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.  

CEO transitioning










CEOs and other executives coming onboard face many challenges. Egon Zehnder recently surveyed international executives about the transition process and one of the findings is that 57% said that it took six months or more to successfully transition to a new position and make full impact. 43% said it took 3 months or more which is about the first 100 days. Realistically, it takes about six months at least. The results are probably different depending on whether the executives comes from inside the organization or outside.

And no surprise here, a minority of executives (30%) had a good transition integration in their new positions. When they did get onboarding, over 80% said it was beneficial. They'd like help with navigating the internal politics and networks (56%) and obtaining insights on the new team they are taking over (41%).  It is always the softer skills that need the most support when executives transition to new positions.

How executives make the transition impacts their reputation. Those first impressions in the first 100 days or so are extremely sticky! Therefore, you might want to use social media internally to reach as many people as possible, depending on the culture you find yourself in. But reputations are created when the cement is wet so be cautious and move smartly.




gaines-ross-1000-100x100As you already know, I am keenly interested in how CEOs manage their tenures. In my book on CEO reputation, I referred to the various stages of a CEO's tenure as the seasons of a CEO. When I wrote it several years ago, it started with the Countdown period (pre-announcement), the first 100 days, the first year, the middle years and ends with the last 100 hours and legacy-setting. Since then, I have continued to follow CEOs closely but have been particularly fascinated by how CEOs can use social platforms to build their companies' reputations and to some extent, their own. That is what I explained in this new article on CEOs getting social in their early tenure. (See also Weber Shandwick's Socializing Your CEO II) Surprising to me, despite billions of people communicating and socializing online, little has changed in experts’ advice to CEOs or other executives on how to navigate their early tenure by taking advantage of social tools. In three separate research investigations on how CEOs spend their time by Harvard Business School, the European University Institute and the London School of Economics, and Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, the words “social” or “digital” did not appear once in the nearly 30,000 words written.   Management consultants’ white papers on CEO transitions reveal little attention to how to effectively use social platforms.  I have about 15 articles with smart advice on CEO successions and transitions that I send to new CEOs and not one mentions using social media. Further still, an online search of the most relevant 30 hits for “how CEOs should use social media in their first 100 days” does not retrieve a concise blueprint whatsoever. Instead, the mentions consist of lists of Twittering CEOs, reasons why CEOs don’t use social media, events and primers for getting into the social game, articles written by CEOs of digital agencies, and do’s and don’ts for CEOs who use social media.

Social media should be incorporated into new CEOs’ early playbooks. Whether CEOs are communicating, engaging in two-way conversation or simply listening in, social media platforms should be gradually adopted.  As technology increasingly permeates all aspects of business and society, CEOs cannot afford to be out of touch with their cultures, how their products or services are being received and what their competitors are up to. Moreover, as the next generation of technology-literate CEOs start taking office as 77 million baby boomers leave the stage, being socially-literate will become the norm, not the exception.

For these reasons and because all these management consultants seemed to be overlooking social media as a leadership tool in their early CEO days, I wrote this article titled Get Social: A Mandate for New CEOs. It just appeared this week on MIT Sloan Management Review's nicely redesigned Social Business site. Please take a look if you are a new CEO and getting the social bug! Or if you are advising CEOs to jump on the social bandwagon even a little. I firmly and proudly believe that this might be the first (or among the very first) articles on how and why CEOs should be social citizens at the start of their tenures and not wait til their seasons come to an end. There are some great examples from CEOs and presidents of companies such as Aetna, Etsy, GM, MassMutual, Best Buy and BAE.

First 100 Days for the Modern CEO

Boston Consulting Group issued a new report about debunking the myths of the first 100 days. It is worth reading if you are a new CEO. Several facts are worth sharing here however and I already dropped some into my presentation on steps CEOs should take in their First 100 Days. Since I wrote a book on the various stages of CEO tenure and how CEOs build reputation from day one to the very last hour, I try to update it as often as I can to keep up. CEOs have to keep up too because their first 100 days provides them with less time than ever before to get it right.

In one sidebar, the article describes how the CEO job has changed due to the growing complexity facing the modern day CEO. BSG found that organizational complicatedness (their word) has risen by a factor of 35 compared to 1955 (when the Fortune 500 was first created!). Many of these changes we already feel but BCG attaches facts and figures to these changes which are good to have.

Far more complex world for CEOs

       Number of performance requirements is 6X more than in 1955. Then, CEOs were measured against 4 to 7 KPIs vs. the typical 25 to 40 KPIs now.

Far more scrutiny for CEOs

       Many more stakeholders are now watching every step that new CEOs take These include activist shareholders, board members, regulators, lobbyists, online pundits, NGOs, consumers, media.

Far more dispirited workforce

       New CEOs are starting when falling employee engagement levels have dropped as much as 14%.

       Among U.S. employees, job satisfaction plummeted about 60% in 1990 to less than 43% in 2010.

I truly believe that the disengagement of the workforce is one of the biggest challenges facing CEOs. And what CEOs do in those first 100 days can make or break their tenure's success. This is why I believe it is time for new CEOs to get a bit more social, like online!~

CEO First 100 Day Signatures

When new CEOs start in their jobs, their early actions or what they say at their first retreats with the senior team are memorable. Everyone is on high alert and wondering if things will be different, how their new CEOs will establish legitimacy and set a new tone. So my CEO First 100 day antennae were up and ready for incoming signals at our first senior team meeting with our new CEO. It was a great meeting, lots of discussion, priority-making and theme setting. But what pleased me most was what I would call establishing a CEO signature. Sometimes it could be as simple as handing out books to the team that they should read, inviting certain types of guests or inviting new people to the table. Everything matters because everyone is reading the tea leaves -- what does this mean? what signal is he/she sending? So I was pleased when our new CEO, an insider, began the meeting reading parts of an email that someone had sent him earlier that morning about a meeting with a potential new client. The email was about the 6 reasons to love my company, Weber Shandwick -- Smart people who respond even when they are insanely busy,  a core group you can always depend upon and never let you down, knowing what great looks like, pride in the people in the room with you and share the company name on their business card, our new business people who always have your back 24/7, and colleagues who always set the bar higher. Then later in the morning, our new CEO read another email he had received from a major business publication praising the firm on their responses to interview clients for a story. He wrote that he just had to let our new CEO know that he has never seen a pr firm respond with such rapidity, thoughtfulness, thoroughness and smarts.

At that moment I decided that this had to be our new CEO's signature....sharing these kinds of notes with the team. First, it felt great hearing what people had said about the company and second, it was all about the work and colleagues. It just felt so right. I immediately thought of how President Obama reads 10 letters a day to see what people are thinking. I had just read a note he had sent to a young girl who has two dads and asked the President about being teased at school and asking him what he would do. The President wrote the little girl with his advice.

CEOs must get amazing notes -- good and bad. It makes sense to let everyone hear how the firm makes an impact in unexpected ways that do not get shared every day. There was some drama in the emails being read which I loved. It deepened the sense of a shared experience and community which is what a CEO should try to instill, especially at the outset.

Getting the Message Across Loud and Clear

Just caught up with my November HBR. There is an excellent article by the CEO of Siemens, Peter Loscher, on how to use a scandal to activate change in an organization. There is a section in the article on Loscher's first 100 days, a favorite topic of mine.  He says that he was the first chief executive at Siemens who came from the outside and mentions how it actually worked to his benefit because he brought an outside perspective to his early start. In the article, he mentions that one of the things he wanted to do in year one (post 100 days) was to get the organization more focused on customers. And then he proceeded to explain how he did it. I thought it was such a cool idea that I wanted to share it. Here is what he said:

"In my first year, I tried to find other ways to emphasize to the entire organization that customers should be our primary focus. Once a year, our top 600 or 700 managers gather for a leadership conference in Berlin. Before my first one, in 2008, I collected the Outlook calendars for the previous year from all my division CEOs and board members. Then I mapped how much time they had spent with customers and I ranked them. There was a big debate in my inner circle over whether I should use names. Some felt we would embarrass people, but I decided to put the names on the screen anyway.

The rankings were a classic bell curve, with most people in the middle. I was number one, having spent 50% of my time with customers. I said to the people at the leadership conference, “Is this a good sign or a bad sign? In my opinion it’s very bad. The people who are running the businesses should rank higher on this measure than the CEO.”

I put the rankings up again in 2009, in 2010, and in 2011. And now things have changed. The curve has shifted. Some people have passed me, and most are near me at the top of the distribution—because everybody knows this matters and that names will be up there at the next leadership meeting. With this simple approach we have achieved a much, much stronger emphasis on customers in the top management echelons."

What a smart way to get management  focused on being customer-driven. As he concludes, "But if you want to change a big, complex organization like Siemens, you have to make your agenda known, and you have to communicate in simple terms." I'd say taking stock of everyone's calendars and tallying up the time spent on customer activities, sent the right message, clear as a bell.