BRAINFOOD: Speaking out - John Sunderland, Chairman, Cadbury Schweppes

Charismatic Sunderland is not. However, it was clear he had reflected on who his audience were: HR directors from leading UK companies and members of the HR 100 Club.

by Khalid Aziz
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Charismatic Sunderland is not. However, it was clear he had reflected on who his audience were: HR directors from leading UK companies and members of the HR 100 Club. There was no smile, no fireworks and a rather halting start. But little by little, Sunderland drew in his audience, starting with his view on what constitutes business success: 20% strategy, 80% people. The audience liked that.

He progressed to the importance of shareholder value and how vital it is for employees to have a stake in the business. Over the past decade, staff shareholding in Cadbury Schweppes has increased from 10% to 50% of the workforce. Senior management are encouraged to invest up to four times annual salary in the company's shares - to Sunderland's knowledge, the highest multiple in the FTSE 100. 'With so much of my net wealth tied up in the company, believe me, I really care about what happens to it.' He raised a laugh with that.

It was great that, despite his exalted position, Sunderland did the audience the courtesy of speaking from the heart and in his own words, rather than throw the subject at his corporate affairs director to produce a script to be read out woodenly. With help, Sunderland could become more polished and inspirational, but perhaps he figures he's not done badly so far.

Key moment: The disclosure that one of Cadbury Schweppes' soft drinks competitors included in its strategic plan eye-watering words such as 'kill' and 'eliminate' in relation to the competition.

Key lesson: Even if you're not a natural speaker, focus on your audience, keep your content relevant and use your own words to communicate.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth?...

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