Yesterday I popped out for a meeting at the National Australia Bank. They have a new CEO, Cameron Clyne, and last week he announced a restructure that has substantially flattened the organisation. While the restructure has been the topic of lots of conversations and stories inside and outside the bank, Cameron has done two other things that has got employees talking.
Meeting rooms are always at a premium in large organisations and NAB, at their beautifully designed Docklands headquarters, is no exception. Until Cameron’s intervention there were meeting rooms set aside only to be booked by general managers. That’s no longer the case. Anyone from the rookie analyst to the CEO has the same rights in booking and using any meeting room in the building.
The second change involves the CEO’s lodgings. The previous head honcho and his staffers resided in an office referred to as the bubble. There were two levels of security to gain access to this space and the CEO would catch the elevator from the car park to bubble without having to venture through the rest of the building. Cameron is dismantling the bubble and is relocating his office next to the internal cafe, without any special refurbishment to his new space. You can’t miss the dismantling as it affects half the foyer. A pretty clear symbol of change.
Now these stories might not be 100% factual. But as story guru Robert McKee points out, “What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.” These are the stories some staff are telling about the new CEO and they view his actions as exciting and energising. In their mind a wonderful change is going on.
Then something interesting happened in the meeting. The person I was talking to said it was incredibly difficult to gain direct access to the CEO. That he had a coterie of minders that he brought from New Zealand with him that intercept any approach. And that this is how it should be because he is an incredibly busy man with tremendous responsibilities.
It’s interesting that the positive stories created by the meeting room and bubble change seemed to create a positive aura over other activities involving the CEO.
A lesson for leaders is that in addition to be able to find and tell your own stories, it’s also important to do things that create positive stories in the organisation. Be remarkable so people remark on your behaviour. But also listen to what stories you create and what people infer from them.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on: