‘Communicating with the Media and Tough Stakeholders’ at Chicago Booth
Exposure, that’s what we all fear. Being caught on camera when you haven’t had time to think about what to say, let alone compose your face, is hard for everyone, even the smart students of Chicago Booth. And it’s hard to watch yourself back and know just how much better you could have handled it.
But in just three hours, after practising some simple tips and straightforward preparation techniques, everyone felt more confident they could handle the hot seat.
That’s why iOpener consultants love working with the Executive MBA students at Chicago Booth; they are so quick to learn. I already had the good luck of working with Booth participants in London at the start of the LEAD programme, but I was thrilled to be challenged to create a unique learning event in all three Chicago Booth campuses spanning three continents over three months. I was delivering a course designed specifically for the school on ‘Communicating with the Media and Tough Stakeholders’. It draws on both my background as an international journalist (coincidentally working in the USA, Hong Kong and London) and on my skills as a leadership coach.
“Oh I hate seeing myself on camera!”, “I hate my voice!”, “I look really shifty, like I don’t want to answer the question”. These were typical responses from participants who were put on the spot about their company, their salary, or their trustworthiness. Few had done media interviews before, but all had faced tricky board or investor meetings. Anyone with ambition, and Booth MBA students are certainly ambitious, needs to understand how a leader handles the pressure. Or fails to, as United Airlines boss Oscar Munoz has just demonstrated.
Among the fantastic mix of students on each campus, I met bankers, consultants, doctors, accountants, and above all entrepreneurs. There is such an entrepreneurial spirit among Booth participants; you know the student profiles will be out of date almost as soon as they’re printed.
I felt especially honoured in Chicago that one student carved out the time to take the course even though his new website business was going live the very next day. The tips and the feed-forward he got were worth it, he said, he knew he needed to connect more emotionally with his new fashion business customers.
What’s common to all three Booth campuses is the supportive way the students work together. They appreciate and work past their cultural differences, whether it’s a rather brash person from Hong Kong paired with a polite South Korean, or a direct American with an extremely polite Brit. There is a refreshing honesty between them about what they each do well and what they need to start doing, something they will rarely get back in their day jobs. And I find I too am learning all the time: a Shanghai based student who was asked what he’d do if his CEO was arrested, as a prominent Chinese businessman had been that week, simply responded that he’d shut the company website down and say nothing. Not what I’d recommend, but I could understand his caution.
What we deliver at Chicago Booth is not theory: our work is about bridging the gap between knowing what leadership is and being a leader. It is both a Chicago Booth Executive Leadership Development imperative, and an iOpener specialty. My fellow consultants and I were thrilled to hear our students testing new techniques and then committing to take them back to their businesses.
Roll on working with the new intake of EMBA students later this year!
Photo Credit: unsplash.com