As employee communication consultancies go, Gagen MacDonald is about as big and as established as they come.
Generally speaking, employee communication consulting is not lucrative enough to support big agencies (and their big markups), so the field is dominated by one- and two-practitioner shops.
But Gagen MacDonald has been at this for about a dozen years now and appears to have a couple dozen employees and an impressive roster of current and former clients like Allstate, BASF and Coca-Cola, just to name the ABCs.
These guys must be smart.
Which is why I opened the second e-mail I received from them, promoting an online community they're trying to start, around an idea called "Let Go & Lead."
I'm a member of about 15 LinkedIn groups and the moderator of two. I'm a reader of many communication blogs and a writer of three. So I'm not looking for another communication community to join. (No one is.) I'm thinking: This Let Go & Lead business had better be pretty damned compelling if I'm going to sign up.
"Letting go does not mean abdicating responsibility," writes the firm's founder Maril MacDonald. "It refers to an evolved state of leadership, defined by our ability to awaken leadership at all levels within our organizations."
Sounds like "empowerment" to me—a concept that fascinated me in the 1990s. I'm a sadder and wiser girl.
But it's a rainy afternoon, so I click on the link, which takes me the Let Go & Lead website, which leads me to the Let Go & Lead blog, which has one post, whose headline asks, "As leaders, are we as intentional as we should be?"
(For the uninitiated: "Intentional" is the new word consultants use when for "strategic," a word that consultants wore out.)
"Frankly, we all know the world has changed," Maril begins.
Gee, if that's frank, what's circumspect?
She goes on to quote Peter Drucker as saying, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."
I doubt Drucker's recommended method of future creation would be creating a website around a rhetorical banality like, "Let Go & Lead."
Suddenly and without warning, MacDonald begins talking about a fellow named Bruce Mau, one of three people she interviews in grim, unedited segments that appear on the Let Go & Lead website. Mau, Maril says, is "a leading thinker in design systems" who is "working on everything from designing education systems to countries."
Regardless of the challenge he’s trying to solve, it all starts with intent. This applies in the corporate world as well.
I challenge us to ask ourselves whether we’re really being as intentional as we should. Are we carefully selecting and applying the best levers to design the organizations and cultures we desire? What if we leaders were to change our intent? What would be the sustainable organization of the future? And if we are to be designers of that future—ours and our organizations’—how do we make the big leap and inspire others to leap with us?
These are some of the questions I’d like to explore with the community. And I’m hoping you’ll join me…
Maril, you know how to sell consulting. You do it by pairing amorphous ideas like "intentionality" and "engagement" with concrete "deliverables" like focus groups and surveys and strategic plans.
Communities are different. You build them around human beings, and their everyday thoughts and feelings and physical or psychological or social or economic needs.
There's no humanity in "Let Go & Lead" (and so far not much of an idea either).
Take me off the e-mail list.
(How's that for intentionality?)