June 1, 2020
There’s a reason we never had a Chief Culture Officer at Zappos. Tony Hsieh, CEO said it’s everyone’s responsibility. The moment we elect one person in charge of it, people can assume it’s being done without their efforts. That’s far different from a CFO. It’s good to have someone stress the money so that everyone else can do their jobs.
Now that everything is going virtual (including big companies like Twitter telling their people they don’t have to come back to the office), there is a new need emerging.
When we lose the office, we lose a real sense of place that connects us. Imagine if your family suddenly went virtual. Your spouse and kids all in separate buildings, only connecting on Zoom. Think it would feel different? It would change your whole sense of identity.
That means the glue that’s holding a company together is communication itself.
That’s why I believe enterprises will need a new C-Level position:
Chief Communications Officer
Many companies already have someone in this position at the director, or VP level, but there’s a problem in that. This person is usually stressed out because they don’t have a team and they have to deliver tough messages, all while being positive enough to keep their job. They also don’t have the level of authority they need to be properly respected, and thus end up playing politics far more than they need to.
At the C-level, this person would have the following responsibilities:
Advise CEO to C suite communications
Advise CEO to board communications
Facilitate C suite group discussions
Craft messages from C suite to upper/mid management
Work with mid management to craft message to supervisors and front line
Set company wide communication standards and protocols
Educate the company on virtual communication
Set the tone of appropriate humor
This is all the WHAT.
But what’s also important is the HOW, because the game has changed. This is no longer about long emails that people never read. We are now in the Instagram TikTok age. I saw this coming early on at Zappos – People realized that messages would not necessarily get read when they were sent out to the whole company. So they would include funny images that get people’s attention.
This Chief Communications Officers would direct the graphic designers, photographers, video producers and writers to create:
Short form video
Scoreboards / Dashboards
Short impactful emails
More that I haven’t even thought of.
When disruption is happening as quickly as it is, it’s time to make bets based on the intersection of our values and trends.