What’s The Point Of Speaking?

 As an executive leader, you probably already know this: 

Every time you speak, you put yourself and your organization at risk. 

One false word – the wrong thing said at the wrong time to the wrong people – can destroy your reputation, and the reputation and operations of your organization, in a flash. It happens every day in every arena – corporate, political, government, not-for-profit. Even the media. Just ask Brian Williams. 

So what’s the point of speaking? Why take the risk? 

Well, here it is. Quite simply. 

As an executive leader, every time you speak, you have an opportunity to advance your leadership goals and objectives. 

Every single time. 

The work we do with our executive clients has proven this, over and over again.Yet I still see way too many opportunities squandered. Or worse yet, reputations and operations damaged. 

And I’m sorry to say that my own communications profession is partly to blame. Many still don’t understand that executive communication should be outcome-driven.  

Your communications staff, if you’re fortunate enough to have them, should know this. But most don’t. Instead they focus on other things. Like whether their leader is likeable or not. Or whether there’s enough “buzz” on a speech.  

Today, when the impact of a communication can be measured, that is simply not good enough. 

 It’s not entirely their fault. They don’t understand that just like everything else you do, your communications should be driven by outcomes. When done right, it can change the way people think and act. 

That’s leadership. 

John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter, the late, great Ted Sorensen, knew this. While he conceded that it is rarely done, he wrote that, “… the right topic delivered by the right speaker in the right way at the right moment… can ignite a fire, change men’s minds, open their eyes, alter their votes, bring hope to their lives, and, in all these ways change the world. I know. I saw it happen.” 

Of course, there are times when the outcome you’re striving to achieve isn’t to change the world; maybe not even to change something in your organization. 

You may believe it’s just about building understanding and awareness.

Instead, think of the end result: what you can achieve together once they have that awareness and understanding. Then tell them what to do with that information so that it will serve your strategic leadership purpose. Give them a call to action and when you’re able, hold them to account for fulfilling it.

With or without a dedicated communications team, too many executive leaders make the assumption that when they share information with a group of people, whether through a presentation, meeting, conference call, town hall, or keynote speech, those people will know what to do with what’s been said.

They usually don’t. 

Since you need them to act in alignment, be sure to tell them.

By virtue of your executive leadership position, you have a unique perspective.  You see what they cannot see. And you’re privy to a lot more.

So before you speak, whether you’re delivering your own words or those written by someone else, know that there is a point to speaking. Ensure that what you say, and how you say it, always elicits the understanding and response that will advance your leadership goals and objectives. 

Every single time.