What Makes an Effective Top Communicator

You are a top manager, a CEO, a Chairman, a Managing Director, leading an international company. We have seen in the previous article (7 Things CEOs Must Not Delegate) that there are communication that you should make in person. These are opportunities, but also risks. At stake is the future of your company … and yours!

Here are the key competencies that you need. You may use this as a checklist for yourself!

Empathy: You must be able to see the world through the eyes of other people, and understand their point-of-view – even if you don’t agree with it. If you want to convince, you have to adapt your information and argumentation to their expectations, mentalities motivations and abilities.


Projection: This is the ability to impact your audience, by the power of your personality and presence. A few “born leaders” are naturally charismatic …  the rest of us have to develop our skills and tools to achieve our goals! Your voice and body language play a big role in the way you are perceived. Many hi-tech audio-visual tools should be avoided or minimized, because they make your message impersonal.

Dialogue: Communication has become totally misused word: people think they communicate when they just inform. Communication is not a one-way-street; it is send-and-receive.  Well applied dialogue will always be more effective than monologue.  We don’t do it because we are afraid of losing control, but there are many ways to involve your audience. It is the best way to convince and to get commitment.

Emotional Intelligence: Most CEOs have a technical, “facts-and –numbers” education and background. Of course this is indispensable, but in some situations it can be a handicap! If your argumentation is too rational-based, you not only miss the point, you may provoke resistance. Emotions are not chaotic, but can be analyzed, understood, anticipated, and handled.

Pedagogics: As soon as you communicate outside your inner circle (management team, close associates), you have to make your information accessible. As Kierkegaard said: if you want to teach people, you first have to fetch them at their level. This means explaining, exemplifying, illustrating, etc. It also means simplifying – less is often more!

Cross-cultural adaptation: You may be quite effective in your home environment, but when you communicate with people of a different background, a number of parameters change. They may have different values, references, thought processes, priorities, habits, rules, etc. This is not only true of distant cultures (e.g. Chinese), but is often underestimated when it comes to neighbouring cultures (e.g. other Europeans). It is not just respecting a few “dos and don’ts” – it is learning to de-code foreign behaviours and building common ground.

Language: Obviously language is the main means of communication … but also of miscommunication! International business is mostly conducted in English, and most of the time, neither party is a native English speaker. So there are two sources of error: the way things are said, and the way they are (mis)understood. You don’t have to speak perfect English (few people do), but you must express yourself clearly and understandably. And you should know the main traps, like “false friends”: words that sound like one thing, but mean another!

Anybody can develop these competencies – not by reading books, but by action training and coaching. This is what we will propose to you soon.

Rolf Lennart Goldmann, Managing Director

Goldmann International Foundation for Image and Communication, Geneva

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