Facing the Music Takes Courage

Linda Dulye's picture
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Talk about throwing out the old rulebook.

That’s what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did late last month when he conducted the first scheduled press conference in the central bank’s history. Spotlight

Usually, remarks by Bernanke come before Congress in response to representatives trying to grasp the subtleties of the economic landscape while pressing the Fed chairman for answers on why the jobs picture continues to look so bleak.

Reporters and others that follow the economy closely dissect Bernanke’s every word, looking for hidden meaning, reasons for optimism or cause for panic.

Given this background, we think it took courage to face reporters directly and, of course, believe there’s a lesson here for leaders within organizations – the main one being: think through your message, and how you will articulate it, carefully.

While this may seem like a no brainer, we’ve watched as leaders intend to deliver straight talk but end up creating more confusion. Bernanke fell victim to this during his press conference, according to one account:

When Mr. Bernanke testifies before Congress, he often faces questions about a wide range of issues — and sometimes issues that have little to do with economics — but on Wednesday the questions stayed focused on the compact and complicated world of monetary policy. Mr. Bernanke responded in kind, offering technical answers that at times may have passed beyond the reach of any casual viewers.

Chances are most leaders aren’t communicating about topics as complex as a macroeconomic policy, but anyone who’s worked inside a large organization knows how easy it is for any of us to fall into the alphabet soup of acronyms, buzzwords and corporate speak. The fact is, depending on your audience, a simple three-letter acronym might scuttle an otherwise terrific message.

For us, the takeaway from Bernanke’s first press conference is that it’s never easy to communicate about difficult topics but with preparation even an imperfect delivery can move the needle in the right direction.

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For more insights on 2-way communications, read the latest issue of our newsletter, Spectator-Free Workplace.

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