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Opinion: Business leaders could never get away with talking like politicians
0710 GO microphone 2
Vocalists of all kinds may step to the microphone and sing during karaoke on the downtown square Friday in Gainesville.

Frequently business leaders speak to groups on various occasions: staff and board meetings, civic clubs, awards ceremonies, dedication of new facilities and even to media representatives when the company faces a public crisis. To achieve excellence in presenting ideas to audiences clearly and convincingly, not only do managers and CEOs enroll in communication courses and hire speech coaches, they also look for role models who demonstrate platform skills.

Corporate leaders who seek speaking role models should not select political speakers for several reasons. 

First, political speakers seek votes and donors by saying repeatedly that the opposition is no good. They find flaws with an opponent's private life and governing record. They try to assure the public: "Elect me, because I am more moral and more capable than those scoundrels running against me." That may work in politics but will generate resentment and rejection if a business executive tried to attract customers by saying how lousy other vendors are. Prospective clients want to know how good your service or product is on its own merit. 

Second, political leaders fail fact checks repeatedly. Soon after speeches and press releases, economic experts and historians will identify misleading comments and data. No business leader will succeed when her company's annual report distorts the facts. 

Third, political speakers lack consistency in their opinions and declarations. They reshape their rhetoric according to what has become popular. Yet, only the worst supervisors would vacillate on policies anybody could check against the minutes of previous meetings. These supervisors wouldn't last long when their fickle ways surfaced. 

Fourth, political speakers speak with a forced dramatic style designed to prompt applause. The cadence is obvious: "This. is the greatest. month. that our campaign. has experienced."  By contrast, a CEO makes an unpunctuated statement that stands on its own value. "This is the finest quarter we have enjoyed in five years." No applause expected, none needed. 

Fifth, political speakers habitually take credit for anything accomplished "on my watch." They wear out the "I" and "my" approach. In their viewpoint, the world should be grateful and should reward them by checking their names in the ballot booth — and sending in more dollars. Beware of the business leader who claims he deserves sole credit for the corporation's growth. His hard-working team will feel slighted and may very well seek employment where the C-suite is not overflowing with ego. 

Please note that I have not identified any one candidate, office holder or party. In my judgment, these oratorical flaws surface in practically every political presentation. I'm delighted that the overwhelming majority of business and industry kingpins rely on much more respectable and ethical communication approaches.

Bill Lampton


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