Last week I attended the Vistage Executive Summit in San Diego, with the conference titled, “Bold Leadership“. This inspirational all-day event included former Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who spoke about “Strategical and Operational Leadership and Working Together”.
The entire ballroom was captivated by Alan as he commanded the stage. I was amazed how poised, present and genuinely funny he was as he told stories about his successful career—first with Boeing, next with Ford. The biggest takeaway for me was to make sure as the leader of a company you have to have a clear, compelling vision:
Leadership is having a compelling vision, a comprehensive plan, relentless implementation, and talented people working together. People also want meaning. All of us want to know that we are doing great things, that we are touching a lot of people, and that what we are doing is something bigger than ourselves. – Alan Mulally
Mulally went on to share how he was able to change the corporate culture at Ford by developing a “traffic light” system at his weekly management meetings. A green light meant all was well, a yellow light that some attention was needed, and a red light that a situation was critical. The first week his managers reported all green lights—which Mulally knew was impossible, otherwise the company wouldn’t be in a financial crisis. After several weeks one brave manager brought up a “red light”.
Mulally proved there would be no adverse consequences for speaking out—the manager still had a job, and in fact had the ear of the CEO and a seat right next to him at the meeting. Subsequent meetings unveiled more red and yellow lights, and together the company worked through these complex situations successfully—meeting the company’s goal and strengthening the company’s culture at the same time.
Ironically, my Vistage group had just finished reading, “Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t”—and cited Mulally and this “traffic light” system to emphasize how important it is to have a clear plan with KPI’s (key performance indicators), in other words, measurable goals.
There was no hiding from data with Mulally at the helm. As he said: “You can’t manage a secret. When you do this every week, you can’t hide.” Clearly, the charts were telling the truth, and through this rigorous discipline, Mulally and the leadership team drove changes that without a doubt drove profits.
– Excerpt from “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish
Vision and strategy are vital to a company’s success. As the founder of a San Diego marketing firm, I was thrilled to hear this message communicated to an audience of CEO’s— because guess what? The same rule applies to marketing and brand strategy.
How does it impact branding? It’s a trickle down effect…if you don’t have a strong vision and purpose for your organization, you won’t be able to craft a meaningful brand strategy. Not only do your employees need to be compelled by your story and leadership, your customers need be invested too. A successful marketing plan will authentically communicate your purpose and vision, and engage the audiences you want to reach. This won’t be achieved unless we, as leaders, define our goals, and articulate our vision.
It’s time to do great things.