An essay published by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania captured our attention: “Overlooking Communication: Why Strategists are Missing a Trick.” It is true in almost every organization we’ve experienced that leaders underestimate how much, and what kind of, communication is needed to move an organization toward a strategic vision.
Authors Mark Leiter and Jeff Pundyk write: “Executives crafting strategy often miss a powerful trick — instead of making communication a top priority throughout the entire strategy development journey, they typically focus on communication only as they approach the final stages of their work.
“This may have worked when things moved slower. With every passing year, however, the available ‘time to decision’ is shrinking while executives are buried in a daily communication avalanche. Cutting through the clutter requires strategic content that is crisp, compelling and inspiring at every point in the strategy process and beyond.”
One of our longtime clients, Furman University, recently learned that it has been recognized by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) for outstanding governance. I had the opportunity to work on the governance refresh that led to this award, in partnership with noted governance expert Richard Chait.
Governance, while perhaps not the most high-profile topic for a college or university to tackle, has the potential to make a huge difference—in the ability of the institution to pursue strategic opportunities, in the engagement and philanthropic support of trustees, and in the success and satisfaction of the president or chancellor. And perhaps to state the obvious: Because the president reports to the board, it can be intimidating to address governance issues and figure out where to even begin.
As Peterson Rudgers Group launches a new year, we have terrific news. Julie and I are delighted to announce two new associates: James Cohen and Debra Serwach. Jim and Debbie will help us continue to expand our reach, our impact…and our joy. Our work partnering with clients in strategy, communications and leadership has been especially rewarding, as is teaming with our talented colleagues.
Julie and I carefully monitor trends in higher education media coverage, and we continue to be impressed with the way in which college and university leaders use their bully pulpits to address not only institutional and sector challenges but also issues of deep societal concern — in their own strong and authentic voices.
I’ve overseen three university presidential transitions, and now in our consulting roles Julie and I have advised several in-house teams as they plan for a new president or chancellor.
It’s an important time in the life of an institution, and strategic communications planning is critical – both to ensure a smooth transition and to create a solid foundation for a new leader’s future direction. The most effective communications efforts happen with careful pre-planning and coordination among several college units. When this works well, everyone comes together to craft strategies that celebrate the legacy of where the institution has been, and excitement about the next chapter.
After facilitating quite a few in-house planning sessions with colleagues and clients, I offer some guideposts for making the most of leadership transition: