Thoughts for Tuesday by Suzanne Bates

Doing the Right Thing

Posted on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

I was leading an executive presence seminar and asked a young leader to come to the front to share a story he'd told in his breakout session about boss he admired. A couple of years earlier, this young leader had been assigned the task of analyzing the competitive landscape for launching into a brand new market after a recent acquisition. The company had estimated it could leverage the resources of this new company to quickly produce a new product and, within a year or two, become number one or two.   

However, when the young leader ran the numbers, they didn't support that assumption. The competition was way ahead and pricing was already competitive. It was clear they could not invest enough to compete. He now had to go upstairs to the senior leadership team to tell them what they most certainly didn't want to hear.

After the SLT verified the analysis, they made a decision within a week or so to exit the business, though it had cost them a pretty penny to acquire and there would be an up front cost to sell. That's where the story gets interesting.

It would be months before the M&A team would be able put together a deal and find a buyer. The SLT could have kept quiet about it in the meantime, not signaling to anyone until they were ready that they'd made a mistake.  But this young man's boss's boss's boss didn't think that was right. He decided to go to the employees of the acquired company right away, to give them heads up that things looked uncertain, at best.

At the All Hands meeting, he openly admitted the company wasn't sure what was going to happen, or when, but said he had decided to meet with them and share the news, because he didn't want them to go out to buy expensive new cars or take out big mortgages. While I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant meeting, you have to admire such character and courage. Conventional wisdom might have counseled him to wait and say nothing. But he lived by a higher principle, to do right by people.  

Why did it have such an impact on the young leader standing there telling this story? He was amazed that a top leader in his company was wiling to risk so much to live by his values. We talked in the group setting about how it isn't enough to think of yourself as a person with integrity. You have to live by those principles, if you want to build trust. 

In our research on leadership presence we have noticed a fascinating correlation between qualities of leadership such as integrity, which matter most to winning trust and promoting goodwill, and qualities which are more about the way we communicate, qualities such as inclusiveness and interactivity. (See the Bates Executive Presence Model above.)

If you locate integrity, defined as "acting in accordance with ones values," take a pencil and draw a straight line over to interactivity, defined as "a timely exchange of information to coordinate action," and inclusiveness, defined as "broadening the circle, involving others and empowering initiative," you start to see the connection. The quality and frequency with which we interact with others enables them to see and experience our character. (Click to Tweet!) And when they experience this often enough, when we have to deliver bad news, they are more like to respect us, or give us the benefit of the doubt.

It struck me that day in the classroom that this young leader would not have even had the temerity to get up in front of his peers if he hadn't been moved emotionally by the experience. It stuck with him, that his boss's boss's boss, a leader they all know, had made that choice. He talked openly about how it had changed him and informed the way he treats his own people. As he moves up through the organization, that's a lesson he will never forget and it will be contagious, permeating every team he leads.  

By the way, that story also got a big ovation.

If you're curious about the Model and our ExPI Assessment, which measures these facets in leaders, check out more information on our website: 

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Photos: 2012 Boston Chamber Pinnacle Awards

Posted on Mon, Jan 30, 2012

Photo Gallery - 2012 Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award Ceremony

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Tags: bates communications, suzanne bates

As the Year Comes to a Close...

Posted on Sat, Dec 17, 2011

This time of year it's a race to the finish line, isn't it? You get up in the morning slightly hazy from holiday parties after too many spirits and too little sleep.  You race to the office to wrap up whatever you can, send out greetings to clients and friends, hoping (ridiculously) to clear your inbox before the office closes. It's a losing battle. The inbox doesn't know or care about your plans to sleep in and find peace.

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Tags: suzanne bates

A Roadside Conversation - A Leader's Story

Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011

Speaking to the graduating class last year at Princeton University, Founder Jeff Bezos shared a story about a long drive in Texas with his grandparents.  He was ten years old at the time.

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Tags: leadership communication, leadership development

Okay, I Will Write About Women Executives, But I Hate That I Have To

Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2011

As a woman who writes about leadership, I get invited to talk to a LOT of women's groups. It's fun,  A glass of Pinot Grigio, a little conversation about Jimmy Choos, what could be better?  I really really really really WANT to be part of the conversation... helping women succeed. Hey, I can still remember being the first woman to anchor a newscast (my first job).  I can remember reporting from the Moscone Center when Geraldine Ferraro was introduced as Walter Mondale's running mate.  I had tears in my eyes.

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Tags: In the CEO Seat

Dusting the Money

Posted on Mon, Nov 7, 2011

It was one of the craziest things I ever have done.  Or been talked into doing.  In college, my sorority, normally a cozy haven of afternoons (after class) filled with hot tea, girl talk, and blankets in front of a soap opera, was disrupted by the intrusion of real life. Girls noticed that their money was missing.  Several of us, over several weeks.  We had a thief in house.  That's right, a bonafide, wallet-lifting sister who was helping herself to our beer money.    

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Tags: Thoughts for Tuesday

You, Last?

Posted on Sun, Oct 2, 2011

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Tags: Thoughts for Tuesday, leadership development

B3 Alert: Brand Builder - JetBlue's David Barger

Posted on Fri, Sep 30, 2011

Brand Builder- JetBlue's David Barger

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Tags: CEO Brand, CEO, Discover Your CEO Brand

B3 Brand Bubble Alert: HP's Meg Whitman

Posted on Fri, Sep 30, 2011

Brand Bubble- HP's Meg Whitman

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Tags: Discover Your CEO Brand

How to Help Leaders and Learners Brand Themselves

Posted on Fri, Sep 23, 2011

I had the honor of being interviewed for Chief Learning Officer Magazine recently on leadership branding. Check out the article here:
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