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2 Questions for securing exec buy in

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the Fira Grand Via to support one the largest telcos specialising in emerging markets to attain executive support for the Employee Engagement initiatives that are being led by group HR team. Over four days and 120+ Executives and Board members, left little time to scope out the latest and greatest innovations that the Fira Grand had to offer.  

The employee engagement programme is owned by the Human Resources team and there are a number of projects that fall under this such as, future leaders, employee wellbeing and 'our family'. The drivers for the initiative are the result of a need to maximise and retain the knowledge, talent and human capital across all of the companies subsidiaries, in order to continually innovate .  

So my hypothesis was that if I could quickly establish the CXOs pain points, and overcome these to get to a (or as near to) nirvana and get them to state that this program would help them satisfy their shareholders we'd be on to a winner.  

Be Scientific in your approach 
I knew I had limited time with those masters of the universe, whom we rely on so much to keep us ultra-connected. Cut the lean and get into the meat was order of the day. 

The leading question to every meeting was 'What's top of mind for you, right now?', which resulted in a number of interesting answers such as; "This is my first CEO role and I want to demonstrate that I'm the man for the job, and, our competitors are eating our market share - they have more marketing budget and more front line staff".  

Why did I ask this question: It gets straight to the point, and is a question that is probably unexpected from someone you've just met that also requires a bit of thought. It will also help you think of ways in which you’re able to support your CXO realise value at an individual level from the program, as well as give you an insight into their personality.  

The second question I asked was, 'What would it mean to you if you're able to increase the amount of resource and knowledge, without the additional costs?'. Almost as a rhetoric you could predict their answers; faster time to value, more resource to focus on innovation, less risk, better customer service, higher sales, employees at optimal capacity/productivity.  

Why I asked this question: Call me cynical and challenge me on this, but the C-Level are responsible for maximising shareholder wealth and ultimately that is satisfied by a simple equation:  Profit = Sales - Cost of Sales. When you can get a CXO to say to you that a project will cut or optimise costs and/or increase sales they'll be a step ahead and already have made that connection to profit.

Prioritise based on Impact and Scale 
Before heading off to Barcelona, I was lucky enough to have an 10.5 hour flight from San Francisco where I was able to put some structure for the week ahead. I had a list of the attendees and I began to prioritise these 120 CXO's in terms of who will have the greatest impact and who will help rapidly scale these initiatives. Starting with the Chief Execs of subsidiary companies, Directors of Technology and Engineering - this 'category A' group would have the greatest impact. Still a 'category A' group, I focussed on what would help scale, remembering back from my former research on Enterprise Social Networks, I knew that a critical mass is essential for ground swell and virality - so I turned my attention to customer care including call centre and retail employees. 

Green Dots 
From my experience you're not going to get everyone 100% bought in, [insert famous Abraham Lincoln quote, ...you can never please everyone all the time.] but that's ok, focus on the green dots. Green dots is a term from our analytics team use to describe the engaged users on Enterprise Social Networks. However I've applied it here to refer to those project stakeholders, in this case our 'category A' group that 'get it', or where energy, excitement and endorsement exists.

It's essential to get them to attain a quick time to value, see the potential benefits for their peers  and the rest of the org as they'll essentially provide the top down leadership for scalability.  

Engagement Strategies and Quick Wins 
#Working_Aloud can be an uncomfortable to those CEOs who aren't socially savvy. But it can have significant benefits to them personally, make employees feel more engaged and connected to the leadership, as well as the serendipitous benefits to the organisation as a whole.  

To the CEO that said that he wanted to demonstrate his capabilities, we discussed the opportunities for working aloud and the benefits it will bring: 

1. Clearly communicate Strategy to employees. 
2. Demonstrate capabilities and competencies to the Board and Peers. 
3. Give employees to opportunity to engage directly leadership. 
4. Create a culture of collaboration. 

How to Work Aloud: 
It's a simple as at the beginning of the week, stating the three top prioritise that you're working on. It's really that easy.  

Be the transformation. Show your transformational capabilities not just transactional:
1. Highlights ideas, innovations or improvements in the organisation that may have been overlooked or not laid out on the table.  
2. Surfaces talented employees to management that are able to make strategic or operational improvements to the organisation that could result in huge cost savings  or revenue generating innovations.  
3. This will be hugely motivating to not only the lucky employee but the entire organisation. Employees will be more aware of their surroundings and looking to adopt a kaizen approach in their daily routines to come up with the next million dollar idea.  
4. The HR team would be able to build this in to the HR value proposition for attracting new talent and stories to complete HR led awards for 'Top Employer of the Year' etc etc.  

How to be transformational:  
1. Engage with your employees and ask what job they would like in the company and what improvements they'd make.  
2. Like and posts that you see value in and get people to explain their ideas in more detail if you're unclear.  
3. Crowd source and Invite others to develop the ideas further. 
4. Follow through with your promise - invite the employee to be CEO and to share his or her experiences with their colleagues.  
5. You may go as far as to donate a day's wages to the lucky acting CEO, or at least caveat this initiative that a 3 figure pay rise isn't included.  

In two months both strategies have been implemented across multiple subsidiary's of the Telco. The presence of the C-Level actively participating in Enterprise Social Network dramatically accelerates the level of adoption and engagement on the network. Having the initial buy in from the C Suite helps to drive the overall employee engagement program with a quick time to value and high return on engagement.  

On the MWC, the little that I saw...  

It was HUGE. The venue at the Grand Fira was massive, and the exhibition space was over 95,000 Sq/M, with Headliners for Key Notes such as Mark Zuckerberg and Jan Koum (CEO and founder of Whatsapp) it's not surprising that the event attracted over 85,000 attendees.  

I'm probably not the best person to comment, but from my observations mobile payments, smart cars, and healthcare is a huge opportunity and the rate of innovation is crazy. Blink and you'll miss it.

Steve CromptonComment