Maybe a Flat Leader is Just What You Need

Full-size cut outs may be the corporate equivalent of Lincoln Logs.

We created one a few years ago to pitch our idea for a fake news program. The professor was one of the characters who would explain complicated things in plain English.

And he was a hit. Our prototype stood over by someone’s cubicle for awhile and, flat as he was, people wanted to engage with him. Someone even pasted a new face on him. Most of all, they remembered us and loved our idea, and hired us.

This same client is currently assigned to two part-time jobs. You know that really means triple time, so he’s pretty stressed. We made him a clone to sit in his chair while he’s doing his other job. It’s a waist-up cutout with a sign that says: Live Joe, back at _______. Real Joe is a little camera shy, so he refused to let me take his photo with his look-alike, but suffice it to say it was a hit.

So I was delighted to hear Kristen Wong’s story at a recent IABC meeting. Kristen is Manager, Internal Communications, at Avery Dennison. When I consulted for Avery years ago, it was a pretty staid company, but they’re stirring things up over there with their new CEO, Dean Scarborough.

As a global company, Dean obviously can’t meet every employee, but that didn’t mean everyone couldn’t have a chance to get a photo with him. They made a bunch of flat deans, full-size cut outs, and sent them around the world.

Employees were asked to take a picture with flat Dean and post it on the company’s social stream. Among the highlights – employees in Korea eating street food with Dean, employees in Mexico had Dean riding a donkey. And most important, employees all over the world felt a connection to Dean.

No doubt we need more dynamic media, like video and even blogs, to help employees know their leaders. And that is part of the mix at Avery and most major corporations.

But the humble cut out is irresistible. It’s almost more fun than getting your picture taken with the actual person. If you were really meeting the CEO, you’d want to be on your best behavior, but with a cut out, you can just be yourself.

And the fact that the CEO would let someone make a cut out of him, means he’s probably someone employees would want to hang out with in real life too.

You can make your own cut out from your … there’s a few websites that do custom cutouts. Or go to where you can cutouts from Mickey Mouse to President Obama.

You know he won’t mind hanging out at the taco truck.