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CEOs – You Can Do Much Better

CEOs – You can do much better!

In recent months I have seen at least three examples of CEOs of major sporting bodies failing a fundamental test of leadership – the ability to speak clearly, simply and concisely. I was taught long ago that the ability to communicate is a basic tenet of leadership.

Yet for our major sporting bodies, it seems that it is more important to ensure the numbers, the dollars are right before anything else. Yet if the “leaders” of these bodies cannot let interested parties know that the dollars are right then where do they sit?

Problem 1 – Weasel words

The first problem that I notice with these CEOs is the omnipresence of weasel words – thanks to Don Watson, one of our finest authors for the term.

How many times do you hear the invocation of the word “strategy” in order to emphasise the gravity of a problem or the efforts of said CEO and organisation to solve it. Usually they are talking about tactics rather than strategy but that word doesn’t sound as cool does it?

Another example is one about which I have written previously – going forward. This useless phrase is usually used in conjunction when discussing plans. Well forward is the only way human beings can progress in time – we cannot go back in time. Unless someone has a useful invention up their sleeve. Yet out it trots, like the painful relative who often comes to visit – we don’t want it so dump it.

Problem 2 – No Plan

These CEOs go to a press conference, interview or speech opportunity without a clear plan of the key messages with which they want t leave their audience. Why is this clear to me? Because when I ask myself what did they say, I simply cannot grasp any of their messages from the multitude of words they thrust upon us.

Any public speaking opportunity must begin with a plan to share and emphasise around three (3) key messages. This is how you might assess the success of a speaking opportunity. Ask the audience, “what did they just say?” You don’t expect a verbatim response from the audience however you do expect a common thread of the messages.

Problem 3 – Poor Grasp of English

I’m not saying that they speak a foreign language, although there is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is that they lack an appreciation for the wonderful magic that the English language may provide, with a little thought and lateral thinking.

Unfortunately most CEOs of sporting bodies seem to work from a vocabulary set with which they have been issued together with their parking pass and corporate credit card. The vocabulary is dull, boring, uninspiring and, often, structured around poor grammar.

Come on, expand your vocabulary just a little, take a risk or two in framing your speech or interview and try sounding like someone who wants to share important messages, move your audience or tell the important story.

The solution to speaking like a leader is not difficult; it takes just a little thought, planning and a touch of risk in thinking outside the boring square – think in a rhombus instead.

Ray Hartley

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