Every obstacle, management change, and company shakeup is a chance for rebranding and again proving why your organization is regarded as a thought leader in its respective discipline—or is that an ideal world?
In a time of mergers, realignments, and acquisitions, companies across industries are faced with a common problem: image management. Stakeholders and competitors alike are waiting to see the results of a recent fire or hire. Employees are waiting to determine their own job security. Stockholders are determining whether to jump ship or invest more. Whether a good or bad decision, a faulty public relations and media strategy will be the deciding tell-tale sign of an image battle.
However, there is a way to beat the media frenzy and ease tension on the home front: leadership. A clear face with a capable strategy not only enables performance, but maintains company image.
Let’s look at an example.
Remember that search engine, Yahoo? In 2012 Marrisa Mayer took over the failing company and inherited a full plate of delinquencies, few wins, high expectations, and a tech world waiting to see if she is all that she has been hyped up to be. To ignite her media frenzy, early this year she made an incredible call to fire her second in command, her COO, Henrique De Castro. Now firing a COO is something that is an optional news story, but this one got preferential treatment. Why, you ask? It was Mayer’s handpicked first major hire that she fired, not someone left on board from the prior regime.
The point should be clear with such a major decision there was going to be rift, but how Mayer handled it reminds us of why she is leading the failing tech tycoon, Yahoo! Mayer touted what the company had been able to accomplish to date under her watch. She defused the situation by suggesting De Castro was simply not a fit and supported her remarks by not yet hiring a new COO. Mayer’s ability to transition De Castro without the situation going nuclear, attests to an effective in house and internal media strategy. It’s too soon to tell whether her decision was the right one. Nevertheless, she handled it with grace and prevented mayhem.
Whenever I am facilitating a leadership transition, there are three things I emphasis to organizational leaders:
1. Leadership changes should be clearly communicated.
Take control of the one thing you can control, the initial message. Be humane; allow the exiting leader to bow out gracefully by highlighting the achievements of their tenure, while heavily focusing on what’s next! It’s okay to say things didn’t go like we wanted them to. People know this to be true or you wouldn’t be having a transition in leadership.
2. Communicate to your team.
There is nothing more damning to morale than employees finding out company news on the 6 o clock news beat. Let them feel engaged by communicating transitions to them first. My mom always said, let me find out you had detention before the entire PTA does.
3. Be confident and decisive.
Everyone can tell when a leader isn’t sure of what they decided. Keep consistent talking points that are planned around versatile questions. Reassure the affected team of your support by meeting with them and hearing their concerns.
In a world where everything is public, leadership changes must be planned or perceived to be. A great PR team is awesome, but it can never replace a well-prepared leader. The reality must be clear. Leadership is a dying art, but is the only answer to solving the new challenges of 21st century business.