Teddy Roosevelt was a great communicator. I think of him often, as it has been my privilege to speak to groups throughout the USA and in several other nations. I have worked with Merrill Lynch and financial institutions from Wall Street to Texas. I have founded or was an officer or president of banks. I have worked with the World Bank, USIS and USIA. All of this has taken me to nations around the globe many times. I recall clearly speaking to a group of bank presidents and bank regulators in Ulaanbatar, Mongolia. A bank president stood up and asked, "What is the first key to a successful bank?" I answered without hesitation: "GOOD, CLEAR, HONEST, RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION."
Communication. I have keynoted or spoken at conventions for banking and business groups in many states, have been featured on CBS and NPR nationally. Again and again CEO's ask, "How can we improve communication?" We often have as many as several hundred thousand readers of Boothe Global Perspectives, so we have expanded our own communication. But there is nothing, I repeat -- nothing -- like direct communication with your people that is:
I call them the four building blocks of communication success.
It is easy as executives and as working middle managers to forget or lapse in our communication skills. Also, when regulations laws and lawyers enter an environment, communications are often hindered out of fear or caution. But in my book, good, clear, honest and respectful communication can make a big difference in any organization. I have audited, appraised, or done consulting reports for over 300 hospitals, 180 prisons, and now almost 600 banks from California to New Hampshire. The presidents of those organizations that excel almost always have exceptional communication skills.
I think back about the man who taught me banking, Marvin Carlile. I had had a successful few years with Merrill Lynch and set records of new accounts brought to that firm, when Marvin Carlile flew to Meachum Airport in Fort Worth, from Tulia, Texas. Tulia, a town of 5,000 people, had a banker who had always run a "Tier One" (the best rated) bank -- the First National Bank of Tulia. At the age of 72 he had trained and boosted the careers of people who were now bank presidents and bank regulators.
His statement to me was: "I have checked you out. I have a proposition for you. Come to my bank in my town, and I will make you a banker. When you have learned enough, I will help you get your own bank." He shook my hand, smiled and said, "Now it is time you really learned how banking is done." He was so charming, bigger than life, and when he shook my hand, I knew we had a contract that could be counted upon. I moved my family to the small town, and he soon had me doing everything in a bank, from learning the old-fashioned, double-entry accounting system to understanding investments, yields, profit spreads, money management and lending.
After a few years, I went into his office and said, "Mr. Carlile, I think I have done everything I can do in Tulia." He grinned and replied, "I think you are ready for something better, but you can't have MY job, we need to find you a bank."
In a few months I was helping organize the Overton Park National Bank in Fort Worth. After being VP of that bank, I went on to be the president of the American National Bank of Mount Pleasant, and then the VP of the Security National Bank and 1st National in Austin. I then I founded and organized my own bank in Fort Worth.
In every case I found that as an honest and clear communicator, success followed. One day, sitting in a new bank that I was organizing, I spoke to my vice president, who I had just hired, saying, "I have never organized a bank of my own before; let's you and I do it together and make it great!" And we did. Three years later, when we had built our 3-story, 50,000 square-feet new bank building, Jack Williams Senior, a great man who had been successful owning automobile dealerships, stood up in the new lobby before 500 stockholders and friends, and in a loud voice cried out: "SOMEBODY HAD A DREAM!" as he pointed to the beautiful atrium lobby of my bank, in my town. A resounding applause was the way everyone in that time and place communicated joy and appreciation.
These days, with the advent of regulations that "put up walls" to limit better communication in some businesses, and businesses that are fearful of hacking or telephone eaves dropping, businesses constantly find ways to limit or guard communication.
But let me tell you, as a person who has owned or managed 12 companies over my life of 68 years, good, clear, honest, respectful communication is the best way, the most profitable way, the most successful way to build and run an outstanding business.
Recently someone showed me a letter from a bureaucrat that scolded a person for signing a document that disclosed his part in a project. The response from the accused was, "I thought that full and transparent disclosure is more beneficial."
Well, going back to Teddi Roosevelt, all who knew him, knew that he was incredibly direct and transparent. He also had a terrific since of humor. From his letters to obscure Arab leaders in the Middle East, to visitors who came to the USA as guests in the White House, people admired his direct and often funny communication style. One morning a British dignitary came to visit President Roosevelt and Roosevelt asked if he would like to join for an early morning exercise. The diplomatic Britisher had no idea that President Roosevelt often dove into and skinny dipped in the ice choked Rock Creek or Potomac River. The dignified Britisher said: "Of course". So at sunrise they met and the Britisher was surprised to see President Roosevelt in his underwear, even though the morning was cold. Teddi promptly took off running toward the Potamic River. When they got there, Teddi slipped off his remaining clothing and jumped in naked as a Jaybird. No doubt the look on the face of the British man would have been a treasure to see. But that was Teddy. Transparency to another level. Clear. Direct. Transparent, with no sly agenda. "I like a cool dip to get the heart going! Come on in!" the President cried out from the frigid river. No doubt, Roosevelt was not ignorant or crude. He just enjoyed ribbing some of the stiffness out of the British when he could. His purity in seeking to be in top physical condition was not a "fake news" matter, it was the real deal for Teddi Roosevelt. He was what he was, and his communications were never in doubt or question for clarity.
I believe communication can make you a better president, whether it is of a bank, a corporation, a club, almost any organization. On my desk is a short article written by George Washington called, THE RULES FOR CIVILITY, which offers 110 suggestions. I recommend that you get a copy and read it. No wonder he was and is considered a great American.