When CEOs Speak: IABC conversation offers insight into leadership and the importance of communication
Wow. Sometimes in life, you are privileged to share thoughts with some very forward-thinking souls. Today, I enjoyed tapping into the minds of chief communicators while moderating the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) 2011 World Conference In-Depth Session highlighting preliminary findings from the IABC Research Foundation and Marketwire Conversations with CEOs’ Study (#id4). Nearly two dozen CEOs – from companies including Playboy Enterprise, Best Buy, and DeBeers – engaged in in-depth interviews discussing the CEO’s role in corporate communication, how it affects financial performance and business success. The final full study, along with podcasts of the individual conversations, will be shared globally in the coming months via IABC and Marketwire.
One CEO who was present to join today’s IABC kick-off session included Deborah Tabart OAM, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Koala Foundation. Deborah further underscores my previous post on how “Chicks Rule,” given her candid, smart-minded speak on how she leads and engages with audiences internally and externally to the point where she has become the award-winning voice for the conservation, management and protection of koalas and their habitat throughout Australia. Known internationally as the “Koala Woman,” her presence at today’s panel echoed the force of leaders the likes of Dian Fossey who came before, and who, like she, are the kind to make history.
One of my favorite quotes is from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The fact that Deborah is a woman takes a back seat to her skills and successes as a leader and CEO. Some key takeaways from all she shared today are relevant and would resonate with chief communicators regardless of gender, geography, culture, industry, or even company size:
- “Listen” said Deborah. It may seem so simple, but many seem too often to want to be heard, not realizing what we may be missing if we don’t take the time to listen to our stakeholders, both internal and external.
- “Be persistent”: Deborah shared stories of how she and her communications team came up with solutions to problems that those stating the challenges don’t seem to really want to hear. And she included herself, as CEO, sometimes falling into that category. Her advice? Smart leaders will never miss out on a good idea. Smart employees need to be persistent and pay attention to when the time is right to approach subjects and have difficult conversations with the C-Suite.
- “Realize that sustainability is the “New Normal.” Deborah who has made a global impact with limited resources shared her world view that “growth is great, but small is beautiful.” Sustainability for every company, every household, every human being is key to even having a future.
- “Clear The Noise”: What really matters? What is of value? Remember who your stakeholders are, where they congregate and communicate, and use your filter to focus all your passion and your business- and financial-sense on it. Don’t engage in tools just for the sake of using a new tool. Use what has most impact for you and your message: video, blogs, email. Keep your communication strategy and message consistent, and only change, based on a real threat to you and your Company’s mission.
- “Never NOT Be YOU”: People have the power to change, and leaders can share their vision and build armies of brand ambassadors, but only if the CEO is transparent, credible, and believes for real in the message she is willing to actively communicate.
Wise words from a wise leader. No wonder Deborah Tabart is IABC’s 2011 EXCEL award winner…the organization’s first female recipient. Congratulations!