A recent column in the New York Times caught our eye regarding people who communicate with integrity and authority. It was a powerful interview with James Hackett, President and CEO of global office furniture maker Steelcase. In the interview Hackett used many of the techniques and counsel CommCore offers clients.
In particular he illustrated his key points via relevant and compelling stories and analogies that stick with the audience. He also emphasized the importance of practice, putting himself (and the company) in crisis situations so as to be prepared for challenging situations. Hackett told stories about lessons he learned from (a) watching the eyes of hotelier J. W. (Bill) Marriott, (b) listening to his father talk about his days as a fireman, and (c) his own days as a football player at the University of Michigan under the late legendary coach Bo Schembechler.
The job of a CEO, Hackett says, is “to look at the chaos and provide a point of view about what needs to be done.” Doing that right, he says, requires more than being good at the craft of creating and conveying messages: it requires being believable. The CEOs he is most impressed with, Hackett concludes, are those who “do not seem packaged. [T]hey have this sense of peace, this self-awareness, that says, ‘I understand who I am.’ ”
At CommCore we call good communication — to paraphrase Winston Churchill — the “Language of Leadership.” And every day we coach and train Executives, Subject Matter Experts, and Senior Officials on how to be effective speakers and listeners in a wide range of settings and situations (media, internal and external public presentations, crisis communications, legislative and regulatory testimony, etc.). But we always remind our clients that skills add up to a conclusion that a spokesperson/leader is credible and authoritative.