Speaking Truth to Employees and Shareholders

A mobile technology company had the twin milestones of a regular update to employees and an annual report coming up on the calendar. The CEO would be featured in both, raising the stakes at a personal level. They worried that no one viewed them as unique and that employees wondered where the company was headed in a world where competitors shouted more loudly and business units served radically different customer sets. In short, these two milestones might underscore how “unsexy” they were – and in the CEO’s voice no less.

Interviews with key people across the company offered an insight that had been hiding in plain sight. Employees knew little about other divisions because they were exquisitely focused on the needs of the users in a given segment of the market. Mobility had improved the lives of the users, whether business people or consumers. Yet, their needs were rapidly diverging as each market segment pushed the technology in different directions. Employees felt they did something a little different from one division to the next.

My client company could not find the strategy-in-a-box sound bite across the company because it was different for each segment. The commonality was a bunch of dedicated people interpreting the technology for distinct customer segments.

We said it that plainly to employees and reinforced it with shareholders. It was not a sound bite. But, it had the advantage of being the truth and fit well with the plain-spoken personality of the CEO. He could talk about this unique position between the technology and different user bases – and he could do it anytime, anywhere.