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Communication skills lacking at the top


Britain’s top business leaders are largely unheard, unrecognised and considered unable to communicate effectively by their business peers, according to new research conducted by the Aziz Corporation. The research showed that business executives of leading UK companies are either unknown or poorly regarded by their colleagues in business - despite the fact that 89 per cent of UK company directors believe that media profile and public perception are important in defining whether a business is successful.

The research also found a widespread belief in British business that the UK’s business leaders do not match up to their American counterparts. While 65 per cent of UK company directors consider US business executives to have an excellent or good media image and reputation, only 48 per cent believe the same of UK executives. In addition, 77 per cent feel that the media image of the UK’s leading business executives is in need of improvement.

Asked to name the three top communicators in business, 46 per cent of directors chose Sir Richard Branson, head of the private group of Virgin Companies, 14 per cent Bill Gates of US-based Microsoft, followed by Stelios Haji-Ioannou of Easy Jet (7 per cent) and Sir John Harvey-Jones (6 per cent), who retired from ICI over a decade ago. Not a single Chairman or Chief Executive of a FTSE-100 company was chosen by more the 2 per cent of their fellow directors.

In fact the survey reveals that many company directors have never heard of the CEOs of some of the UK’s largest companies, reflecting their low media profile. 84 per cent have never heard of Sir Tom McKillop, the CEO Astra Zeneca, one of the FTSE100’s top five companies. Similarly, 67 per cent have never heard of Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson (the only female CEO of a FTSE100 company) and 61 per cent have never heard of Sir John Bond of HSBC.

91 per cent of directors consider that Sir Richard Branson is good at communicating through the media, followed by 82 per cent in respect of Stelios Haji-Ioannou and 64 per cent for Bill Gates. The highest score for a leader of a FTSE-100 company was just 28 per cent for Sir Chris Gent of Vodafone. Interestingly, the few women in prominent business positions were considered good at communication at least by those who were aware of them, with Barbara Cassini of GO and Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson scoring above many of their male peers at 28 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.


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