our perspective

  • Wendi Smith

Congratulations - you’ve just become the Chief Executive Officer of your company. Exciting, and sometimes intimidating. All of a sudden you’ve become the face of everything your company represents. You are now a sub-brand of the company and are the company’s most important and influential ambassador. This may seem like a daunting task, but all you must do is Find Your Voice.

As CEO, yours is the voice your shareholders, employees and consumers want – and NEED – to hear. So establishing a firm voice and reputation is key. According to Weber Shandick in the CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era:

Global executives attribute 45% of their company’s reputation to the reputation of their CEO, on average, 50% that the CEO’s reputation will matter more to company reputation in the next few years, and 44% of their company’s market value to the reputation of their CEO.

Establishing your reputation has the potential to attract investors, create positive media attention, bring in new employees, and more. So how do you figure out what to say and how to say it? Here are three ways to help you achieve your goals.

  • Establish your values and stick to them. You’ve made it to the top of the corporate ladder on your strengths and abilities, so take some time to observe yourself and learn. What about you got you to the top? Was there something constant that always guided you along the way? What are you willing to give up and what is non-negotiable? Knowing these core decisions will help you establish who you are and what you stand for.

  • Find a niche. What is the thing that makes you stand out from other leaders and competitors? At 12 years old, Elon Musk discovered his talent for computer programming. He discovered early on what would set him apart from others, so he stuck with it and never looked back. Now he is one of the most successful CEOs of our generation.

  • Be passionate. It is always easy to see when someone does not love what they are doing. So show you care. 

Discovering a sense of self is a long, but necessary journey we all must make. Once you find your voice your company and you will shine.

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” – James A. Froude

Ever watch a flock of birds synchronize their movements across the sky? It’s mesmerizing. What we know is that the birds aren’t just following a leader, they are anticipating the next move for the entire group.

Wayne Potts, zoologist: “birds in flocks are able to change direction quickly not just because they are following a leader, or their neighbors, but because they see a movement far down the line and anticipate what to do next.”

This can be the same for teams, but they need to know what to care about and how they can participate.

Reiterating short-terms goals, or creating new immediate term initiatives help teams focus. It encourages them to be productive and engaged, even when everything around them seems out of control. It also teaches people to operate autonomously because they can see the steppingstones to hitting the goals.

For some companies, it’s a moment for short-term wins to improve your products, services, or getting back to basics. Every company’s goals will be different, the most important point is that each new milestone hit will give team members a focal point and a sense of accomplishment.

Here are some questions to help determine your goals or initiatives:

  • What is the most critical thing we can do for our clients/customers right now?

  • What are the most pressing issues our clients are facing? Are there commonalities?

  • Do we have a tool, service or product that we can improve or create to meet client’s immediate needs?

  • What internal initiative would make the greatest impact for now and for the long-term?

  • Is there a purpose-driven initiative that we can put our energy into?

Most important is that these goals keep the business moving forward and the teams engaged, even during social and economic uncertainty.

The way you guide your team today during this crisis will determine the kind of culture you have in the future—particularly important when some of your teams will probably still work remotely in what will likely be the new normal.

The end goal is to create a workforce that is as nimble as a flock of birds that can easily anticipate what they need to do and can move quickly when its necessary to realize the company vision.

  • Wendi Smith

The global COVID-19 pandemic has turned most of our personal and professional lives upside down virtually overnight. Suddenly, many businesses’ brick-and-mortar office buildings are all but empty and their employees are doing their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. This is a dramatic change for the majority of executive leaders, who now find themselves learning in a pressured environment how to lead an organization comprised entirely of remote workers. The business world has shifted, and it is not clear when — or even to what degree — it will make its way back to the pre-COVID 19 status quo.

It’s time to embrace leadership agility and start communicating differently. By and large, the C-suite have tended to rely on their physical presence in an organization’s office to allow them to lead their employees by example. They strive to be high achievers who get to the office early, stay there late, work hard, attend countless meetings and gather the rest of the organization’s leadership team in person to discuss strategy, challenges, and solutions.

Leading a remote organization is a different ballgame. Having to manage from afar can be jarring and uncomfortable at first. You will likely need to shift your behaviors so you can remain as visible as possible while keeping everyone in the organization happy, engaged with their work and thriving professionally. Understanding how to maintain employee’s previous levels of engagement and productivity will be key to the business’ success. Here are some tips:

Be Present in Your Employees’ Professional Lives

Even if you are no longer able to see your employees around the office and greet them or chat with them, leaders still need to make an effort to be present in employees’ professional lives. Although you may not realize it, you are a reassuring, stabilizing force for the rest of the organization. When you are visible, employees know someone is at the helm to steer the ship where it needs to go. You remind everyone that the company needs to fulfill its mission, and you reduce or eliminate employees’ feelings of anxiety or loss of engagement with the company’s broader goals.

Learning to be present in the way your employees work now prevents company culture from deteriorating. A big worry that can stifle innovation and productivity, and create low employee morale, high employee turnover, and reduced productivity. But, it can all be avoided.

The most important point is to stay open and build new connections throughout the company. Share more of yourself with employees, check in with the other senior leaders on a more regular basis, make yourself available and be flexible in resolving issues when they arise. If you make it clear the organization is still a team, employees will build close ties and loyalty.

Make Sure Your Messages Count

Now, more than ever, you need to inspire and empower others throughout your organization. Senior leaders and managers will take cues from your new leadership style — it will trickle down, so be mindful of the messages you send. When they emulate your behavior, you want them to be acting positively. Be your most authentic self, share your remote working challenges and how you’re overcoming them. Your teams will feel closer in spirit if you’re opening up. Transparency and honesty will serve you well. Most importantly, though, you need to lead the organization with confidence and certainty. Uncertain times make people uneasy, and your employees need to know you will lead them where they want to go.

Start using your company’s instant messaging platforms more. Try to replicate the chance run-ins you would have with people in their offices, in the hallway or in the cafeteria through short instant messages. Sharing short videos will allow employees to see your face and body language. They are an easy way to remind them of your personality, make yourself seem approachable and maintain transparency — just keep them short and focused.

Resetting the Norm

Adapting your organization to its newfound reality will not be easy, but its long-term health depends on its leader being flexible enough to shepherd it through this extremely difficult time. Everyone will have to modify their professional behaviors, but the leader needs to set the tone for the rest of the team. With your organization adjusting to the realities of the world in 2020 and beyond, do everything you can to lead the transition to a new era and make it as smooth as possible.