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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