Executive Meetings: From the Holiday Table to the Board Room

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, executive insights, Organizational Communications on December 16, 2014

ExecutiveMeetingsRegardless of your industry, the size of your organization or your particular role, it’s likely that you spend much of your day in meetings. As a result, today’s business publications are littered with advice on how to improve effectiveness of collaboration and “How to Run a Meeting Like Google” or Apple! The productivity of meetings is a simple, but significant business priority, particularly within the context of the leadership table.

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A recent study showed that 65% of leadership team meetings aren’t set with the objective of making a business decision. Executive groups that do manage to decide on top-level issues often encounter trouble executing on them. These realities present a pressing business problem. Squandering executive time is diminishing organizational value.

While preparing dinner with my highly opinionated and particular family over the Thanksgiving holiday, I found myself observing  parallels between the executive table and the one with my turkey dinner on it. Chock full of differing opinions and potential dissent, there are many dangerous pitfalls that can be avoided.

Here are 5 tips for executive meetings from the holiday dinner table:

  • Establish Rules of the Road

A simple framework of rules and consequences can’t be underestimated. If you cause more chaos than assistance in the kitchen, it’s not long before you’re banned to the cleanup crew.  Similarly, executives must be held accountable for derailing the purpose of each meeting or operating outside of the established protocols. Regardless of the business objectives of the meeting, everyone must be aware of and adhere to the rules of the road.

  • Evaluate Agenda Items

The turkey always goes in the oven first. It’s the key component to the meal, unless you prefer ham, beef or fish over the holidays. An agenda is an effective tool only when it is appropriately assessed with weighted and timely topics. The executive team must address core business issues without sidelining them indefinitely. A comprehensive and appropriately valued agenda is essential for success in this.

  • Align Everyone Around a Common Goal

In the kitchen, it’s fairly straightforward. Ultimately, you’re looking to create a delicious meal for family members to enjoy together. In order for executive meetings to be actionable and productive, the overarching business goal must be predetermined—will it be an operations or strategy meeting for example? If there is to be alignment around decision-making, there must be a unified point of view on where the business is going and why. Although it seems simple, this basic component ensures that all decision-making is laddering up into major organizational development.

  • Keep it Interesting

It’s a whole lot easier working together if it’s enjoyable. My sister insists that the stuffing tastes better if we listen to some tunes during the “creative process.” If your executive team is dreading them, the meetings are not benefiting from their best efforts. Some ideas? Start on a positive note, highlight successes as freely as challenges and keep executives energized and motivated by mixing things up. Take away the table and hold a walking meeting.

  • Proactively Address Egos

There’s always at least one, right? One cook in the kitchen that disrupts the balance and flow, bringing the total of cooks in the kitchen to one too many. Executives across a team will have varying styles and personalities. It’s important to address issues such as personality clashes or general meeting disruptors before they significantly harm the group’s abilities to conduct business. Acknowledge issues with particular egos on the team in a separate conversation before the next leadership meeting.

The stakes are obviously much higher when your productivity and success are linked the investment of shareholders and employees. However, the fundamentals are surprisingly similar. In order to incubate a productive executive team, simple steps can assist with leveraging the most out of every meeting.

Of course, the most basic procedures can often be the most difficult to execute. Now, how about some of those leftovers?

By: Meriel McCaffery

Meriel is a Corporate & Strategy associate at WCG and a recent Syracuse University alumna.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

The future of health (and care) in the UK

Posted by: in Global Healthcare, Healthcare Insights, Insights, W2O Group on December 4, 2014


At the ‘Future of Health’ conference this week in London, UK National Health Service (NHS) senior leaders and senior politicians Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Andy Burnham Shadow Health Secretary, discussed what NHS reform could look like.

The conference, held by Reform, an independent non-party think-tank, gave healthcare industry executives the opportunity to hear about prospective plans from both Conservative & Labour health leaders ahead of the upcoming election in May 2015. Their plans were set against commentary from NHS and industry leaders.

Along with some not-so-subtle political bashing, there were three focuses for change which were consistent across political parties – deliver more value, patient-centricity, and integrated health AND care systems. In essence, the message was that the system has been focused on medical treatments but moving forward it needs to cover ‘whole person care’ from prevention, early intervention, social and primary care.

Discussion centred on these topics, and raised some interesting insights below.

While some of the biggest advances in technology were developed in the UK, the pace of adoption of these innovations within the NHS is too slow and varies greatly across hospitals. – Hunt

  • Joint ventures and partnerships are ways of achieving better value, by bringing in outside expertise in anything from care pathways to service or supply chain management, “if hospitals want to improve, they need to share risks and costs.” – Sir David Dalton, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

The NHS needs a radical shift to address prevention, early intervention, primary, social and health care all under one roof. This means both vertical integration of services and horizontal integration of hospitals and health organisations. – Burnham & Ian Dodge, NHS England.

  • The NHS must improve the capacity of people to self-manage health in order to improve value, “we need to tear up the old model of Dr-patient relationship.” – Hunt
  • The focus for this should be on the growth and adoption of wellness, prevention and earlier intervention systems, including the use of digital health tools.
    • In a pilot study, 60% of e-consultations resolved patients’ needs without a GP appointment.
    • Moreover, 18% of patients that used digital tools said they would have otherwise used emergency care, when in fact they did not need to. – Dr Arvind Madan, Hurley
    • For Hunt the reform includes pharmacists having access to patient data to better inform treatment decisions.
    • Burnham said that if Labour came into power, by 2025 the home, not the hospital, would be the default setting for care and there would always be one highly personalised team around the person, addressing all health and social care needs.

While there was difference in opinion on some points during the discussions, all of the speakers agreed that the NHS isn’t as bad as it is portrayed in the UK media! Highlighting that it has been voted the best healthcare system in the world by the Commonwealth Fund.

In light of the UK government Autumn Statement which announced an extra £2 billion needed for the NHS across 2015-2016, the reform plans were deemed logical and necessary across both the audience and those that presented. Whether these plans are realised and successfully executed will determine the future of health.

You can find more info and see Twitter coverage from the event here.

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

W2O Gives Thanks

Posted by: in Culture, W2O Group on November 26, 2014

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought that I would ask my colleagues what they are thankful for this year and the answers exemplify just why I chose and still #ChooseHappiness with W2O Group :)

To kick it off, here’s what I’m thankful for:

I’m thankful to work for a company that inspires creativity, encourage curiosity and pushes for excellence #WhyW2O #ChooseHappiness #LetsHang #WhySuck

W2O Thanksgiving

Here’s what some of my colleagues are thankful for:

  • I am thankful for the diversely talented team that has assembled to grow the W2O Group Boston office, a mix of agency veterans and new hires alike #WhyW2O #WhyBoston #NoAholes – Adam Cohen
  • I am thankful for having a job that challenges me daily and makes me feel part of a family of rockstars! #WhyW2O – Nadia Hasan
  • I am thankful that I get to work with some of the smartest people in the business, and that I work with a company that lets me integrate work and life #WhyChicago #WhyBoston #WhyW2O – Molly Rabinovitz
  • I am thankful for my HR team. They are the most collaborative, productive and helpful colleagues I’ve had the pleasure to work with and they are seriously funny! #ChooseHappiness #WhyW2O #MakeItHappen #HR – Dika Myers
  • I am thankful for incredible mentors like Molly Rabinovitz, who always makes time for my questions. – Emily Friedman
  • I am thankful for a culture that is more “Why Not?” than “Why?” – Susan Parker
  • I’m thankful that I’m able to do what I love and meet new people all the time. It’s so nice to work with brilliant people who teach me more and more everyday. I’m also thankful that I get to express my creativity in ways I never thought possible. The W2O family is one of the most encouraging and engaging group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Of course, I’m thankful for DimSum, Gringo and Phantom #WhySuck #WhyW2O – John Steinmetz
  • I’m so very thankful for the opportunity, challenge and flexibility that this place and these people offer me every day. I’m so grateful to work side-by-side with a group of really talented problem solvers that seek the best out of people and #makeithappen on the daily. – Cynthia Fedor
  • I am thankful we work with a group of smart and wicked talented people, and that I have the opportunity to learn from them every day. #WhyW2O #WhySuck #MakeItHappen #ChooseHappiness – Jessica Carlson
  • I am thankful that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with such a wonderful and diverse group of people. – Beth Weiss
  • I’m grateful to be at a company that doesn’t accept the status quo as the status quo. – Aaron Strout
  • I’m thankful to work alongside a group of talented, supportive and truly amazing team members in a company that encourages curiosity and never settles for the status quo #MakeItHappen #WhySuck #WhyW2O – Blaire Clause
  • I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with a group of innovative, ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and generally fantastic group of media mavens who challenge me every day and make W2O Group a freaking great place to work and learn. – Christiana Melissa
  • I am thankful to live and work in a community that allows each of us the freedom to have a voice in expressing what we are thankful for #NeverTakenForGranted – Paulo Simas

By: Gage Grammer

Learning and Development Specialist at W2O Group. Background in Strategic Communications (PR and Advertising) and Writing. I have a rockin' French Bulldog named Phantom!

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

Professor for a Day – What I Learned at Social Commerce Days

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Integrated Communications, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, W2O Group on November 21, 2014

I had been out of college maybe a year or two when I called my mother after a particularly tough week at work and told her that for all of the great stuff I had learned in college, I was completely and utterly ill-prepared for the ‘real world’. I wished someone who practiced PR could have told us that PR plans are written in a week, not a semester and that there were very specific resources people use to research reporter information (back in the olden days those were Bacon’s books). Beyond some of the rudimentary aspects of the job, it would have been great to know what employers expected and how I could have been more day-1, job-1 ready once I left UW-Madison’s hallowed halls.

Instead…I learned on the job, made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. And in the back of my mind, I hoped the day would come that I could share the benefits of my experience, knowledge, and yes, mistakes, with the next generation of PR professionals.

Earlier this month, I was able to do just that. I, along with my W2O colleagues, attended Social Commerce Days at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. For two days, we attended classes to provide real world case studies, answer questions about the integration of theory into day-to-day practice and provide students with an honest and candid look into what life is like in this crazy world of integrated communications.

The students we met with absolutely blew me away. They were engaged and asked thoughtful questions about everything from how to apply analytics to a campaign, to managing a client when they say something to the media that they shouldn’t (because that never happens), to the characteristics I look for in an entry level individual. In one of the research classes I attended, the students showed us the initial research they had done for an anti-bullying campaign. One group in particular was really led by the research and created a strategy of leveraging teachers as an influential audience to stem bullying in schools. The application of their research showed me an advanced level of analytical thinking that to me represents the next generation communications professional – analytics prowess and media/influencer savvy.

My favorite part of the experience was the 1:1 networking with the students. I met some very talented individuals, many of whom I would not hesitate to hire. Contrary to some of the stories we hear about millennials, these students were humble, had realistic expectations of what their first job will be like and are ready to enter the workforce at the ground floor to make their mark. I’m energized about the promise of these up-and-comers and hope that they heard a few of my ‘tricks of the trade’ suggestions to help make them ideal candidates wherever they go.

I am grateful to the staff and students at Newhouse for putting Social Commerce Days together – it was a fantastic experience and I’m excited to welcome these newbies into the fold. I have no doubt that for whatever I might have taught them in my limited time, they’ll be able to teach me a thing or two back here in the ‘real world.’

-Molly Rabinovitz

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

Is Innovation for the Young?

Posted by: in Culture, Entrepreneurship, Social Media Insights & Trends, W2O Group on November 21, 2014

There is a widespread trend in the digital and social media industries (yes there are now multiple industries spawned by these technologies) of increasing emphasis on youth. As the Zuckerberg’s of the world have risen to power, executives at venture capital firms have begun to believe that innovation belongs to the young. And as the investment goes, so does the industry.  Zuckerberg himself has been quoted as bluntly stating, “Young people are just smarter.”  Of course, that was before he turned 30 and was lambasted by Fast Company as being an “old loser“.

Now there is evidence from Harvard Business Review – one of the last bastions of the “old people rule” camp, that young people are indeed more innovative.  But this begs the question… Does everyone have to be an innovator?  HBR reports that inventive capacity peaks around age 30 while Nobel Prize winners cluster in their mid-40s and financial decision-making is optimized at age 53.  Do we actually need Chief Executives to be inventors?  Or is there value in the balancing effect of “wisdom” on the youthful optimism of “innovation”?

If you follow the logic of Silicon Valley, the answer is that CEOs must be innovative or the industry will pass them and their companies by.  However, the logic of Silicon Valley is built around a model in which 3 out of 4 companies fail.  Even when they succeed, the enormous bets are placed not to chase that 25% of companies that succeed, but the much smaller percentage of companies that really strike it big, where 20-something founders do seem to be overrepresented.  What other industry can we look to where enormous bets are placed in the hopes that a small number of them succeed?  Banking is one that certainly comes to mind.  However, MySpace, Friendster, Digg, and many other failed darlings of the social media industry have proven that while companies based in New York may be too big to fail, those in California are certainly not.

So why then is Silicon Valley one of the fastest growing Botox markets in the U.S.?  Much of it has to do with the economics and culture of entrepreneurial laziness that have been ushered in by Millennial founders.  At SXSW several years ago there was much discussion of how tech companies today would rather by bought by Google than become Google themselves.  This is good news for venture capitalists who want their big, early exits.  But what about the rest of us who are planning or working to build companies of value, that have a place in the world?

Thankfully, there are important parts of the brain and cognitive ability that actually increase with age.  Things like problem-solving, bilateral thinking (right and left sides of the brain), prioritization, seeing the bigger picture, and the wisdom associated with less dependency on dopamine and other “feel good” hormones all make executives in their 40s, 50s, and 60s valuable components of a successful leadership team.  Rather than expecting every executive to be an inventor or innovator, successful companies that are building for the long haul take advantage of everyone’s strengths.  The result is a healthy balance similar to how the American experiment was first designed – with checks and balances to prevent one leader from moving too fast, or another from moving to slowly.

So, while the recent flood of media attention on the power of young executives is certainly encouraging to us Millennials and Generation-Z types, let’s not go too far in proclaiming that anyone who actually remembers the Cold War be set to the task of mopping the floors.  It’s a healthy balance of leaders at every age which makes the most powerful combination.

Author’s note: I’m 31, dude.

By: Paul Dyer

Leader, Media + Engagement

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.