Make yes easy!

A colleague asked me: “If you were the corporate responsibility person in a large company, what would you do so that the CEO understands the complex issues around child labor, international trade, environmental responsiblity etc.?” He was looking for some great presentation tools… but I don’t think that’s the answer. Or, more correctly, I don’t think it’s the question. I think the question is: “How can you help the CEO decide that yes is the best answer?” The CEO does not have to understand the complexities of your job. He or she does not have to even share your values with regards to these issues. You have to understand the CEO (not the other way round): What are his/her values, priorities, work styles, what are the things that make it easy to say yes?

The issue is along the same lines of: Do I want that my husband does the dishes? Or do I want that he loves doing the dishes for me? You get more satisfaction (and more clean dishes) if your measure of success is clean dishes. Or a “yes” from your CEO. Instead of trying to change who they are and how they work.

A simmilar story was on my desk last week, when a collaborator in a developing country complained about the media. They did not take the really imporant issue we were working about seriously, because it was a long term, no drama issue, there was little media coverage because the media just didn’t live up to their moral responsiblity of doing something about it. They only wanted to run stories that sold them a lot of papers… So the recommendation was to convince them and try to make them commit to the important issue. How about undestanding how the media works and trying to develop strategies that play with it: Get a celebrity advocate, create drama and events, tell heartbreaking stories of individuals, make it easy for media to say: “Yes, this story could sell.”

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