A few years ago, we began working with a business unit CIO of a mature, publicly traded global technology company.  This company has been challenged by tensions between their long-term needs and short-term realities.  Over the long haul, they need to maintain a continuous improvement focus on innovation, but they can’t do so at the expense of the more pressing issue of quarterly profitability targets.  They also faced issues with attrition: Because they are a more mature company than, say, Google, they were perceived as a less innovative environment and thus less attractive to the shrinking crop of tech talent. The company liked to think of itself as a cutting-edge enterprise, but the reality was that they sometimes found it challenging to be that sort of company. 

Business Problem

While competitors boasted modern work environments and an emphasis on employee innovation, people at this CIO’s company were sitting in cubicles, wondering why it was so hard to make things happen.  As part of a broader effort to further refine and enhance this CIO’s communication style, we considered how to best define how to emphasize innovation—both as a recruiting tool and a way to remind their customers that they were indeed on the cutting edge of technology.

Bates Approach

Bearing the CIO’s goals in mind, we began by working on his communication strategy, style, and delivery. We helped him to weave his message of innovation into conversations with senior leadership and employees. To this end, we assisted him in how to stay “out of the weeds” and best present the survey data at a strategic level.  In particular, we focused on how this executive can communicate findings to create actionable insights and initiatives, particularly important given his own boss’s focus on execution.

As we always do, we used coaching to turn his real-time business problems as opportunities to fulfill his action plan goals.   Recently, he was asked to lead a group of CEOs in discussion at a technology conference.  The audience included several major tech players who were customers or prospects for his company.  It was a great opportunity for the company to show an important audience that they have real cutting-edge insights on technological innovation. Using our Audience Agenda tool, we helped him devise effective, on-point questions for the CEOs.  Through his questioning of these executives, he was able to publicly identify the pressure of long-term thinking and innovation, how they were solving for the innovation problem, and what strides they were making toward remaining competitive.

Outcomes

Our client described the discussion as a home run. The customers walked away with a new perspective on the company and its goals. They could see that they were partnered with a winner.  Simultaneously, they made their customers aware of some of the less obvious innovative steps they were taking as a company.

The presentation was just one piece of a larger puzzle. Since the panel, we’ve helped our client use his communication strategy to develop conversations with senior leadership even further as he continues to communicate at company locations around the world.   

Lessons

  • To convert your vision and goals into actionable results, look no further than your calendar for opportunities to make it happen.   Changing how your team and your customers perceive your culture may seem to be an overwhelming goal.   Climb that mountain a little at a time by seizing opportunities on your calendar related to the objective.
  • When you need to address concerns from an important audience, public speaking events are great opportunities to reframe how people think about you and your organization.  When you develop, practice, and deliver a powerful, on-point message that confronts concerns head-on, you’re showing your audience that you really get what matters most to them.

Working together, we’ve helped this executive in his efforts to position his company as an innovative thought leader in technology—an important differentiator from the perspective of both talent and customer perceptions. 




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