Some said Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, some say Bill Clinton. I have another candidate who is not as well known, but someday he might be. And we can learn three key points of communicating excellence from him.
Nido Qubein is remarkable. He is a businessman, entrepreneur, visionary, author, speaker, Chairman of many Boards and companies and now a university President. He could perhaps be a President joining Reagan and Clinton, if he wanted to go into politics, (and was willing to leave High Point, North Carolina.)
Last year I picked Nido as one of the Top Ten Communicators of the year, and he’ll probably have to be on it again this year. Because of his communications – and his results.
Let’s just take one area of results, and how Nido Qubein has transformed High Point University in the short 18 months that he has been President. He has raised $100 million dollars, completed the building and renovation (already) of ten buildings, increased enrollment and applications dramatically, and almost singlehandedly inspired staff and faculty to transform a large institution of over 4,000 people into a vital, exciting and amazing place. In 18 months!
I spent a day on the campus with him and 20 friends and associates who are members of Speakers Roundtable . These are all successful people in their own right, yet we were all in awe. Not just of his accomplishments but of his relationships with students, faculty and staff. More detail can be seen on Terry Paulson’s website where he describes the changes at High Point University, and Dianna Booher’s blog where she talks about the unique WOW relationships that Nido has with hundreds of people.
There are many things to learn from Nido – I hunch there will be many books written about him down the road. Let me just pick three key lessons of communicating for leaders that stand out to me:
1. Communicate large visions continuously
“You can’t make incremental change and transform a culture. You need big results or they won’t see or appreciate the changes.”
Dr. Qubein started with a large vision – on his first day as President he announced a capital campaign to raise $20 million dollars in one month, and then after raising that in 20 days he doubled the goal. He speaks at least a dozen times a day, to large groups, small groups and individuals about the vision of High Point University:
“At HPU, every student receives an extraordinary education in a fun environment with caring people.”
He uses email, banners, newsletters and just about every means available to communicate his vision. Ceaselessly. Great leaders continuously communicate their vision. Repeating good ideas is worth repeating.
2. Encourage others to speak.
Nido Qubein inspires all those around him – particularly the employees (staff and faculty) who are the ones who have to really catch the vision to make it work. And they have. Nido has mobilized his resources, and encourages all of them to speak and communicate in all ways – formally and informally, in person and in email. Every student has Nido’s email, and he responds. (Do you not think that every staff then also gives out THEIR email to the students – what does that do for accessibility and connection!)
And Nido encourages the students to talk to him, the President, continuously. What a way to build confidence in them – if they can talk to the President then they can talk to anyone. In one 90 minute tour of the campus with Nido in a golf cart (more accessibility) I counted at least 50 hellos, high fives and hugs between the President and his students. Remarkable.
3. Be excellent in all you do.
Nido is a great communicator for many reasons. He came to the US from Lebanon with $50 in his pocket and self taught english. He mastered the art, and continued to work at it, wrote books about communicating, and then did it. With excellence.
He is the perfect example of the consummate high level expert and professional (in his case in communications, leadership and business) who can talk about their craft in any format and any time period. Because they live it, they just have to know the time they have and the audience, and can quickly put a few points together that are salient, wise and powerful. I have personally seen Nido do this in dozens of different settings – always prepared because life has prepared him.
And when you see excellence, it inspires one to become excellent. I love watching Tiger Woods play golf, as he is absolutely excellent at his craft, and thrives under pressure, and inspires all of us to be better at whatever we do. In this same way Nido Qubein exudes excellence in all he does, and as a communicator always in front of people, that’s a lot of inspiration.
One final story of his attention to detail – communicating excellence on the HPU campus. I talked to one of Nido’s staff about him, a king how he was to work for. Chris said, “Great.” Which of course I expected, but asked why.
“Well,” said Chris, “He appreciates the people who work for him, even though he is demanding. For example, I’m in charge of campus communications, which involves a lot around here. This morning I was in early because of an important group that was going to be on campus, and Nido was here before me. He mentioned that some of the benches on the quadrant walk were out of line – that’s his attention to detail. And he complimented me on how great the new student banners looked. I love working for this man.”