Posts Tagged ‘Michael Useem’
Bill Keller wrote this fascinating piece in The New York Times about how the Catholic Church could repair its reputation. As he points out, the Church operates just like a business with more than one million workers, one billion or more customers, more outlets than Starbucks, more real estate than Trump and a powerful lobbying arm. And like many companies today, it just lost its CEO and has the opportunity to reset its reputation and restore its luster now.
Keller asked several consultants how they would go about advising the Church to repair its reputation as they name a new Pope and move forward. Here are their suggestions:
1. Find the right new pope. One with drive and charisma who is communications savvy. One who is more than a caretaker. A Pope who is dynamic as well as a road warrior with unending energy to persuade customers back into the fold.
2. Manage the culprits out. Out with those who have sullied the Church’s reputation. Or as they say, “managing out” the ones responsible for the abuses of recent years. This would include full disclosure behind how predatory priests were allowed to stay within the institution. And third, hire a highly-regarded compliance or ethics officer who would have full support from the top. Keller quotes Wharton’s Michael Useem and his experiences helping to clean up the Tyco mess of years past.
3. Understand the past but look ahead towards the future. One consultant suggested a big time summit or strategic review that would be responsible for developing a new and improved Church strategy, mission and values with a plan to execute accordingly.
4. Adopt a global/local point of view. The article describes one consultant’s idea to let its 220,000 parishes make their own decisions attuned to local customs and preferences. “Rome could encourage the parishes to be laboratories of worship.” Interesting idea. Beta labs full of women participating, gays welcomed, local music.
5. Go social. Bring the Church into the digital age…fast. I did not realize this until Keller pointed it out but Pope Benedict tweeted as @Pontifex but only 35 times despite having 1.5 million followers. A social media strategy would go far in encouraging meet ups and spreading news and information to the committed. I have just the right document for him too….our research on social CEOs. Perhaps the Church could get some lessons from President Obama’s social media machine.
6. Get PR support. Interesting since that’s the business I am in. Keller rightfully states: “Its stock response to criticism from without or dissent from within has been to been to drop into a defensive crouch, stonewall or go negative. That can come across as bullying and arrogant — in other words, not very Christian.” Media training and message development would definitely be high on the list here.
What would I add to this list..
7. Build a solid crisis plan that raises red flags when early warning signs show up and design rapid response mechanisms. Figure out how to stop the leaks and understand how it happened in the first place so it does not happen again.
8. Measure the Church’s reputation now when it is at its most challenged so that the Church could mark progress as a new Pope begins and reform makes it to the agenda in the year(s) ahead.
9. Commit to a strategic internal communiations plan that engages its customers and followers. Get everyone on the same page. Start by going on a listening tour and asking what needs to change and what can stay the same. Feed back that information and describe how the Church will tackle its greatest problems and improve on its strengths.
10. Build a reputation advisory council that can help restore the Church’s reputation for the long-term. This is serious business.
It seems that Checklists are all the rage. Everyone seems to mention the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande which I now have on my vacation reading list. Along these lines, Michael Useem, Wharton management professor, has written The Leader’s Checklist which is out now. I think I will have to read that too because it is a subject that I follow regularly and I’ve always liked his work. Useem provides the 15 mission critical principles that help leaders navigate the stormy waters of crisis and personal success. In an interview with Useem, he talks about the need for a checklist to avoid “unforced errors.” I was not sure what that meant so I looked it up and quickly found that “unforced error” is a sports term (which is why I had not heard it).
Forced Error- A forced error is when your opponent hits a really good shot (powerful groundstroke, angled volley, drop shot, lob, etc), that you have to run, stretch, dive or scramble to get. Once you get there you are unable to put it back into the court or you hit the net. Technically, you made a mistake but since the your opponents hit a superior shot, they “forced” that error. Basically, if you hit a shot on the run and it doesn’t go in, it’s a forced error.
Unforced Error- An unforced error is a mistake that you make due to simply hitting the ball incorrectly (shanks, mishits) or using improper positioning, lack of precision or just bad luck (such as hitting the let cord and having it drop back on your side). In other words, if you are playing a neutral rally and your shot goes out of bounds or hits the net, that is an unforced error.
The point is that Useem is telling leaders to keep a checklist so that they don’t make a mistake such as forgetting to remind employees about following ethical guidelines or how to treat a customer everytime they walk into a room. When it comes to a Reputation Checklist, we actually have one — 99 Tips to Safekeeping Reputation. Although there are 99 of them, they are all worth reading and takes about four minutes. Take a read. I keep mine on my bulletin board behind my desktop at work as a reminder that reputation needs to be managed daily, if not hourly.
If you have not read “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership” in the November Harvard Business Review, I highly recommend it. It was written by Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. There are many lessons to be learned from the article that are reminders on how leadership drives meaning and in turn, purposeful reputation.
One of his lessons is about creating a link with the people you oversee or work with. Building a positive company reputation is often as simple as thoughtful communications from the top. It may be just a glance, a handshake or asking someone what they are doing over the holidays. Useem wrote about an incident when the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff visited his business classroom that is a good reminder of how the most ordinary gesture can communicate the extraordinary moment:
It is 10 minutes before class time, and many of the 65 first-year students are taking their assigned seats in a tiered classroom. The general strides into the room—four stars on his epaulets and a half-dozen staffers and security agents close behind. He walks straight to the first row and introduces himself to the nearest student. He shakes hands, exchanges a few personal words, and then moves on to the next student.
Making a personal connection from the top can have a tremendous impact on company or employer reputation. It forges a connection that transcends the everyday rapid fire activity and isolation of working behind a computer that many experience.
Useem’s example has special resonance. When I wrote my first book, CEO Capital, I used many examples of how CEOs build reputation. I used an example of symbolic CEO leadership that I had heard about upon joining my former agency. I had been told that on our CEO’s first day at work at the agency, he (Chris Komisarjevsky) shook hands with every single employee starting in the mailroom and working his way up to the 13th floor where senior management sat. When people wanted to explain to me what kind of company I was joining, they always used this example as a demonstration of the kind of personal leadership that I would witness from the top. It certainly reminds me of Useem’s classroom example.
As the year ends, I wonder how CEOs can more effectively build workplace reputations through communications, both tangible and intangible. It is important to figure out what really counts and will make the difference in keeping your best employees and getting them to go that extra mile.