Does the name ring a bell? Know her? Let me tell you a story:
General Motors was riding high when it appointed engineer and American business woman, Mary Barra - as CEO back in January 2014. This was actually a big deal.
Mary Barra was super achiever in the corporate World. Around that heady time, at the pinnacle of her leadership journey, she received a number of accolades - among them:
35th on Forbes Most Powerful Women list, 2013 ( five years later she would rise in rank to second most powerful)
2nd on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list , 2014 (the following year she would rise to become the most Powerful Woman on the list)
April 2014, featured on the cover of Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World."
Barra is not a has-been. She has since racked up more awards and recognition along the way. You get the picture.
Within the industry, and off that appointment in 2014 she became the first female CEO of a major automaker. Looking at her past professional record, she was not your average employee or an 'outsider' - she had begun working at the company as a co-op student at age 18 and over time through her sheer hard work and focus, held a number of engineering and administrative positions, growing up the company ladder and acquiring various accolades during the climb until she finally became the Captain of this massive company.
THE END....or was it?
Barra was supposed to represent the new, revived GM, and a fresh start for the lumbering giant. Instead, she and the company were hit within the first month of her tenure with a recall for an ignition switch that had killed at least 13 people.During that year alone, General Motors issued 84 safety recalls involving over 30 million vehicles. The safety issue was concerning faulty switches in the cars that could inadvertently shut off the car engines and airbags during driving.
How in the World had tragedy followed success so fast, so sudden?
Beyond the tragic deaths, it came to light that the safety problem had already been recognized by GM ten years earlier but still kept hidden by the company. Worse than that, the problem could have been fixed for as little as 56 cents per switch. These problems were bad enough, but Barra, the former head of supply chain and procurement at the company, made matters worse by taking a public relations approach in the public eye.
The resultant recalls led to Barra appearing in front of Congress multiple times, whereupon she faced the consistent wrath of an emotionally charged American public.The approach she took in the face of the crisis, one of PR over immediate corporate responsibility, is what was the thorn in her side at the time.
Beyond the bad PR there is of course another story.
The story of how Barra, recognised the terrible communication flaws in the GM messaging to its customers and the public at large.
The story of how she in turn eventually owned up to this, using the lessons learned to powerfully turn around the GM company culture.
The story of how mastery in communication helped Barra rise from the crisis and cement her legacy as one of the greatest crisis leaders in modern automaker industry.
THE END.....or, is it?
There are basic steps we learn from this story in the face of a crisis, whether personal or business related.
Admit your mistake, sooner than later
Help people understand why it happened
Give assurance and explain why it will never happen again
''Problems don't go away when you ignore them - they get bigger''
* At the time of writing this article, Mary Barra still remains the CEO and Chairman of the General Motors Company
NUTS and BOLTS
Here are 5 BASIC ways to develop your PERSONAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS
1. Listen, don't just hear
The art of listening is not common. More often than not we listen to respond. Learn to empathize with people and get them. This was covered in an earlier blog I had done here.
2. Collaborate, don't dictate
A customer, spouse, friend, child, acquaintance with whom you are consistently clashing is a sure sign of miscommunication. When you understand this, your focus becomes less about being right and more about providing a solution.
3. Actively develop your skill
Invest in communication tools, Apps and trainings for your business and self. Since communication is a soft skill that is not taken as seriously by the majority of people, it provides a relatively easy doorway towards developing your own competence hierarchy and helping you climb your career and professional ladder. It is little wonder Elon Musk recently tweeted, 'He who controls the meme, controls the Universe.'
4. Use it as a crucial ingredient in every customer acquisition
Commit to developing Mastery in communication, that is - the ability to articulate a solution road map and eventual break through to a potential client, before a sale. Customers are looking for one magic result : breakthrough. The extent to which you can acquire a customer is determined in part by how clearly and truthfully you can communicate a breakthrough image to them, in advance.
5. Read, understand and apply How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Need to have these lessons in one quick-to-go-to guide accessible in soft copy?
Download my 100% free w-booklet, The Start-Up Survival Kit .
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