“More than anything else…people want to hear stories!”
― James Rosebush, Winning Your Audience: Deliver a Message with the Confidence of a President
James Rosebush knows a thing or two about effective communication. A former senior aide to President Ronald Reagan, known as “The Great Communicator,” James is a coach of public speaking who has given hundreds of speeches to audiences worldwide. In his latest book, Winning Your Audience: Deliver a Message with the Confidence of a President, James draws on his decades of experience working with presidents, politicians, and business leaders to teach others the art of impactful oration. One reviewer called Winning Your Audience “the new bible for public speaking.”
InterimExecs spoke with James about his experience working with President Reagan, the new challenges facing leaders, how Millennials’ can advance their careers, the way to command an audience even when you’re not in the same room together, and how to overcome fear of public speaking.
Can “good” HR be a strategic advantage in a crisis?
Through the largest and longest bull market in history, many business leaders continued to dismiss the human resources (HR) function as an operational, and largely administrative function. HR’s activities can appear to be – and often are – disconnected from the “real work” of an organization. But effective HR leadership is so much more, and can be a strategic advantage as businesses deal with the COVID pandemic. Let’s unpeel the several roles of HR to better understand how it can contribute.
There are plenty of new challenges to keeping a
company afloat while the world endures the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Here are just a few:
- Applying for
government assistance to keep paying payroll.
- Developing a
work-from-home system for employees following stay-at-home orders.
- Working out
accommodations and new digital venues with customers and suppliers that will
help everyone come through a cataclysmic crisis still in business.
Add to the list a new one: Cyber security threats.
InterimExecs RED Team executive and CISO, Zeeshan Kazmi, says times like these are prime for opportunistic hackers.
Just look at financial technology company, Finastra, to see a cyber security nightmare in action. After coronavirus hit, the company was in the middle of developing an emergency plan to operate when hackers found a backdoor into their servers. Malware quickly spread locking down server after server on their network, taking down many of their customers which include 90 of the world’s top 100 banks.
“We haven’t taken cyber security threats as seriously as they should be taken,” says Kazmi, who has spent 15 years working in the cyber security space. “Companies have been reactive. They protected their business transactions and their reputation. It became a corporate risk management function.”
World War II was devastating Europe. Bombs unleashed death
and destruction across London. The Allies could barely secure a beach head in
Normandy. Undaunted in those dark days, visionary leaders dreamed of a brighter
future when the world would emerge from the deadly carnage, and imagined the
structure of a post World War II world.
Businesses throughout the world now confront a different kind of mortal enemy, but equally deadly and disruptive in its own way. This microscopic virus is virtually invisible, knows no borders, and is agnostic to any demographic. It confines us all to our homes, burying loved ones dying senselessly for no cause and way too soon, and upending our work and home lives. Just as our forbearers prepared for a new world order once the terror of their present one surrendered, we now have some time to humbly roll up our sleeves and get ready for what awaits us on the other side once the pandemic is finally vanquished.
Many of the thoughts in this article are hardly novel, and really simply continue if not accelerate existing trends. Some ideas may seem like logical outgrowths of the pandemic provided they remain emblazed in our consciousness. Others may be dismissed as unrealistic or overly dramatic and alarmist.
No one, however, can doubt a few things. Our lives and approaches to work, our society and business will change, some for the better, others not. Like inventions, there are unintended consequences and manifestations, many of which we cannot now foresee. Finally, and most obvious as we emerge from this Act of God– man may make plans, but God just laughs.
While many companies are facing new challenges and increasing volatility, we’ve found that most leaders’ responses and outcomes tend to be unique. While quarantined with COVID-19, Todd Herman, author of The Alter Ego Effect, decided to interview 29 CEOs to hear how they described their circumstances.
Each company was experiencing a downturn. Herman analyzed each CEO’s word choice and language to see how they were reacting, noting the importance of a leader’s pronouncements: “words create reality.” He saw big differences in how executives were wired and reacted to the economic rollercoaster. His findings led him to divide the CEOs into three groups:
Fear-Focused CEOs – emotional, concerned, and overwhelmed. Tended to use negative future pacing words like ‘struggle’, ‘fear’, ‘hard’, or ‘difficult’. Spent the most time watching media or finger pointing rather than what could be done.
Unfocused CEOs – dismissive, uncertain, wait and see. Talked about getting a plan, but tended to use the word ‘plan’ in a negative or needs-based way.
Strategy Focused CEOs – take and use what’s given, focused on growth/opportunity. Positive. Spending time leaning into networks.
The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is
showing that crises tend to bring out the worst—and the best—in people.
Amid frenzied panic buying, supply hoarding, and finger-pointing, we’re also seeing individuals and businesses step up to help others. If the cloud hovering over the economic system has a silver lining, it’s that temporary changes to how companies define their mission statement could become permanent. Instead of focusing only on their bottom line, businesses might emerge from the crisis more focused on the greater good. In fact, many companies are already leading the way and providing inspiration during these uncertain times.
Jen Giacchino was working as a recruiter in tech and every company seemed to be facing the same hurdle: how to hire women and with diversity, build an even stronger team. “Before I was a recruiter I just assumed there was a lot of gender bias in the hiring process, but when I got there I realized that a lot of these companies are desperate to hire women, and I saw that there were not a lot of women in the pipeline to be hired,” Jen says.
After volunteering with an after-school program for girls taking computer science classes, she realized that many of these young girls in seventh and eighth grade had a high aptitude toward learning tech programs but were lacking in confidence. As technology is actively impacting more and more of our daily lives from how we engage with communities and family, to how we perceive ourselves through social media, something had to change.
Jen dove into research and began engaging with the community to see what could be done. She ultimately teamed up with two other women, Dr. Emily Harburg and Anna Bethune, who were both passionate about closing the gender gap and empowering girls in tech. Emily and Anna were also concurrently pursuing PhDs looking at challenges from how to develop a confidence mindset in girls around technology to how best to integrate technology into education systems when kids don’t have prior access.
Leadership was a prominent topic at InterimExecs’ latest Rapid Executive Deployment (RED) Roundtable event in Chicago. Panel experts discussed leadership early and often as they reflected on change initiatives, the impact of automation on executives and workforces, and the values that make great executive leaders.
A recurring theme that cut across speakers and topics was the importance of having the right team in place, starting at the top. Executives set the tone for the entire company. Their values trickle down and play an outsized role in the organization’s success or failure.
“The message from our perspective is that if we have the right team and the right value set, I think any company can find a position and outmaneuver the competition,” said Greg Jones, Managing Partner at the Edgewater Fund, who spoke on day two of the Roundtable with Brian Boorstein of Granite Creek Capital Partners. “I’m looking for someone who puts the organization and the values of the business ahead of their own,” added Greg. “If you don’t have that, it’s a disaster in any scenario.”
Brian also singled out selfishness as one of the least desirable executive traits. “The worst people are those that are really only concerned with themselves,” he said. “If we don’t have the right management team to start, we’re in trouble. We generally go to InterimExecs to find people to help us out.”
It used to be that business was for-profit or non-profit, and never the twain shall meet. Companies were profit-driven or purpose-driven, but not really both. A survey of Fortune 1000 CEOs and C-suite executives found that 51% believe there is an inherent tension or conflict between a company being profit- or purpose-driven. Such thinking is now becoming outmoded and has reached something of a turning point.
This departure from long-held economic thinking could be a revolutionary change for shareholders, however, many investors are coming to see greater employee purpose and personal “why” working to support long-term success for the company, and in an altruistic sense, the world. Corporate America has taken a look around and some conscientious players noticed that resources were being stripped at an unsustainable rate and decided to alter the way they were doing business. Now, it’s commonplace for a company to have a defined corporate social purpose beyond generating a profit.
We just experienced possibly the largest wave of CEO departures in recent history. Was it due to falling profits? Poor succession planning? Or is there more drama behind the scenes? Think firings, hurt egos, politics, and personal infighting. Author Isabelle Nüssli uncovers one of the big reasons for turmoil at the top ― the fractious relationships between egos at the executive level, particularly between CEO and chairperson. Hence the brilliant title of her new book, Cockfighting: Solving the Mystery of Unconscious Sabotage at the Top of the Corporate Pyramid.
“When you read the news, usually the reason [given for the CEO leaving] was strategy misalignment or different leadership style or different chemistry, etc. But the story that is not put out to the public is that there was a relational conflict, which apparently is the case most of the time,” says Nüssli.