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Finding the right strategy for effective board engagement with shareholders – Part 1 of 3

This is part one of a three-part series on board engagement. Future posts will include perspectives from a public company board member and an institutional investor.

Corporate directors are becoming more involved in shareholder engagement than ever before – not only because of shareholder activism, but also as a proactive strategy to ensure that investors are receiving the right messages and their concerns are addressed.  Their involvement can enhance management presentations by  providing a greater sense of the credibility and commitment of the entire board.

But while a growing number of companies are engaging with investors (see this Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute study), some boards and management teams remain unconvinced about the wisdom of…

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Communication can be a difference-maker in CEO succession

CEO succession is a high-stakes event that happens on average every six years.  Which means most organizations will go through it regularly – but not regularly enough to get good at it.  If they were better at it, they probably wouldn’t have to do it as often, and excellent communication can be a big difference-maker. 

Why? Because the thoughtfulness and energy that goes into developing a successor isn’t matched when it comes time to nurture the transition.  A huge success factor is how well the new CEO builds relationships and understanding early on, and communication is all about fostering both.  According to Russell Reynolds, writing and sharing a transition plan and stakeholder communication are three of the five elements of a successful succession.  I’ve seen…

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Leadership Adventures of Huck Finn

At first blush, you wouldn’t consider Mark Twain a model for business leaders.  He squandered his considerable wealth on bad investments and ultimately declared bankruptcy more than 20 years after publishing his first book.  Afterward he said, “To succeed in business, avoid my example.”

It’s a shame, though, because he actually knew a lot about leadership – particularly about the leader as communicator.  Not surprisingly, he saw the value of clear communication (“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug”) and compelling language (“Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one…

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Geckos, termite mounds and organizations

Nature is full of ideas for the attuned innovator – and for the attuned leader.

The growing field of biomimicry has some great examples of nature-driven innovation: non-toxic adhesives inspired by geckos, energy efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds and resistance-free antibiotics inspired by red seaweed.

The Biomimicry Institute defines biomimicry as: “the science and art of emulating Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems.” I came across something written by the Institute’s president that made me realize nature also offers some good insights into solving organizational issues.  Here’s what she (Janine Benyus) calls the “Nine Laws of Nature”:

Nature runs on sunlight.
Nature uses only energy it needs.
Nature fits form to…

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CEO voice-mails help company take off

Gordon Bethune, the phenomenally successful retired CEO of Continental Airlines, recently told a New York Times interviewer that he was a disciplined and consistent communicator to employees:  “I did a weekly voice mail — every week for 10 years, a three- to five-minute message. Every week I’d tell them what was going on. And we had a daily update with our stock price, our on-time performance, who did what to whom in our industry. So the employees always kind of knew what was going on. They had direct access to me, and direct access to the information … And we never lied.”

I love his formula and it’s had to argue with his success.  He took over as president as Continental seemed headed for bankruptcy number three and engaged his colleagues in an effort…

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