Charley Shimanski’s words inspire.  His actions inspire.  And they hold together because he firmly believes the importance of what he says and does.  He exemplifies how new leaders can – and should – develop and implement communication efforts which inspire others to embrace and execute their missions. To put it simply: Be.  Do.  Say.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Charley at his first Red Cross Disaster Response Directors conference.  He recently moved from being CEO of the Red Cross’s Denver chapter to heading up the organization’s overall disaster response.  This was his onboarding coming out party with his top 180 or so leaders.  He knew that what he communicated and how he communicated it would be critical.  But he wasn’t worried about it.

The reason he wasn’t worried was that the Red Cross’s mission is core to his being.  I asked Charley what was most important to him.  He didn’t hesitate:

“Our people.  They are not only the most important asset we have, they are what makes the American Red Cross what it is.  They represent that segment of society that is willing to roll up its sleeves to help someone that that they’ve never met before.”

Charley went on to describe his thought process in preparing for the conference:

“I start by getting a sense of what I want them to feel when they’re done hearing from me – what I want them to feel, not hear me say….I wanted them to feel that they are at the core of what we do, that our success is on their shoulders.  I wanted them to feel proud.”

He reinforced his sense of pride in the Red Cross on a continual basis throughout the conference, talking about how the organization is often “the best part of someone’s worst day,” and punctuating others’ success stories with “How cool is that? You should feel that that’s pretty cool.  I hope you do.”

He also shared his own stories, describing how he first volunteered for disaster response 25 years ago when he saw a local TV news broadcast about a boy lost in the Colorado mountains and just showed up and helped.

Charley went on to discuss how he spent 25 years as a member of Colorado’s Alpine Rescue Team and including a stint as President of the national Mountain Rescue Association – he mentioned how much the Red Cross has meant to him at very specific times in his life, particularly as a recipient of help from the Red Cross when he volunteered as a first-responder on rescues:

“There’s no better cup of coffee than the cup of coffee served in a cardboard cup with a Red Cross on it because it’s a cup of love.”

Charley physically and emotionally puts his arms around people and draws them close to him, making them feel better about themselves.  He does this face-to-face, one-on-one, and with his equally inspiring boss, Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. Both of them reinforce the notion that disaster response is at “the heart of the Red Cross’s mission”.  He reinforces this message continually in large groups, interviews and through his Twitter account – warning people of risks, cajoling them to help and complimenting good work.

Charley tells the story of people in a restaurant who hear the sound of a significant car accident.  As he describes it,

  • Many will go to the window to see what happened.
  • Some will go to the curb to see what happens next.
  • But a small number of those patrons will rush to the accident scene to BE what happens next – helping out however they can to the best of their abilities.

Charley and the people he inspires through his communications are those who want to BE what happens next.  Be.  Do.  Say.

Everything Communicates

Not surprisingly, since we live in the midst of a communication revolution, the guidelines for communicating are changing dramatically.  As much as we would like to treat communication as a logical, sequential, ongoing communication campaign, in many cases, it’s more essential to manage it as an iterative set of concurrent conversations:

  1. Take into account the network of multiple stakeholders as you specifically identify your target audiences.
  2. Discover and leverage your overarching message as the foundation for guiding iterative concurrent conversations by seeding and reinforcing communication points through a wide variety of media with no compromises on trustworthiness and authenticity.
  3. Monitor and adjust as appropriate on an ongoing basis.

Don’t hesitate to deploy an old school logical, sequential communication campaign when appropriate – though we expect that to be the case less and less over time.

This is a good example of step 5 of The New Leader’s PlaybookDrive Action by Activating and Directing an Ongoing Communication Network (Including Social Media)

Where the emphasis used to be on logical, sequential, targeted, ongoing communication campaigns, the communication revolution has made it essential to manage multiple, concurrent, ever-evolving conversations across an ever-changing network of stakeholders.  Leverage your core message as the foundation for those conversations by seeding and reinforcing communication points through a wide variety of media with no compromises on trustworthiness and authenticity.

Click here to read about each step in the playbook

Click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step


The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 2009). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.