Editorial: What’s in a name?

I’m blessed with surname that many people manage to mangle (that’s OK), so I’ve always been sensitive to the nuances of names. But what’s in an organisation’s name? I like to think of it as stack of metadata that defines what lies at the very heart of the firm.
For the past few months, NZ Management magazine has been working with Hay Group to survey senior executives and identify NZ’s most reputable organisations. The end results form this month’s cover story (see page 26).
With the survey now in its third year, we’re starting to gather trend data and longer-term insights that help us build body of knowledge around not only who has good reputation but how they build, manage and maintain it.
The ‘who’ bit is the simplest. If you’re looking for Kiwi exemplars of good rep check out Air NZ, Fonterra and Beca who consistently top our rankings. These three companies, this year’s survey respondents tell us, are the crème de la crème of Kiwi reputational achievement.
Within specific sub-groups, similar patterns are emerging. NZ Police, the Department of Conservation and Treasury, for example, consistently rank well as our most reputable government departments.
Meanwhile, Mighty River Power’s reputational star is rising, while Fulton Hogan and Landcorp Farming pop up on the radar for the first time. On top of this, the introduction of new professional services category has shed light on the good names of both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte.
The ‘how’ bit is more intriguing. There are, of course, some common threads. Most CEOs share with us twin messages. First, that every single person within their organisation shares the responsibility and privilege of protecting its good name. Second, the tone stems from the top.
That notwithstanding, while all of the CEOs I interviewed told me they highly value their organisation’s reputation (who wouldn’t say that?) I was struck by their very different takes on what they believe drives it, how they measure it and where it sits within their organisational framework.
Like so many other facets of managing and leading, reputation is finely balanced, highly contextual and template-free.
Intriguing too, were the insights we gained from the survey respondents themselves about their own organisations. When we asked them whether they have leadership development strategy in their own organisation 70 percent of them said yes.
More revealing still were the non-attributable comments that our survey respondents made when asked to describe their own organisation’s leadership. Safely anonymous, this bunch shared the good (and there is some stunningly good stuff happening out there), the bad and the downright damning.
“High level and remote from the troops in the trenches”, said one. “Historical – tenure based”, “improved after dodgy period of change”, and “lacking strategic direction”, said others. Another person said their firm’s leadership was “internally focussed. Keen but thinly spread”. Yet another reckoned theirs was “above average but no way leading edge”.
If we were holding black tie prizegiving for candour, I’d be clapping all evening. What does this tell us? That while there is undoubtedly much to celebrate in management-land, we still have long, long way to go.

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