US State department

Rex Tillerson’s First Speech at the State Department: Lessons for Employers

Lessons for Employers

The U.S. State Depart­ment has about 70,000 employ­ees. Rex Tiller­son was con­firmed as Pres­i­dent Trump’s pick for Sec­re­tary of State, and yes­ter­day was his first day on the job.

So Tiller­son spoke yes­ter­day to hun­dreds of State Depart­ment employ­ees to intro­duce him­self and talk about their shared mis­sion.

I was impressed by the speech, and I thought the speech could give a lot of guid­ance to man­age­ment about the mes­sage that com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment agen­cies should com­mu­ni­cate to their employ­ees.

Here are my thoughts on what Sec­re­tary Tiller­son said that should be viewed as exem­plary:

  1. Tiller­son expressed humil­i­ty. He was Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer of Exxon­Mo­bil, one of the largest cor­po­ra­tions in the world (which prob­a­bly has even more employ­ees than the State Depart­ment), but he described him­self as “the new guy” that need­ed the help of the employ­ees.
  2. Instead of brag­ging about his decades of exec­u­tive expe­ri­ence in the oil & gas busi­ness, he charm­ing­ly recount­ed his wife’s mes­sage that his career at Exxon­Mo­bil was a “41 year train­ing pro­gram” for his new job at the State Depart­ment.
  3. He showed respect to his new employ­ees. He stressed their extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence and exper­tise. He not­ed that the employ­ees had an aver­age 11 years at the State Depart­ment, and he said he had been there for 45 min­utes.
  4. He stressed cores prin­ci­ples such as that all employ­ees would be treat­ed with respect.
  5. He focused on the shared mis­sions, includ­ing keep­ing employ­ees safe and advanc­ing the inter­ests of the Unit­ed States.
  6. He stressed account­abil­i­ty and a need to ques­tion old ways of doing things to look for ways to bet­ter accom­plish the mis­sions.
  7. One of the over­ar­ch­ing mes­sages was respect, both in rec­og­niz­ing the exper­tise of the employ­ees and stress­ing the need to treat employ­ees with respect.
  8. It would be hard to find a bet­ter mes­sage, com­ing out of a fan­tas­ti­cal­ly hos­tile elec­tion, to try to ral­ly employ­ees around a shared mis­sion.

So employ­ers should watch the speech for the prin­ci­ples it reflects.

Rex Tillerson’s Speech at State Department

Here is a link Tillerson’s speech from the State Department’s YouTube chan­nel, and you can watch the speech in the embed­ded video win­dow below:

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Drew M. Capuder

Publisher of Drew Capuder's Employment Law Blog. Lawyer with more than 29 years experience, focusing on employment law, commercial litigation, and mediation. Extensive trial and appellate experience in state and federal courts. Call Drew at 304-333-5261
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