CEOs

Got change leaders?

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The digital revolution has long begun. And many companies are taking the first steps into their digital transformation. Everybody is talking about digital. Topics like big data, automation of processes, robotics, AI dominate the conversation….but many seem to forget that this change is not only about technology. It is foremost about corporate culture, structure and, of course, leadership.

 

For a company to successfully change its structure and culture, leadership needs to step up to the plate to convince employees why the change is needed and walk them down the path. But here is the sticking point: change is emotionally charged. It can emote fear, insecurity but also acceptance and inspiration. And at the end of the day it is only the individual who will make the decision if s/he wants to change or not.

 

That is why for companies to evolve and grow in this digital revolution it is imperative that they have leaders that are doers, who can generate enthusiasm in their employees, who embrace change and see it as an opportunity not as a challenge. But unfortunately I still see too many leaders who are blocking change. And because they are the only ones who can truly drive change, it becomes more and more frustrating for those around them who are ready to jump into all the opportunities that the digital revolution has to offer.  My recommendation? Weed out managers who prefer to remain in a comfort zone early.

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Putting people first

Not a day goes by without most of us not hearing, reading or using the word “transformation”.

And while we may find it easy to transform ourselves, for leaders to manage change can be difficult. Why? Because no one likes change or having to adapt to new situations. I see it every day when working with clients. Too many times we are putting the focus on the magic words of “efficiency” or “effectiveness” or “process optimization”, almost forgetting the special magic word “people”.

By putting people first, organizational change can be much better navigated. After all, it is the people who will be transforming the organization, so as leaders it is your task to enable them to do so – from creating the right motivation to giving them the tools and helping them thrive.

Jim Hemerling, Senior Partner at BCG, in a recent TED talk summed it up nicely in his slide of the five imperatives for transforming organizations with one common theme: putting people first

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Digital transformation dreaming

creativeThere is a huge pile of research reports and studies on my desk how digitization will change the way we do business. And I am sure there are similar piles in many managers’ offices. But what good are the best reports if you are unable to move the transformation forward?

Those that are succeeding in moving along their digital transformation have two things in common: one, they not only understand what digital transformation means, they also know that it means a fundamental change for the whole company. And two, they ensure that they have the right resources with the right expertise to transform their corporate culture to meet the upcoming challenges.

Digital transformation needs to driven by the CEO. Not your Head of IT. Not your Head of Sales. Not your Head of Something Something. It needs to be one of the top strategic priorities for the whole company driven from the top down.

Digital transformation is not walking down a straight path. You will need to be open for new business models. For new ways of implementing products and services. And your corporate culture will need to allow failure.

Digital transformation can be driven an internal facilitator like a Chief Digital Officer or even be outsourced into a new venture that can work without any “analog”disruption from the organization in form of resistance or doubts. But whatever way is chosen at the end of you will need a leader.

Digital transformation needs a leader who has a strong project management background, who is a multitasker, open to try new things. You will need someone who is impatient, a fast thinker , who plays well with others and is able to influence change within the culture of the board and with it the rest of the company. And you will need someone who is a strong communicator. Someone who can combine the “old” with the “new”.

That is why it is imperative for all organizations to start understanding what digital transformation means for their business and  how the digital competencies of new and existing directors will fit emerging strategies. And it is the CEO’s task to ensure that this journey is started on the right path.

Enabling (digital) transformation

filmNext week  I am joining a panel discussion about “Digital Transformation and Shared Economy – what family owned companies can learn from start-ups”as part of the Pioneer Festival in Vienna, a major event for future technologies and entrepreneurship.

The impact of digitalization presents unprecedented challenges for all companies – big or small.  Digitalization can not only extend the reach of organizations and improve management decisions, but most of all it can speed up the development of new products and services. But this can also mean that your traditional business model may become disrupted. Having a solid strategy for your digital transformation is therefore key.

For established companies working together with start-ups for their digital transformation can have many benefits. These range from having better access to new technologies to an increase in innovation as well as learning to be more lean and fast.

But what are the most important pre-requisites for a successful transformation? I know that there are a few but here are my top 4:

  1. The C-suite is boss
    Digitalization is a key change for any business model. But it will also mean changes in your corporate culture. Therefore it can only be successful if the transformation process is owned and backed by CEO.
  2. Startup mentality is part of your DNA
    If you want to be innovative and foster new technologies, you will need people that have an entrepreneurial mindset in your organization. And you will want to give them all the support they need. Digitalization means being hands-on, open to trial and error and being convinced of its success. And being given the space to to develop new business models will be key to get ahead in the process.
  3. Protect innovation
    Innovation, just like any change, can often fail if the organization does not embrace it. As mentioned above, it is critical that people working on digital transformation are given the (protected) space to create and develop new ideas and are able to test these in an agile manner. Give them the autonomy to go  and impact things.
  4. Truly understanding your customer
    The key word here is “customer centricity” – if you do not know who your customers are nor what they really need you will already have lost. Services and products should be developed with a focus on what the customer needs rather what the organization believes is needed. And ideally, this should be done as fast as possible to quickly meet the market demands.

 

But something we must not forget: digital transformation is not only driven by technology but also by humans and how they communicate this transformation.  I think the latter is often forgotten when we hear or read about digital transformation. But that is something I will focus on in my next article. Watch this space!

 

Marketing customer centricity

3dWhile customer centricity is nothing new, customer experience lies at the heart of digital transformation.

Digital is putting customers in the driver seat, transforming their purchasing decisions. Today’s customers are more empowered, they can get a lot of information online way before they need to get in touch with a sales representative. It is a true shift in power and organizations need to adopt a customer centric approach across their company to offer value.

While most companies today claim to put their customers first, a surprisingly small number are actually doing it right. Servicing your customers well cannot be put into a “one size fits all” strategy and marketing plays an important role in helping to achieve customer centricity.

It’s all about “Personas”
The better you know your customers, the better you can give them what they want. Customer centric marketing needs to acknowledge that there is no average customer. Nobody wants to be spammed with generic email promotions that do not speak to your needs or is just plain boring. This is where personas can help you. By understanding your audiences and buyer types, you can craft a specific message, with relevant content, in the right channels, creating value along the way and hopefully creating long-term relationships, ideally with your customers becoming brand advocates.

Understanding the customer journey
The ‘customer journey’ can be defined as all interactions that customers’ have with a company’s brand, product or services across all touch points and channels. In today’s digital world it is imperative that a seamless experience is created across all channels – and this includes on- as well as offline. Understanding the customer journey allows us to better connect, communicate and give the right information at the right time of the journey or purchasing process.

Make use of data
Too many marketers talk about data-driven marketing but data is only useful if the right technology and know how is in place to capture and analyse. Every day customers are telling us what they want by clicking, sharing, downloading. And it is not about collecting vast amounts of data but more to look at the data and understanding what customers need and want and then using that insight to develop better marketing campaigns, design products and services as well as other efforts and initiatives.

Customer centric business = social business
Customer intimacy relies on two-way conversation. Social media allows you to understand and communicate with your customers, making your relationship with them more meaningful. Social media is a key channel for customers in their decision-making. Make sure that you are present where your customers are present, that you listen, identify the gaps in customer engahement and respond in real-time.

The shift towards becoming a customer centric organization is complex and takes a long time. Marketing plays an important role in helping create a change in corporate culture where the focus is on the customer. The future of marketing (as always) is exciting and challenging.

It’s time for more social savvy CEOs

A recent study from CEO.com showed that the leaders of today’s most powerful companies (aka Fortune 500) still see social media as a non-necessity in their leadership toolkit. In fact, 61% have no social media presence whatsoever.

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Courtsesy CEO.com

This is totally anti-cyclical to consumers. Today there are more than 3 billion people on the internet and 2 billion are active social media users. We spend almost 3 hours online a day and 74% of consumers rely on social media to make buying decisions. So if social media is where your customers are, why aren’t there more CEOs active on social platforms?

Why Go Social?

The business of business are relationships. Relationships are inherently social. And leadership in the 21st century is all about strong communication. Social media provides multiple benefits for CEOs: it creates emotional connections, builds relationships and demonstrates innovation. Little side benefit: all of these increase leadership effectiveness.

A recent Weber Shandwick study said that 80% of employees would rather work for a social CEO. And 3 out of 4 consumers said they would be more likely purchase from companies who communicate on social media.

And we should not forget trust. Trust is the foundation for any business to operate. Be it internal or external, trust should be high on any CEO’s priority list. Edelman’s yearly Trust Barometer highlights exactly this. With more people placing trust in their peers and company employees than CEOs, social media provides a perfect channel for changing this. In today’s media landscape, there needs to be a move from just traditional media to a platform where CEOs can directly interact with stakeholders and customers. Richard Edelman defined the new role of the CEO to be the “Chief Engagement Officer”. A CEO that has a social profile can result in better communication, more transparency, higher employee morale and an improved brand image. By sharing stories, vision and values, the CEO moves from being just a business figure to a real person – resulting not only in greater visibility and influence, but also in more trust.

So Many More Opportunities

CEO.com’s study showed that those CEOs who are “active” on social media, Linkedin and Twitter were the preferred platforms of choice, although most of them were less active on the latter. With so much happening in the social media space, it will be interesting to see when executives will realize the benefits of exploring  other platforms.  Such as visual platforms like Instagram or YouTube. Personally, I also strongly believe that messaging and streaming apps will be interesting for CEOs to experiment with as these channels are genuinely social with their feedback mechanisms and their informality.

But when looking at today’s social CEO landscape, all this still lies in a very distant future.

Maybe for now it is sufficient for CEOs take some advice from Sir Richard Branson, who said, “Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun, it’s a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business.”