This year the International Association of Business Communicators got away from a World Conference tradition of a plenary speech by the winner of an "Excel Award" for leadership communication. Usually this was a tedious talk, often ghostwritten by a communicator, about how seriously the CEO takes communication.
But there were lots of CEO voices at this week's World Conference of the International Association of Business Communicators in New York, the best four of which organized in a panel discussion on leadership and communication, with SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott, Ogilvy & Mather chairman emeritus Shelly Lazarus, Heineken USA CEO Dolf van den Brink and corporate turnaround specialist Peter Cuneo.
The bosses were preaching to the choir in the audience, and the choir sang back, bursting into applause at such remarks as:
"[Employees] have to believe they're doing something that will make a difference in the world somehow." —Lazarus
"[Employees] may even disagree with the direction you are espousing but they will go along with you because they want to believe that you have the answer." —Cuneo
"Anything worth communicating is almost always undercommunicated." —McDermott
"I often laugh when I see some CEO come on Squawk Box and say, 'I changed the culture in six months.' That's impossible." —Cuneo
And finally, Lazarus explained how she gains consumer insights she needs to advise CEOs. "I fly commercial and I use the public ladies room," Lazarus explained, adding that because of the "hermetically sealed" lives they lead, "It's amazing what CEOs find astonishing."