It’s all in the communication….

“Communication is the real work of Leadership.” Nitin Nohria

Wirral Council is currently looking for a new CEO. The role is a challenging one as the council is currently suffering from a poor reputation, and a strong leader will be required to go in and establish the appropriate culture and values to enable the Executive team and staff to thrive again. The position does come with a salary of £130,000 p.a. so it is not all bad news for the successful applicant!

The Leader of Wirral Council, Phil Davies, gave an interview recently about the vacancy and gave us a great demonstration how not to sell a job!

The Party Leaders on the Wirral have been recommended to bring in an interim CEO for a 2 year period to help bring order and leadership to the council. Here is Phil’s take on this in his interview with the Wirral News:

“Obviously, given where we are at the moment we would stand a better chance of getting a top flight person further down the line. Our reputation is not brilliant and if we went out to the market now, would we get a top notch person? I doubt it.

“But if we get to where we want to be then we will stand a much better chance of getting a really good person for the job.”

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” Epictetus

So it appears that Phil’s message is that the person that takes the role of CEO will not be top notch or a really good person for the job…..

How are these comments going to encourage the best interim CEO’s available to apply for the role? Does a really successful interim CEO really want to be associated with a position that is viewed by the Council Leader as a bit of a poisoned chalice? What will be the impact on their repuation? How are the council staff going to react to whoever is appointed, knowing that the new CEO is not regarded as a “really good person for the job”?

Isn’t this level of communication making what is apparently already a very challenging role more difficult than it needs to be? The language used certainly gives an insight into the Council Leader’s views and beliefs.

Might it not have been better to talk about the desire to find an Interim CEO with a strong track record of implementing change and improving standards, an individual who relishes the challenge of establishing a culture of continuous improvement and has a clear vision for a successful and thriving local government operation?

I think the above has a greater chance of attracting the attention of the type of experienced CEO the council needs, rather than the “we are looking for a second rate, not overly successful, probably out of work CEO to run the ship until we are healthy enough to find somebody good to take over” message given by Phil Davies in his interview.

Communication is a vital skill for all Leaders and careful thought is needed to consider the potential impact of that communication. People will always have different intrepretations of messages given by Leaders and will often be different to that intended by the communicator. Research in America on Presidential nomination speeches has shown that voters chose candidates who spoke with optimism and looked for the positives in situations. Those who engaged in negative thoughts and looked for explanations and excuses for failures were seen as helpless and less effective as leaders.

Perhaps this is something Phil Davies may want to consider when he next gives an interview.

When was the last time you said something that interpreted differently to how you meant it? How could you have changed the message to achieve your desired impact?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
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