So, probably once a year throughout my career (mmm, that’s a grandiose word), I have been invited to an annual Corporate ‘road show’ type event at which the current ‘leader’ stands on stage and holds forth for up to an hour on ‘their vision’ for us – the gaggle of employees corralled together before them.
Over my 20 years of such ‘fun’ I’ve seen all sorts of performers and heard all sorts of visions. Some good, many mediocre, some bad.
But a pet hate of mine is how they usually start off.
Picture the scene. The VIP is standing in the wings, waiting to come on and another (slightly less hierarchically) important person has the job of introducing them onto the stage.
…and what do these ‘introducers’ always seem to say? Something like this…
“we are all very lucky to have [insert name of important person] here with us today…s/he has freed up his/her extremely important time in order to be with us…so put your hands together in appreciation for [ ]”
And I always want to SCREAM!
Now obviously each announcer uses their own personal wording but it’s usually around:
- us ‘being lucky’: as if we are worshippers at the VIPs altar; and
- they (the VIP) having ‘freed up’ their time to be here, as if they have far more important things to be doing than to be talking to us.
A refreshing change
I was lucky enough 🙂 for the first CEO of my working life to be intelligent/ humble/ astute enough to realise the huge error in the above.
The first time John was introduced it was just as above. But he shot up on to the stage, put his hands out and asked us to stop.
He then made clear that we were not lucky that he was ‘before us’, that there was nothing ‘more important’ that he should be doing and that he should be thanking us for coming along and listening to what he hoped to say.
He recognised that he had to earn his ‘leader’ moniker by:
- gaining (and retaining) our respect and trust; and
- motivating us to want to follow him for ourselves
His mild (yet respectful) rebuke of the person that had introduced him ensured that I saw him speak many more times (because I wanted to) and, subsequent to that first time, no-one introduced him other than to ask us to give him a warm welcome…which we should give to anyone (and which ‘leaders’, in turn, should want to give all of us back).
I was never asked again to feel lucky about seeing him speak. Nice!
“Stop being so puerile Steve!”
Now you might read the above and think that I am a truly awkward and prickly bugger (and you might be right) but the fact is that:
- the ‘VIP’ wants us to listen to them because they want our help in achieving their aim of a successful organisation; and
- we have our own personal purpose and it is up to us to work out if and how it fits with what this VIP is putting forward to us – we can’t be made to love the words coming out of their mouths (though many of us can be bribed to comply)
To conclude – How to avoid my pet hate:
Please don’t ever tell me that I am lucky that you (or one of your associates) came before me and I was lucky that I heard you speak! Thanks….and I won’t presume the same of you 🙂
It’s my job to listen, consider and then make my own mind up, rather than be told that I should be grateful.
My 2nd pet hate at these events is the Q&A session near the end…but that’s another story!
Clarification: I am more than happy for such communication events to occur and, yes, I want to know what’s happening from the person charged with leading us but:
- don’t use ‘happy talk’: treat me like an adult and tell me ‘warts and all’;
- don’t attempt propaganda and corporate babble on me: this naively assumes that I don’t feel what’s really going on around me (which you, the VIP, are highly unlikely to truly know);
- don’t think that, just because you said it, I agree with it and will embrace it; and finally but most importantly
- don’t use 1-way corporate events and communications as substitutes for regular, respectful and meaningful 2-way ‘gemba walking’.