How CEOs can rally the troops in troubled times

Speeches need to be upbeat, without sugarcoating bad news.

Speeches need to be upbeat, without sugarcoating bad news

When Sen. John McCain said last September that, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong”—just as the stock market was tanking and investment banks and insurance companies were collapsing—his poll numbers began to sink, never to recover. The incredulous media and the public couldn’t reconcile McCain’s words with the chaos that was happening in the financial world.

When times are tough, it’s natural for leaders to want to rally the troops with some hopeful and reassuring words. However, ignoring the grim reality doesn’t win over the listeners—it makes them wonder what planet the executive is living on. Likewise, a gloom-and-doom speech, even one that’s spot-on, will make employees, customers and partners less likely to stick it out during tough times.

How do speakers walk that tightrope between sugarcoating bad news, and focusing solely on misery?

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