Last fall, as a part of the CEO succession process, our Executive Committee asked me to present my vision for DHG to our partners at the annual partner meeting. This was my first chance to share how I would lead the firm if elected to succeed Ken Hughes as CEO. As you can imagine, I invested significant time preparing. More than one person advised me to hire a presentation coach, and many commented that it was not possible to rehearse too many times. What I said was just as important as how I said it. While I had made many presentations over the course of my career, including teaching classes, leading town hall meetings, speaking to trade groups and regulators, and presenting complicated issues and conclusions to boards of directors, none of these experiences could fully prepare me for standing in front of 250+ partners, principals and directors — all of them my peers — and convincing them I could successfully lead DHG for the next five to ten years.
I spent about six weeks outlining my thoughts, sharing them with others to receive broad input, and being coached on how to deliver my vision by Sherry Wyatt, one of the best communications consultants in the industry. The day before my presentation, I practiced in front of several peers and seriously scared myself with how terribly I performed. I had doubts about not only what I was saying, but about my ability to deliver the message in a convincing way. My coaches encouraged me, and the next day I swallowed hard, said some prayers, and stepped onto the stage. All of my preparation over the preceding months truly paid off and I was able to successfully deliver my vision for DHG in a way that resonated with our partners, principals and directors
Like many difficult assignments and struggles we encounter as professionals, I came away from this challenge with a fresh perspective on the benefits of engaging in ongoing conversations with others on my team. If I had made my presentation without the input of a number of people on what I said, my comments could have been deemed irrelevant by the partners. Likewise, if I had not focused on how I delivered my vision, listening to Sherry, Alice Grey Harrison, and a select few of my peers, I probably could not have connected with my audience.
What I learned about communications through this process may be more valuable and lasting than the presentation itself: in order for our strategy to work best, I need to engage in continuous communication with our team to gain valuable feedback and to share my vision for where we are going, how we are performing, and what I expect of all of our team members. And how I say it is certainly as important as what I say. Everyone at DHG can learn from these valuable communication lessons and in turn effectively serve our clients and lead our teams. This is part of becoming “the whole professional.”
And so begins my blog, an ongoing conversation with you, our teams and the broader marketplace to share our culture, our DHG strategy, our aspirations and our future. This blog will be one of my communications tools; I have also resumed using Twitter (@MattSnowDHG), started using our voice mail system for internal messaging to the firm, scheduled video communications and have made personal visits to several regions where I have met face-to-face with many of our teams and with clients and prospects, listening to their input and sharing my views.
As a professional in a top professional services firm, do not underestimate the importance of effective, continuous communication — it is critical to your ongoing success. After all, your success is our success, since we truly are “One Firm” and “One Team”.