The CEO’s Challenge: overcoming barriers to authentic communication

Authenticity is one the hallmarks of a successful presentation. Audiences can sense when a presenter is not delivering a message that is congruent with their beliefs. This is an emotional as much as an intellectual challenge, and one that many CEO’s are destined to fail. The reason, according to Anthony Goodman, writing in Monday’s Financial Times, is that many chief executives are prisoners of their environment. Quoting Professor Roger Martin who writes in Fixing The Game:

“Institutional investors, equity analysts, investment bankers, hedge funds and the financial press have emerged as central figures in the CEO’s community … a community rife with transactional relationships, exploitation and distrust.”

Martin believes that executives pander to these constituencies, leading them to make decisions that often do not deliver long-term value to the organizations they lead and deliver communications that lack authenticity.

When you hear a CEO present at a conference, you see one person. What you don’t see is the phalanx of communications staff, from the heads of Public Relations to the speechwriter, PowerPoint design team and event staff who had a hand in creating and revising the content that they deliver.

It’s a rare chief executive who has the time and attention on the speech to ensure that, as well as being an accurate communication about the institutional programs and objectives, it is also something that sounds totally authentic when they deliver it.

Audience’s remember those CEO’s who do take the time to embody their speeches as authentic communications of who they are. The rest, they forget.

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