Today, after I finished swimming my laps in the hotel’s lovely pool here in Lagos, I relaxed by flipping through the pages of this month’s Harvard Business Review. (What’s your relaxation magazine of choice?)
I usually find all the articles so relevant, but one in particular leaped out of the pages to me.
The CEO of Zoetis (which is a recent spin-off of Pfizer, and now the world’s largest animal health company) gives a compelling first-person account of the two-year preparation and intensive training he undertook before he embarked on his top management role. He paid for a former CEO of a big European company to aggressively mentor him and he paid for two years of communications training.
TWO YEARS OF COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING? Wow. That is real dedication and commitment. I read further.
Juan Ramòn Alaix was already a successful general manager with Pfizer before being tapped to head the animal health business. But he was also self-aware enough to recognize that as CEO, he would have even greater responsibility to communicate strategy to the outside world, “including the media, analysts, and investors.”
The many places where strong communications make the difference
Alaix writes that he had to learn to be comfortable and engaging:
- Giving TV interviews
- Speaking with the print press
- Delivering keynote addresses
- Talking with small groups
- Meeting one-on-one with key investors
- Handling earnings calls
- Responding to key stakeholders Q&A
Getting expert feedback is critical
The communications expert Alaix hired sat in on both smaller meetings and larger town hall meetings – and”provided a lot of feedback.” Feedback that Alaix was eager to accept and apply writing that he was “challenged to think differently.”
Don’t forget Non-Verbal
Alaix also applauded the work the trainer providing by focusing on non-verbal communications, speaking simply about complicated uses and paying attention to pacing while speaking. All critically important.
Dedicate time to properly prepare
Not only did Alaix spend two years of his life – on top of his regular Pfizer duties – preparing for his upcoming role as the Zoetis CEO, he also testifies to the amount of time he dedicates to prepare for any significant speaking opportunity:
“Before I did my first TV interview.. I spent more than eight hours doing mock interviews… by the time I gave the first road-show pitch to investors, I’d rehearsed it at least 40 times.”
Incredible. But not surprising. In today’s global marketplace, where almost anything you say can be instantly online and rewatched a thousand times, to NOT be able to communicate engagingly and effectively is a true liability.
This CEO’s embrace of improving communications makes for a terrific lesson. No matter where you are in your career, a commitment to improving and polishing your communication skills is key to you and your organization’s continued success.
On Saturday, when I met a group of impressive ladies from Nigeria’s WISCAR organization (Women In Successful Careers), I spoke that it is never too soon – or too late – to refine these skills.
So, what are you waiting for? There is no time to lose.
I am in Lagos, Nigeria with my local partners Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited for the next three weeks – conducting a series of communications training sessions for leading businesses and other organizations. It is not too late to meet me for a consultation. Please reach out!