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Think 'Engagement': Advice From The C-Suite


Our political leadership seems to be advocating “being unpredictable” as a strategy. Therefore, people are looking for stability elsewhere, often turning to their business leaders for a sense of rational discourse and clear messages about values. The public messages by leaders in the tech and other industries in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration last month are examples of business leaders becoming an increasingly important voice in public debates.

Last week, I had a chance to speak with Steve Howe, U.S. Chairman and Americas Managing Partner for EY, responsible for leading the firm’s 65,000 employees across the Americas. He discussed how EY promotes open dialogue and inclusive communication, lessons we can all apply in our jobs as leaders, regardless of the size of our organization or focus of our team.

Jay Sullivan: Large corporations are nimbler than governments and the sense of accountability to their employees and clients is more immediate. How does that closer relationship impact the way in which you communicate with your team?

Steve Howe: Every leader I know feels deep accountability to their people. I certainly do – every day I think about how my actions at EY affect our team across the Americas. For EY to do its absolute best work we need our people 100% motivated and engaged. With all the complexities in the world, my own engagement and outreach to our people has deepened. It has to.

Sullivan: What does that “engagement” look like?

Howe: The single most important element is “listening.” Listen to understand the wide variety of thoughts and feelings represented by our diverse team. I have been reaching out across the Americas through very personal emails and blogs, and inviting comments and conversations. I talk regularly in person with our new promotes, our recruits, our experienced hires, our people forums. Talking gets a point across. Listening creates a dialogue. Think “engagement” not “communication.”

Sullivan: That’s nice in theory, but you can’t personally listen to 65,000 people. How do you make sure all voices are heard?

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By: Jay Sullivan

Jay Sullivan is the Managing Partner at Exec|Comm LLC. Whether working with groups or in one-on-one coaching arrangements Jay helps professionals have greater impact by teaching them to focus on the needs of their audiences. He works closely with the learning and development professionals at many global organizations to customize communication skills solutions for their teams.

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