07 June 2011

A CEO from communications heaven

I was lucky enough to be invited to a town hall meeting with a CEO of a company. For multiple reasons I cannot share with you who the CEO is, or what name of the company is. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happened to me. I was inspired by this CEO. I was invited to the meeting by his communications advisor, and she told me beforehand how wonderful he is in town hall meetings, and what a pleasure it is to work with him.

In the meeting he addressed a crowd of around 300 employees, who were just told that their budgets were cut. Employees were given the opportunity to ask questions beforehand. My communications contact there told me that the CEO never wanted her to prepare questions. His philosophy is that he should be capable to formulate the answers himself, and boy do I agree with that!

Now, what did the CEO do that inspired me?

1. He used just one (!) slide, to reiterate the company’s strategy, explaining it in simple words, and stressing the importance of every word, not leaving room for any doubt about the fact that he had thought about it, made the choice, and was ready to defend that strategy to any audience.

2. He did not use any business lingo, on the contrary, he spoke in clear, personal, genuine words.

3. When answering the questions, he picked the most difficult ones, and answered them straight on, with great respect for the feelings behind the question, addressing that feeling and explaining very calmly the rationale behind his decision. Every question, no matter how hard, or sometimes unreasonable, was answered this way. Here, it really showed that he was not prepared by a Q&A session, but that he could answer from his own knowledge of the matter.

4. He took ownership of his decisions, admitting mistakes, explaining which parts were his call, and why he made those calls. He said: “I believe in chance before you have to chance”, which I think is a great one-liner, and explained that that was his duty. To chance the company’s direction before this chance would be enforced.

5. I came out inspired, and so did 300 employees, so whatever he did, it was successful.

Communications, it can be so simple if you keep it simple!


  1. To communicate effectively be the audience itself. More often than not, CEOs are in the habit of using words that their audience does not understand and speak in a manner that simply boasts of their superior knowledge over others rather than explaning things in a language which the intended audience understands. Simplicity is the forte of an effective communicator and that simplicity comes when the communicator uses his heart more than the mind.

    Jatinder Vijh

  2. Namastee Jatinder. Great to hear a reaction from my beloved India!(I spent 18 months of my life there, and fell in love with the country and especially its people). Your statement is so true, I especially love your last sentence, which sums up the essence of what I wanted to say in this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Wow, sounds like a guy I'd like to work for!