Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sully and Hillary

We all remember TV replays of the Miracle on the Hudson flight and the air traffic controller asking Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger "Do you want to divert to Teterboro?"

We probably expected something like, "That's no longer possible, we don't have enough time." Instead we heard a very busy man say a Clint Eastwood-like, "We'll be in the Hudson."

Even in subsequent interviews in the weeks and months following the accident, he didn't exactly open up and dish like Joe Biden or Joy Behar. He remained a man of few words and held his story and thoughts close to the vest.

Now that he's on a tour for his new book, Highest Duty, Captain Sullenberger is starting to open up and take us behind the curtain of what was going on in his head and in the cabin that fateful day.

I mention this to demonstrate a few key points for business leaders going on TV. Go to and type sullenberger interview into the search box - then click on the first selection featuring Judy Woodruff - then click on streaming video.

Notice how he sits upright with his back off the chair and his feet firmly planted. Notice how he never rushes, stays calm, gives thoughtful answers and subtly punches words to give his voice life and variety. This is pilot presence in sales mode. He's in a strange new role, yet functions flawlessly.

In the interview, he talks about being prepared. I'll bet you $100 right now that Old Sully didn't just wing the interview (pun intended). He probably practiced and laid out a game plan to execute. He probably even had a pre-interview checklist.

A key lesson for executives going on TV.

Never, never, never go on the tube without being prepared and without having some kind of a game plan to execute.

Sully nailed it - you can too!

Now to the Secretary of State. I was never a big Hillary fan, but like many I've gained a lot of respect for her in her new role. She has won over many a critic on both sides of the aisle and seems to have adapted to her role extremely well - in fact, phenomenally well.

In an interview from Berlin this week on Charlie Rose, we witnessed a masterful communicator at the absolute top of her game. Go to and type Hillary into the search box and take a look at her November 9th appearance. The interview starts after a brief introduction piece.

Witness her calm, thoughtful demeanor and unflappable command of the subject matter as Charlie moves from question to question. She seems physically comfortable in her chair yet sits upright with a level head and a steady strong voice that oozes executive 'gravitas'.

Two more lessons for executives going on TV.

First, if possible, pick an interview format like one of these two where you can give thoughtful answers and develop a few key themes rather than give sound-bite answers. Then put a link to your TV interview on your company's website and market the hell out of it. You get to drive your message - your way.

Second, make sure you have command of your subject by having your team pepper you with tough Q&A before you submit to the interview. This deliberate practice, especially when it's done on videotape, allows you to see what the TV audience will see and hear in your answers.

Watch your nonverbals. Remember, people hear what they see.

One last thing. Both Captain Sullenberger and Secretary Clinton looked great on TV. Do you think they just grabbed some old rag out of the closet at the last minute or actually picked a particular suit and accessories for the occasion? I'm guessing the latter.

Final lesson for executives going on TV.

Find a TV outfit you look great in and hang it in your office just in case you ever have to do an impromptu TV appearance. Keep a backup TV outfit in the closet at home.

When you're on TV, it's all about managing your message and your presence. These two fine people, both fairly new to these roles, provide stellar examples.

P.S. For those who may be offended that I didn't put Secretary Clinton (the lady) first in this blog post, I want you to know that I saved the best for last.

No comments:

Post a Comment