- 12.01.2012 | Communicating with the Boss: A 'No-Spin Zone'
- 11.30.2012 | Listening: Critical Factor in CCO-CEO Connection
- 11.01.2012 | Listening: Where Corporate Communication Starts
- 10.03.2012 | Watching Debates? Think LC and the Troublesome Past
- 10.02.2012 | Change — the one key word in your future corporate
- 09.24.2012 | Vision: Perceiving the Train in the Mist
- 09.17.2012 | Is the CCO the Conscientious Compliance Counselor?
- 09.14.2012 | Where is the Old-Fashioned, Tough Copy Editor?
- 09.03.2012 | Beyond Followers: Scaling up to Stakeholder Advocacy
- 08.16.2012 | Volunteering in the Constant Conversation
(J&J August 2012)
- 08.13.2012 | Stakeholders Respond, Rely on Our Words
- 07.14.2012 | EKE: Everybody Knows Everything, Eventually
- 07.09.2012 | Leadership is Local
- 07.06.2012 | Using Pride to Prod Corporate Change
- 06.09.2012 | Communication Without 'Gatekeepers'
- 05.28.2012 | 'Public Relations'? 'Communications'? Shall We Straddle?
- 05.18.2012 | The Shattered Dome of Silence
- 04.21.2012 | CCO Role in Transformation Innovation?
- 03.13.2012 | Ready for this? Is it real — or is it P.R.?
- 03.01.2012 | What Do CEOs Admire? — Jeffrey Immelt, GE,
on CSR and Ecomagination
- 03.01.2012 | What Do CEOs Admire? — Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox,
on being a good corporate citizen
- 03.01.2012 | What Do CEOs Admire? — John Donahoe, CEO, eBay,
on sustainable performance and social accountabilty
- 02.13.2012 | Can You Talk Your Boss Out of Pre-Crisis Decision?
- 02.02.2012 | Risk Perception: Communicator's Role?
- 01.10.2012 | BP Crisis 2010: Update 2012, "BP Makes Amends"
- 01.02.2012 | My Happy New Year Silent Spring Story
Using Pride to Prod Corporate Change
July 6, 2012
As guest lecturer in our crisis communication graduate class at Georgetown University this year, Page Society President Roger Bolton underscored a basic tenet of leadership communication: corporate culture has the power to kill or to energize the execution of strategies.
Roger told students the story of transformation at Aetna in the early 2000s, when he was CCO, recalling a break-through moment. Aetna's new CEO, John W. Rowe, M.D., undertook a personal campaign to align management's vision and stakeholders' values. Reinforcing a longtime strength that had eroded — employees' personal pride in being part of a company like Aetna — Rowe engaged in a series of employee meetings.
Here's Roger's story:
- "In one of these early meetings, after Jack Rowe had finished an articulate and compelling description of what came to be known as "the New Aetna", he took questions from the audience. One of the questions came from an experienced, loyal and well-known Aetna employee named Jeannie, who asked, '… but what does it all mean for someone like me?'
- "While the question was simple and to the point," Roger recalls, "it was not an easy one to answer. Jack hesitated before answering. 'Well, Jeannie,' he then said, 'I guess it is all about restoring the pride'."
- There was a pause, followed by an impromptu standing ovation.
- "This simple phrase, restoring pride," said Roger, "became the central theme of the turnaround. Restoring pride energized cultural support for the turnaround."
An article in the current Harvard Business Review (Cultural Change That Sticks) by Booz & Company writers draws wisdom from Aetna's culture transformation led by Dr. Rowe. It's worth reading, especially to help CCO's understand the power of honoring the strengths and working with the realities of the company’s existing culture.
As Arthur Page held, corporate vision has the best chance to turn into victory when it gets permission — which Roger in our Georgetown class updated to the levels of belief and advocacy — from the stakeholders, starting with those closest to the visionaries.
E. Bruce Harrison, July 6, 2012
Bruce Harrison is an adjunct professor in the master's program at
Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He and Judith Muhlberger teach
courses in leadership communications and corporate crisis communications.
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