Jul
30

New CEO doesn’t want to “shut the door and whisper”

Posted By Steve | July 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently.

Communicators everywhere should print it out, put it in an envelope marked: “Read this if you want this organization to succeed,” and slip it under their chief executive’s office door.”

Better yet, staple it to his forehead.

The story is about how Laura Lang, the new CEO of Time, Inc., spent her first months on the job.

Most CEOs spend those first crucial months huddled with the most senior of the senior leadership. They get their opinions, figure out who they trust, who has to go . . . and most important, who they are going to listen to.

Without even realizing it, these CEOS are constructing their “executive bubble”—that invisible-but-real cone of silence that almost always settles over the CEO’s office and prevents any information and/or questions from employees from getting in.

Oh, sure, a new executive may hold a Town Hall or two with employees to announce her Bold Vision . . . but they rarely field tough questions from employees.

Not Lang. Instead of huddling only with senior executives and then spewing bromides at employees, she spent the overwhelming majority of her time talking to . . . get ready for it . . . employees!!

According to the Times:

“In her first couple months as chief executive of Time, Inc.,the country’s largest magazine publisher, Laura Lang took some time to hold town hall style meetings and field questions from many of the company’s 9,000 employees.”

And since the company is hemorrhaging money, employees had plenty of tough questions, including:

“Do you think print is dead?”

“Will magazines survive?”

“Why did you come here?”

Lang didn’t duck the tough questions. In fact, it seems as if she asked for more.

According to the Times, Lang “quietly devoted her first months on the job to talking to employees. She traveled to Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and London to meet with them. She convened senior executives in New York to review each magazine and assess what each one needs to thrive in a digital world. “

The best thing about the article was Lang’s quote about why she chose to spend her first crucial months on the job talking to employees:

“The point of the process was to say we’re not going away in a room and shutting the door and whispering,” Ms. Lang said.

Not shutting the door and whispering. Beautiful.

Compare that to this quote, from the new CEO of a major, Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company:

“I’m going to spend the first nine months on the job huddled in my office, or at off-site retreats with senior leaders. We are going to develop a new ‘mission statement,’ ‘vision,’ and 32 new ‘guiding principles’ for this organization. We are going to develop a really cool graphic of a three-legged stool sitting inside a pyramid that is resting on a Greek temple in order to illustrate our new operating philosophy. We are going to put that graphic on posters, and we’re going to put those posters in every facility. When it’s finally ready, probably a year or so after I’ve been on the job, I will hold a Web-based Town Hall to announce it, despite the fact that most of our employees don’t sit at computers and won’t be able to watch. Then we’re going to rely on harried over-worked, stressed-out middle managers who don’t understand the philosophy in the first place to communicate it to employees.”

Okay . . . no CEO ever said they were going to do that.

But hundreds of them have done it.

 

leave a comment


Comments (2)

steveJuly 30, 2012 at 10:52 am
 

Kristen: you're right . . . I hope she builds on what she learned and uses it . . . and keeps the conversation going, either face to face on or on internal social media. The problem is, the company is in tons of trouble, and all the great communication in the world may not be able to help. But it certainly won't hurt!!!

 
Kristen RidleyJuly 30, 2012 at 10:50 am
 

That is pretty awesome. Sounds like those employees got a good one in Ms. Lang.

It would be interesting to be able to check back ina year and see what's going on at that poi t

 

low hanging fruit newsletter

Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter! Learn and laugh all at the same time!

recent posts

conferences, workshops & webinars

August 14 - 15, 2014

Storytelling Bootcamp for Internal Communicators

Chicago, IL, USA

A hands-on workshop to boost your writing, video and social media skills

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

This is not your typical conference or workshop. Come prepared to work on deadline as you complete multiple, simultaneous assignments. Summer boot camp lasts just two days, and there’s plenty of work to get done!

Ragan Communications Workshop: Storytelling Bootcamp for Internal Communicators

September 16, 2014

Employee communications 3.0: Welcome to the revolution!

New Orleans, LA, USA

IABC New Orleans Luncheon
12:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m.

Integrating new and traditional media to reach, educate, engage and motivate your most important audience: Employees 

In this fun session, leading employee communications expert Steve Crescenzo will share dozens of practical case studies from companies that are using both new and traditional media in creative, effective ways that are making a difference inside their organizations.

September 17, 2014

Employee communications 3.0: Welcome to the revolution

Purchase, NY 10577, USA

Integrate new and traditional media to reach, educate, engage and motivate your most important audience: employees

 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

In this fun session, leading employee communications expert Steve Crescenzo will share dozens of practical case studies from companies that use new and traditional media in creative ways that make a difference internally.

Ragan Communications Conference: The Role of Communications in Creating an Engaged and Collaborative Workforce

September 18, 2014

The communicator’s critical role in creating employee engagement

Purchase, NY 10577, USA

Opening Keynote

 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Creating an engaged workforce is a complicated process that involves the entire organization—from leaders and managers to HR and communications. The question is where does communications fit in? What is our role? What can we do to get employee engagement?

Ragan Communications Conference: The Role of Communications in Creating an Engaged and Collaborative Workforce