You’re the boss of a large organisation. You give the same big speech time and time again. It’s important that staff hear it from you; it’s important to reinforce the message. You are responsible for setting the tone and reminding everyone of the organisation’s core values. The challenge is to keep it fresh, to find a new way of getting an old message across.
‘It is difficult to imagine the chair of an NHS trust or the chief executive of a local authority dressing up in drag to get across a message on customer care’
The chairman of ABN Amro came up with an eye caching and memorable way of grabbing the audience’s attention. Gerrit Zalm dressed in drag and looking like Dame Edna Everage complete with full make up, big wig, high heels and electric blue ball gown appeared as his alter ego Priscilla, a successful brothel owner. She then proceeded to say that in her profession “putting the customer first” had been the motto for centuries. The message was clear: successful businesses know how to keep the customer satisfied.
Be less stuffy
Unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch so I don’t know how risqué his speech was but clearly from the laughter the audience found it highly amusing.
It is difficult to imagine the chair of an NHS trust or the chief executive of a local authority dressing up in drag as the owner of a brothel to get across a message on customer care. HR would probably have something to say about it and the head of PR would defiantly point out the risk of negative publicity, the fear of causing offence and the wrath of local politicians, to say nothing of the moral outrage of the tabloids.
Which is a shame really, because while this may not be right for a public sector audience, if leaders really do want to get their message across to cynical and often jaded staff they need a fresh approach, something that makes an audience sit up and take notice. Maybe if a few more chairs and chief executives were prepared to be less stuffy they might find it easier to engage with their staff.