What We’ve Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate: How to Create a Solid Communications Strategy

With all of the communication tools and technologies available today, why do so many businesses still have a communications problem? Here’s a simple 7 step process for building a solid communications program.

Many firms suffer from poor communications. It’s my theory is that too few firms have the necessary communications program in place to do it well. Take the following steps to develop an effective communications program plan:

1. Delineate your objectives – Determine what you expect to gain from your communications program. Objectives could range from enhancing service delivery and improving staff loyalty to gaining a bigger marketplace influence or upgrading relations with the media and regulatory entities.

2. Baseline your current communication practices – Once you know your objectives, perform a communications audit and evaluate how your business communicates. This characterization should involve: brainstorming with staff, interviewing senior leaders and surveying customers, suppliers and distributors with the sole purpose of discovering how, when, why and where your people communicate and message for, and about, your business.

3. Determine your key audiences – List all the audiences that the firm might want to contact, attempt to influence, or serve. At a minimum, these will likely include customers, staff, industry groups, business partners, and the media.

4. Translate these audience sectors into specific projects and programs aimed at delivering information is the best ways possible to each group – You’ll need to consider your baseline results (as determined earlier) and map that against available human and financial resources, of course. But, by crafting initiatives for each group, you’ll be much better positioned to achieve your Communication Program’s objectives.

5. Establish a timeline for execution – With the initiatives (which comprise your Communications Program) identified, it’s time to craft a calendar grid that outlines when each effort will begin and be accomplished. Group the projects and programs into 18 month intervals (what I like to call “Implementation Plateaus”). This enables your organization to better understand what will be done when to improve its communications infrastructure.

6. Estimate costs at an implementation plateau-level – By “chunking” the work effort into 18 month intervals and giving an estimate of that total investment, you can shift dollars as needed among the initiatives that make up a given implementation plateau. This provides some wiggle room for your organization as it evolves its communications strategies over time.

7. Begin to execute and evaluate – Shape a method for measuring results into each project / program plan that you launch. Be sure to track project / program progress on a monthly basis and report it back to your senior management sponsors as you evolve each effort.

To close, a solid Communications Program plan requires about is 60-90 days to complete. Once in place, though, with the proper level of executive commitment and maintenance you will a communications asset that can be kept in sync with your organizational advancement for years to come. To learn more, just reach out to me and we can discuss it directly.

Note: This piece was originally published by Inc on October 31, 2016. If you like this article, please subscribe to my column and you’ll never miss another thought piece!


8 Tips for ‘Keeping It Real’ During Your Cultural Transformation Effort

Driving cultural transformation is always a challenge. Here are 8 tips to smooth your journey and make landing at your destination a little easier.

Whenever I consider the pain and toil that goes into every deep, cultural transformation effort I recall the words of Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Indeed, transformation work is always challenging. You’re asking people to change and to move out of their comfort zones. Resistance, misunderstanding and confusion abound! But, managing through change doesn’t have to be an exercise in unbearable misery.

Here are 8 considerations worth bearing in mind when you undertake your organization’s next major cultural transformation:

1. Leadership Style: Whatever the prevailing leadership style is within the organization will certainly be called into question. Adjustments must be made that properly align with the future vision and strategic framework of the enterprise. Misalignment leads to misery as staff begin to recognize that they’re being asked to change, but, management is not willing or able.

2. Strategic Planning Practices: Regardless of how planning was done in the past, post-transformation direction-setting had better be formal, regular, transparent and communicated. Your staff will expect to be able to comprehend the strategic plan and understand what their role in helping you achieve it.

3. Communication Protocols: Nothing kills transformation quicker than a lack of communication. Whenever there is a communication vacuum, your staff will fill it with some form of “information”–sometimes accurate, but, usually incorrect. Work to put the communication mechanisms in place and use them keep your people informed on both the changes coming and the rationale for making those changes a reality.

4. Brand Proposition: Your brand must be aligned with you culture or your change efforts will fail. For example, consider discount airline carrier, their brand denotes low cost provider and their culture should be all about cost reduction. Trying to establish a rich service delivery will not work for them. The costs that come with delivering industry-leading service would run them out-of-business. Brand, product and service all must match culture and culture must support the delivery of of the brand promise.

5. Technology Integration: Can’t overemphasize the importance of supporting cultural change through the proper leverage of technology. Technology is an enabler. Let it enable your transformation by providing your people with the technical tools that they need to succeed.

6. Staff Preparedness: You have to be sure that your people are ready to perform. That said, all of your practices aimed at recruitment, retention, reward and engagement must be aimed at getting the right players in place to knock it out of the park. If your team is not prepared to do what must be done to transform the organization, it simply won’t happen.

7. Performance Measurement Alignment: Your measurement programs have to measure the “right” behaviors and reward the “right” outcomes. After all, people do what they’re measured on. So, failing to establish a program that perfectly allies with the guiding principles of your transformation is a recipe for failure.

8. Organizational Design: The organization design that you develop must support the culture that you’re promoting. Flatter is faster, as bureaucratic layers are replaced by a structural design that is more responsive and decisive. The only caveat, your front-line staff must be properly trained and educated to make the kind of informed decisions that your supervisors and managers would ordinarily make. Invest in your people and they will pay dividends.

In closing, “Yes,” there will be pain whenever you take on the hard work of driving cultural change within an organization. But, the suffering is up to you. By considering the 8 tips provided above, I hope that your suffering will be kept at bay, while your change effort runs smoothly and is lastingly effective.

NOTE: This piece originally appeared in Inc. magazine on May 16, 2016.  If you like this column, subscribe to email alerts and you’ll never miss an article.

Leadership Is All About Character

Often punctuated by bombast and complicated jargon, most leadership discussions make something simple seem so complex. This piece boils leadership down to its essence.

Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” I couldn’t agree more. Titles, pedigree or organization charts do not a leader make! Rather, leaders must possess the necessary character to inspire others to follow.

What does this mean? An exceptional leader must have the right combination of characteristics necessary to exude the confidence, radiate the passion and convey the trustworthiness required to motivate others to follow them.

Here’s why leadership is all about character:

  1. We want to be believe: People will follow someone in which they genuinely believe. That said, it is a leader’s perceived character that we subconsciously evaluate while deciding whether to follow or ignore them.
  2. Confidence demands attention: Confidence is an attractive quality as long as it doesn’t evolve into arrogance. A leader that projects confidence captures their people’s attention and demands their respect. It is part of the “secret sauce” that makes-up the character of most impressive leaders (think Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and Henry Ford).
  3. Passion is a turn-on: The most remarkable leaders possess, within their character, an ability to maintain a singular focus–even when confronted by realities that would serve to distract most others. This trait serves as quite a turn-on for many aspiring leaders and can encourage the self-sacrifice among them that leads to unparalleled achievement within a business.
  4. Consistency inspires trust: A leader that has the character necessary to repeatedly set a high standard for fairness, honesty and reliability will build trust with the people that they are charged with leading–making that leader indispensable within any organization of which they are part.
  5. It takes courage to curate a “Big Idea”: People look to their leaders for direction. They want their leaders to give them the “Big Idea” which will stir them to take action. But, this is no easy task. It takes tremendous courage and self-assurance to curate an idea strong enough for people to rally around. It is here where a great leader’s personal character separates them from the rest.

In a nutshell, extraordinary leaders possess the character to set direction and manage change. They have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them distinctive and impossible to ignore. Indeed, they hold the necessary allure that inspires others to follow. Do you think that you have what it takes to be a special leader?

This article was originally published by Inc.com, February 1, 2016

Hurry! 10 New Inc. Magazine Playbook Video Shorts About Visionary Leadership

Here are 10 New Inc. Magazine Playbook Video Shorts Based on My Column about Visionary Leadership:

How to Avoid Mediocrity and Build a Winning Business
3 Easy Ways to Boost Productivity at Work
3 Secrets Your IT Department Is Hiding From You
3 Things You Need to Know to Manage a Team of Superstars
3 Steps You Can Take Today to Be a Visionary Leader
3 Simple Ways to Make the Most of Your Best Workers
3 Ways to Save Your Business From the ‘Fog of War’
3 Ways to Inspire Your Employees to Greatness
3 Ways Leaders Can Set the Right Tone
3 Ways to Create a Transparent Work Setting

Be sure to reach out to me, if I can help your business with any of these concepts!

3 Strategic Planning Elements That Make Businesses Successful

Tune-In to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation

If you missed me on today’s segment of Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s , no worries.Innonavi Logo

You can tune-in to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s Channel 111 as follows:

  • Wednesday @ 2PM ET
  • Thursday @ 12PM ET
  • Saturday @ 2AM ET
  • Sunday @ 7PM ET

On the show, I discuss key points from my book with host Dave Robertson.  We explored how a business leader works to foster continued innovation in the company. We contrasted JCPenny and DreamWorks as an example of differing cultures as drawn from The Executive Checklist. We examined differences in management structures – hierarchical versus new flat models at W.L. Gore and Valve Software – and freelancer-rich operational models.

You won’t want to miss it!

Managing Gen Y

From an early age, they were told that they were the best, awarded trophies for just for showing up, and developed a false confidence that partybegets their frustration and doubt as they enter the workforce. Here’s how to engage them by Managing Gen Y

Read More at Inc. Online

Please pass it around — your team will be glad that you did!