Ideally, everyone who works for a company would act as an ambassador for that organization to the public at large. In the rare cases where you see that, it’s a triumph of a highly aligned corporate culture. And, as is true with any culture (good ones or bad ones), it starts at the top. When the senior executives act like ambassadors they also act as role models for everyone else in the company.
At the broadest level, acting like an ambassador for your company means that you’re acting on the intention of creating positive customer experiences and impressions in everything you do. That’s a starting point for senior leaders, but, for them, leading like an ambassador is much more like operating as if they were an actual ambassador to another country.
I first started thinking about this when I helped run a leadership development program for country general managers of a global company. Those GMs were the senior representatives of that company in their countries. Because they were the public face of their company in France, or Turkey, or Egypt, or wherever they were based, they had to be really intentional about the highest and best use of their time and attention. There were certain things that only they could do as the in-country senior representative of their company.
Since that experience, I’ve tuned into how the need for an ambassadorial approach to leadership extends to a range of executive roles. Certainly, the CEO and other C-Suite roles are among them. There are others as well, though. For instance, I was talking recently with a woman who has recently been promoted to the senior most customer facing position in her geographic market in the U.S. She, too, is now the ambassador for her company in that market.
So, what should she or any other executive who finds themselves in an ambassadorial role do with their time and attention? Here are five must-do’s:
Create Strategic Plans – As an ambassadorial leader, you need to lay out a strategic plan for your remit that supports and aligns with the strategic goals of your company. Identify the opportunities in your market that, if well leveraged, would contribute to the overall objectives of your company and then create strategic plans to go after them.
Build Relationships – Undoubtedly, the success of your strategic plans will depend on your success in building strong relationships with the key influencers and stakeholders in your market. That’s something that you’re best positioned to do as your company’s local ambassador so you’ll want to invest your time in it. As an example of how this can play out to everyone’s benefit, one of the GMs in the program I mentioned earlier was his company’s number one person in Egypt. Prior to the program, he was spending a ton of his personal time on red tape related to export/import control. When he realized that wasn’t the highest and best use of his time given his role, he started focusing on building the relationships with the government officials who could help clear the red tape that made everything so difficult in the first place.
Shape the Story – As the ambassador to your market, you are also the chief storytelling officer for your company. Spend time and brainpower shaping the story of the value your company creates and why that matters to your customers and community. Look for opportunities to share that story in key conversations and presentations. Embody the essence of that story through how you personally engage in the community.
Stay Visible – When you’re the ambassador, you’re always on stage. Key stakeholders (and critics, for that matter) are paying attention to what you’re doing and where and when you show up. Incorporate that dynamic as part of your strategic plan and leverage your visibility as an enabling factor in the success of your plan. Consider what groups you need to be a part of and what events you need to sponsor or attend to raise awareness of your company while you add value to the community.
Show the Love – And that last point about adding value to your community is about authentically contributing. There’s probably never been a time in history when people are more tuned into who’s in it only for themselves than they are today. Overcome the cynicism by being real and showing the love. Commit to your customers and commit to your community as if you were going to be there for the rest of your life. You may not be, but what if you were? You’d want to help create the best results possible. Do that now and you’ll be among the most highly successful ambassadorial leaders.
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