Wednesday, April 29, 2009

CEO's:Make a plan. Execute a plan. Modify the plan

This economy makes leaders skittish about planning. What does the future hold? How do we prepare for the future in this volatile economy? How do we know what the right strategic investments are? The 2010 planning season is around the corner. Airlift knows it is better to have a plan and modify the plan, than to have no plan at all.

Here some planning principles you can deploy today to help you achieve your goals?

Engage a Cross-Functional thought leadership mantra
The best way to achieve a plan is to have your direct reports all play a key role in the planning process. Have a vision and some key metrics you want to achieve. Then allow the team to come together with their best thinking to develop the plan. After all they need to execute. Remember people help support what they help create.

2) Grow from your core strengths
Grow because you know who you are in the market and how you are going to compete to win. It might feel a bit scary to focus. Fear a competitor is gaining share is normal. But if you keep your team focused on the reason you are in business, new ideas can come from this thought.

3) Hold leaders accountable for their function and cross functional role in making the plan come alive – metrics
While success has many inventors and failure has none, the success of your plan will be the leadership team’s ability to make it happen. Establish quarterly reviews to check progress. Reward a job well, done, new ideas and even failures. It is the failures that will take the firm to the next level because we learn from our mistakes.

4) Keep your eyes wide open. Listen to new voices. Get outsiders in to help.
Once the plan is underway, it is possible a competitor comes out with a shiny new penny that can be distractive. Stay the course. If you assessed the market right going in, you can still achieve the plan despite a competitive entry in the market. However, when we get complacent and think we have all the answers, we may miss a new insight or idea. Stay open minded but keep the team focused to win. Brands like
Daily Candy help leaders see first hand what consumers look for in new ideas.

5) Be ready to change the plan on a dime
A year ago, none of us would have predicted
GM would be in this financial situation or a brand like Pontiac would seek to exist. We must be ready to change if the market presents dramatic new market conditions.

Finally, make time to celebrate even the small wins. Executing a plan is a marathon and even your senior people need to know you notice their contributions.

What are some best practices you have deployed for planning?
What works? What does not work?

Give us a shout so we can share your great planning tips. Comment in our blog, e mail at or give us a call.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CEO’s: New brands can pop up over night

Be positive. New brands can be born overnight even in this economy. In this down economy, optimism is still a brand people want to buy.

Amidst crisis after crisis in the world news, we got a dose of optimism last week with the fastest growing brand in the world “Susan Boyle.” Who is she and where did she come from? Susan Boyle is a Scottish spinster who surprised the delighted
Simon Cowell at last weeks Britain’s Got Talent. She walks out on stage to sneers from the youthful audience and eye-rolling from the famous judges. Then, after a meek introduction she belts out in perfect pitch one of the most difficult songs to sing, “I’ve Dreamed a Dream.”

If you haven't, then take a minute and look
at the clip to understand the pure power of what a never give-up on your dreams spirit looks like. How do we know Susan Boyle brand story is worth watching?

1. Overnight, out of nowhere, people are searching the virtual world to be part of this optimistic sensation called Susan Boyle. The search has warranted over 12.5 million Google hits in one week. Instant brand power.

2. The brand, Susan Boyle has a quality product- perfect pitch

3. She has a loyal fan base of people that want her to win. They want her to win so much so, they created a website for her.

4. Susan is authentic--her look, values and humble beginnings make Susan a brand worth loving. Susan is the real deal.

5. She had a cause. Upon her mother’s death bed and recent passing, Susan told her mom she would try to sing in front of others. It was her dream. Dreams really do come true.

Stop letting negative economic news get in the way of developing inspiring new brands. Growth is right in front of you. Let’s talk about the brand story of Susan Boyle. Send us a note in our blog. Call us to chat or jot us a note. 312.492.7772

Sunday, April 12, 2009

CEO's: The Importance of Social Networks

Take a few seconds to reflect on the communication tools used to accomplish your daily routines. Phone and email are most likely included as the primary outlets for communicating with clients and employees. This provides a comforting sense of “privacy” – information will only reach the intended parties. However, social communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook promote easy sharing - making information less likely to remain confined to the original email or phone silo.

Looking at a longitudinal study conducted by the
University of Massachusetts between 2007 and 2008 demonstrates the communication shift from “privacy” to “sharing” even at the executive level. The study examines social media involvement among executives at companies listed in Inc. Magazine’s popular “500” list. Companies included in the “Inc. 500” – the fastest growing private enterprises – experienced tremendous increase in social media adoption, boasting the following numbers:

· Social networking adoption increased from 27% in 2007 to 49% in 2008
· Blogging use reached 39% from a 19% level in 2007
· Corporate online video use grew to 45% from 24% in 2007

The increasing importance of adoption is evident but a number of questions still remain for executives before the sharing frenzy commences. For example, questions such as “What does an effective social media campaign look like for executive?” or “How much time will “sharing” consume and what types of information are appropriate?” need to be answered upfront. Examining the Twitter accounts of investor and Amazon co-founder
Steve Case or Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh – there is an obvious emphasis on distributing news and resending tweets from other users. This practice demonstrates executive “listening” while avoiding the inevitable confrontation occurring from direct conversation.

Below are some considerations for effectively incorporating social media into daily communication practices.

How Can Social Media help C-Level Executives?

1. Decisions require data. All Executives are deciosn makers. Aggregating customer and employee feedback into
a single location makes analysis and monitoring more efficient.
2. Reach everyone. Your “State of the Union” should reach the entire union. Corporate wide updates should not die a slow death on intranets or email. Duplicate the message via video, audio, or a blog post if for no other reason than because President Obama
does the same.
3. Crowdsource decisions. Nothing establishes corporate and customer loyalty more than allowing all levels to participate in the
decision making process as you are developing ideas.
4. Capture and distributing knowledge. Building a corporate blog is not feasible for every CEO but some form of participation increases humanity. Check out
ExecTweets to see what other executives share with customers and employees.
5. Business expansion. Participating in an online community allows your network to grow. Common sense but overlooked as valuable tool for expanding your business.

Airlift Ideas relationship partner in social media; Get Talked about. Contributors Andy Angelos and Marty Hitzeman are co-founders of Get Talked About – a Chicago based firm dedicated helping companies create, execute, and manage creative online conversations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

CEO’s: How fast can you change?

Last week, NATO World Leaders met in London to discuss the global economy. Expectations were high as the world waits for the secret answers to the economic turn-around.

Some skeptics say, “But what did they do there?” The Leaders knew they accomplished a lot. When was the last time you led a meeting with 20 people from 20 countries whom you had never met and by the way, all speak different languages?

Reports say that after three days together, these world leaders only spent 8 hours in total in meetings. So what did they achieve in the eight hours?

~~Agreed to change the rules of regulation and compliance on capitalism

~~Agreed to develop an organization to serve as a watch-dog (not a regulator) against reckless investments
~~Agreed to regulation on Executive Pay that is deemed reckless and out of sync with average company pay. For example, CEO’s who earn 500 times their employee should only earn this if they created huge new markets and great wealth for an enterprise. This level of pay should not be earned just because of a job title. For example, the case of AIG where some Executives received high bonuses even though they were leading a failing organization – we’re glad most of them returned the dough.
~~Agreed to monitor tax haven products and level the playing field for tax shelters.
~~Agreed to give One Trillion Dollars to stimulate the global economy by selling gold reserves. Did you know One Trillion is 10 to the twelfth power - That is how big one trillion dollars is!!!

President Obama called for “unprecedented coordination” to make the changes occur. From all accounts, it looks like the success of the meetings did in fact achieve this.

Fareed Zakaria of CNN had a QA to address many of these questions and more.

What they did not accomplish in this three-day meeting? Was a single answer to the global economic downturn problem or a clear architecture address? No...but they are well on their way through team work, open dialogue and a will to solve it together. Sound familiar?

Since metrics are paramount to any change management effort, we can analyze consumer confidence level scores and the “market” to understand the impact of decisions coming from this meeting. The market responded favorably last week and rallied up each day the leaders met. Obama’s approval rating is high as well. Clearly, people seek confident, optimistic leaders in these times.

So how does this apply to you?
A new brand story drives strategic change. In this example, Leaders from the top 20 nations are gathered to work together to improve lives, economic stability and revitalize the world, together. This IS THE strategic shift --20 nations coming together on global issues, fast.

Similarly, as markets shift and your organization finds a need to be nimbler to compete in this economy, what are you doing to collaborate on crafting a new and more relevant brand story for your firm.

1. When was the last time you accomplished all that in eight hours?

2. What three things should a leader do to collaborate and make critical change happen, fast?

3. What are the barriers to achieving real lasting beneficial change in your organization?

Any ideas?

Let us at Airlift know. Comment on our blog.
Or you can reach us at or call us at 312.492.7772.

Source: CNN International News