01 Jun Why Does Hillary Clinton Suck at Communicating?
Full disclosure – there is absolutely no political agenda here. This is not about the right vs the left or which candidate is best – it’s about communication.
Or lack thereof in this case…
Hillary Clinton just can’t seem to get rid of the ghosts from her email servers’ past. The State Department’s Inspector General released a report stating that she violated the rules surrounding email use within the State Department. The report contradicts a majority of what Clinton has stated on the topic.
She clearly has great experience and can point to a career of accomplishments. But she can’t seem to say anything ‘right.’
Actually – one can make the argument that Hillary Clinton is just bad at campaigning. Valid points. Part of the reason is because she just sucks at communicating. If she can’t communicate she can’t relate to the constituency. If she can’t relate to the constituency she can’t build trust and enthusiasm. If she can’t build trust and enthusiasm…well…you get the gist.
So Hillary was cleared by the FBI of any possible criminal charges with her emails. She has yet to take accountability for her behavior – though not criminal – a good leader acknowledges past mistakes and lessons learned. She did the same in an recent interview with ABC News about the IG report that came out prior – she deflects to attacking Donald Trump, talking about her experience, and stating the clear talking point – if I could do it all over again, I would have done it differently.
Got it. Way to take responsibility, Secretary Clinton.
All she had to say was:
“I understand that the actions I took regarding my email use as Secretary of State can be viewed by some as inappropriate. We all make mistakes in life, the important thing is we learn from them and do not repeat them. I thank the OIG and the FBI for fulfilling their duties of due diligence. I have learned some things from this situation that I could have done differently, and in the future I will do differently. This is an election. The American people need a leader who is willing to take feedback. A leader who is willing to take accountability for mistakes. A leader who is open to new ideas and new ways of getting things done. I am hopeful, and would be honored, to be that leader for the American people…”
Accountability. Willingness to listen. Flexibility. Humility. Openness to learn! Good start.
Secretary Clinton is leaving way too much up for interpretation. Many people think she is untrusting – because – she isn’t communicating clearly with a consistent message and she’s getting defensive because people are getting frustrated. Well…no wonder!
A good communicator (and a good leader) is clear, concise, and consistent. They address all of the major points of contention calmly, consistently and concisely. They’re authentic and genuine. They speak (ok, maybe spin a bit) the facts. And they say things in a way that leaves little room for interpretation.
Good communicators control the message. They stand in front of the issue and address it openly, honestly, consistently and transparently. This is how you build trust.
So – take it from a change agent…
So what can Hillary teach you about communication?
What have you done for me lately…
Being former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State are impressive qualifications. But that was then. Customers (and voters) have short attention spans. They’re not thinking about what good you did then. They’re looking at the good you are doing now and the good you can do in the future. When developing a communication style and messaging – forget what you think you represented (or how you may have been seen) in the past and focus more on the message you’re trying to convey in the present – who you want to be now (and why) and how you plan to make that a reality. Don’t ignore past accomplishments – but be forward thinking and doing in how you can apply those to the future. Accomplishments are subjective. Continually touting past accomplishments without addressing current concerns can make you come off as entitled. Just because you’re Hillary doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed anything. People want to know you’re qualified, but, they also want to know how you’re going to use those qualifications to help and support them in the present and the future.
Take the stick out of your…
Last summer I was at the Jersey Shore and saw a show. The host of the show, a very direct man with a comedic edge, said in his monologue – “Let’s face it folks, if Hillary wants to be President – she needs to take the stick out of her ass.” The man had a point. Then Senator Barack Obama didn’t win over voters because he looked stuffy and had the matching non-authentic politician (ok, fake!) smile to go with it. He won over voters because he stayed calm and cool while simultaneously speaking from the heart with passion and enthusiasm. A difficult balance for any leader. He focused on his message and was conscious of his delivery. He faced facts, some may say with a bit of naivety, but he faced them nonetheless. People believed in hope and change back in 2008. Why? Because, whether you agreed with his message or not, he was successful in selling it. He believed it. He was excited about it. And that belief and excitement translated to voters. He was consistent in his beliefs and his communication. Everything Obama said tied right back to hope and change. He was passionate about what he was saying and he believed in his mission and vision (George W. Bush also did a great job of this). So lighten up Hillary, speak from the heart, show some unscripted enthusiasm, stay consistent and stay on message.
But show who wears the pants (or the pants suit)…
To be a successful communicator you need to tailor your communication style to show strength in a way that will rally the troops and achieve success. In order to win the highest political office in this country – one must demonstrate leadership and authority. No, not like Donald Trump (though I wrote about him recently, too!) in a rude and disrespectful way. But like someone who is grateful, respectful, and tough – like they’re not going to put up with any crap and can get the job done but doesn’t have to insult everyone who disagrees with them in the process. Direct. Honest. Forceful. Collected. (I know it’s in there somewhere, Hillary!) Take a page from Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir!
There is much more to successful communication. But these are some basics to help you build a following. Master these concepts and you’re farther along than others…like say, oh, some of those running for President.
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Effectiveness & Strategy firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable. Organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business.
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