1991 EXCEL Award Winner George Anderson

Article excerpt

The Excellence in Communication Leadership Award EXCEL is given by IABC to a non-IABC member who leads the way in fostering-and Participating in-good communication. EXCEL winners support communication and public relations and their organizations reflect that support in their outstanding communication work. The EXCEL Award is the highest award given to a nonmember, who is frequently a chief executive in a major company.

George D. Anderson, winner of this year's EXCEL award, recently was appointed president and chief executive officer of Central Guaranty Trust Limited and Central Guaranty Trust Co., Toronto. Anderson began his career with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in 1971. From 1974 until 1983, Anderson held a variety of senior positions within CMHC.

In 1983, he left public service to become vice president, mortgage lending, for National Trust Co. in Toronto. In 1986, he rejoined Canada Mortgage & Housing as president and chief executive officer. In December 1988, CMHC was cited by the auditor general of Canada as one of the eight best-performing federal government institutions. In 1990, the organization was selected by The Financial Post as one of the 100 best companies to work for in Canada. Anderson also was selected by The Financial Post as one of Canada's top 200 chief executive officers.

Anderson has represented Canada as head of delegation to the housing meeting of the Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva in 1978 and to the United Nations' Centre for Human Settlements in Nairobi in 1987. He was co-chairman of the Canada-USA and Canada-Japan Steering Committees on Housing and Urban Affairs. He has served on many key committees and has contributed his services to various Canadian governmental and private agencies.

Anderson was born in Toronto, reared in Montreal and worked in western Canada. He has a Bachelor of Arts (with distinction) from Carleton University, a Master of Arts from the University of Saskatchewan, and holds the designation Certified in Real Estate Finance from the Real Estate Institute of Canada. Anderson is a governor of the Canadian Comprehensive Audit Foundation.

GG: Mr. Anderson, You have served in top executive positions in both public and private industry. Do you think that being a CEO in a private company challenges your communication skills differently than when with a public company?

GA: No. As far as communication is concerned, the real difference in companies is in their size, not their functions; that is, the bigger the company, the greater the communication challenge. The problems of communicating effectively are similar between public and private enterprises.

GG: How did you develop your communication skills?

GA: I have no formal training in this area. I simply learned by doing. My ability, to the extent I have any, developed through trial and error.

GG: How do you feel that you communicate most effectively-one-on-one, small meetings, large meetings, the written word?

GA: I think speaking extemporaneously. I am surprised when I see myself on tape: I seem to have an ability to speak publicly, without stumbling on an extemporaneous basis and without notes. That's been a very fortunate characteristic because it has allowed me to speak my mind directly to an audience without putting the barrier of written text between them and me. I took a lot of care earlier in my career to make sure I could write in a clear and concise way. In the federal government I had to communicate with cabinet ministers in writing to get across complex ideas in a straightforward, understandable, readable and logical way. I spent a lot of time developing those skills. So I guess in terms of the development of my skill level, having an ability to write clearly and being a pretty voracious reader, I think helped.

GG: How does your management style affect communication within your organization-and how do you encourage open communication between you and your employees as well as your external publics? …