The job of the CEO (and IRO)

Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley offers insights on the job of a CEO in the May 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. Since we as communicators work on the CEO’s supporting staff, the piece also sheds light on the job of an IR professional.

Lafley draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s view of the chief executive:

The CEO is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. Inside there are only costs. Results are on the outside.

To be effective as that link between the outside and inside of a company, Lafley says, the CEO must embrace four fundamental tasks:

  • Defining “the outside,” interpreting which external stakeholders matter the most and what actions by the company are meaningful to them.
  • Deciding “what business you are in,” focusing and providing direction – as well as spelling out what business you’re not pursuing.
  • Balancing the demand for a “sufficient yield in the present” with the need to invest in the long-term future vitality of the company.
  • “Shaping values and standards” that connect with what people outside value – and shaping behavior to deliver on those promises.

I like this focus. It says that a CEO is not just a head cheerleader – or even the chief whip cracker. He or she must take on the tough job of defining and communicating the business and how it relates to the world around us.

If you’ve been in investor relations for long, or corporate communications, you see yourself at times standing in that same intersection between the internal world of your enterprise and the people on the outside who matter most to its success. Topics revolve around the four tasks cited by Lafley.

IR professionals should stand with our CEOs as active helpers – both in communicating with key stakeholders and feeding back to the CEO what those audiences say about the values, direction and plans of the company.

You can read Lafley’s piece, or watch his condensed version on video, at the HBR website.

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One Response to “The job of the CEO (and IRO)”

  1. Rob Berick Says:

    Dick – Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. Re-affirming my opinion that if the IRO wants to be the CEO’s consigliere, then he/she should stop talking like his/her consierege.

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