The Jets humbled the Titans twice this week. Once in Sunday’s football game. Once during congressional hearings. I’ll leave the football commentary to someone else and stick with lessons about signs and symbols to be drawn from the U.S. auto companies’ CEOs this week that can be applied to leadership, executive onboarding and transition acceleration. The main lesson is simple:
The auto companies are in trouble. Millions of jobs are at risk. The big three CEOs went to Washington to beg for money. They knew they were going to have the spotlight shown on them. They knew people were going to listen to what they said and watch what they did. Yet they each boarded their own private corporate jet in Detroit and flew them to Washington. Representative Gary Ackerman nailed them:
“It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo. Couldn’t you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled or something to get here?”
Contrast that with Sam Walton who used an old door as a desk for a couple of decades as he built his business.
Think about this as you’re recruiting someone for a new role, onboarding them into a new role or moving into a new role yourself. Think about how people are going to view what you do, what you wear, how you travel, how you decorate your office, how you greet people (or don’t). Think about the messages people might or might not read into all the signs and symbols you explicitly, subtley or inadvertently communicate.
Everything communicates. This is an absolute truth. Make your own choice about whether you’re going to manage that communication or just let it happen.