Communications

Communication is about good listening. And being ready to change according to what was heard. Good communication leads to positive change. The Communicative Leader is the paradigm for best-in-class leadership, achieving measurable results.

Emilio Galli Zugaro has been in communications since 1979, when he started as chief of staff of member of Italian Parliament, Dr. Piero Bassetti.
The job challenges in politics and corporate communications allowed for a very intense experience in all the core competencies of corporate communications, from the crafting, approval and implementation of communication strategies, onboarding of new board members, executive coaching, internal and external communications, media relations, governmental affairs, public affairs and NGO communications to sponsoring, CSR and financial communications. Galli Zugaro has made all the mistakes of the trade – and achieved some successes. He wouldn’t want to miss any single one of these experiences, altogether they enriched him enormously and allowed quite some people to benefit from them, juniors as well as seniors.

Here are the areas, where Galli Zugaro has gathered meaningful experience.

STRATEGY: CEO POSITIONING

A new CEO is an important milestone for every company. What should one do once she is appointed to the top executive job? How to best prepare for the task? How to use the time between the appointment and when the job starts, if one is lucky enough to have a time lag between the two events? What is the importance of the first public acts and which ones are the right or the wrong ones? Which is the right strategy and how should it come about? How should a new strategy be communicated? And how does one deal with the heritage of the predecessors? How is „the footprint of the new CEO“ made?

The questions of a manager becoming a CEO and the questions of the company’s stakeholders to the new CEO are manifold and can’t be answered by a textbook. Generally, the biggest problem for a new CEO is to get a fair assessment of the facts. Too big is the top team‘s temptation to ingratiate oneself with the new boss and to defend one’s own agenda. This makes it difficult for the new CEO not only to find out the answers to these questions but even to know whether all relevant questions are being asked, whether he/she is aware of the main questions at all. This is one of the most gratifying tasks an abitious communication adviser can have. Because that’s where one can make a difference.‎

Galli Zugaro has worked with three out of ten CEOs Allianz Group has had since 1890 and with many CEOs of Allianz subsidiaries around the globe. The intense advising has, at some point in early 2011, made Galli Zugaro realize the power of good non-directive business coaching, an altogether different approach to leadership improvement and a truly different service (more in the Chapter on Executive Coaching). The experience in CEO transitions coupled with the tool-box and the philosophy of the Meyler Campbell non-directive business coaching school make for a good mix from which not to fear any kind of transition-related coaching and advisory challenge of a newly appointed CEO.

STRATEGY: COMMUNICATION STRATEGY – CORPORATE STRATEGY

Having been Head of the global corporate communications department of leading insurer and asset manager Allianz SE, Munich from 1992 to 2015, Galli Zugaro has shaped the communication strategy of Allianz Group and influenced the overall corporate strategy wherever stakeholder interaction was involved. How to actively engage stakeholders, how to build a convincing equity story, how to pre-empt crises and manage expectations was and is at the core of his experience. The challenges at Allianz have confronted him with the different corporate governance systems. Adapting the strategy to the different governance was one of the most satisfying tasks. From the Anglo-Saxon one-tier board system with executive and non-executive directors, which is very close to the French, Italian, Swiss and Spanish governance, to the German two-tier system with a supervisory board formed by an equal amount of non-executive shareholder representatives and active employees and trade union members. To the apparently clear governance systems in Scandinavia, Japan and other Asian countries, where the form does not necessarily correspond to the cultural content, to the habits, being much more based on issues like corporate culture, family affiliation, consensus, team and community orientation versus the sum of individual performance. Far from being an expert in everything, Galli Zugaro has worked on many diverse issues and learnt a lot, as a result.

FINANCIAL COMMUNICATIONS – MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS – POST-MERGER INTEGRATION

Galli Zugaro accompanied more than 20 M & A deals above 1 bn Euro of value and the post-merger integration in the case of acquired companies. As member of the eight-people Integration Steering Committee of Allianz-AGF in 1997-1998 and of the Allianz-Dresdner Bank Steering Committee from 2001 on, he has learnt from all the mistakes ranging from too aggressive business plans to the underestimation of culture related issues as well as from all the benefits stemming from a truly listening leadership style of the managers achieving successful milestones in acquiring and integrating companies.

How credible is any strategy in a hostile transaction? How will the different stakeholders react to a deal and can one do something about it? How important is timing versus the rationale of a transaction versus emotional hurdles versus the individual protagonists involved? How can a wrong statement, a premature judgement, a cultural misunderstanding mess up totally rational processes and jeopardize a deal or the integration of an acquired entity with its stakeholders?

Again, asking the right questions becomes a powerful help in tackling complex and often complicated matters. If a professional can add some experience on the different answers given by different people to these and other questions, this can help the managers involved in a deal and its post-merger phase to achieve better results. The paradoxon is: basically, good decision making in transactions is pretty common-sensical. But it is stunningly surprising how often fatigue, high testosterone levels, hyperactivity, the pressure of the markets, the media, the competitors and of the own governance bodies leads the C-suite to totally remove this very common sense.

ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIETAL GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABILITY – WHITE-AND GREENWASHING OR TRUE PARADIGM SHIFT?

Far earlier than Pope Francis‘ encyclica „Laudato Sì“ the large public all over the world has realized that the exploitation of the planet by the human species is getting really dangerous for the very same species. But the Pope has given his authority and personal credibility to point to the responsibility towards our own future. The strength of his message is enhanced by his ecumenic approach, appealing not only to Christians and not even only to the credents of the monotheic religions but to all people, atheists and agnostics, as well. The tide change is now even felt in the C-suite.

„Can’t they understand that business is about making profits? That without profits there are no jobs and there is no old age provision for employees and shareholders? Why do they ask corporates to save the world? This is the politicians‘ job!“ How often can one hear this cry of business people: – Those working in publicly listed companies dreaming of a delisting from the stock exchange just to be off the public radar screen.

– Those working in the family-owned business who don’t have the resources to establish the carbon footprint of the company.

They do have a point. But so do those who are concerned about how the corporate world behaves, how sustainable the business model is, how the working conditions of workers and suppliers are, how big the margins are and how high the management compensation is. And they may well include the children or the spouses of the very same C-suite members who ask questions, as well as the bright young people they want to hire away from the good business schools. These questions are not going away.

And worse. Even if one decides to answer these questions, one cannot assume that they are being believed. As sad as it is: the credibility of corporations and their managers has seen a steep decline in the last thirty years. Just take a deep dive in the Edelman Trust Barometer and you’ll get a hint on why the public will not buy what you tell them. They need to get the evidence. And they will test this truth, they will challenge it. And should they catch you lying, manipulating, mystifying, then pray God you will survive this, professionally.

This rules out white- and greenwashing from any smart toolbox. Lying may work well until it’s uncovered. But the odds of not being uncovered are close to zero. So, better be honest about what real progress is achievable, until when and with which consequences for the other stakeholders. A conscious and transparent decision will be accepted much easier even if controversial for some stakeholders. Other than any apparent concession that turns out to be bogus.

LEADERSHIP, DEVELOPMENT AND PROFITABLE GROWTH: THE CHALLENGE OF COMMUNICATIVE LEADERSHIP

A successful organization is made of the best people. Without great leaders it is impossible to recruit, train and enable, empower and thereby motivate staff, business partners and distribution. It is not possible to get the best people and therefore it is not possible to win this competitive race. But leadership is not a „value“ neither is it a goal per se. Good leadership is a prerequisite for success. But what is „good leadership“? Achieving the financial targets? Being a caring boss? Being everybody’s darling? Being the tough but fair dictator?

Galli Zugaro’s biggest fear when taking over the corporate job at Allianz was leadership. In his twenties he had the responsibility for a large staff and he failed miserably.

Senior Adviser
FTI Consulting Germany