Engagement Builds Collaborative Workplace

A: No. You know, as risk advisors, we’re advising our clients on how to turn risk into opportunity. So, from a communication standpoint, we shouldn’t be risk adverse. There are certain situations where we may be forced to, but we need to treat our colleagues the way we treat our clients. How can we advise them on the best way to do their job? How can we challenge them to do better? How can we challenge them to be more engaged? To answer those questions, sometimes you have to take some risks. You have to push things forward. We like to be proactive. We want our employees to be engaged, and the way to communicate with them is by being proactive. Bring them into what’s going on, help them understand the rationale behind decisions, and help them understand what it means for them as a member of our global team.

Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between leading and managing?

A: Managing is nothing more than sitting behind a desk and doing project management. Leading is getting out front and setting an example, encouraging people to do good work, and creating opportunities for them to succeed.

Q: What are the most important aspects when leading through change?

A: It is important to be transparent, to communicate, and to stay ahead of what you think needs to be communicated to your employees, to your clients, and to your markets. You need to be thinking ahead in terms of: what will our clients want to know because of this announcement that we are making? Or for our employees: how does this impact me? You need to be ahead of the curve and you need to be willing to communicate on a variety of levels. There needs to be a constant flow of information in a very transparent way, and you should always be accessible.

Q: What separates great leaders from others when it comes to inspiring creativity?

A: What separates great leaders is that they recognize that they need to do things that will help their colleagues succeed. They need to create opportunities. They need to give them innovative ways to do their jobs better, so that they can be recognized for it.

Q: As a communication leader, what is the biggest challenge or lesson you have faced during your tenure?

A: For me personally, I think it’s the advent of technology. The evolution of it and the need to stay a step ahead is a constant challenge. When I started as a press aid with Governor Reagan on the 1980 presidential campaign, there was no social media. There were three television networks. There wasn’t cable TV. You could manage the message. Today, it’s a 24-hour news cycle. Things are happening all the time. The first thing I turn on in the morning is my Blackberry and the last thing I turn off at night is my Blackberry, because I’m constantly getting messages and communications from colleagues around the world. It’s a challenge to stay a step ahead of the constant change that’s occurring.

Q: What was your very first lesson in leadership?

A: My very first lesson in leadership was something that I learned from President Reagan. He treated everybody the same. No matter what your level in life, no matter your position in government, no matter your position in the business world, you treat everybody the same. I just saw how people reacted to that, and it was a very positive reaction. I think no matter what some people thought of his policies, they liked him as a person because of the respect he showed his fellow human beings.

See a quick snapshot of David’s career and other insights on the Let Go & Lead website. Special thanks to communications consulting firm Gagen MacDonald for helping make this program come to life.

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