction is set, the leader needs to make sure the appropriate resources are available to accomplish goals and achieve milestones that are outlined in strategic plan documents.”  The CEO said that the clarity in direction helps determine what skills are necessary and allows a frame of reference for personnel assessments. He said it was important to get the right people in place and provide the right tools.
3.       Break down barriers – Finally the CEO said that a leader needs to: Be there to break down barriers.” I noted that he was not afraid to be hands-on in this area. He went on to describe the role a leader plays in creating a culture of transparency and trust. He stressed the importance of communication between departments, integrity in dealing with customers and teamwork overall. “We have great people” he added “That makes my job easy.” 

I could not help noticing that this CEO who cited The Servant Leader among those business books he’d read was the right man for the job. His company was lucky to have him at the helm.