Posts Tagged ‘women executives’

The Merger and Acquisition challenge: Talking it Through

cgi logoDonna Morea, president of CGI Group Inc.’s U.S., Europe and Asia business was kind enough to share her thoughts with me on how effective, personal communication by a CEO can make the difference between a successful merger and acquisition and a failed one. You’ll find Ms. Morea’s insights in the latest edition of my column in the Washington Business Journal, Speaking to Rise. (The full text may be locked for a week or two.)

Here’s a sample of what she had to say: “I think it’s mandatory that employees, clients and others hear the voices and see the faces of the executives involved. Interaction with our leadership team gives them the chance not only to hear the message, but to get a true sense of who our executives are and that we mean what we say.”

Women Executives: Presentation Tips

WBJ logoThe latest edition of my column in the Washington Business Journal, Speaking to Rise, focuses on the special challenges facing women executives when they give speeches and presentations. Kathy Clark, CEO of Smarthinking Inc., along with
communications strategists Susan Peterson and Denise Graveline offer observations.

For example, Clark notes that  “Sometimes women fear that because we’re women, if we share personal things, we’ll be perceived as not being professional. In my experience, it’s just the opposite.”

A New CEO Rescues the Red Cross

am-red-cross-logoWhen Gail McGovern became President of the American Red Cross in June 2008, the easiest problem she faced was how to close an operating deficit of $209 million within two years.

The really tough problems included (in her own words) “eight named hurricanes and tropical storms … a record tornado season, the worst wildfires in California history and the worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years.” Oh yeah, and she took the job just before an historic economic meltdown that made more people want Red Cross help, and fewer people want to make contributions.

By most accounts, she’s doing a good job, and she certainly knows how to use a speech to support Red Cross turnaround efforts. Check out her July talk at the National Press Club.

It’s a great mix that that combines specific things the Red Cross is doing (layoffs, new grass roots techniques, twitter, etc.) with a powerful vision for going forward:

You can easily imagine a world where the Obama administration’s United we Serve initiative is the beginning of a new era of volunteerism and service where a culture of service extends from retired baby boomers to tomorrow’s teens. The power of volunteerism is incredible, because through volunteerism, you can change the lives of others, starting with your own.”

McGovern was a former top business executive at AT&T, Fidelity Investments, and other top corporations. Struggling executives in the private sector she left behind could learn a lot from the great communications example she’s setting in the nonprofit world.

Lesson’s from Xerox’s Turnaround CEO

This summer, Anne M. Mulcahy retires as CEO of Xerox Corporation, after turning what looked like a moribund company into a success story. When she took over in 2001, the company had almost $19 billion in debt, revenues were in a double-digit freefall, and the stock was taking a beating. She turned things around quickly, with earnings reaching $978 million on $15.7 billion in revenue in 2005, and core debt eliminated by 2006.xerox-annemulcahy_2008-12-02podium2

One of the most important reasons for her turnaround success was her ability to inspire two absolutely critical audiences – Xerox customers and employees. Both were alienated –to say the least– when she took over.

MIT has a fascinating video of Mulcahy sharing the lessons of the Xerox turnaround (part of the Dean’s Innovative Leader Series at MIT). It’s well worth a look.

In her talk, Mulcahy links just about everything to her focus on customers and employees. She started by actively listening to what they had to say, looked hard for critical feedback, and acted on what she learned.

She stressed that even in the midst of a crisis , a CEO must articulate a vision for the company, one that goes beyond just coping with that day’s crisis. Employees must feel that the company is worth saving. She says, “When people ask me how this company made so much progress so quickly.. .The reality is: it was the alignment of the people around a common set of goals.”

Mulcahy will be succeeded by Ursula Burns, who will make history as the first female African American CEO of a Fortune 150 company. As  Robert Bruner, dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says, “Ursula has very big shoes to fill.”

Quick Q&A with ….. Susan Rink, on getting CEO-employee communication right

Susan C. Rink principal of Rink Strategic Communications, which specializes in effective internal communications to drive employee engagement, shares her thoughts on what a CEO needs to do to communicate with employees during this economic down turn.

JP:What are the most common mistakes you see executives making?

SR:There is a mistake you see a lot in traditional, hierarchical companies where executive counsel has devolved into pandering. These executives base their employee messaging on highly-sanitized feedback, rather than unfiltered comments from their workforce. Smart executives want to hear what their employees are really saying even if the comments are unflattering, so they can address real concerns.

JP:Who is the best messenger for delivering bad news to employees?

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