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Leadership: Communicating a Vision

Ben Legg
Former COO of Google, Europe

Learning outcomes

  • How leaders can build the mission and vision into communication and everyday actions in the workplace

Executive Bio

Ben Legg

Former COO of Google, Europe

Ben is an engineer by training and spent over 10 years in the Royal Engineers in the British Army career before moving to McKinsey. In 2002, he moved to Coca-Cola where he ran teams across Eastern Europe before turning around the Indian business leading 12,000 salespeople. Ben then moved to Google where was COO of UK and Ireland for 2 years before being promoted to COO Europe where he was responsible for writing the monetisation blueprint of Google’s various properties. This involved defining the role of ad units, properties, interactions with agencies and partners, and devising how auctions should work. Ben then ran a Yellow Pages turnaround before running an ad-tech business for 6 years which ran $200m of ad spend through the major technology platforms. Ben is the author of Marketing for CEO’s and is on the Board of The Oxford Foundry where he is a mentor and investor to multiple startups. Read more

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Interview Transcript

What core principles do you use to communicate a vision?

First, I would say if you can — and a lot of organisations don’t necessarily have a well-defined vision or mission — you should write it collaboratively. It’s not just you hire an agency, they give you a vision or a mission, and you use it, or the boss thinks in his bath one day and then says, “Here’s the vision, guys.” The more collaborative it is, the better it will be, and the more people will buy-in and think, “I helped write that.”

That can’t always be the case. In some organisations, the mission’s there, and it’s cool, you can’t go rewriting it. Then it’s a case of trying to bring it to life in everyday ways. What a lot of companies do which helps is define the culture they want that will support the mission. A lot of companies I’ve worked in, very innovative technology companies, the culture will be things like the best idea wins. You’ve got to care about customers, you’ve got to challenge everything. Create that culture and values and discuss them in a way that people say, “Ah, I understand how I’m supposed to behave,” which ultimately leads to achieving the mission.

You can also build it into things like communication. For example, in some of the jobs I’ve done, we’d have a weekly newsletter about sales, product, new hires, etc. We’d say, “We have six values; let’s have a value of the week.” It was quite fun. On a Monday, we’d say, “This week, we’re celebrating teamwork because that’s one of our values. Please send nominations to HR on who’s been an awesome team member or supported people to achieve a job that wasn’t their task,” or something like that. Then on the Friday newsletter, we’ll put photos and shoutouts to people who did well, and after six weeks, you got through the six values.

Having things like cool artists write things on walls; it’s a bit irreverent. The artist I mentioned before did it without permission. Writing a mural on the boardroom without permission — I thought it was cool. Some companies might get a bit stressed about it, but it was a beautiful piece of art, and I thought taking the initiative was one of our values. He took the initiative.

Building it into things like 360 feedback or annual appraisals is another way you can do it. Does this person live the values? How good are they at teamwork, innovation, making data-based decisions, or whatever the values happen to be? The mission or the vision needs to be communicated in slides, on walls, in conversations, but a lot of the mission and vision comes into the values, behaviours, communication style, and message that become part of the day-to-day and week-to-week.

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