Hillary on the Hill: 9 Tips for Sitting in the Hot Seat

Hillary ClintonIn a lengthy Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton catapulted retorts to blistering questions about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. The deadly attack — on Sept. 11, 2012 — exposed security lapses. But how well organized were the perpetrators? Did Clinton and her staff act quickly enough and speak clearly enough? Republican critics say Clinton’s answers were pure theater.
 
The Democrat and wife of former President Bill Clinton has transformed in her role as secretary, and she faced down a “lot of anger from the senators" with "a surprising amount of emotion,” writes Oxford University historian Timothy Stanley on CNN.com. In her swan song before leaving Capitol Hill, a tough girl triumphed, declares writer Suzi Parker in the Washington Post. 
 
Herewith, lessons gleaned from Clinton’s testimony — especially for women – from Ginny Pulos, an expert consultant on presentation skills and NYWICI member.  
– Dimitra DeFotis
 
By Ginny Pulos
 
Watching Hillary Clinton testify before Congress, I was spellbound. She was remarkable. Assured. Transparent. Combative. Emotional. Astounding. And she revealed valuable lessons for “Sitting In The Hot Seat.”
 
  • First, be prepared. It is clear she had an agenda and had studied more than anyone on the panel.
  • Second, when you are at the top, “[wo]man up” and take ultimate and sincere responsibility. People still may want to tear you from limb to limb, but when you’ve said, “I take full responsibility” what more can your detractors say? Truly.
  • Next, when someone condescendingly pontificates for political gain at your expense, stay out of the way and just zip the lip. 
  • When a powerful adversary sets out to make you his target, agree with your adversary quickly wherever you can and disarm the executioner. She did this with sincere empathy. 
  • When someone’s enjoying the spotlight and has his facts wrong, defend the facts. Vociferously. Directly. Without apology. Keep your energy up. Secretary Clinton’s energy never flagged.
  • It’s OK to be emotional. No emotional contact: No impact.
  • Dress the part. From the suit, to the dark-rimmed “geek” glasses and even her lion’s mane of hair, Clinton was a force to be reckoned with both verbally and nonverbally. 
  • After taking responsibility — in this case, people tragically lost their lives — show what you’re doing to clean up your act and how you will do things differently in the future.
  • When someone knocks the wind out of you GET UP! I had not been a Hillary fan. Not because of her politics, but because she modeled her public style on male behavior. It always turned me off. But yesterday (Jan. 23, 2013), and over the last four years, Mrs. Clinton (Madam Secretary) displayed for the world why she would make a great presidential candidate. She has walked through the fires of hell, survived every attack, both personally and professionally, and has become completely her true self: whole, confident, strong, powerful and female. And that's a lesson too. 
I was not a fan, but I am NOW. What do you think?  I invite you to weigh in on our Twitter feed and Facebook Page. 
 
For more on the Bengazi Senate hearing:
  • An opinion piece from Oxford University historian Timothy Stanley on CNN.com.
  • An opinion piece from journalist and author Suzi Parker in the Washington Post “She The People” column.
  • The Huffington Post on the heated exchange between Secretary Clinton and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
Posted by: 
Ginny Pulos