Lessons in Leadership #2
“Make Little Things Count & The Importance of Communication”

Duane Green

Duane Green
President & CEO Franklin Templeton Canada

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“Every little thing counts in a crisis,” said Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India and a person who lived through a few historic crises. Little things count for a lot in the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when communicating with your staff. The crisis of our time unfolded in a matter of weeks. As with so many companies, before we knew it, almost all the staff of Franklin Templeton Canada were working from home to take care of business while facing any number of new challenges. This is all old news now, but in reflecting, that’s when the little things afforded us some insight and opportunities.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, our company had a solid and tested work-from-home system and culture before the onset of the pandemic. However, we had to create a communications playbook for this specific challenge. The management team learned quickly that communicating with staff during a pandemic required the use of many different channels, platforms and methods.  As Franklin Templeton Canada CEO, I am fortunate to be able to lean on a much larger set of resources, given we are a global asset management firm based in the U.S., but with offices in over 35 countries.  I had the benefit of our global leadership team reinforcing the benefit of communication from the top down.  In this crisis environment, the importance of communication is amplified, and we had to communicate to staff about regular company operations, supporting our clients, a historic decline in capital markets and, oh yes, a deadly global health crisis that reached into our own neighbourhoods.

Unfortunately, there’s always lots to talk about in a crisis.

I started with the easiest channels and worked the phone, email and virtual meetings on Skype or Microsoft Teams, plus text messages. These were productive channels, but they needed to be extended. Apart from regular business meetings, Jenny Johnson, Franklin Templeton’s CEO, started the practice of dropping into departmental meetings to chat virtually with staff and thank them.  This was a simple, yet effective communication strategy, and I started to do the same in our Canadian business. These short drop-ins (sometimes 10-15 minutes) allowed me to show my face (by laptop camera), say thank you and take questions.  I also learned a lot of details about the projects of individual teams across the company and the fabulous work they were doing.

I fully embraced virtual coffees, cocktails, trivia games and comedy events, to name just a few.  We are in a relationship business, but more importantly, we all crave the social interaction we used to enjoy in the ‘old’ workplace environment.  These ‘socials’ with staff allowed us to add a bit of informality to the WFH platform, which went over well.

To widen the staff audience, we created a half-hour text chat with me on our internal social media platform every other Friday morning. These sessions are open to all Canada employees and the overseas teams that support our Canadian business. They were moderated, virtual real-time Q&A sessions for employees to ask questions and interact directly with me.

Each session has suggested themes for discussion, such as business updates, work from home tips and client outreach, but there is always a social element to talk about little topics. I’ve had questions like, ‘Who are your role models or mentors?’ (A: Too many to name just one) and ‘What are the top three things you will appreciate more when coming out of this pandemic?’ (A: Seeing friends and colleagues; travel; patios) and the ever popular, ‘What are you watching these days?’ (A: Lupin)

These sessions have been a lot of fun plus very informative for me.

The selfie video is another channel that has been extremely helpful. Over the past year I’ve done selfies about celebrating Pride, Canada Day, the closing of the Legg Mason acquisition and the ‘new Franklin Templeton in Canada’, Thanksgiving, and a Year End message, to name just a few, all in addition to internal messages to staff. I just jot down some messages, collect my thoughts, press record on my cell phone and start talking. Our video producer, Mitchell, then applies some production polish (he’s very good). It is an impactful way to communicate and get a message out broadly, while keeping it personal. 

This multi-channel approach to communicating with staff and clients seems to have worked well, based on feedback from my management team and the staff involvement in our social media chat sessions. That‘s encouraging because I don’t see us stopping this approach to communicating with staff and clients after the pandemic. After 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I fully support the notion that there is no such thing as ‘over communicating’ during a crisis. Leaders must communicate often, regularly, consistently and with transparency to support their teams as they work hard to rise to the challenge.

Every little point of communication counts in a crisis.

Lessons in Leadership #2 - “Make Little Things Count & The Importance of Communi...

“Every little thing counts in a crisis,” said Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India and a person who lived through a few historic crises.

Lessons in Leadership #1 - “The versatility and adaptability of our staff”

Working with a team that’s trying to support clients during a global pandemic has given me a full appreciation for how ordinary daily actions can be extraordinary. The simple act of going to work, even at a living room table or in a basement office, is now a new endeavor for Canadians across the cou