Leadership

The CEO of a $16 billion business explains why she banned corporate memos

Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture's North America business.
Accenture
Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture's North America business.

When Julie Sweet became the CEO of Accenture's North American business in 2015, she made her mark on the $16 billion operation.

Some of the changes Sweet ushered in were big, such as leading important acquisitions for the global professional services business. Other changes were smaller, but haven proven extremely effective.

For example, one of the first things Sweet did was outlaw the corporate memo.

"When I became CEO about 18 months ago, I banned the memo," Sweet tells CNBC. "I said, 'I'm going to use webcast. I'm going to use video.'"

The executive says it's one of the best leadership decisions she's ever made. Swapping the formal email for live-streamed conversations or pre-taped video messages has improved communication across her team of 50,000 employees, she says, since "it allows you to be more authentic and less scripted."

Less script, more leadership

Employees are looking for bosses who aren't always extremely formal, Sweet says. Being more "off the cuff" encourages real conversation and problem solving.

If you're trying to create an atmosphere where people can be honest, "then you need people to show up to events and feel like leaders are being authentic with them," she says.

Sweet's live-streams are not scripted and often leave time for audience questions that can be sent online. Even the pre-recorded videos that Sweet and her team create, which are scripted, are better at conveying emotion than text, she says.

She recommends that other companies consider scrapping the corporate memo in exchange for a more personal option like video.

"It is very hard to transform your culture and your workforce to be a relevant company in the digital world if all of your processes are stuck in the traditional world," she says.

Above all, avoid PowerPoint for internal company presentations, the CEO says. Those are even worse than corporate emails.

Correction: This article reflects Accenture's updated financial information and number of employees.