Want to know what makes for a great CEO? Then just ask a great CEO to answer that question and you’ll find out. I asked several. Last week, I published the first in a 4-part blog series of CEO insights to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which delves into the four behaviors of stand-out CEOs: 1) Deciding with speed and conviction; 2) Engaging for impact; 3) Adapting proactively and 4) Delivering reliably. This week, we take a deep dive into Behavior 2: Engaging for Impact. Insights are shared by Vistage CEOs Chuck Gounaris, Dave Watson, Loriann Putzier, and Dave Meyers.
Q: Chuck, let’s get back to the Harvard Business Review article that addresses the four behaviors of successful CEOs. The second behavior is about engaging for impact.
Engaging for impact is obviously my favorite behavior because it’s all about communicating and building relationships with your key stakeholders and target audiences. What are your thoughts on this behavior?
A: As leaders, we’re all focused on cultivating a clear vision for where we’re taking the company, our strategy, how we’re going to get there, and a plan. But, what has to anchor all of that is our understanding of the marketplace. How do we fit in a marketplace? What does the market need right now? How do we provide that in the form of a product or service that we can differentiate ourselves on? That’s where that impact comes along.
If you cannot become precisely clear about how you’re differentiated, your brand identity, then you really become just another person who’s out there who says, “Hey, I can do these things.” When you engage for the impact you get exceptionally clear about the value you can bring. What differentiates your business, and using that to be able to set you apart from everybody else. Therefore, your messaging, how you deliver to the market, how you deliver to employees, attracts the kind of people that you want to be able to work with. That’s my perspective on it.
Q: Dave, one of the four behaviors outlined in the Harvard Business Review article on great CEOs is engaging for impact. I know that at Phoenix, you have what you call “The Phoenix Way.” So, when I read about engaging for impact in the HBR I thought of you, that you know how to do this. Talk about “The Phoenix Way,” which is how you engage your key stakeholders, your target audiences, and your employees for impact.
A: It’s funny that you say that one, because that was one of those ideas, or thoughts, or pitches, that came to me by a colleague, who looked at us and said, “This would be a good idea,” and when he explained it I suddenly said, “Ah-ha, this would be perfect for us, because it does fit us, it does have an impact on our employees, and it does differentiate us among the many physical therapy providers.” And indeed, it’s had such an impact that everybody is still talking about it, especially the full roll-out day that we did for eight hours. I thought it would be boring, but it was the most enlightening and engaging experience for all of our employees, so it’s had a tremendous impact.
Q: “The Phoenix Way” is your cultural beliefs, which are core to the company. Talk about how you communicate those on a regular basis.
A: We believe that we live our culture, and live our values. But, to reinforce them, we must talk about them regularly. So, each week, when we get together, the first thing we do is say something about that week’s fundamental. We have 20 of them, we lay them out – 20 weeks in a row – and we all talk about one after another. The funny thing about it is, as we write memos to each other, or key points, we usually say one of our fundamentals to start the point – so that we understand the why, which is one of our fundamentals. Then we go on to explain it because it gives an intro into almost every piece of informational, or decision-making moment that you have to have.
Q: Loriann, I’ve been fortunate to know you a long time. From day one of IntegraCare, you have lived a mission of a three-dimensional focus: on your employees first, and then your residents, and then their family members. Your focus ties to the second point of the Harvard Business Review article, about how important it is for high-performing CEOs to engage for impact, to reach and influence their key target audiences. Talk about that, because I think that’s something that IntegraCare models.
A: In our industry, it is actually the key to success. And for me, it’s one of the primary motivators of my role in the organization. I would say the most important thing is having what I call adaptive leadership, which is really getting to know people on a personal level. While you perhaps cannot know every single team member, you can get to know the team member as part of a group, or you understand where they’re coming from, what their wins are, what their losses are, what their life struggles are. When you’re tailoring your employee experience you’re thinking of it with those things in mind, and then you’re soliciting, “Hey, how is that working for you? What are we doing well? What aren’t we doing well?”
Moreover, you should be visible, standing behind what you’ve done. If there’s something that’s not right, and if your team never sees you again and you’re hiding, then the perception becomes, “Well, they put this in place, it was a big failure, and now they’re hiding from us.” You must remain visible. Our industry is a very high-turnover industry, and everybody wants that personal connection, and they want to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture. Engaging adaptively is the key to making those connections.
Q: Dave, after getting to know you over the years I see you as a guy who had a vision and a big idea, and you made it happen. The Harvard Business Review discusses the importance of engaging for impact. I love this point because it’s what I’m passionate about: communicating with key stakeholders both internally and externally. How do you feel about engaging for impact?
A: I’ve always been an exceptionally passionate person about what I believe in, and of course I believe in my business. I’m always told by other businesses – other manufacturers we represent, or the customers we sell to – that they’re caught up in my passion, they believe in what I believe in, because I have a natural way of expressing how much I care about this idea, or this product, or this process. Whatever it is, I’m able to tell a story and engage them in it, so much so that it makes them feel they want what I’m sharing. It’s something I think I was born with.
Thanks for tuning in, folks. Come back next week when I’ll share insights from Vistage CEOs on the importance of adapting proactively.