Great CEO Offsite Idea

McKinsey just issued an interview with Pieter Nota who runs Philips' Consumer Lifestyle sector. The article was about his first 100 days at Philips and how he turned around the unit. In the interview, the author provided insights into Nota's off-sites for his senior team and how they incorporated "courageous conversations" where team members got their gripes out on the table and then collectively resolved the conflicts constructively. Or as the article says, turned the negative energy into positive energy. 

But the lesson learned was an exercise that Nota built into a second off-site a few years into his tenure which I think could work well at senior management off sites that new CEOs often hold. The off-site started off with lots of blue sky collaboration on where the future of their business could possibly go. And here's the kicker that just entranced me because it's such a good idea. The day ended with a brainstorm on "the ten excuses we could use two years from now for not having made the aspiration a reality." The team addressed each excuse head on and committed themselves to not using the excuses to explain away why they did not turn their dreams into reality down the road. A great exercise for many of us. I can already think of excuses that I use as to why I can't do one thing or another. And applying it to teams is just brilliant to create greater ownership. 

I am going to add this Top 10 Excuses brainstorming idea to any counsel I give.


de Blasio's One Year of Grace Closes In

In New York City, we have a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He has been interesting to watch, especially as he exited his first 100 days and is moving into the last quarter of his first year. [Also because he is from my Brooklyn neighborhood where is a local figure.]

But this article in The New York Times this week was written almost as a mid year round up and makes it clear that the new mayor is still trying to find his balance. From watching CEOs, the first year is one of reckonings too. De Blasio, like new CEOs, has many more constituencies to worry about now besides rallying the troops to get out the vote.  The complexity of managing all those constituencies can be overwhelming and fraught with fault lines. As the mayor deals with racial tensions, police reform, availability of low income housing and budget constraints, he is disappointing the left who were his stalwart base. The alleged police-related death of Eric Garner on Staten Island does not help and heightens the scrutiny on the mayor's progress so far. The article interested me in particular because Bertha Lewis, former CEO of Acorn, is cited asking friends to give the mayor a full year before "discounting Mr. de Blasio as just another politician." From my work on CEO tenure, people begin to cement their impressions at about nine months. Luckily, mayors and CEOs do get a grace period when they first start but the mayor's next moves are critical to setting his legacy and reputation in stone.

Reputation Call-Outs for the Week


Woefully, I did not get to write this week. It just flew by with meetings and work to be done. And here it is Saturday again and I'm catching up with my work and eager to get to work on my blog. I saved a few things from the week to write about because they all are reputation-related in some way. Here they are:

  1. I was very pleased to see the squarespace advertisement early on in the Superbowl last Sunday night. The feedback from what I understand has been positive. This blog is written using squarespace and I think their sites are beautiful and easy to create. They are a reputation-polisher.
  2. For all those new CEOs and executives out there, some timely advice from Fay Vincent, president and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries in the WSJ. He has 10 suggestions for those in charge. Some are tried and true and worth repeating such as (#2) Be sure to manage down, (#4) Keep listening to and for advice and (#7) Never complain, never explain. Vincent says he wishes someone told him these when he started at the top.
  3. Talking of new CEOs, the new CEO of Microsoft was named. His introduction to the world was nicely done (check it out as a great First 100 Days strategy) and enhanced his down-to-earth reputation. I especially liked his email to employees on day one. You can tell that the new CEO, Satya Nadella, likes to read poetry from reading this email. It is simply stated but oh so well-written with a melodious cadence and authenticity. Right out of the box, he mentions how humble he feels being named to the honorable task ahead of him. He then describes himself and his mandate in four sections -- Who am I? Why am I here? Why are we here? What do we do next? The answers to all these questions are undoubtedly what employees want to know. Nadella had one paragraph that I found especially appealing and worth calling out. He wrote: "Next, every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this." This is a great message because we are all accountable, not just leadership. No one can just sit back today and wait for permission to act.
  4. At the start of the week, the NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin called for an apology cease-fire. He says that the avalanche of in lea apologies are calling into question their sincerity and turning into apology-theater. I too follow how apologies have become de rigueur for reputation repair. They are expected, whether they are mere performance art or the real thing. They have become habitual. Sorkin and management guru Dov Seidman have started an Apology Watch on DealBook and started #ApologyWatch on Twitter.  They will be looking at what companies do post-apology and keeping them honest. Poor reputations, beware!


Papal Lessons on Reputation-Building for New CEOs

A CEO's first year sets the tone, defines the direction and shapes the character of an organization. Right before I presented to a CEO-elect this week about navigating the first 100 days, I spied this article about what Pope Francis has accomplished in his first year. I read with a big grin on my face because many of the Pope's actions follow exactly what there is to do in year one of a new executive's tenure. 

  1. Signal that change is on its way. The Pope's washing of the feet of inmates (including two women) and questioning who among us is to judge about homosexuality were acts of declaration that this was going to be a very different papacy. 
  2. Reconstitute your senior team. Pope Francis is moving around his senior bench by replacing traditionalists with moderates. Some have been demoted, some sidelined. His appointments are aligned around his mission to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the poor. The message has been sent loud and clear.
  3. Declare what matters. The Pope has been very open about what his values and priorities are. He used the word "tenderness" in an interview and his actions are very telling. He has given out more prominent positions to those from emerging countries and less developed ones. The article points out that he has communicated that as these positions change, this is is not a time for celebratory parties. Work has just started and money should be spent wisely. Pope Francis has also reminded his leaders to not listen to all the gossip that is being spread about changes underway. Another waste of time in his book.
  4. Communicate Communicate. In one of his most important speeches of the year, he spent his time focused on communicating that it was time for the Curia to get its own house in order. The new Pope spoke "disparagingly of 'airport bishops' who are more interested in their careers than flocks, and warns that priests had become 'little monsters' if they are not trained properly as seminarians." He certainly paints a vivid picture, don't you think? 
  5. Be inclusive, you don't know all the answers. The Pope has set up several task forces to come up with solutions to ongoing problems or issues. Eight cardinals were asked to investigate the area of Curia reform.  Another group is revamping the workings of the Vatican Bank to provide greater transparency. 

New CEOs would be wise to follow some of these lessons which can build reputation for their companies and for their own legacies. It gets everyone on the same page and privy to what to expect. Although there is no doubt that there is a lot of head scratching going on among cardinals and bishops whose career ladders have been turned upside down, the Pope is taking charge forcefully, symbolically and masterfully. He is building his reputation and the reputations of Popes to come.  I can't wait to see what's next.

Transition web site to admire

blasioWorth taking a look at NYC mayor-elect Bill De Blasio's transition web site. It is very transparent and user-friendly. You can apply for jobs, review who the transition team is, send an idea. volunteer,  or read blog postings. It is a great idea that matches with what he promised in the run off. Nice fit. Transitions are important times to set the tone and style of the incoming individual or executive. The large photo on the home page with De Blasio reaching out to constitutents sends the right message that he aims to be a man of the people (I think he said "we all rise together"). How it turns out will be another story but for a start, it's a good one. CEOs should consider this transition site as a good way to mark their first 100 days internally.