May I share with you my impromptu speech upon receiving a CEO Award last week:
Ladies and gentlemen, I suppose because this is an award about communications, I shouldn’t tell you that I am speechless. But the fact is that I don’t have a prepared speech. So let me start by thanking The International Association of Business Communications for this distinct honor … which is an honor in itself because of the prestige that goes with being recognized by a prestigious entity, but also an honor because it places me within the group of honorable co-awardees present and past.
It is entirely possible that I am the oldest of the awardees tonight. It is possible that, looking at me, you might not think so, but I will leave that to your objective judgment. But taking advantage of my senior-citizen status, let me just proceed with a few observations based on my longish experience with communications.
An effective communicator, first of all, must understand that it is not about himself; it is about others whether that “others” be the country, the institution, the people he works with, or various stakeholders.
Thus, for example, in my career in public service, whether as secretary of finance or heading various institutions, I would impart that the successful accomplishment of objectives was about the country and its welfare, not about me. And when I led institutions, it was about the institution, where to position it next in a continuous pursuit of excellence, and it was about the benefit of the people that worked in that institution and the stakeholders that rely upon it.
I did not succeed by myself and I am sure none of my fellow awardees would say anything of that sort. I am proud as Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Veterans Bank to recognize those who are here with me this evening from the Bank, who by their dedication are actually the ones that have helped lift up our institution, thus leading to this award. They have worked hard, driven by their knowledge and instinct that a rising tide lifts all boats. They continue to work hard not only for the continuous improvement of the institution they work for but also to help perpetuate the memory of the all too easily forgotten Filipino Veterans of World War II to whom we owe our eternal debt of gratitude since many of us here would not even be alive today, were it not for the valor and patriotism of those Veterans fighting seemingly insurmountable odds to restore our freedom.
The second observation I would like to share with you is that effective communication does not come from providing quotable quotes or clever sound bites as those make one appear glib rather than wise. It doesn’t come either from crafting complicated speeches in the belief that the more complicated the speech the more authoritative it is. Actually it may make one seem obscure rather than profound. Effective communication should start from the heart, by the articulation of a vision that is sincere and heartfelt. It becomes better if communication comes from both the heart and the mind when articulation includes a lucid presentation of where that vision is supposed to lead and its relevance to identified goals. And best of all, if communication comes from the heart, the mind and the hands, meaning to say that it presents a vision, proceeds with a substantive presentation and leads towards a definite outline for implementation.
Implementation is our country’s weakness. We are often seen as a people that knows how to make plans endlessly, orate impressively about them but fall far short of proceeding to actually doing anything about them. It is imperative that we endeavor to make a better connection between talk and walking the talk.
The third observation is that one should try to think out of the box. Don’t get stuck in a formula. It was said earlier that none of us awardees are rock stars. Actually, I play the guitar, and some people mistakenly think I sing well enough. I also took the time to become a black belt in taekwondo. I tell you this not to brag but to emphasize the idea of leading by example to think and do out of the box not only to improve one’s own disposition, but to use that attitude to prod one’s countrymen or co-workers to think out of the box.
Finally, the fourth observation I wish to share is: stay involved-in the development of the country, in the development of your institution, in the development of society which is why, among others, I continue to write an opinion column on a wide range of topics and give talks intended to contribute towards our common quest for the improvement of our country.
In conclusion, let me once again thank the IABC for this distinct honor. Even as I take pride in the honor that you have bestowed upon me, let me pledge to you, that I will continue to do everything possible to ensure that I will do nothing in the rest of my lifetime to make you unable to justify why you awarded this to me. Thank you!
Roberto F. de Ocampo, OBE, is a former finance secretary. He was Finance Minister of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
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