How to Demonstrate the Value of CEO Vision and Leadership
Listen to Episode 110:
Episode 111 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. Right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As always, it’s great to be joining you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio With Pam Harper and Scott Harper. For our first time listeners, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of growth and success.
Now, Pam, our regular listeners know that we like to keep up with trends. We’re always are looking for new studies, polls, and insights on what’s going on in the world, and how that affects companies and their leaders’ ability to generate growth and success. One of the interesting pieces of information we just came across is the recent 2017 Harris Poll on Corporate Reputation. They looked at the reputation quotient of the 100 most visible companies, surveying 23,000 people in the US. They looked at a number of dimensions that affected reputation. One of the dimensions that was particularly interesting to us was the leadership and vision of the company.
Pam Harper: That’s right. In fact, what they found was that perception of vision and leadership impact a company’s reputational equity now more than it did 10 years ago. I think this really deserves just a moment to think about why that would be. They didn’t talk about that on the report.
Scott Harper: We can speculate, and one of the things that we know about the last few years is that the internet has had a huge impact on the ability of people to see what’s going on in the world. You’ve got all the social media, Facebook, Twitter, and there are more and more sources of information coming up every day on the internet, and that doesn’t even count the 24/7 news cycle that is always looking for fodder.
Pam Harper: That’s true. The important thing to think about here is reputation is not just influenced by where you choose to participate. All of these venues are including you, and people are talking about you. Whether you want them to be talking about you or not, they are. So it’s worth noting that according to the report, half of Americans rate the reputations of today’s corporate leaders and CEOs as “bad.” I’m reading from the report; only one-quarter of the public rates CEOs with good reputations. 26% are neutral, so this is going to definitely have an impact.
What are the implications of this? This is not in the Harris Poll report, but think about it… Of those 23,000 people, some of them are investors. Some of them are customers. Some of them are partners. They’re alliance partners, outsourcing providers, and some are potential employees and current employees.
Scott Harper: All of these stakeholder groups have a real, tangible effect on top and bottom line results of companies. How a company’s CEO is regarded, along with other factors that the Harris Poll goes into, is really important.
Pam Harper: The Harris Poll authors concluded that CEOs need to find ways to demonstrate the value that their vision for the future delivers, and how their team of leaders can make that vision a reality.
Scott Harper: Right. This touches on something that we refer to as the “Visionary’s Paradox.”
Pam Harper: Yes. There is a natural tendency for a visionary leader to get wrapped up in that vision, right?
Scott Harper: Well, sure.
Pam Harper: The same enthusiasm, though, can lead to a lack of engagement and even resistance on the part of stakeholders who don’t buy into the vision.
Scott Harper: …Who don’t get it, and don’t understand how to get to the end point….
Pam Harper: Right. However, behind every challenge is an opportunity, as I like to say. In this case, it’s a chance to improve a reputation across a variety of stakeholder groups.
Now we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll dig deeper into the visionary’s paradox, and how to demonstrate the value of CEO vision and leadership. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: We’re glad you’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum in their companies for game-changing results.
Pam Harper: Does this topic resonate with you? We have more. Check out related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away even more immediately actionable ideas. Just go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 111, and scroll down to resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes, so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about how to demonstrate the value of CEO vision and leadership. This is inspired by a 2017 Harris Poll report talking about reputations of companies and leaders. You can get a link to this report and find other related resources by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com episode 111, and scrolling down to resources.
In the first segment, you and I were talking about what we call the “visionary’s paradox,” that natural tendency for visionary leaders to get very engaged in their vision, and that same enthusiasm leading to a lack of engagement and even potentially resistance on the part of stakeholders who don’t buy into the vision.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: This was reflected in the Harris Poll around a question regarding traits for CEOs. The traits respondents perceived as most important were being trusted, ethical, and accountable. In other words, “What I say will happen, really will happen.”
Scott Harper: Believability…
Pam Harper: Exactly. But here’s a hint of the visionary’s paradox in there. The CEO traits the respondents perceived as less important were curious, visible, bold, and risk-taking − the visionary traits. This is a gap in perception. We all know that these visionary traits are incredibly important for a company’s growth and success.
Scott Harper: That’s why the pollsters concluded that the CEO’s ability to demonstrate the value of their vision for future outcomes, and how to get there, was so important to their reputation and the company’s reputation.
Pam Harper: Exactly. Now, we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of conversation in shaping shared value of a vision and strategy; of course, we’ll have links to episodes where we’ve featured that. But aside from conversation, there’s another part of communication, which is our behaviors. What we do or don’t do, and how it’s perceived by others is also an essential part of demonstrating the value of a vision and leading to turn it into reality. Now, Scott, you have a good example of behaviors demonstrating a vision. Let’s bring it to life.
Scott Harper: Sure. A great example of a company whose CEO is doing a good job of demonstrating the value of vision and leadership, and translating that to real results is a company that’s not mentioned in the Harris Poll survey. However, it’s a terrific illustration of this principle, and that’s Airbnb. The CEO is Brian Chesky. The company was founded nine years ago, in 2008.
Pam Harper: These days, who hasn’t at least heard about Airbnb? This is the power of the reputation.
Scott Harper: Right. It started with an idea − a vision of renting out bed space in their apartment in San Francisco. It’s grown into billions of dollars. How did that vision come to pass?
Pam Harper: In fact, people originally thought that the idea was stupid; I’ve read this in articles. It was a vision of an incredibly visionary person who needed to help people to understand the value of what his idea was, his vision. How did he demonstrate the value of that vision?
Scott Harper: Well, first off, one of the things he did was engage a huge variety of people in advising him on how to make this idea work. He tapped into a large community to synthesize the ideas, and he also turned this into actual behaviors and actions.
One of the things that Chesky and his team did over the years as Airbnb grew was to create clarity around operating principles and process, including policies. In fact, a really interesting thing to visit for those who want to get a better picture of this is to go to the Airbnb Citizen site that talks about the Airbnb policy tool chest.
Pam Harper: All those policies sound like they could be a bit oppressive…
Scott Harper: Well, maybe it sounds like that, but remember what I love to say: Process is not necessarily a four-letter word. In this case, what you have is a set of operating principles that actually help people and guide the Airbnb folks in how they do business in a way that really helps them do it better. And from what we can see, people actually use this toolkit and appreciate it.
This is a set of principles and procedures that explicitly guides how Airbnb interacts with and engages with a whole variety of stakeholders, including, very importantly, local and national governments and regulators.
Pam Harper: Trusting, ethical, accountable relationships with these stakeholders is especially important, given the nature of the industry.
Scott Harper: Absolutely. You really need that for the vision to achieve its full level of success. It would be easy to say, “These are our adversaries.” You know, “These regulatory bodies are trying to control us.” Instead, they’re taking exactly the opposite behavior, and saying, “We recognize the legitimate concerns of governments and other stakeholder groups like regulatory agencies, to make sure that what we do is safe and good for our customers, and good for the communities in which we operate.” That drives credibility.
With Airbnb and Brian Chesky as a CEO, we have an example of a company that is managing to navigate the visionary’s paradox. They not only came up with a really unique, relevant value proposition − a vision of delivering something that hasn’t been done before. They focus very heavily on getting a wide variety of ideas on how to do it well, on engaging and uniting a whole range of stakeholders in being able to shape it, and then creating a framework for actualizing it, thereby demonstrating the value of his vision and leadership.
Pam Harper: Proof that it’s possible to be a visionary and to be perceived as trusted, ethical, and accountable.
Scott Harper: Right. All things that really contribute to the company’s reputation, as well as the CEO’s reputation.
Pam Harper: The question is, how do we do this for our own companies?
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: That’s what we’re going to talk about in the next segment.
We’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk about immediately actionable ideas that you can use to demonstrate the value of your CEO vision and leadership. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
We want to thank those out there who have reviewed and rated our podcast series on iTunes. It does help people find us and get the message out. However, some people have told us that they’d like to do a review, but they’re not quite sure how to post it; it’s not intuitively obvious. So I’ve created a short video that takes the mystery away from the process. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and look over at the sidebar on the right of the page. Click the blue button that says “How to review Growth Igniters Radio on iTunes.” This takes you to an 84-second video showing you everything you need to know to review and rate the podcast. And thanks again for helping spread the good word about Growth Igniters Radio.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking about how to demonstrate the value of CEO vision and leadership. This was an issue that the 2017 Harris Poll on Corporate Reputation identified as being of growing importance to perceived corporate reputation.
Scott Harper: You can access links to the Harris Poll report and other relevant resources by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, selecting episode 111, and scrolling down to resources.
Now, Pam, this is the part of our podcast where we like to get very practical and come up with some ideas on how to put these concepts into actionable use. Now, taking into account the framework of what we call the visionary’s paradox, where particularly visionary leaders can get so wrapped up in the vision that they may not be aware or take into account that some critical stakeholders may not understand their vision or may not buy into it − what’s the first piece of practical advice?
Pam Harper: Get guidance in finding out how your vision and leadership are perceived, including the baseline of what’s actually out there, interpreting the information, and finally, what you do with it.
Scott Harper: Why do leaders need to get guidance on these issues?
Pam Harper: This is a process that’s both complex and fraught with emotional issues.
For instance, I remember one situation − in fact, more than one situation − where companies gathered information in a very well-meaning way, but it was confusing. They didn’t really know what to make of what they were seeing, and decided to put it to the side. It was understandable that they did; they had other work to do, and they were getting some conflicting signals. In fact, one leader said to me, “I don’t understand why these people are saying what they’re saying.” That’s why they brought me in.
Scott Harper: What did you do?
Pam Harper: In the end, I decided that the survey that they had was a good baseline, and we designed some other ways of getting deeper into these perceptions from people. The second round of this perception gathering led to some new insights that weren’t possible to see in the survey.
Scott Harper: So getting guidance on the type of information that’s important to gather and how to gather it is very important. Then of course there’s the matter of making sense of all that information once you get it.
Pam Harper: Yes. An experienced advisor can make sense out of the complex and can identify the patterns and themes that almost always emerge. This can result in new insights that lead to new value. In the example I was just talking about, what we found is that people were completely disconnected from the vision.
Scott Harper: They didn’t know what the vision was?
Pam Harper: It was a surprise to everybody.
Scott Harper: Wow.
Pam Harper: It wasn’t immediately apparent, but once we put the pieces together, it became clear, and they were able to make new decisions that led to some very dramatic growth.
Scott Harper: Okay. What’s another piece of immediately actionable advice for a company that has gone through this process?
Pam Harper: Schedule this perception evaluation on a yearly basis.
Scott Harper: Yearly? Why?
Pam Harper: I had a client where we were talking about all of the things that had occurred in the course of a year. There were quite a few things. They were “nothing” changes, but they actually added up to be one big change. They had changes in employees, in customers, in partners, in competitors. All of those things together can have a major impact on the perception of value of the CEO’s vision and leadership. Checking into this on a regular basis allows you to make new decisions as conditions change.
Scott Harper: Good. What’s one more piece of immediately actionable advice?
Pam Harper: Be aware of the trigger points that could have a big impact on the perceived value of a CEO’s vision and leadership.
Scott Harper: These could include things like mergers, acquisitions, crises, changes in leadership, major strategic shifts…
Pam Harper: That’s right. Even a major product roll-out.
Scott Harper: Right. Of course, when you’re in it, you’re in it, and you have to pay attention. But it’s good to have a list of big things that could affect perceptions so that when the time comes, you can do a check to see if anything has changed and if you need to do something different to manage that.
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Scott Harper: Great, Pam. Do you have any final thoughts on this issue?
Pam Harper: The growing importance of demonstrating the value of a CEO’s vision and leadership is here to stay. So is the visionary’s paradox. Because of this, it’s critical to stay alert to both the challenges and opportunities that changing stakeholder perceptions bring as business conditions continue to change.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Pam, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select episode 111.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to consider:
Scott Harper: How confident are you about your stakeholders’ perceptions of the value of your vision and leadership, and how can you find out more?