Tag Archives: Trigiani

A leadership secret: Communicating with finesse

This post is dedicated to Scott McNealy, with all due respect and great admiration for his accomplishments.  And his potential.

During a late lunch break on November 10, I turned on the television to watch CNBC.  They were running a clip of an interview with Scott McNealy, one of Silicon Valley's technology thinkers and CEOs, a real success story.  When asked what he thought of the Occupy movement, Mr McNealy said, "get a job."

While I happen to have even stronger feelings than McNealy about what we should do with the anarchists and arsonists who have hijacked the Occupy movement, I was flabbergasted that someone as smart and quick as McNealy couldn't think of a better way to answer the question — or to capitalize on it.  He could have said something equally arresting without appearing insensitive to how the problems afoot in the United States, culturally and commercially, are affecting the rest of us.  It was the perfect opportunity to explore what's back of Occupy, and in McNealy's case, maybe even demonstrate how his new startup can help connect people in an age of gated neighborhoods and the disintegration of the middle class.  Or maybe just to say something more inspired than, "get a job."

And that's when I realized that our leadership problem runs much deeper than I ever imagined.

http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4525966&searchId=777a9b8fb43ab0af98ab97282b6093bb&npos=51The art of management finesse

Can it be that the astronomical financial and personal success of our business leaders has isolated them so much from the rest of their fellow citizens that they don't realize just how difficult it is to get a job or build business, get a living wage or project fee, or get paid at all?

Yes, it can be.  But I think it's more than that.  I think even the self-made guys are turning into elitists.  After all, their investment bankers parcel out IPO opportunities.  The elitist training begins early.  Many CEOs seem to be disconnecting from the rest of the populace to the degree that their positions are not about leading organizations and innovating but strictly about their own wealth. 

I hope this is not the case with McNealy.  I hope this is just one gaff.  But the gaff pulled me up short and made me acknowledge that the wealth gap is merely one aspect of a larger gulf:  the growing absence of management finesse.

Finesse is often a natural gift.  Whether instinctive or acquired, finesse is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have.  It's the ingredient that gets messages heard and inspires action. 

Finesse is nurtured by study and a personal emphasis on empathy.  We all stumble.  CEOs, though, have access to a key tool for learning and practicing management finesse to the degree that it can mitigate the stumbles.  The corporate communications function.  A need-to-have, not a nice-to-have.  Like anything else, it's all in how you build it.

Get your finesse on

The very best of the traditional American business canon gives us example after example of leaders who had experienced, legitimate communications advisors and who listened to them.  It's difficult for any human being, much less one with corporate power, to remain human without at least some institutional emphasis on keeping things real.  Corporate Communications should be the one place the CEO can turn whose only ax to grind is seeing the CEO set a clear path for the organization.

Many of today's CEOs are surrounded by yes men and women who take orders instead of tell the emperor he's not wearing any clothes.  Instead of a Merlin, they have court jesters.  Or worse.  These leaders would rather get up and read something a remote underling or PR agent wrote for them than spend time thinking about what they believe and how they can use their positions to lead us out of this mess. [Which includes speaking up about how we got here in the first place — not just blaming Washington or Wall Street.]

If Jack Kennedy had developed his messages this way, we might never had heard his voice or known what he thought.  His process alone should be enough of a template for today's CEO to follow in crafting and articulating messages of insight and intellect.

CEOs:  Owning your message is the price of entry to leadership

You aren't interested in or comfortable with setting aside time to work on your messages and deliver them?  Not acceptable. 

CEOs, thinking about your messages gets you in the habit of exploring every option in front of you.  Of listening.  And of thinking before you open your mouth, helping you find the words to say something enlightening, enriching the conversation because you were in it. I refuse to accept any thinking that excuses you from participating relentlessly in the creation of your messages.  It is part of your job. Like riding herd on financials or helping to win a big account.

Most important:  every opportunity to communicate should serve the purpose of reminding you that being a leader is as much about service as it is about lordship.  Owning your messages can help bridge the gap between the solitary burdens of your office and all the stakeholders in the enterprise's success.  It can help you put your own problems in context.  It can remind you that you're part of something larger than yourself.

 

Beyond bookmarking: Sharing five articles I Stumbled, Google-read and stored

One of the best aspects of living life digitally is being able to share what I read in a millisecond.  I remember copying, faxing and mailing articles to clients.  Then I remember emailing them.  The tools we have now are an article clipper's dream.

Today, I use StumbleUpon and Google Reader both to catalog my favorites and to share them with followers on those sites.  I'm starting to do more on Facebook and LinkedIn as well, mainly through a standing link from my Twitter feed to those networks.  My goal is to wean myself off saving things to my computer.

As part of this process, I'm attempting to share five articles, saved and shared to my various networks, here on the blog every week, too.  So here they are.

  1. The obituary of Edward Stobart in The Economist.
  2. How to hold attention, by the brilliant John Hagel, with John Seely Brown, on Harvard Business Review.
  3. Figuring out where your buyers are, from the blog by Content Marketing Institute.
  4. The backlash against the academic Mafia [my phrase!], in The Atlantic.
  5. Mitch Wagner's take on Don Tapscott's view of capitalism, on The CMO Site.

Six marketing blogs that help you run your business

There is a great deal of content floating around on the Internet about marketing, especially when it comes to incorporating social media into the traditional marketing mix.  I find myself saving posts from these blogs on a regular basis.  In reading them, I find workable ideas for clients, whatever their size and scope.

MyVenturePad.  Written for the startup but appropriate for organizations at all stages.  The writers address all aspects of running a business.

Branding Strategy Insider.  Produced by The Blake Project, offers the best descriptions and guidelines for the branding process.  The writers also help to cut through the jargon.

Small Business Trends.  Good for anyone who wants to grasp marketing from the ground up — including corporate executives.  A useful tool for testing the performance of large marketing functions as well as building a marketing focus in a small or medium business.

MarketingTech Blog.  Writers well-grounded in social media, based in the US Midwest.  This blog provides a counter-balance to the echo chamber populated by the self-proclaimed social media gurus.

Radian6 blog.  How to make social media a rich channel for connecting with stakeholders.  The company offers clients a technology platform for engaging with stakeholders online and measuring the results.  The team also produces eBooks that are easy to digest.

HubSpot blog.  Inbound marketing focused.  That's the official term for the marketing processes focused on direct connection with a company's customers.  In its blog, HubSpot addresses the nitty-gritty aspects of managing these processes.

Lessons from a leader who looked to heaven but kept his feet on the ground

Last month, FAST COMPANY blogger David Gardner shared a memorial tribute to Paul L Locatelli, SJ, the president of Santa Clara University who passed away after a two-month illness.  Father Locatelli was something of a legend in Northern California; I had heard of his talents in management and fundraising, but this eloquent eulogy by Mr Gardner explored the qualities of Father Locatelli's style in a way I hadn't seen.  Please take a moment to read it.

Here are the basics of Father Locatelli's approach to leadership, as captured by Mr Gardner, that I took away and will keep in front of me.

  • Commit fully to your company, from vision, to strategy, to execution
  • Make commitments, not promises
  • Be relentless in pursuing your goals and don't lose heart
  • Keep speeches short and idle time shorter, all the while moving to the next thing
  • Make a list and get it done
  • Feed your physical, mental and spiritual selves equally
  • Pay attention to the people in your circles by engaging wholeheartedly with them; make time for them always
  • Listen intently
  • When someone asks for help, find a way to do it without hesitation
  • Emphasize the opportunities in life
  • Look for a value that serves others as well as yourself and honor it through optimal performance

Supernova: My gleanings

What I learned today at Supernova.