Poor view of UK’s top business leaders

Britain’s
top business leaders consider each other unheard, unrecognised and unable to
communicate effectively, according to new research conducted by The Aziz
Corporation, an independent spoken communications consultancy.

The
sixth annual Aziz Communications Index shows 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 finds a widespread belief that UK business leaders do not match
up to their US 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 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
Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, 14 per cent opted for Microsoft’s Bill Gates,
followed by easyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou (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.
Eighty-four per cent have not heard of Sir Tom McKillop, the CEO of Astra
Zeneca, one of the FTSE100’s top five companies. Similarly, 67 per cent have
not heard of Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson (the only female CEO of a
FTSE100 company) and 61 per cent have not heard of Sir John Bond of HSBC.

In
all, 91 per cent of directors consider Sir Richard Branson 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.

Khalid
Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said: "It is disturbing to see
that the majority of the directors we spoke to felt the cream of UK business
had an average or poor media image. Seventy-seven per cent felt their
communication skills were less than exemplary, despite the fact this is
arguably one of the most important attributes a business leader can possess.

"One
of the most worrying aspects of the survey was that when asked to name business
professionals whose communication skills they admired, 15 per cent of
respondents lacked any inspiration at all.

"The
bottom line is that the prospect of a media interview induces terror in most
business professionals. Consequently, they tend to shy away from the activity
or approach it with so much dread that the outcome is unlikely to be
beneficial."

By Quentin Reade

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