Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mark Zuckerberg Wants To Know: Why Are Leadership Speeches So Boring?

Image via, "Blah, Blah, Blah is What Gen Y'ers are Hearing"

Writing for CNET, Chris Matyszczyk talks about the new commercial for Facebook Home. He notes that it's partly a commentary on the typical phenomenon of employees listening to their boring CEO go on and on, writing:

"In a quite stunning acting debut, Facebook's CEO shows the virtues of Home and the difficulties of being a CEO. His employees aren't impressed." (Full story here.)

From an advertising perspective I don't think the commercial works - I'm too focused on the fact that Zuckerberg is making fun of himself. 

But from a branding perspective it might be a good one. The commercial tells me that Facebook represents irreverence - a brand value that I identify with. This might make me more likely to remain a customer.

If you take away the commercial aspect though, the ad brings a timeless internal communication problem to light.  Corporate writers wring their hands about boring leadership speeches all the time - and here is Mark Zuckberberg himself, the leader of one of the most important brands in the world - basically agreeing with them.

Why is executive communication often so boring? In my view it's because leaders avoid talking about the real issues - particularly the conflicts underlying those issues - for fear of upsetting the apple cart.

What can be done to fix it? Probably the recognition that people are tuning out. And that they're not just tuning out and letting you do what you want, but continuing the conversation around you. If that conversation goes in a different direction than the content of your talk, your influence and then your credibility is undermined.

Too much emphasis is placed on frontline speeches. The real work has to be done behind the scenes, one person at a time, supported both by consensus and by data to support the leaders' conclusions.

Leadership is not a one-person show anymore. It's about moving a crowd as one. The followers have to be on the same page, but they can't be on the same page if they're not listening.

* All opinions, as always, are my own.