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What CEOs Think About Communications, Media, and Publishing - 9/6/2016 -

Leslie A. Young
Whether you’re interested in joining the association C-suite — or just being more successful in your current position — this AM&P Annual Meeting presentation yielded several great takeaways.

By Leslie A. Young

The highly informative AM&P Annual Meeting presentation, "What Do CEOs Think About Communications, Media, and Publishing?” could easily have been subtitled, "What You Can Do for Your CEO Today, and How You Should Do It” or quite simply, "How to Manage Up.”

The three C-level presenters — Mark Dorsey of the Construction Specifications Institute, Greg Fine of Turnaround Management Association, and Arlene Pietranton of American Speech-Language-Hearing Association— were communicative, engaged, caring top executives — a dream-team trifecta with respect to their charisma, knowledge base, and dedication to association management. Whether you’re interested in joining the C-suite, or just being more successful in your current position, this presentation was useful.

The overall message was for savvy employees to take responsibility, step up, and learn how to work with their CEO and empower that individual instead of waiting to be managed or recognized. Manage up, don’t sit back — and take an active role in your own career and in helping your CEO be successful, no matter what the obstacles.

This trio was wonderfully transparent, and their stories and honesty really helped attendees understand the challenges of being a CEO. Dorsey said, "Sometimes it’s more important to know what not to do rather than what to do.” He talked about how he only wears a suit jacket out of the office. In his opinion, wearing it in the office would set up an additional barrier that’s already inherent because he’s the CEO.

"You have to work really hard to overcome that in order to get good, honest feedback about what your team needs to be successful,” he said, adding that he values employees who will engage in conversation with him formally and informally because that’s the only way to identify pain points that need to be addressed. All three agreed that it’s necessary — even imperative — to have open conversations for the CEO, individual, and organization to be successful.

Each one of these CEOs said they hate to be surprised. Even if the message is ugly, they want to know what’s going on in their organizations; therefore, engaged employees need to figure out how to share information and keep their CEOs in the know. Pietranton underscored: "There’s almost always more to the story than what the person who’s raising the concern is sharing with you.” But it’s crucial to "know the personality of your CEO,” as Fine pointed out, to effectively share information.

Their takes on social media and media initiatives were interesting. Dorsey said, "I don’t buy that the CEO runs everything. My personal brand has to sync up well with the brand of the organization. I don’t have to be on the bleeding edge; I have no Snapchat account, for instance.”

All agreed that they can be more hands-on with respect to communication initiatives, if necessary. "As CEO I’m always in the loop,” Pietranton said. "I’m a big proponent and supporter of social media, but I don’t engage in much of it. It depends upon what the organization’s needs are and the message they need to get out there.”

Fine agreed. "Our members want to be in the news. Any time I’m in the news and they’re not in the news, they’re not happy about that. Externally, I do everything in my power never to be quoted on behalf of TMA. But I’ll do it if it’s something the members don’t want to be associated with.… My job is to make the chair look good.”

Ultimately, the audience wanted to know this trio’s advice about being successful and upwardly mobile. And once again, their comments were insightful. "Not everybody wants to be the CEO for whatever reasons, real and imagined,” Dorsey pointed out. "The things I’m looking for in terms of the people I work with: I want to be with people who want to solve problems creatively. I want to know if you have the ability to step outside your comfort zone and increase your ability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. The second we get into being self-serving, that’s a slippery slope — no matter where you are in the organization up, down, sideways. I got to where I am today because I was curious about areas I don’t know about. I really enjoy knowing about other organizations and what other people do.”

Pietranton pointed out that advancement isn’t always in someone’s best interests, and there are other ways to define success. "What matters to you in the work you do, and what are you good at?” she asked. "Finding the right fit is a better answer. What are the talents you bring, and how do you contribute them? Do what you’re hired to do as fully and well as possible, and be willing to pitch in other areas when the opportunity arises.”

Fine joked a bit in offering career advice, but was serious about employees taking an active role in working with their CEO."We’re so ready to be manipulated in a good way. Manage us. Use us. Don’t play us,”he said.

Leslie A. Young, Ph.D., is vice president, communication at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Association Media & Publishing truly appreciates her volunteering to cover this session for members of the community who were unable to attend.


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