Friday, June 26, 2009


Leadership – and communication thereof – starts at the top. So it was all well and good for the Canadian Forces to announce that it is placing a new priority on post-traumatic stress issues, prompted in part by the release of a House of Commons report on such matters (and a not-so-coincidentally timed Toronto Star investigative series). But when the top dog spoke to it, everybody listened – especially the men and women in uniform. Savvy communicators must always assess up front who their priority audience(s) is/are, and Chief of Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk clearly did that when he said, “You're strong, you're well trained, but guess what? We don't show weakness particularly well and therein lies the problem," he told an assembly at National Defence headquarters. "We're tough and yet we won't ask for help. So I'm telling all of you wearing this uniform, if you have an issue, c'mon on in. Because we can provide the help." It was powerful stuff, coming right from the top, as evidenced by the reaction of special adviser Lt.-Col. Stephane Grenier, whose role is to advise on these matters. “It's not that he gave permission; nobody needs permission to go see a doctor," said Grenier, who was among the boots on the grounds in Rwanda in the mid 1990s. "Once somebody who is a leader – like the chief of defence staff – says it's all right, he has just given everyone blessing. So culturally this is a huge thing for us." A huge thing indeed, showing the communications power of the person at the top when it comes to highlighting priorities.

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