Friday, February 19, 2010

Lessons from Tiger & Toyota: When defending corporate reputation and brand, speed is critical to success

Businesses and brands build trust with every action they take and or don’t take. This is especially true when they are beneath the microscope of public scrutiny.

Two events have come together this week that give us reason to reconsider conventional methods of public response to reputational crises – the long-awaited apology by golfer Tiger Woods and the begrudging agreement of Toyota Motor’s President Akio Toyoda to come to the U.S. to testify before Congress.

About 90 days ago, the carefully crafted public image of the world’s greatest golfer began to unravel and spiral downward when revelations of marital infidelity began to surface and were confirmed.

We saw thousands of photos of his wife, children, homes, fellow golfers, countless women claiming to have been involved with him, but we never saw or heard from Tiger himself in a timely manner. The world was clamoring to hear directly from him, a trusted and deeply admired world-class athlete. Because we didn’t hear from him immediately, the story kept getting bigger, wilder and with others jumping in to fill in (fabricate) the missing information in the continuing story. All of this resulted in huge public disappointment in their sports hero and the subsequent loss of major sponsorships. More importantly, his reputation lay in tatters.

As it relates to Toyota CEO, Akio Toyoda, until the recent disclosures of deaths caused by accelerating gas pedals and numerous recalls, Toyota was viewed as the global automotive leader whose cars were reliable, dependable and trusted. And yet, in the unfolding global news story, we have learned that months and months went by before Toyota took action. Their lack of urgency in getting the facts or grasping the severity of the situation resulted in fatalities and a reputational fall from grace. Their silence resulted in an epic public relations disaster…one for the case history books. Was the silence worth it? At last count, Toyota’s has a $3B loss on their balance sheets.

Yes, building or maintaining trust is about transparency. However, in today’s 24/7 world, speed of disclosure is as important, if not more important, as transparency. Embattled leaders and companies must not underestimate the power of moving quickly to communicate and have their voice heard. If you don’t start to tell your story, others will speculate and fill in the blanks.
So what should leaders do if an unfortunate event happens to erode your trust bank?

1. Gather the facts quickly and try to buy time by putting a stake in the ground on what you know or don’t know.
2. Tell the media and other stakeholders how long it will take to get the facts, the process and why
3. Admit guilt and give an authentic apology. People are human and we can and do forgive leaders and businesses when sincerity is expressed with a promise of action
4. Talk about impact and repercussions publicly. CBS let David Letterman offer an apology on-air for infidelity with a co-worker. His brand may be bruised, but he is still on- the- air. What does that say to your employees?
5. Reiterate your moral compass and ethical code in an internally as well as externally. Your employees want to know where you stand.

Rebuilding trust is not difficult to do when you do right by your customer, people and shareholders. It takes years to restore reputations. Don’t forget that speed in disclosure and a timely and genuine apology go a long way to help stem the negative impact to your business.

Contact Airlift today about your reputation. We help leaders craft sustainable growth through inspiring stories. or (01) 312.492.7772

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting Results From Processes, Systems, Procedures. It used to be so simple!

The New Moment Of Truth. This is not the usual definition of where your Brand intersects with the Customer. This is where your company’s activities intersect with your results. You look at your sales, profit, market-share and customer satisfaction scores. Are you looking at how those numbers are achieved?

Each system and process is designed to a particular result depending on how well it is used. In times of high change it is much easier to work on the systems you have rather than create and educate your system on new ones. It’s time for some diagnostic work.

1. Make a simple list of your key metrics. Call out the systems or processes that feed into each metric.

2. Look at your most critical metric first and detail the people who drive the processes. Pull them together and ask a simple question. “What do we have to do differently for this process to generate different results?”

3. Engage your people to find the gap, the missing piece, the wasted effort and they will own the results. And you will get the returns the process is designed to deliver.

4. Take work-out of your processes so you don't pile on more work while you have the right business-driving process.

Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Allied Signal, learned about productivity. “So it was a shock when I got to Allied Signal. I wasn't prepared for the malaise I found. The company had lots bright people, but they weren't effective, and they didn't place a premium on getting things done.” When a company’s systems and processes are working well, stellar business results can be achieved.

At Airlift Ideas, we are experts at diagnosing systems, processes, the results they produce, and the people involved. We help teams achieve greatness through their brand story and improved process efforts.

Contact us to help you today.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CEO’s: Is there Gender Parity in Your Firm?

The topic of women in leading roles in business has resurfaced in a major way in 2010. This year on of the key topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was gender parity. Women and their role in corporate America are on the minds of global leaders. Today in the UK, pay for women is -22% below their male counterparts. Women in the US are -13% below men for similar jobs and account for only 2% of board posts in the us. If over 50% of today's college graduates are women, why aren't they staying in the work force at the executive levels?

While we are making progress, we need to do more. So what's the problem?

The Insead Global Leadership Center conducted a robust research project to drill down on the issues. Here are some headlines:

  • Women have had to make trade -offs of family over jobs

  • For this trade off, they loose speed and power on the fast track

  • Women hesitate to go out on a limb alone as their prefer to network

  • Women are visionary but in a different way

  • Women are reluctant to be assertive due to stereotyping

  • Women don't put much stock in vision as they do getting things done

All in all, 22,244 observers contributed and evaluated the 10 dimensions of leadership: emotional intelligence, empowering,,, energizing, envisioning, global mindset, organizational design, outside orientation, rewarding and feedback, team building and tenacity.

So what are leaders doing?

Google, Coca-Cola, WPP, Bain Consulting, Nissan responded with the insights that question conventional wisdom and have been successful in their firms.

  1. Make Women and women leaders s a strategic imperative
  2. Develop a women's leadership council that has a voice to the CEO
  3. Listen for understanding
  4. Break the rigidity of your rules
  5. Set metrics and hold people accountable

While it will be challenging to change the mindset of today's work force, leaders must lay a foundation for the next generation of women to success in your business.

What ideas do you have to begin to make the changes needed to create more gender parity?

Let us know or call 312.492.7772