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Handling Your CEO’s Communications skills - November 03,2007
Kudos to National Commercial Bank’s Managing Director, Patrick Hylton. He was identified as a Jamaican Executive with the ‘it’ factor for communications effectiveness. Please see feed-back sent to me:

“Dear Yvonne: Firstly, congratulations on doing a fantastic job and heightening the level of understanding and thereby value of communication in Corporate Jamaica.
I respond to your request for CEO’s with the ‘it’ factor and I hereby position my Group Managing Director, Patrick Hylton as such. He is frank, witty, well read, informed and quietly engaging. He does these quite well as a result of his ability to listen and when he questions they are constructive and directional, quite like a teacher. So too he is open for suggestions and practical in approach.
Continue the good work and kudos on your accomplishments; you are giving the profession a much needed recognition.” – Belinda Williams, NCB’s Public Relations and Corporate Affairs Manager.
Thanks Belinda. The floor is still open for other submissions. Don’t be shy.

How do you constructively criticize your boss? As a communicator, can you ‘man up’, be politically correct and tell him where he falls short and actively help him to address those areas of weaknesses in his communications skills? In a corporate world of super-sized egos where the mantra seems to be ‘malice towards all’, how do you create that meaningful space that will help your CEO take his and the company’s performance to the next level utilizing his communications skills?

Well, to tell the truth, there are easier jobs (oh yes, I have looked around) and if you are not up to the task you are definitely going down with his ship – because how effective a communicator he is reflects strongly on your own personal arsenal of communications skills and how you persuasively use them to help him. And of course I know of the executive-type who ‘nuh tek no telling’ putting both your pay cheques in jeopardy. He will blithely butcher his most crucial presentation to those important stakeholders while gleefully throwing you the ‘thumbs up’ signal while you look desperately around for an open door through which to make a mad dash. He will, against anyone’s better judgment, insist on writing his own speeches on issues that impact on the other sections of the organization on which he is not totally knowledgeable and without consultation with his team members. Just because he is now ‘The Boss’. Not that you are any style guru yourself, but against all advice he will turn up at that all important function dressed to the nines in a tuxedo when the invitation read business suit. And yes, it does matter.

But, on the other hand there are those executives who though supremely confident and successful in their own technical areas of skill, are very much aware that communication is not their strongest point and are willing to learn and heed professional advice. They will often climb down from that high horse and ask your opinion, expecting open and honest responses and not only what they want to hear from you. They will do so without feeling that they have crossed the boundary of employee-employer relationship. Here are some tips to help your CEO hone his communications skills.

Make Him Talk to the Staff
Persuade your CEO or executive to engage with staff members collectively and face-to-face. Very often after years of hard work, many executives come into their own as the head of the organization. Unfortunately having ascended into that rarified air found only in Corporate Board Rooms, he suddenly forgets that the lines of communication with staff need to remain open. And it is not that he is running for public office and has to touch base daily with the members of his constituency to make sure he wins their almighty vote. The truth is, if you improve communication at the top of the organization you will improve how employees feel about the effectiveness of communications within their organization. And as any fool knows there is a strategic correlation between employee satisfaction and the ROI for the business.

So, find events, occasions and creative ways of letting your CEO engage with the staff members creating that space for constructive feedback mechanism. Initially, there will be the awkward fence of silence between both parties, as one (the CEO) will want to run directly back to his office and quickly designate someone else to do that job; the other (the staff) will wonder, some in disgust, ‘a wha him want from we now?’. After a while I guarantee if the CEO is credible and authentic in his overtures and if the staff members genuinely care about the organization with which they work, the walls of silence will eventually be broken down.

Dress Rehearsal
If your CEO is not the best public speaker in the world and would cheerfully prefer to be drawn and quartered rather than speak to an audience, a good way to get him comfortable is to do a dry run. I have found that this is a good way of getting him comfortable with his audience, how he will stand in front of the podium and making him become familiar with the words in his speech. If there are challenging turns of phrases, he will learn to conquer them, or at least be aware that they might trip him up in execution. Your ability to persuade him that this is not a waste of time exercise rests squarely on your shoulders.
These ideas are not even the tip of the iceberg and if you have any good suggestions that have worked for you and your CEO feel free to drop me a line.


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