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The Journal of the American Management Association

Volume 13, Number 1

Spring 2014

Jim McCann Advises Executives on

When to Listen and When to Talk OTHER ARTICLES Communicating Effectively: Lessons from HighPerforming Organizations Connecting Your Networking to Your Passions Finding Your Advantage in the Downstream Public Speaking for the C-Suite New Boxes for a New Reality The Power of Mastering Direct and Indirect Speech A Note to Emailphiles, Smartphone Addicts, and Turbotexters Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM





The New World of Beta Collaboration

Douglas Conant on Effective and Enduring Leadership Practices

Celebrate Your Inner Wimp

Talk May Be Cheap, but Listening Is Priceless

Growth opportunities... Amazing breakthroughs... Valuable insights...

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The Journal of the American Management Association

Volume 13, Number 1

S PRIN G 2014

JIM McCANN ADVISES EXECUTIVES ON WHEN TO LISTEN AND WHEN TO TALK. McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, describes how leadership conversations can be used to inspire, innovate, and create momentum in the workplace. In an interview with MWorld, McCann described how a blend of how-to and personal stories helped him to build the kind of culture needed for a successful business. PAGE 6


Communicating Effectively: Lessons from High-Performing Organizations. Here are 10 elements that comprise a consistent pattern of highperformance communication. By Howard M. Guttman.


Connecting Your Networking to Your Passions. You can become a master of networking by tying your personal interests to your communications with those you meet and greet at trade shows and conferences. It also helps to tailor your networking to ways to help others. By Porter Gale.


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Finding Your Advantage in the Downstream. Upstream advantages like keeping manufacturing costs low are rapidly being replaced by downstream advantages like those associated with acquiring, satisfying, and retaining customers. By Niraj Dawar.

Public Speaking for the C-Suite. The greatest talent in American business is outstanding public speaking, but it is also the most scarce. How do you go about developing this talent? By Dallas Jessup.

New Boxes for a New Reality. Boxes help you make sense of things, but only up to a point. Your mind can become locked into a box, making it hard to think creatively. Learn how to step out of your box. By Alan Iny and Luc de Brabandere.

The Power of Mastering Direct and Indirect Speech. The secret of successful communication is skill in flexing—that is, the ability to practice direct and indirect speech based on specific circumstances. By Audrey S. Lee.


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to Emailphiles, Smartphone Addicts, 42 AandNote Turbotexters. Here are some guidelines to ensure that you use the new communication technology most effectively. Don’t commit faux pas in your office with social media. By Kristi Hedges.

2 FROM THE EDITOR Too Much Talk, Too Much EMail, Not Enough Communication 3 COMMENTARY The New World of Beta Collaboration. One good way to ensure the development of a broad range of ideas is for senior managers to engage actively with both junior management and frontline personnel. By Dana Ardi.

5 TOP SHELF How to Persuade a Decision Maker. Need to motivate someone to act? Be sure to use the "Four Ps of Persuasion." By Richard S. Gallagher.

15 CEO INSIGHTS Douglas Conant on Effective and Enduring Leadership Practices. The former CEO of Campbell Soup Company describes how leaders can make major connections with staff during the smallest of moments.

30 PERSONAL INSIGHTS Celebrate Your Inner Wimp. Sometimes, it pays to back down from challenges. What matters is that you manage relationships in a way that makes life as productive as possible. By Geoffrey Tumlin.

48 OUR VIEW Talk May Be Cheap, but Listening Is Priceless. By Robert G. Smith.





Too Much Talk, Too Much EMail, Not Enough Communication

MWorld The Journal of the American Management Association EDITOR


Today, there is too much information hitting our desks daily and there are too many meetings we must attend in which there is much talk but not as much listening. And, in team settings, the listening aspect of communication is generally more important than the talking. Given the importance of the communication process in companies, we decided to devote this issue of MWorld to communication. Consider what happens when you dominate discussions and also don’t listen to employees’ ideas, problems, or concerns. You affect your employees’ view of the work environment, which in turn impacts their level of motivation. Demotivation causes low morale, high absenteeism and turnover, and shoddy productivity, not to mention rework and rejects. Further, communication isn’t limited to a conversation with someone. Communication takes place in performance reviews, strategic planning, product development, new product discussions, public presentations, project meetings, and so much more. The content in this issue reflects the many areas business communication affects. Our lead article is an interview with Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS, who told us that his own communication style has impacted his organization’s culture and the productivity of his employees. When Douglas Conant became CEO of troubled Campbell Soup, communication played a key role in his turnaround plan. Consultant Howard M. Guttman shares four more case studies that tie high performance to effective communications. Another author, Dallas Jessup, suggests that “the scarcest talent in American business is great public speaking, yet it’s one that delivers the biggest rewards for your company and your career.” Advice from another author, Richard S. Gallagher, will help you deliver persuasive presentations, whether your intention is to sell, inform, motivate, train, entertain, or build goodwill. In still another article, Kristi Hedges advises on how best to use the new communication technologies in her article “A Note to Emailphiles, Smartphone Addicts, and Turbotexters.” AMA has always recognized the importance of communications and offers a variety of courses in this subject for all levels of managers and executives.




Laura Grafeld



Roger Kelleher

Edward T. Reilly PRESIDENT & CEO

MWorld© (ISSN 1540-2991) is published quarterly by American Management Association International, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420, Spring 2014, Volume 13, Number 1. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to American Management Association, 600 AMA Way, Saranac Lake, NY 12983-5534. American Management Association is a nonprofit educational association chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. MWorld is an independent forum for authoritative views on business and management issues. Submissions. We encourage submissions from prospective authors. For guidelines, write to The Editor, MWorld, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 or email Unsolicited manuscripts will be returned only if accompanied by a selfaddressed, stamped envelope. Letters are encouraged. Mail: Letters, MWorld, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420; email: MWorld reserves the right to excerpt and edit letters. Names and addresses must accompany all submissions. Subscriptions. Executive and Individual Members of American Management Association receive MWorld as part of their annual dues, a nonrefundable $50 of which is allocated for the subscription to MWorld. Single copies are available at $25 plus shipping and handling. Requests should be sent to Rights and permissions. ©2014, American Management Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission. Requests should be sent to Joe D’Amico, at Editorial Offices 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 Tel: 212-903-8075; Fax: 212-903-7948 Email: Opinions expressed by the editors, contributors or advertisers are not necessarily those of AMA. In addition, the appearance of advertisements, products or service information in MWorld, other than those of AMA itself, does not constitute endorsement by AMA.

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The New World of Beta Collaboration BY DANA ARDI, PhD

Today’s American corporate world is a tale of two cultures. One, more traditional and common, is centralized and hierarchical. I call it Alpha. The other, smaller and rarer, is decentralized, horizontal, and inclusive. I call this one Beta. To flourish in today’s business environment, organizations and individuals need to transition from the outdated Alpha system to the fast-growing Beta paradigm. At its core, Beta is about communication, curation, and, most important, collaboration. Leaders and organizations need to maximize their intellectual resources to deal with the growing complexities of the new global economy. Bosses and employees need to work together to solve problems and accomplish shared organizational and communal goals—they need to collaborate. The more collaborative opportunities a business offers its employees, the more those employees will feel a sense of ownership in the organization, resulting in vastly higher levels of productivity, efficiency, and loyalty.

ful message to every level of an organization that everyone’s opinion matters. Promoting a collaborative approach also means that Beta leaders need to approach recruitDana Ardi, PhD ing differently. When looking for thoughtful individuals—and not just followers—it’s important to seek out people who are confident, willing to think outside the box, and eager to take a share in the intellectual ownership of the organization. When looking for someone who can provide ideas, not just follow orders, leaders must recognize that a person’s history of creativity and innovation can be just as important as his measurable achievements. Diversity of thought will provide the spark that ignites innovation and creativity. When everyone sees and thinks about the world the same way, just about everyone will come up with the same answers and approaches. Today, that kind of tunnel vision is a recipe for disaster.

One good way to ensure the development of a broad range of ideas is for senior managers to engage actively with both junior management and frontline personnel. When a company’s COO or CEO takes the time to attend lower-level strategy sessions, and to solicit and take note of the ideas of junior employees, it conveys the message that upper management acknowledges that the best ideas can come from the most unexpected places. In meetings, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is known for asking the most junior person—typically a young assistant wary about taking a seat at the conference table—what he or she thinks the best approach would be. Schultz then asks that person to explain why, giving the young assistant the same focused attention he gives to everyone else in the room. This kind of leadership gesture sends a power-

Besides avoiding tunnel vision in their recruiting, Beta leaders also need to be wary of hiring only superstars. A Beta organization needs individuals who are willing to focus their creativity on achieving organizational, not just individual, goals. The Beta leader is like the general manager of a sports franchise trying to assemble a winning team. Sure, it’s tempting to go out and recruit an all-star for every position, and just as tempting to assume that a field full of superstars will translate into a victorious team. But have you ever watched an NBA All-Star team? It’s a bunch of Alpha males taking impossible shots, not bothering to pass the ball to their teammates, and showing off for the crowd. Winning teams may require stars, but they also require role players. There’s only one ball, and not everyone can run with it at the same time. Rather than constantly trying to


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“When customers feel that they’re not just being heard but also have a genuine impact on product development and evolution, they become not only loyal buyers but active promoters and company and brand ambassadors too.” upstage one another, people have to play their parts to the best of their abilities in order to win—and here I’m talking about sports and business. The Beta collaborative model also should include customers. The potential for customers to serve as sources of instant feedback and creative input has been recognized widely across the software industry. Aside from offering avenues for communication, software providers are actively soliciting suggestions for product changes and adaptations from users. The goal: to create a product community where communication and collaboration unite to create a product that constantly evolves to match the changing needs of its users and of the marketplace. When customers feel that they’re not just being heard but also have a genuine impact on product development and evolution, they become not only loyal buyers but active promoters and company and brand ambassadors too. In an era of conversational media, consumers and employees alike want to be told, not sold. They want to be educated and to engage in genuine conversations. Today, Beta business leaders are even pursuing collaborative efforts with potential competitors to leverage their capabilities and decrease their risks. Consider how Hulu, the ad-supported streaming video website, got its start. A handful of television studios and networks realized that the future of their businesses included downloadable and streaming content. Individually, no one in this group had the internal expertise or market share to dominate this emerging business. Yet none of them could afford to ignore what was likely to become a significant future distribution channel. So in 2007, NBC Universal (General Electric/ Vivendi), Fox Entertainment Group (News Corp.), and ABC, Inc. (the Walt Disney Company) took the HULU GETS ITS START


unprecedented step of collaborating. Thanks to funding from Providence Equity Partners, the companies launched Hulu. Regardless of the long-term financial success of the venture, Hulu has enabled three rival businesses to become players in a crucial market that none was equipped to navigate alone. What’s more, competitor/partner relationships are becoming more common. Just look at the shifting collaborations and alliances between firms such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. They have sometimes joined forces and other times fought fiercely, only to begin the process all over again. Collaborations between competitors, or between companies and users, are nothing for either progressives or conservatives to fear. They’re neither precursors to socialism nor impending cartels. Nor are they attempts to score free labor. Collaborations reflect nothing more than the complexity of today’s business world. They are simply intelligent alliances aimed at building a community to help solve mutual problems and achieve shared goals. MW Dana Ardi, PhD, is the founder of Corporate Anthropology Advisors and the author of The Fall of the Alphas: The New Beta Way to Connect, Collaborate, Influence—and Lead. Ardi has served as a partner/managing director at CCMP Capital and JPMorgan Partners and as a partner at Flatiron Partners. Earlier in her career, she was an operating executive at R.R. Donnelly & Sons and at McGraw-Hill. She also has a background managing and leading executive search firms. For more information on her work, visit Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from The Fall of the Alphas by Dana Ardi. Copyright 2013, Dana Ardi. Published by St. Martin's Press. American Management Association




How to Persuade a Decision Maker BY RICHARD S. GALLAGHER

Persuasion is everywhere in human interactions. From the caring efforts of a mother to convince her feisty five-year-old to eat his vegetables to the overt attempts of advertisers to sell us a new car, people and businesses seek to influence others. The situations vary, but eventually there comes a time when you are after just one thing: compliance. You need to direct another person’s behavior toward a specific course of action or a point of view. You want them to do what you want. This skill is critical in presenting to decision makers. Whether your goal is to sell, inform, motivate, train, entertain, or build goodwill, it’s your ability to persuade an audience that ultimately determines your degree of success or failure. When you finish speaking, you want the decision maker to say “yes” to your point of view. To be successful at affecting the beliefs and actions of others, you must understand not only what motivates people to act but also how to use that knowledge to your advantage. As Aristotle wrote, “The fool tells me his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own.” Persuasion is not data dumping, in which we haul a truckload of information from one place to another and unload it on an audience. People get buried under the weight of too much information. Good data is important, but good demeanor is crucial. While facts, figures, statistics, charts, and graphs do lend support to your message, they do not sell the message. Remember, people buy from people they like. Persuasion is the ability to convince another person to adopt the idea, attitude, or action you are recommending—to make the decision you want them to make. As Aristotle pointed out, it involves using the listener’s reasoning and understanding, not necessarily your own. The wisest presenters use the logic and reasons that are important to the audience to reach a mutual agreement. THE NATURE OF PERSUASION


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As a general rule, people are motivated to act based on four reasons, or four key payoffs. Think of them as the “Four Ps of Persuasion”: Profit. Profits are to a business what oil is to an engine, the driving force behind successful operation. In the end, this is the measure of every decision maker. Does your proposal or product help a decision maker gain income, earnings, revenue, efficiencies, return on investment, or productivity? Does it reduce costs and expenses? If so, repeatedly reinforce this payoff throughout your presentation or conversation. Pleasure. Is there anything about your proposal, product, or service that can help the decision maker achieve a desired outcome with less effort involved? Simply put, most decision makers want to “work smarter, not harder.” They want you to help them achieve their goals in the fastest way possible. In your presentation or conversation, be sure to tell your audience how your product or service will save time for them and improve their lives. Power. Your message will be more persuasive when you appeal to a decision maker’s need to feel powerful. How does your solution help your audience dominate the industry, increase market share, or conquer the competition? Prestige. Prestige is the level of distinction and prominence at which a person or company is regarded by key stakeholders. It involves one’s reputation and implies status, recognition, and even exclusivity. How does your product or message help a decision maker improve his standing among others or his company’s reputation among customers, prospects, and partners? MW THE FOUR Ps OF PERSUASION

Richard S. Gallagher is a popular trainer and public speaker. Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work by Richard S. Gallagher. Copyright 2009, Richard S. Gallagher. Published by AMACOM.



Jim McCann Advises Executives on BY FLORENCE STONE

Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, brought his new book Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM

to AMA to discuss it with MWorld. The title and subtitle of the book are relevant for today’s leaders. The title—Talk Is (Not!) Cheap—points to the importance of communication skills for a senior executive. But the subtitle of McCann’s book—The Art of Conversation Leadership—may be even more germane. McCann considers it the foundation of his professional success. You could say that McCann has spent his career talking. He told us that “being open and ready to speak to a variety of audiences is my most powerful leadership tool. ‘Conversation leadership’ is a process I developed to engage others and create momentum in the workplace, and it can be used to inspire, innovate, and win over employees and customers.” McCann’s advice about conversation leadership comes from his nearly 40 years of experience as the head of his organization. But McCann isn’t interested only in talking to clients, employees, other leaders, and community members. He’s also interested in listening to them. “People who are genuinely interested want to listen,” he said. When McCann finds himself talking with someone with little interest to learn, he told us, “I move the conversation to another subject that might be new and of interest to me. I might get an insight into a customer’s needs or how he views things. I make the time worthwhile by being interested in the individual and his interests.” McCann also shared some insights into his regular workdays and how he works at the office— or, more likely, anywhere but in his office. “I pop in and out of all corners of the building,” he said. “I drop by my managers’ offices and by my employees’ cubicles. I am on the road quite a bit, but during my days at headquarters, it’s no use stopping by my office to locate me. You’d be better off standing in a hallway, because chances are I will be walking through the hallways.” As McCann told us, whenever he’s aware that there is someone in the building who has something interesting to say, he will drop by to have a conversation with that person. His impromptu meetings, he hopes, will model the behavior he wants others to copy—the art of the drop-by. The more conversations you have, the more likely you are to generate moments of conversation leadership. McCann shared with us one of many conversations he has had with young individuals who have creative ideas. In this case, he and the employee discussed what Facebook might mean for


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When to Listen and When to Talk the business. “That conversation,” he recalled, “was the first of many in which the employee would participate. Ultimately, the young employee would participate and lead the discussion as the company undertook a more aggressive effort in experimenting with social networking.”

LEADING WITH HUMOR McCann believes in employing humor to create rapport with new employees, and he has a unique way of using this tactic to build relationships. It’s not unusual for McCann to walk up to a new employee and ask him or her loudly, “How dare you?” “It’s a tactic,” said McCann, “pretending to be a disgruntled boss. I’ve done this enough around the office that everyone who works here knows I’m kidding. I’m not such a great actor, but if you heard me do this, you’d be completely fooled. Usually a new employee, hearing me deliver my lines for the first time, has a moment of panic. ‘Oh, no! Is he really angry?’ It’s quickly apparent that I’m not, and everyone has a little chuckle at the ruse. But the relief following the shock paves the way for a positive, more honest relationship in the future.” As McCann explains, humor is a tremendous conversation starter. “Much the same way a speaker will open with a joke, I open with a moment of playacting. When you get someone to smile, even laugh, you allow emotions to rise up to the surface. That is the perfect moment to engage in conversations.”


Jim McCann speaks to the audience at the 2013 National 1-800-Flowers Franchise Convention.

McCann originally was a social worker and administrator at St. John’s Home for Boys in Rockaway, NY. He also did odd jobs to supplement his pay from the home. In the early 1970s, McCann worked at a local men’s clothing shop and also worked as a part-time bartender in Manhattan. “One day,” McCann recalled, “a man came into the bar and told me that he was selling the flower shop he owned right across the street from the Friday’s where I was bartending. I asked if I could work in his shop for a few weekends, just to learn the cadence of the business and to see if it would be a good fit for me. A few weeks later, I scraped together some capital and bought the shop.” McCann followed this with the opening of his second flower shop in Queens, NY. A third and fourth shop soon followed. By 1986, he owned and operated 14 flower shops in the New York metropolitan area. McCann was listening to the radio and shaving when he came up with the idea of building a nationwide flower service. He heard about a nearly bankrupt company in Texas with access to the phone number 800-Flowers. After acquiring that business out of bankruptcy, McCann changed the name of his chain of stores accordingly. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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“Leaders need not be born as expert conversationalists. Conversation leadership can be learned and practiced.” In 1992 and 1994, McCann made deals with online pioneers CompuServe and AOL, respectively, making 1-800-FLOWERS.COM one of the first retailers to establish an online presence. That year, he set up the website Four years later, the company went public under the stock ticker FLWS. Over the years, McCann has expanded his company’s offerings to become a leading player in the gourmet food and gift basket business, with brands such as Fannie May® Fine Chocolates, Cheryl’s® fresh-baked cookies and brownies, The Popcorn Factory® gourmet popcorn and other snacks in collectible tins, and®, with gift baskets and collections for all occasions. Today, McCann also operates, a leading interactive social website focused on partyplanning tips and information. His focus on product offerings and customer engagement has enabled the company to position itself in the fast-evolving areas of social and mobile commerce, earning numerous awards for its initiatives, and to build long-lasting relationships with customers. Consequently, McCann’s company has become an internationally recognized retail brand, while he has become an award-winning public speaker, published author, and frequent guest on nationwide radio and television programs. Looking back at his entrepreneurial career, McCann sees as turning points the times he sat across the table from another human being and either he or the other person said, “You know, I was thinking…” McCann truly believes in the value of conversations—“not just talk but the kind of real conversation that builds relationships, drives forward momentum, and turns ideas into reality.” He told us how such conversations “can create connections and overcome barriers. The ebb and flow of conversation can propel situations and ideas forward.”

McCANN’S RULES Although McCann told us he was shy by nature, he seemed comfortable before the staff at American Management Association. His comfort level stems from some guidelines under which he operates, including: ៑

Talk—even if you think you can’t. In McCann’s opinion, “Leaders need not be born as

expert conversationalists. Conversation leadership can be learned and practiced.” And he believes the skill is essential to effective leadership. “Practice your conversation skills by entering into conversations with others and seeing the communication through,” he said. ៑ Communicate across hierarchies. Leaders need to talk to the people they supervise—as well as those they answer to. Such conversations can lead to valuable insights from different perspectives. “Cross hierarchies, silos, and barriers to talk to others, and then integrate what you learn into your peer conversations,” advised McCann. ៑ Talk as if you are sitting at your kitchen table. The talks you’ve had at home provide lessons that can be applied in business settings as well. What you learn at home—such as how to communicate good and bad news and to manage conflict—can be useful in business conversations, according to McCann. ៑ Use all media. There is no single medium for conversations, according to McCann. 8

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Talks take place in person, via phone, through email, and even in 140-character tweets. Embrace all media where conversations are occurring. Just as important, said McCann, keep your ears and mind attuned to where future conversations will take place. ៑ Never stop learning. Don’t assume you know everything you need to know. “Talk with others and observe skilled conversationalists in action as a way to learn and grow,” said McCann. ៑ Understand that the world is our job. According to McCann, “Engage in the conversations that shape our world. By participating in global conversations, you will help to shape the world.” ៑ Help keep the community conversation going. Your communication isn’t limited to conversations in the office. You should be talking to people in the communities around you. Engagement is not just an opportunity; it’s a requirement. “Failure to participate suggests you are uncaring,” McCann tells those he meets and greets. ៑ Recognize that time isn’t money, connection is.“Too often, we become obsessed with the bottom line. It’s true, everyone wants to make a great profit,” said McCann, “but everyone also needs interactions and connections as well. Keep your attention focused on the right place: building ties.”

A CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT Summing up, McCann said, “If you engage in fruitful, thoughtful conversation on a regular basis, it’s easier for you to engage with your people. When it’s time to move toward a goal or objective, your people know what motivates you, so you have the foundation for leadership in place.” McCann continued, “You’ve probably learned a good deal about your people, and that puts you in a better position to create the kind of situation that will make your people want to work on the project along with you or along with your team, to achieve whatever goal you’ve set.” McCann pointed to the fact that his company is a family business and its people are genuinely interested in one another and in the work they do. “They see that the company,” said McCann, “has a purpose beyond transactions. If you have that as part of your cultural fabric, you are much more likely to have a collegial atmosphere where people are sensitive to the needs of each other and where people know that the best way to get things done is not by command but by suggestion.” According to McCann, “Companies that are entrepreneurial can have an entrepreneurial spirit and can even have entrepreneurial elements but still be a big company. Entrepreneurial can be a person or an activity, but it also describes an element of culture. At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, we’d like to do the things we think are appropriate to help maintain, instill, and incent an entrepreneurial environment.” McCann added, “The quicker employees get to know what our culture is like and the way we do things here—what things we hold important and what things we don’t—the better. Through the whole screening and interviewing and onboarding process, we look for people who are a good cultural fit with our team and do our best to help them become familiar with the atmosphere of our organization.” As McCann explained to MWorld, “The company knows that it can’t create the culture, but it can influence it. I think how having a conversational style lets people know we’re collegial, we want people to behave with respect toward one another. Those people who don’t demonstrate a caring attitude to each other, to customers, and to their community won’t make it in our organization.” MW Excerpted from Talk Is (Not!) Cheap with permission of Amazon Publishing/New Harvest. ©2014 by Jim McCann. All rights reserved. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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The modern organization is a complex, fast-moving, highly diverse entity, driven by the top and bottom lines. These characteristics make effective communication up, down, across, and outside the organization a tricky business. The way an organization is constituted—its structure, culture, and processes—affects how well it delivers messages to all its stakeholders. Although many executives would deny it, even today most companies are run as top-down hierarchies. Since content tends to follow context, communication patterns follow suit. Take, for example, companies in the healthcare sector. As Stephanie Neuvirth, chief human resources and diversity officer at California-based City of Hope, can testify, such companies traditionally have been run hierarchically, to the detriment of transparency and open dialogue. “In the hierarchical approach, communication is very guarded and characterized by just-in-time responses. If you ask, you’ll get information, but it’s not offered up voluntarily. Senior leaders were informing others rather than discussing issues at meetings. Oftentimes the real discussions and conversations were being held outside the meeting room,” she says.

“In the hierarchical approach, communication is very guarded and characterized by just-in-time responses.” Stephanie Neuvirth, City of Hope

As in the broader organization, everyone within Neuvirth’s HR function was very polite, but tough issues tended to be avoided. Meaningful feedback was rare; little discussion took place; no ground rules for response time were set; and at major presentations, people did not ask questions, even for clarity, for fear of being seen as unsupportive.

But times—and organizations—are changing. Think about the factors currently impacting organizations: collaboration, empowerment, innovation, technology, asynchronous work patterns, team proliferation, nimbleness, speed, and cutthroat global competition. We’ve barely scratched the surface, yet you can understand why sheer necessity is causing the old top-down, hierarchical order to crumble and a new high-performing, horizontal model to rise. The latter is a superior way to tap into the collective wisdom of an organization at every level, distribute decision making, work in teams, speed up issue resolution, and communicate transparently across functions and business units.

TEAM ALIGNMENT AND COMMUNICATION When Bob Gamgort became CEO of Pinnacle Foods, which owns iconic brands such as Birds Eye, Duncan Hines, and Log Cabin, he immediately set out to create a high-performing, 10

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Lessons from High-Performing Organizations horizontal organization. After getting the lay of the land through intensive one-on-one interviews with his direct reports, he decided to begin by changing the dynamic of his top team. “If you want to start seeing high-performance behaviors,” Gamgort comments, “the team needs to go through an alignment, so we held one in the first couple of months.” “If you want to start seeing

high-performance behaviors, The alignment process is a way for teams to take a tough, introspective the team needs to go through look at how they behave and perform an alignment…” and then begin to operate as highBob Gamgort, Pinnacle Foods Inc. performing, horizontal entities. To make this transition, they must gain agreement and commitment in five key areas: strategy, business deliverables, roles and responsibilities, protocols for decision making and communication, and business relationships. Hard-edged business results aside, the process promotes accountability beyond the success of individual functions and opens up communication across the organization. These changes lead to a different way of communicating. As Gamgort says, “You must immediately start finding ways to live your words. If someone is speaking and another person is rolling his eyes, you have to say, ‘Clearly, you don’t agree; this is the environment in which you need to talk about it.’”

“We’ve learned to talk

At Pinnacle Foods, the alignment about the importance of process went beyond the senioridentifying issues—good leadership team members to include and bad…” their direct reports, a group of about 50 Regina Lind, Pinnacle Foods Inc. executives. The process led to greater candor in communication between levels. As Pinnacle’s Regina Lind, senior director of organization development and talent management, points out, that candor boiled down to three core elements: attack issues and respect the person; speak up because it’s important to get all points of view on an issue; and proactively deliver good and bad news. Now communication is more fluid and honest, without the usual noise. “We’ve learned to talk about the importance of identifying issues—good and bad,” comments Lind, “and to do so early and often, bringing things to light with no repercussions or negative consequences for bad news.”

PROTOCOLS FOR COMMUNICATING One of the distinguishing features of communication in a high-performance, horizontal environment is an adherence to ground rules, or protocols, that guide decision making and communication. One common protocol in high-performing environments deals with the MWORLD SPRING 2014

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deadly issue of triangulation, in which people take an issue to a third-party “rescuer” for resolution. It’s a misguided attempt to avoid responsibility by using a surrogate. Consider Henkels & McCoy, a billion-dollar builder of infrastructure for utility companies and large pipelines for oil and gas companies. The company is a family-owned enterprise, an environment that is rife with triangulation “When someone comes to one possibilities. As T. Roderick Henkels, president of us with a complaint about and CEO, observes, “Triangulation is a way of another person, we say, ‘Stop! communicating in a family: There’s a problem with a brother or sister? No problem, talk to You’ve got 48 hours to get Mom. If you don’t like the answer, go to Dad.” with that person and resolve

the issue. Either resolve the issue—or let it go.’”

To prevent the divisiveness that triangulation can cause, Henkels and his team have outlawed the practice and put in place a protocol to T. Roderick Henkels, Henkels & McCoy prevent it. He says, “When someone comes to one of us with a complaint about another person, we say, ‘Stop! You’ve got 48 hours to get with that person and resolve the issue. Either resolve the issue—or let it go.’” Emails and other forms of electronic communication, with their impersonal nature and proclivity for hurry-up responses, are fertile soil for miscommunication and conflict. City of Hope’s Neuvirth and her HR team have put in place a number of protocols to neutralize this effect. For example, email subject lines must convey the intent of the message: “Urgent,” “Action Required,” or “Information Only.” Responses are expected only from those to whom the message was sent and not from those who were just cc’ed. If an issue isn’t resolved after three email exchanges, it’s time to use old-fashioned modes, such as the telephone or a face-toface meeting. These and other non-email protocols have helped to avoid email wars. Within organizations, team meetings are ground zero for communication miscues. Prior to going through the alignment process for her HR team, Neuvirth owned team meetings. She set the agenda and provided updates on projects. Then, team members chimed in. There was not much back-and-forth dialogue. Now the leader-centric dynamic is flipped. Says Neuvirth, “We cocreate a list of topics and issues, and the person who owns the topic goes first to provide an update. I then build on what was shared. We all own the meeting and the outcomes.” In the alignment sessions at Pinnacle Foods, the senior- and executive-leadership teams came to grips with team communication issues by agreeing to a number of meeting protocols. One of these protocols is, “This is the meeting.” As Lind explains, “We want whatever has to come out to come out in the meeting and not offline.” Other protocols that have made team communication more transparent and interactive: “Relevancy challenges are welcomed” and “We all own this outcome.” These are not just empty slogans. They are rigorously managed in an attempt to create a peer-to-peer communication environment in which senior team members feel they are leading, as Lind puts it, “with their direct reports and not for them.”

COMMUNICATING AND CAPABILITIES Working and communicating within a high-performing, horizontal environment is somewhat counterintuitive, given the focus on candor, transparency, and confronting issues and the sense of accountability that cuts across silos and extends upward to being accountable for the success of leaders and the enterprise. In addition to participating in the alignment process, people must learn to communicate effectively in such an environment by mastering a new set of skills. 12

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These skills include influencing, listening actively, and managing conflict. Prior to acquiring these skills, Henkels admits that he himself often was a roadblock to effective communication. “I have learned to avoid asking leading questions, to depersonalize, and not to edit what someone is saying but instead to first try to understand the other person,” he says. The stories we tell ourselves can be the silent saboteurs of effective communication. Because stories are based on a person’s past experiences, they color his or her perception and create expectations that often are not valid. Lind notes that in a previous organization in which she worked, several executives held a story about the negative consequences for anyone who dared to voice a contrary point of view. “Story busting,” as Neuvirth suggests, “is a very powerful skill to acquire. It begins with asking pointed questions: What evidence do you have? What’s causing you to believe that? What’s making you feel that way?” She concludes, “We have frequently found that it’s someone’s upbringing or prior work experience, rather than City of Hope’s culture, that’s the cause.”

10 FEATURES OF HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMMUNICATION Is there a pattern of high-performance communication that distinguishes high-performance teams and organizations from others? Based on our experience, here are 10 elements that comprise a consistent pattern of high-performance communication: 1. Clarity. High-performing players demand clarity. They closely question one another when an issue is up for discussion. “Can you clarify that?” “What do you mean by such and such?” “Can you give us an example?” “What do you see as the consequences?” You hear these and other clarifying questions—and plenty of them. 2. Authenticity. High-performance language sidesteps game playing. You rarely hear team members asking “imposter questions”—those designed to poke holes for the sake of exposing a colleague’s Achilles heel—or making nonrelevant statements just to hear their own voices. High-performance discussion is straight talk. If there is a concern or disagreement, it’s put on the table, not hidden under it. 3. Accuracy. On a high-performance team, conversation is biased toward facts, data, and observable behavior. Team members often say “it’s my opinion that…” to signify to listeners that they are about to enter a no-fact zone. Colleagues solicit factual backup by asking, “On what do you base your judgment?” If a problem is being discussed, the first order of business is to get the facts. What, specifically, is the problem? Where and when is it occurring? Who and how much is involved? 4. Efficiency. There’s little attempt to beat around the bush and engage in verbal foreplay

among high performers. In lieu of long preambles, they’re apt to say, “John, I have a concern about your behavior, and we need to talk.” The conversation is not about making excuses, but rather about accepting responsibility and moving on to solutions. 5. Completeness. You’re not likely to hear half the story in high-performance environments. What you’ll likely hear instead is, “Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the decision” or “Here are the risks with my proposal, and here’s what we stand to gain.” The aim is to inform, not to finesse. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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“If a team member—or the leader—is underperforming or if a function is problematic, colleagues on the team will address it openly.” 6. Timeliness. There’s a just-in-time feature to high-performing conversations. “Let’s put the

facts—all of them—on the table, now.” A favorite question in these environments is, “By when?” There’s also plenty of “If…then” language, often related to the siloless highperformance environment. For example: “If Marketing executes its plan by June, then Sales will have plenty of time to generate business.” 7. Focus. On high-performing teams, conversation is typically strictly business, driven by the

outcome required in a given situation. If the discussion involves setting priorities for a laundry list of issues, you don’t hear anyone jumping into solution mode. If the conversation is focused on identifying the root causes of a problem, you’re not likely to hear much about taking action to correct the causes. One CEO proudly has asserted that on his team, “Insult is the language of affection.” But more often, insult is the source of affliction, which is why it’s not part of the style of high-performance conversations. 8. Openness. High-performance conversations “go there.” If a team member—or the leader—

is underperforming or if a function is problematic, colleagues on the team will address it openly. Elephant heads—those touchy issues that most teams pretend don’t exist—are an endangered species on high-performing teams. 9. Action orientation. Listen in on a high-performing team at decision time: “What are the key objectives?” “Who are the fewest people that need to be involved?” “By when should the entire team review the decision?” The words connote action. They also typically convey immediacy, such as when teams talk about the “24-hour rule.” This rule means a person must get back to a colleague with a response, if not a conclusion, within one business day. 10. Depersonalization. True, high-performing teams “go there,” but they don’t “go personal.” Nor do you hear much defensiveness. Rather, you frequently hear high-performing team members reminding one another in the face of criticism that “it’s a ‘business case.’” The point is to have the discussion objectively. MW Howard M. Guttman is principal of Guttman Development Strategies (, a Mt. Arlington, NJ, management consulting firm that specializes in leadership team alignment, leadership coaching, and leadership development. He is the author of three books and a frequent contributor to business journals. You can make or break your professional image and the reputation of your organization by how well you communicate. Perfect your communication skills and therefore your tact and diplomacy by attending AMA’s seminar How to Communicate with Diplomacy, Tact, and Credibility. Check www.amanet/2206


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Effective and Enduring Leadership Practices AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS CONANT BY FLORENCE STONE

I met Douglas Conant, then president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, a few months after he joined the company in January 2001. He had come to Campbell with a reputation for engineering turnarounds, something that Campbell was in need of. As president of Nabisco Food Company, Conant had delivered five years of sales, earnings, and market share growth, and he repeated that performance at Campbell. During his tenure, he reversed a significant decline in market value and employee engagement, improving Campbell’s financial status, enhancing its diversity and inclusion practices, and raising its corporate social responsibility profile. Employee engagement went from being among the worst in the Fortune 500 Doug Conant chairing the 2014 CECP Board of Boards dinner. to being consistently among the best. In 2011, Conant retired from Campbell and started ConantLeadership, a growing commu- to 20 handwritten notes daily to those who were pernity of people dedicated to improving the quality of forming well. In total, he wrote more than 30,000 leadership in the 21st century. Deeply committed to notes to Campbell’s 20,000 employees during his 10leadership, he also serves as chairman of Avon year tenure as CEO. Conant reminded us of the need to improve the Products and chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern culture that existed when he arrived at Campbell Soup. It was important to address the situation on University. two fronts—in the workplace and in the marketplace. Conant established two performance metrics to CONANT’S Recently Conant visited American BOOK Management Association to share measure programs, one based on economic value, some of the leadership practices that measured by shareholder returns compared with contributed to his success. These practices can be those of competitors, and the other based on social found in the book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful value, measured by the Gallup Employee Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Engagement Index. Communication played a key which Conant coauthored with Mette Norgaard, an role in both. Indeed, TouchPoints, as described by expert on strategic leadership and learning. Among Conant, are very closely tied to communication. As his strategies, Conant ran a two-year leadership Conant explains in his book, “It takes place any time development program that he personally taught. The two or more people get together to deal with an issue program required leaders to attend five sessions of and get something done. A casual conversation with a two to three days each, do homework and reading colleague becomes a TouchPoint when the focus assignments, and work with a peer coach. Conant shifts to an impending contract. An email exchange saw the benefit of feedback as well, and he made with a team member turns into a TouchPoint when employees feel good about their work by writing 10 she tells you about a production delay. The chitchat MWORLD SPRING 2014

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before an afternoon meeting shifts to TouchPoint mode when the last person arrives and someone says, ‘Everyone’s here—let’s get started.’” Note that Conant doesn’t equate communication to the broadcasting of messages at ever-increasing frequencies. Rather, leaders need to work toward a shared understanding of where they are, where they want to go, and how they will get there. This kind of communication requires both clear speaking and careful listening, Conant believes. He said, “There is a key thing that I do when I go into a company that I’ve been told is somewhat unusual. However, I find it helps to build solid relationships with the people with whom I work as soon as possible. It is founded on the observation that people are not mind readers, yet they hunger to know what the new CEO really thinks. Unless the CEO speaks up, it can take months for employees to figure out what the CEO is really like.” This problem can be remedied from the first day the CEO is on the job, Conant suggests. He told us, “From the first hour of the first day on the job at Campbell, I went to work building a relationship with my direct reports. I believe this needs to be built even before you need such a relationship—I don’t believe in wasting time.” Conant built a relationship with every direct report, then did the same with his corporate board, when he joined the company. “I even did it with my board when it recruited me,” he added. “The intent is to take the mystery out of the relationship so we can focus on the work. Wherever I’ve been, this practice has paid enormous dividends.”

Conant handwriting one of his thank-you notes.


Conant continued, “Declaring oneself as the leader and modeling a behavior of transparency and a remarkable degree of honesty is mission critical. Once you’ve set the tone, people feel more comfortable coming and talking to you.” And, Conant added, “Later, you go back to your staff and tell them what you found out and what you’re doing next. Once you, as CEO, declare yourself and you share your plans to move forward, it’s awfully important continually to loop back and say, ‘We did what we said we were going to do, and now we’re going to do it again,’ or ‘Now we are going to do this.’ If you don’t do what you said you would, you admit it. You tell your employees, ‘Well, we couldn’t do it, and here’s why, and here’s what we’re doing differently.’” According to Conant, you establish yourself as someone your company can trust. “After that,” he said, “all is possible.” Conant believes such trust creates the foundation for collaboration. “All CEOs see the need for collaboration,” he said, “but too often we don’t form the foundation for collaboration until after it is needed, not beforehand. You need to set a pattern for collaboration so you can be productive in the collaboration. You can’t get to know each other when it’s time to get the work done.” MODELING BEHAVIOR

Conant suggests that a key step in building relationships that make for successful collaborations is to demonstrate to your employees that you want to listen to them. “If you’re the person in power,” he said, “you can get away with just telling them, but over time they’re going to have to feel heard if they are going to continue to perform. That’s critical to me. If you want people to listen to you, you had better listen to them. What they have to say is critical to you as well. They’re closer to the action, and they typically know more than you do. The language we use in our book is ‘lead with listening.’” Conant added, “I think that is where you start. You seek first to understand, then as the leader you need to be understood.” Conant is beginning a new career now, creating courses for C-suite executives at KELI while also serving as chairman of the board at Avon and heading up ConantLeadership. To support that effort, he is a featured blogger on leadership issues at Harvard Business Review online and also writes extensively about leadership on the ConantLeadership blog LISTENING TO YOUR EMPLOYEES

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THE CAMPBELL LEADERSHIP MODEL When Douglas Conant was CEO at Campbell Soup Company, he came up with a leadership model borrowing concepts from the works of Warren Bennis, Stephen Covey, Jim Collins, Meg Wheatley, John Kotter, and others that resonated over his years. In his book TouchPoints, Conant indicated that he had built the model based on his many years of experience that had enabled him to lead a number of difficult turnarounds. The Campbell Leadership Model was a six-part circular model in which the first action was to Inspire Trust and the last action was to Produce Extraordinary Results—that, in turn, increased credibility and inspired trust, creating a selfreinforcing loop. As Conant described in his book, the model emphasized high-trust behaviors because he believed that Campbell’s leaders would need to gain the trust of employees before they could expect the employees to volunteer their best ideas and energies.

1 Inspire Trust


Produce Extraordinary Results



Drive Organization Alignment

Execute with Excellence

Once the model had been tested, it became an integral part of how the leaders in the company should think and behave in a TouchPoint. By listening carefully, they could assess the issue quickly and determine whether the problem was one of trust or direction, alignment, and the like. Because they shared a common language, they could then zero in on the area of concern and together find the best solution.


Create Direction


Build Organization Vitality


( and as a LinkedIn Influencer. Conant also is dedicated to disseminating quality leadership information and robust digital leadership conversations on Twitter @DougConant. As I write this column, I am reminded of that first time I met Doug Conant and what I learned from him. Perhaps more important, I can imagine what the potential CEOs at Kellogg will learn from him in the future. As Conant concluded his interview at AMA, he added two things. He identified them as “pretty pithy,” but I found them to be very insightful. First, Conant told me, “Leaders today must be tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. You have to be both. You have to adhere to world-class standards of performance. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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The world won’t tolerate anything less. But if you want an organization that will support you and work with you in an enduring way, you have to demonstrate that your heart is with them as well as your head.” Doug Conant’s other words of advice come from Jim Collins. Conant noted that Collins says leaders are often faced with choices—such as whether to take care of the bottom line or employees. Conant then said, “Collins’s subsequent language, not mine, was brilliant. He said, “You have to embrace the genius of the “and” and reject the tyranny of the “or.” You have to be both. You have to take care of the bottom line and the employees. And the landscape is filled with companies that are doing both, and those are the great companies.” MW 17


If you’re like many people, the topic of networking isn’t your favorite dinner-party conversation. Many people perceive networking as boring or equate it with schmoozing. In the past, even I used to be filled with anxiety at the thought of walking into a room full of strangers. However, a couple of years ago I woke up and realized how full my life had become. My career and social life were rich, and my level of happiness was at an all-time high. I sat in gratitude and realized my success wasn’t just because of hard work. Much of it was directly correlated to the people in my life and my network. Either by fate or design, at around the same time an associate asked me to make a presentation about social media at a conference. I called the host and said, “I love social media, but I’d like to talk about the power of connections and giving back.” He agreed that the topic sounded interesting. At the conference, I told tales about the remarkable people I had met on airplanes. I encouraged the audience to recognize the power of such connections and said, “Helping others and being authentic changed my life.” With life imitating my presentation, that day I met a literary agent who believed in my concepts, and ultimately I wrote a book called Your Network Is Your Net Worth. If you are one of the millions of people who aspire to do better— in work or relationships—I’m thrilled to share some of my core ideas with you.

NETWORKING ISN’T TRANSACTIONAL If you remember one concept from this article, let it be this: networking should not be viewed as a series of transactions. The old way of networking involved climbing a ladder for individual benefit. The past was about competition, the pursuit of materialism, and “keeping up with the Joneses.” In today’s model, networking is transformational, or an inside game, first. To make the most of networking, you must identify any barriers (such as negative thinking or a fear of public speaking) that stand in your way of connecting with others and then define your values, interests, and core purpose. Once you’ve taken those steps, you can focus your efforts on meeting people who share your passions. Your networking should feel conversational, not awkward or confrontational. For example, Victor Cheng, a business coach and author, has shared that when he connects with people based on his core passions—business, entrepreneurship, and parenthood—conversations come easily and his networking efforts do not feel strained. He wrote, “I could talk about any of those three [topics] all day long, and I genuinely find people with shared interests very interesting. I find networking around other topics to me feels like I’m faking it, so I don’t do it.” 18

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to Your Passions So, look “inside” first. As managers, we spend hours crafting strategies and defining messaging and sales plans for our business, but we often fail to chart our own course by defining our passions and purpose. Networking based on values and passions is more natural. I believe that seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests can be the basis for building a strong network foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.


The Funnel Test

Based on 20 years of experience in marketing, I’ve created a simple exercise that I call the Funnel Test to help you clarify your personal Passion Passion passions and purpose (see figure). Over the years, I’ve worked with many companies and have found that the ones with a lucid and Passion succinctly described vision are more likely to succeed than those with an unclear or highly Sweet Spot complex vision. Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defining their TONE brand positioning, core values, and vision. But as individuals, we often don’t take the time to Purpose clearly articulate our own passions and purpose. Imagine that you have five floors of The Funnel Test is from Porter Gale’s book Your Network Is Your Net Worth. The illustration was elevator stops to convince someone to be your created by Jeremy Mende. business partner as you ride up together. Or you have three minutes on a stage in front of your peers to describe your personal mission. What would you say? How would you create a memorable connection? The three steps of the Funnel Test can help you define that statement: 1. Identify your three greatest passions or a succinct set of words that clearly define your core interests. In your Funnel Test, you can put a high priority on any type of passion, such as

family, fitness, education, technology, and many others. For example, I’ve created a hypothetical funnel for writer and art collector Gertrude Stein. Stein was celebrated for her ability to bring 20th-century artists and writers together in a salon environment that was instrumental in helping many artists build their careers and personal wealth. Her “passion words” that fill the three circles in the Funnel Test could be “art,” “community,” and “collecting.” The area where your three passions overlap is your sweet spot. If you can find activities, work, or relationships that combine two or more of your core passions, you are likely to hit the jackpot and be more effective in and excited about your actions and activities. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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2. Define your desired tone. How do you want to present yourself to the world? What is your authentic voice? Are you quiet and reserved? Witty? Bold? Irreverent? To use the example of Gertrude Stein again, her tone could be defined as “eccentric.” Fill the space below your passion circles in the Funnel Test with a selected word for your tone. Envision all of your actions being influenced by your tone, much as the contents in a funnel flow from top to bottom. Remember, simple is good. 3. State your core purpose in 20 words or fewer. What do you want to accomplish in life? In

work? Write what is in your gut, and use the passion words in your Funnel Test to guide you. Your goal is to write a phrase of fewer than 20 words that describes your purpose. Gertrude Stein’s purpose could be to “create an environment that supports the creation and collection of the arts.” Once you’ve completed your Funnel Test, you need to have real conversations with and give real attention to the people you want to have serious relationships with as friends or business colleagues. Let them know about your passions and purpose, and you’ll connect more authentically. Some of the factors that influence brand loyalty—including trust, value, commitment, and transparency—also are critical to networking loyalty and to positive, goodfaith, bridge-building communication.

SHRINKING “DEGREES OF SEPARATION” Technology has accelerated networking, reduced the degrees of separation between contacts, amplified the global playing field, and redefined the job-prospecting process. Technology is speeding up everyone’s reaction time and changing how and when we connect. Because of technology, the degree of separation between ourselves and our contacts has been reduced. The team at PeopleBrowsr, a company that has analyzed Twitter data from 2007 to the present, has a hypothesis that on a global level, we’re four degrees apart; on a community level (such as fitness lovers), we’re three degrees apart; and on a niche level (such as those who love kite surfing), we’re two degrees apart. The world has moved from the famous “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” to two, three, or four degrees of separation from you. The world is one big, interconnected web of relationships, sewn loosely together through a broadband pipe, a LinkedIn connection, or a Pinterest page. Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, said, “Twitter has also eradicated the psychological status barriers that exist between us.” He told me, “The Oklahoma State fraternity guys aren’t going to call NBA star Kevin Durant on his cellphone and say, ‘Come play flag football with us.’ That’s not going to happen, but it did on Twitter. The president of Rwanda will respond to tweets, but you’d be hard-pressed to go to the steps of the presidential palace and have a conversation with him. Twitter has changed how we get things done and how we connect with people, whether it’s a CEO, an investor, or a football player.” For the management community, the impact of technology on connecting is significant. Most likely, every reader of this article is linked by fewer than three degrees of separation. With this in mind, consider the role of reputation, job performance, and your personal brand as you navigate the business community and build your connections. A 2009 survey by CareerBuilder found that 45% of companies prescreen candidates through social media. Of those companies, 35% said they had found content that caused them not to 20

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“The key to unlocking the power of connections is helping others when you don’t expect anything in return.” hire a candidate. The red flags they cited include inappropriate photos, poor communication skills, excessive swearing, discriminatory comments, and confidential information posted about previous employers. Given social media’s reach, those numbers are likely to be higher now, so think before you post, pin, or tweet. Do your posts support your passions and purpose? Or do they detract from them? It is clear that technology has changed the way we network and make connections. If you employ technology wisely, you can use it to find new contacts and nurture global connections, and you can transform your deal making, job prospecting, or recruiting. My advice is to embrace rather than shun the new online tools and social sites and to recognize how technology has changed the way we network.

GIVING MORE THAN GETTING The last concept I’d like to share is about the power of helping others. The phrase I’ve coined to help you remember this idea is “Give Give Get.” In short, we need to put greater energy into giving than receiving. Amy Rao, the CEO of Integrated Archive Systems, has said, “The more you give, the more you get. I feel incredibly privileged, beyond privileged. I never dreamed I would have the life I have. I grew up on the lower end of the middle class.” Rao believes that giving back and helping others are keys to happiness. She also manages her team of 60-plus people based on these concepts: “The greatest joy isn’t when they bring in the big elephant; what I love is seeing when one of them gives back. If they are giving a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars or a day of time, that is all I care about. What are you giving back? That’s what defines us,” she said. The key to unlocking the power of connections is helping others when you don’t expect anything in return. If you put giving back and helping others at the center of your networking and relationship building, you are likely to have more impactful and stronger relationships, among other benefits. Living “Give Give Get” can be as easy as remembering that small actions can make a big difference or asking your contacts, “How can I help?” Think about the we, not just the me, when you’re networking and you will have greater success. I encourage all of you to think about the value of your connections. Time and time again, I’ve found that the people and relationships that are a part of my life have a direct impact on my feelings of happiness, the experiences I have, and the business opportunities that land in my path. Remember to look inside first, outside second. If you focus on your passions and reorganize your networking around your values and beliefs, you will discover the kind of lasting relationships, personal transformation, and tangible wealth that are the foundation of happiness and success. Help others, live each day fully, and remember that “your network is your net worth.” MW Porter Gale is a marketing expert with more than 20 years of experience in branding, social media, advertising, and filmmaking. She is the author of Your Network Is Your Net Worth, published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. You can connect with Gale @portergale or at


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“So, what business are you in?” is a classic cocktail-party question to which most of us have a quick and wellpracticed answer. Over the years, we’ve all probably heard many responses to the question, but in my own experience, the most common reply invariably describes the product or production facilities of the person’s company: “I’m in the business of PVC window frames,” “I work for a company that makes risk management software,” or “We are a bank.” These concise, descriptive responses reveal more than we realize about how the manager sees his or her business and about its strategy. More than 50 years ago, in his seminal Harvard Business Review article “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt demonstrated the perils of too narrow a response to the innocuous cocktailparty question. Many railroad companies, he argued, were driven out of business by upstart competition from new forms of transportation (trucking on new interstate highways and airlines) because they failed to recognize that railroad companies were in the transportation business, not merely in the railway business. Today’s organizations are no less prone to the same myopia, and Levitt’s insight is as applicable today as it was then. In recent years, Eastman Kodak Company endured a long and difficult decline that culminated in bankruptcy because, despite having invented digital photography, the company failed to grasp or manage the market’s shift to the new technology. Levitt would say that the company mistakenly saw itself as being in the film business rather than the imaging business. And file BlackBerry in the category of “lessons not learned.” The company became too wedded to a product feature—the physical keyboard—and overestimated its strength among enterprise customers. As a result, BlackBerry missed the shift to touchscreen smartphones and lost its once-impregnable lead in the consumer market, and then in the corporate market, faster than anyone could have imagined possible. But even beyond Levitt’s insight, there is more depth to the “What business are you in?” question than meets the eye. When I listen to the responses, I look for what they tell us about the center of gravity of the business. The emphasis in the response hints at which part of the business the managers see as the primary driver of value and where management attention is concentrated.

YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY Businesses traditionally have sought competitive advantage in the upstream—the valuecreation activities related to production and products. They succeeded in a number of ways: by 22

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Downstream building bigger factories and taking advantage of scale; by finding new, cheaper raw materials or labor; by finding better ways to make, move, and store their inventory; and by inventing exciting products and features that competitors did not or could not replicate. The upstream seems allimportant because, historically, it has been. Some of the best-run companies in history gained dominant market share and became very profitable by seizing an upstream advantage. Consider: ៑

In the early years of the automobile industry, Ford Motor Company built such a huge and streamlined factory that it drove the per-unit cost of production for the Ford Model T far below that of competitors’ cars. The achievement gave Ford a significant pricing advantage in capturing market share. The soap, chemicals, food, and textiles industries were among the first to recognize the advantages of scale and assembly lines. When diamond mining and manufacturing giant De Beers pulverized its competition by gaining control of much of the world’s supply of diamonds, the company enjoyed an unbeatable advantage for several decades. Few other companies in any industry have had as complete a hold on sources of raw material as De Beers had, and even fewer used it as effectively to hammer that upstream competitive advantage into profits. Retail giant Walmart built an unbeatable network for moving inventory between its global supply chain and its stores. The scale and efficiency of the movement of goods meant that each product unit was transported cheaply, fewer products were lost in transit, and fewer customers were lost due to stockouts. These savings allowed Walmart to underprice competitors.

RAPID CHANGE IN THE UPSTREAM Some of the most innovative companies in the world relentlessly push the development of new products, and they measure the organization’s innovativeness in terms of the share of revenue represented by products introduced in the previous three to five years. But the world in which these upstream giants built their success is in the midst of far-reaching change. Even the largest upstream companies now find that the advantage they considered to be uniquely theirs can become commonplace or irrelevant, seemingly overnight. With De Beers, this process first MWORLD SPRING 2014

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“Today, manufacturers just about anywhere can replicate the look, and even the feel, of an innovative product and bring it to market for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time it used to take. ” happened after the end of the Cold War, when cheaper diamonds from the former Soviet Union began flooding the market. Companies that bask in the upstream glory of quality products also are witnessing how fleeting this advantage can be. Toyota found that its famed quality could be lost more easily than it was gained when the automaker ran squarely into a wall of negative publicity surrounding its braking systems. The situation also can change for companies that rely on innovation. At these organizations, the share of revenue attributed to products launched in the preceding three to five years is often worn as a badge of honor. But the game changes when specialist innovation firms such as IDEO and Jump Associates offer product innovation and design services in the open market, allowing any business to buy the capabilities that were previously unique to innovative companies. In each of these cases, upstream advantage crumbled or eroded and the playing field was leveled as competitors caught up or as unique assets, skills, and capabilities became commonly available for any competitor to buy or rent.

A POST-INDUSTRIAL DOWNSTREAM MODEL The proprietary access, skills, capabilities, and other assets that were at the heart of the industrial model—which was dominant for 250 years—are rapidly giving way to a postindustrial downstream model. In this model, value is created in a company’s interactions with customers, competitive advantage is built and sustained in the marketplace, and the primary costs reside in acquiring, satisfying, and retaining customers. Three critical aspects of business have shifted downstream: the locus of competitive advantage, the locus of activities that add value (those the customer is willing to pay for), and the primary fixed costs in the business. These shifts have profound implications for strategy and for the way businesses are measured, monitored, and managed. Companies must now seek out and develop new forms of value and new sources of competitive advantage. In essence, businesses must try to tilt. They must reformulate their strategy for the downstream. The erosion of upstream competitive advantage is not particular to one geographic location or one industry. It is taking place all over the world and throughout many industries, and it affects organizations of all sizes. It is driven by some powerful new forces. The most important of these forces is the increasingly rapid commoditization of products and production. Today, manufacturers just about anywhere can replicate the look, and even the feel, of an innovative product and bring it to market for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time it used to take. A related force is the outsourcing of upstream activities. Even erstwhile product champions Nike and Hewlett-Packard no longer manufacture their own products. They source from contract manufacturers, mostly in Asia. The bulk of their own effort and resources is spent in a race against time to develop tomorrow’s blockbuster products as yesterday’s innovations become commonplace ever more rapidly. Outsourcing requires the standardization of tasks, processes, and quality. This standardization makes it easier to hand over production to outside 24

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suppliers, but it also makes products and processes portable to competitors. Manufacturing, product development, and even design are becoming so undifferentiated and easily sourced that it is increasingly difficult to build a lasting advantage in these arenas. The rapid and open flow of information and people, open markets for product design and innovation capabilities, reverse engineering, and global outsourcing all have contributed to a more Schumpeterian world in which the pace of “creative destruction” is accelerating. Just look at how effortlessly new products are replicated in China. A made-in-China knockoff iPod sells for less than $100. Imitation Nike shoes made in Putian, China, are practically indistinguishable from the real deal and are sold in many parts of the world as the genuine article. Legitimate emulators also abound in the marketplace. Many technical advances, such as wireless technology, near-field communications, and HTML5 tend to be based on industrywide standards, so that, by definition, competitors have access to them too. Many of those competitors also have access to the same third-party designers, manufacturers, and logistics experts that turn those basic technologies into products. The result is equalization across basic product building blocks and an erosion of the advantages that used to stem from uniqueness in the upstream.

THREE QUESTIONS TO ADDRESS In searching for a lasting competitive advantage in the downstream, we are naturally faced with a dilemma. The sources of competitive advantage and examples that illustrate them are relatively new, but if we want to be sure that a competitive advantage is enduring and sustainable, we have to examine the success of the strategy over a long period. To find a company’s center of gravity, managers should be able to address three questions: ៑

Where is the greatest burden of your fixed costs? Is it in your factory, in your R&D, or in activities related to customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction? Which of your activities do your customers most value? Which activities are they most likely to pay a premium for? Which ones are the reasons for their loyalty? Where do these activities reside on the upstream-downstream spectrum? Where along the spectrum does your competitive advantage lie?

The center of gravity of your business—relative to your industry peers—can determine your competitiveness. A company that does not tilt downstream with its industry will find itself increasingly competing in commoditized playing fields, with shrinking margins, little say in customers’ criteria of purchase, and little clout in the future course of the industry. MW Niraj Dawar is professor of marketing at the Ivey Business School, Ontario, Canada. His writing has appeared in Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, the Financial Times, and leading academic marketing and management journals. Reprinted with permission from Harvard Business Review Press. Adapted from TILT: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers by Niraj Dawar. Copyright 2013, Niraj Dawar. Do you need cutting-edge strategic marketing models and their real-world applications? If so, attend AMA’s Advanced Course in Strategic Marketing, where you will discover the tools you need to increase the spending rate of current customers and cost-effectively acquire new ones. Find out more at www.amanet/5537 MWORLD SPRING 2014

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Public Speaking for the C-Suite BY DALLAS JESSUP

The scarcest talent in American business is great public speaking, yet it’s the one that delivers the biggest rewards for your company and your career. Doubt it? Consider Jeff Bezos telling us about Amazon’s latest reach, or Elon Musk giving us a look at the future of everything. These are celebrity C-suiters, but there are other strategic public speakers who drive company and career success on a smaller stage. Consider the CFO who makes data come alive in understandable and interesting ways, the COO who doesn’t talk about logistics but rather tells an awesome story about a cereal’s journey from wheat-field seedling to the breakfast table of a busy Atlanta family, and the pharmaceutical CMO who skips the unpronounceable chemistry and takes us straight to a now-achievable lifestyle in which age is an irrelevance. Here’s the good news: these communication masters weren’t born that way. Impactful public speaking is a learnable skill for anyone who has the drive it takes to make it to the C-suite. However, there is a challenge. While the return on exceptional public speaking is significant, the rules have changed in the past few years. For those who want to harness this powerful career and corporate tool, there are eight essentials for creating and delivering a compelling speech that will ensure a home run every time.

LEARN FROM THE GREATS Prior to the Internet’s ubiquity, most people were exposed to very few speakers, including politicians speaking on television, conference lecturers, and a handful of others. Today, our expectations of public speakers are raised, and the bar is much higher for a presentation to be judged as exceptional. Why? Two words: TED talks. Twenty years ago, Chris Anderson set out to put the world’s most intriguing people onstage at semiannual TED conferences. The speakers included scientists, educators, writers, entertainers, mad geniuses…people with really, really big and game-changing ideas. Since that time, hundreds of amazing people—including Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and other great communicators—have appeared at TED conferences each year. TED talks are available online for free viewing, and because of the exceptional content, entertaining format, and 18-minute time limit for each talk, TED’s website has become one of the Net’s most popular. 26

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Dallas Jessup leveraged her speaking skills to build a worldwide constituency of more than 2 million young women.

What does this mean for you, the fledgling speaker? Your audience has seen the best, and they now expect and hope for something similar from you. It’s the new standard, and you should embrace it. You can and should watch 10, 20, or more best-rated TED talks to get a feel for exceptional speaking in terms of content, presentation, and delivery. You can up your game by seeing how others do it.


Remember the adages “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “Don’t tell me, show me”? Keep them in mind as you spend ample time preparing this critical element of your talk. You need to select photos, build infographics, capture screenshots, create graphics, and choose the few words that go with each. The great news here is that help with visual-content creation— from social media templates, SlideShare or PowerPoint® software, and other tools—is just a search away. Populate these templates with images from stock-photo sources such as Getty Images, iStock, and Corbis, and your visual content will become truly engaging. Finally, limit the number of words on each slide. The graphic should speak for itself. No more than 5 to perhaps 10 words—and, in some cases, only a word or two—are necessary. Social media works well because it allows you to use an illustrative newspaper headline or an amusing or impactful photo to make or reinforce a key point. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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Want to truly excel on stage? One secret is to know that visuals are content, as important to the presentation (if not more so) as your words. Visuals are one difference between adequate and extraordinary public speaking. Be assured, we’re not talking about the wordy, bullet-heavy slides that are vestigial corporate artifacts from the ’90s, but rather something much more. As you will notice among the best of TED, visuals should be nothing less than graphic representations of thought that deliver or enhance your message.


START WITH THE FINISH Every speaker should know what he wants his audience to do, and making this action happen is the goal of a presentation. Otherwise, the speech is empty rhetoric and a wasted opportunity. So what do you want the audience to do? Are they analysts you want to tout your company’s stock? Philanthropists you hope will write substantial checks to a nonprofit? Vendors you hope can do more for less? Whatever your goal, you will need to make the “ask,” and that request comes in your conclusion. However, you should write out a tentative conclusion to your presentation as the first step in preparing your talk, keeping the action you want to encourage firmly in mind. Tell your listeners exactly what you want them to do, and remind them of the points you made in the body of your talk that are compelling reasons for them to take your recommended action. Now that you have a clearly defined target, you can easily select the main points that will become the framework of your speech. Your preparation will be more efficient because you can evaluate each point or graphic by how much and how well it leads to your final goal.

FOCUS ON ONE MESSAGE Speakers often are the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the room in their area of expertise, and they could discuss a dozen important topics in depth. Average speakers typically touch on multiple topics to give the audience the greatest amount of information possible. Although their intention is good, this strategy prevents them from delivering a clear and compelling narrative and argument for action—the goal of an effective speech. Exceptional communicators understand that if you try to do too much, you get nothing done. They focus on one important message or theme, and that message defines the structure of their talk. Every story, piece of evidence, point of argument, and slide must support that single message or theme. When these speakers make the final “ask” in their conclusion, they are definitely more likely to be successful because the audience was alerted early to the primary theme and easily followed the message. You can only accomplish so much in one speech. Try to do more, and you’ll accomplish little, if anything. When you focus on one message, your effectiveness will be assured.

NAB THE BEST SPOT No matter how exceptional their message and delivery, the most impactful speakers go to work well in advance to create optimal conditions for a presentation. So should you. Ninety-five percent of business and civic programs go on way too long. An overzealous meeting planner adds too many speakers, and one or two always go well over their time limit. Yet speakers don’t plan ahead for these realities. To get the best possible audience, you must take the critical step when you’re first booked of negotiating your position on the program. Never be first, no exceptions. People are busy, especially those in business, and your audience will be too. Twenty percent of your audience will still be in the hallway when the moderator tells everyone to take their seats, and they will enter disruptively after they complete their phone call, finish their coffee, or conclude their conversation. Others in the audience will still be getting settled when you take the stage. Similarly, you absolutely do not want to be last on the program, again because people are busy, the meeting planner was not effective, or the event will run overtime. Attendees leave, often disrupting 28

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the final presentation. The attention of the remaining audience members is exhausted, and many people are looking at their watches. The likelihood that you will deliver a great and well-received speech plummets. Do whatever you need to do, such as claiming immovable schedule conflicts, to get a good position on the program when you’re first booked to speak. This step will turn the odds of a successful speech in your favor.

EMBRACE BREVITY While 45- to 60-minute speeches were the standard in decades past, it’s now a 140-character world. We want our information in brief and comfortably consumable measures. Audiences expect more information or entertainment per minute, and our collective attention span has shortened as speakers, the media, and online sources have modified their format to serve this new audience expectation.

Dallas Jessup speaking at a recent conference in Washington, DC.

Don’t fight this trend. Embrace it. Isn’t it more exciting to answer questions from an audience that is excited and intrigued by your 21-minute message than to receive a polite tennis clap after delivering a yawn-worthy, hour-long message? Here’s your best strategy: always leave your audience wanting more. Finish 5 or 10 minutes before they expect you to, and they will love you.

DON’T WING IT Respect your audience—and the opportunity every stage offers—by preparing for the speech. We aren’t talking about dusting off last year’s PowerPoint and making some notes on the plane. It takes a couple of weeks, at a minimum, to put together a solid 21-minute talk, and every great speaker will tell you that he or she invested an hour of practice time for each minute onstage. Many then take the extra step of using a coach or another independent party to get an honest evaluation and recommendations for fine-tuning the message and its presentation. Don’t accept a speaking engagement unless you’re ready to make this level of commitment. Great communicators drive company success and have high-trajectory careers. Stage time is a priceless opportunity to show your greatness. Don’t wing it.

LEARN THE BASICS Scores of books are available on public speaking, and they can teach you the value of storytelling, how to populate your stories with real people, the importance of audience engagement, why authenticity trumps perfection, the fundamentals of tone and timing, and many other lessons. The art of public speaking requires continuous learning, and your professional schedule and personal reading should permit time to master this skill set. Dallas Jessup is a Vanderbilt-educated business communications expert, author, noted viral video producer, and award-winning speaker. More at Be able to speak, present, and communicate with poise and persuasion after attending AMA’s seminar Effective Executive Speaking. Learn more about the program at www.amanet/2522


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Celebrate Your Inner Wimp: Eight Ways to Get Ahead by Showing Weakness BY GEOFFREY TUMLIN Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? ᔢ A colleague sends you a snarky email, so you type a cutting response right back. ᔢ A Facebook “friend” insults your political beliefs in a post, so you write a scathing comment about her obvious cluelessness. ᔢ A team member arrives late and unprepared for a meeting, so you berate him in front of the group for being inconsiderate. ᔢ Aunt Betty belittles your career choices over Thanksgiving dinner, so you carve her up like the turkey, angrily countering her criticisms and throwing in a few insults for good measure. At first glance, none of this seems unreasonable. After all, nobody likes to back down, give in, knuckle under, or swallow an insult. And showing weakness isn’t likely to get you anything but disrespect and marginalization. Right? Wrong. Being what some would call a “wimp” is often an effective response. And in the right circumstances, it can even be a way to get ahead. Weakness can be a very effective communication tool. In many scenarios, allowing the other party to maintain what appears to be “the upper hand” can help you successfully navigate volatile situations, protect important relationships, and get you what you want personally and professionally. So why do we feel it’s OK—even smart—to maintain a forceful presence? To some extent, this belief may be a vestige of our caveman past, but it’s also a consequence of the digital communication revolution. We’ve gotten in the habit of impulsive, expedient, and self-expressive communication. We can chat, tweet, text, and email to our heart’s content. And because it’s all so quick and easy, we’ve come to believe that it’s our right, as citizens of the digital age, to say what we want, when we want. One consequence of this mistaken belief is that we

“Apologizing may seem to be a weak response, but in fact it’s a powerful communication tool.” 30

often fight back too quickly and too forcefully whenever we’re annoyed. But impulsive and unfiltered communication—whether it happens face-to-face or digitally—often costs us dearly. Because we aren’t willing to be seen as wimps, conflicts escalate and relationships deteriorate. We would do much better to hold our tongues, control our emotions, and focus on long-term goals instead of on the short-term gratification that comes with a pointed retort. Here are eight ways that showing weakness can help you avoid unnecessary conflict, protect relationships, and get ahead: Defuse volatile situations by lowering the sound level. When someone comes at you, don’t rise to that person’s level of irritation. Throw cold water on it. Suppose someone says, “This is the worst report I’ve ever read!” You can neutralize the immediate situation by saying, “I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I didn’t mean to upset you.” A “weak” response often will stabilize a harsh conversation, leave you in control, and prevent damage to the underlying relationship. We assume that we have to match strength with strength, but in so doing we let the other person set the tone of the conversation (aggressive and probably damaging to the relationship). 1. BRING A STICK TO A KNIFE FIGHT

In our achievement-oriented society, backing down from a verbal challenge can be the equivalent of not accepting a triple dog dare on the playground. But that’s exactly what smart communicators do. They know that our quick and convenient digital devices encourage us to have far too many unnecessary conversations, engage in way too much unnecessary chatter, and get our hands (and thumbs) on too many irrelevant issues. Smart communicators are willing to let some problems go unsolved so that they can focus on those that are truly important. Don’t automatically handle all the issues that come before you. This is the most frequent miscalculation of our “everything now” digital age. Make delay your default. Many issues don’t need your active interven2. BACK DOWN FROM CHALLENGES

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tion, and others may disappear completely or resolve themselves without your participation. The fact is that most of us are guilty of inserting ourselves into far too many unnecessary conversations, but delaying and ignoring issues can often help us end up in a stronger position. Jane talks too much. Jim is incredibly stubborn. Uncle Billy loves to argue. The behaviors that make people difficult—whether they’re controlling, critical, or cranky tend to spark frequent confrontations—even though we’re unlikely to influence these people. For example, we wrestle with Jane to get a word in edgewise. We struggle to change Jim’s mind. We fire a barrage of points and counterpoints into Uncle Billy’s arguments. It’s time to quit trying. At the end of a conversation, the difficult person remains the same, but often you are in a weaker position. Only a commitment to let go of your desire to “win” by imposing your will on the other person can realistically and consistently improve your communication with difficult people. When you find yourself with no choice but to interact with a difficult person, have modest expectations, avoid tangents, and stay focused on your end goal. It’s really all you can do. 3. LET DIFFICULT PEOPLE WIN

Apologizing to another person isn’t easy, even when you know you’re in the wrong. It’s even tougher when you think the other person is being unreasonable. And, of course, it doesn’t help that certain people view an apology as a sign of weakness. Apologize anyway. In many situations, a well-placed “I’m sorry” can stop conversational damage and prevent lasting harm. Usually, salvaging a relationship and staying on track to accomplish your goals is worth a momentary blow to your pride. 4. SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE AND SAY YOU’RE SORRY

When somebody offends you, your inner Neanderthal rushes to the front of your brain, urging you to club your foe over the head and show the other person that you won’t allow yourself to be treated that way. But guess what? Your inner Neanderthal isn’t known for restraint, civility, or strategic thinking. Sure, it might feel good to act on your emotions and indulge your 5. IGNORE INSULTS


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impulses, but responding aggressively to insults can also result in a lot of long-term damage. A hotheaded retort to your boss’s criticism could cost you a good performance review, a project, or even a promotion. Allowing a coworker to draw you into a harsh fight can do serious damage to your working relationship. Feelings do matter, and you shouldn’t let anyone insult you consistently. But people say things they quickly regret all the time. Don’t let your inner Neanderthal lunge for the club; give the other person a chance to self-correct instead. Standing up for your convictions has been the American way since the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And yes, you should speak up when you feel that your own or someone else’s wellbeing is being threatened. But even though others might label you a wimp for keeping your mouth shut, you don’t have to rise to every challenge. Even though your brother-in-law’s political rants on Facebook make your blood boil, you don’t have to comment on why you disagree with each and every post. Too much impulsive disclosure and reflexive communication can upset the people who are most important to your work and personal life. Am I suggesting that we should abandon the Internet, stop posting anything on social media, and never talk about the things we believe in? Of course not. All I’m recommending is some good old-fashioned caution. Ask yourself which is more important to you: throwing your two cents in or maintaining a decent relationship? Play your cards closer to the vest. Failure to exercise caution around sensitive topics can lead to a relational explosion. 6. STOP CONSTANTLY DEFENDING YOUR BELIEFS




It’s human nature to want to be right. However, the urge to prove another person wrong often gets people into hot water and torpedoes conversations. Unnecessarily correcting another person can spark arguments, damage the way he perceives you, and harm the underlying relationship. Remember, nobody likes a know-it-all, and nobody likes being contradicted. Unless something crucial hangs in the balance, if you hear someone misquote a statistic, mangle a story, or make a logical error, don’t whip out your smartphone and start searching the Internet to prove her wrong. And when someone lays a goofy conspiracy theory or profoundly loopy world-view on you, don’t consider it as your moral obligation to set him straight. Playing dumb means letting go of the need to be right about everything. 7. MUZZLE YOUR INNER KNOW-IT-ALL

When an I-can’t-believeshe-just-said-that moment happens, your first instinct is probably to react physically. You might roll your eyes, sigh, raise your eyebrows, or even throw 8. PUT ON YOUR BEST POKER FACE

your hands in the air. Remember, actions speak just like words. If you’re serious about defusing a situation instead of escalating it, you’ll need to pretend that you’re competing in the World Series of Poker. Some of you may worry that the kind of responses recommended above will make you appear weak. But consider the circumstances and your goals. What matters is that you get what you need out of a conversation, and that you manage relationships in a way that makes life as productive and meaningful as possible. Responses that look like short-term conversational weakness will often put you in a position of long-term strategic and relational strength. MW Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life (McGraw-Hill, 2013). He is the CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC and the board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. You can learn more about Tumlin at and can reach him at





LEAD WITH A STORY: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire “. . . tools to create great stories that can teach, motivate and lead.” — Wharton magazine

“By taking Smith’s instructions to heart and becoming master storytellers, we may all avoid fidgeting, glassy-eyed audiences in the future.” — ABA Banking Journal

“The book is chock full of great stories and clear, simple techniques you can use to be a better storyteller.” —ThoughtLeaders blog es $24.95 • Hardcover • 288 pag 978-0-8144-2030-0

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Available at your local bookstore, online booksellers, or visit us at 32

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Boxes can include, among many other things, ideas, approaches, philosophies, tactics, theories, patterns, and strategies. Every human idea can be expressed and/or interpreted through numerous mental models, or “boxes.” Your brain constantly uses boxes—and cannot do otherwise—to make it possible for you to cope with and process reality. The world confronts us with an infinite array of people, places, and objects; we use patterns and systems to simplify these people and items and categories to organize them. We all have boxes of many different sizes. The smallest type of box would be a grouping of like things—such as “consumer electronics companies” or “the set of coffee shops in my neighborhood.” Examples of slightly bigger boxes include stereotypes or judgments—such as “our customers love chocolate” or “basketball players are tall.” A paradigm is a box so big (for example, “democracy” or “freedom”) that sometimes you don’t even realize it’s still just a box, like being on a boat so big you forget you’re at sea. Boxes of other sizes include what we commonly call structures, hypotheses, frameworks, mindsets, frames of reference, and so on. All of these various boxes help make the world more manageable. Every one of us constantly takes the broad variety of experiences we have and the information we observe and reduces them to segments or categories, “boxes” with which we try to make sense of things. But even the most seemingly obvious and widely shared boxes should not be confused with reality. Accounting is always just a snapshot of the past, not an accurate representation of the present. Dividing up your customers into market segments is an often-useful distortion that relies upon artificial distinctions and generalizations. In addition to being simplified, a box is your mind’s fuzzy representation of reality. You might have a seemingly solid image of the Google logo in your mind, of the primary colors for the six letters. Could you say with certainty which colors appear twice? Your boxes help you make sense of things, but only up to a certain level MWORLD SPRING 2014

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of detail (in this case, enough to avoid confusion with some other company’s logo) and only for a certain period of time. Every box is subject to revision, refinement, and even replacement. To be more creative, and to survive in a world of accelerating change and challenge, we believe you must do more than simply think “outside the box.” Rather, you must learn to think in new boxes, which means deliberately (not just subconsciously) creating a range of fresh mental models and methodically exploring and prioritizing them.

YOU CAN’T THINK WITHOUT BOXES, SO DON’T EVEN TRY You can’t think or make decisions—let alone create new ideas or recognize a good idea when you see one—without using a range of mental models to simplify things. Most of the time, thinking includes a process of classification: your mind is confronted with reality—a multiplicity of stimuli, elements, and events. To make sense of all these disparate inputs, your mind either relies on preexisting categories that it has already created or, if none of those categories fits the present reality, generates new ones. One of the most primitive forms of a box, and perhaps one of the most important inventions of all time, is the category. When Aristotle, in his Organon, crafted 10 categories (including “quantity” and “location”) in an attempt to organize all the possible kinds of things that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition, he set the stage for the science of logic, which led to more formalized human reasoning. Of course, categories represent just one relatively simple type of box. Thinking also requires many other, more sophisticated mental models, including stereotypes, patterns, systems, rules, assumptions, and paradigms. These various boxes arm us with helpful ways of coping with reality.

THINKING “OUTSIDE THE BOX” IS NOT ENOUGH How can you use boxes to generate new creative ideas and approaches? At a conventional workshop on creativity or innovation, you are encouraged to “think outside the box.” Leaders of such seminars have been imploring people to do this for decades, but there are three basic problems with this advice: 1) It is very hard to get out of a box; 2) it is tricky to determine which of your many boxes to think outside of; and 3) even if you do manage the trick and get out of a specific box, it often isn’t enough—you still need a new one. Suppose you are an executive at a bank in downtown Chicago, and during a corporate workshop someone asks you to “think outside the box.” In that context, “outside the box” doesn’t mean outside the bank, but rather outside the way you perceive your bank and, perhaps, outside your working hypotheses about banks in general. In other words, a box is not a tangible thing. Rather, it is a model in your mind. And every mental model you create, no matter how brilliant or profitable, will eventually need to be refreshed and replaced, since the world will continue to evolve while your box stays frozen. It will trap you in rigid assumptions and well-worn paths of action. It will push you toward tired routines and stale conventions. It will choke your creativity. It will hold you captive. Why doesn’t it work to simply “think outside the box”? One key reason is that it is difficult, often impossible, to do so on command. It often takes time and effort to change one’s mental model and come up with effective new ones. And since you always use more than one box to handle any situation, you will have numerous possible theories, hypotheses, or approaches— 34

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which means there is never any easy way of determining which box you should be trying to think “outside” of. And finally, even if you could isolate just one such box from among all those you have created, you will still struggle to think outside it because the space beyond it is too expansive. There is too much room to roam in the unknown. The origin of the phrase “thinking outside the box” is uncertain, but it seems to have sprung from the corporate culture of the 1960s and 1970s. It is believed that the phrase first referred to a now-familiar nine-dot puzzle used to provoke creative thought. The challenge is to connect nine dots on a square grid by drawing four straight lines through them, without the pen leaving the paper.

This task at first seems impossible—and it is indeed impossible if the pen never moves outside the grid created by the dots. The only solution is to extend at least one of the lines beyond the boundaries of the grid; hence the phrase “outside the box.”

This classic puzzle sparks discussion of two fundamental questions in the old-fashioned model of business creativity. The first is “What sort of boxes are you in?” The second is “How do you think outside them?” The first question is usually answered by thinking about questions such as the following: What sort of business am I in? What, exactly, do I spend most of my time doing? What are the skills for which I am rewarded? What assumptions, spoken and unspoken, do I make about the world because of the way my day-to-day activities shape my thinking?

Thinking outside the box is not a worthless exercise. It can be an important way to examine business problems and perform other creative tasks. The problem is that while it helps people avoid solutions that are too obvious or conventional, it offers little to no guidance about where the best solutions can be found. Just telling someone to avoid conventional thinking is like telling them not to drive on the highway, without giving them any information on which roads to take instead—or whether they should consider flying or going by train. So rather than asking you to consider how you can connect nine dots using four lines, there is a different sort of question, more emblematic of our “new paradigm” approach, that we’d prefer you ponder. MWORLD SPRING 2014

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If you are sitting at a conference table surrounded by other automobile executives, one of the most powerful boxes might be “We are an automobile company.” If the seats at the table instead contain accountants, the most strongly held box might be “We are an accounting firm.” This model of creativity assumes that if you are an accountant you “think in a certain way” about things. You think like an accountant. Conventional theories of creativity urge you to step outside such a box, but the most creative element of that sort of thinking is usually something along the lines of asking, “Are any of our competitors doing anything different, and if so, should we copy them?”


Look at the square below and try to imagine different ways to divide it into four parts that are equal in size.

What are all the different ways in which you can do so? You might first divide the square by drawing a vertical line and a horizontal line. You could also draw diagonals or stripes.

What other options are there? Did you consider other possible shapes?

What about creating shapes within the square that are not triangles or rectangles? What about rotating the X, or using lines that aren’t straight?

If you think more about it, you’ll see that there are an infinite number of ways to divide the square into equal parts. As you develop these various models in your mind, you realize that new horizons are opening, horizons that can never be exhausted. This leap from a few answers to an infinite number of solutions is analogous to the jump from “outside the box” to “new boxes.” You come to fundamentally change the way you look at the problem and to realize the possibility in front of you. Years ago, when we were at a conference in Paris talking to participants at a workshop about “thinking outside the box,” someone came up to us afterward and said, “What exactly is this box you’re talking about?”


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That begins to suggest an infinite number of solutions. And we haven’t even tried using curved lines yet:

The intelligent, inquisitive man who put this question to us understood that we were speaking metaphorically, but he pressed for more answers: “Who builds the box? Can the box be dismantled? Why should I try to leave it? How will getting outside the box help me come up with new ideas?”

PRISONERS OF THEIR BOXES? This man’s wise questions prompted us to wonder whether telling people to “think outside the box” was productive. It seemed almost akin to telling them that they are prisoners of their boxes and should escape! In some sense, we are indeed all tied, by our boxes, to a certain view of the world, and thinking outside the box means escaping from at least one tether. But more generally, we realized that asking people to escape a prison will have a chance of working only if people realize that they are, indeed, in some form of prison and if they understand the specifics of it. They’ll need to learn the rules and practices of the ties that bind them to their models, where the vulnerabilities are, and what they need to achieve to discover the gaps in the system and then walk through one of those gaps. Once they are outside that box, they will also have to figure out where to go—and that means finding new boxes instead. We soon realized that the clever man in Paris played the role of a freedom-seeking prisoner perfectly for us because he had the kind of inquisitive mind and practical creative reasoning that ultimately leads to liberation. Indeed, simply insisting that one should leave the box—or the prison—won’t bring freedom. Instead, pondering the nature of the box, questioning why it is there in the first place, striving to understand the strategies and constraints of those controlling it—those are your first steps toward liberty. We believe the story of creativity is an epic of freedom. You have to be free in order to create, but you must first recognize you are a prisoner in order to break free. And this is true no matter how smart someone is, no matter how well run an organization is. We all become trapped by our boxes over time. When you ask questions about any box, then, you are also asking questions about yourself and your mental powers: What kind of box is this? entails asking yourself, What kind of prisoner am I, and what sort of prison am I in? How can I break out? And once I achieve my freedom, what kind of world will I seek to create? In other words, you can’t get away from your current models until you are conscious of their existence and start to doubt and investigate them. And it also means creating new ones, and then breaking free from them to come up with yet more. Since your brain needs models or boxes to think, the key to being creative in practical ways, to managing change during these times of such uncertainty, is to first try to understand your existing boxes to a greater degree and to then attack any situation or issue by developing a range of new boxes. You can then carefully choose which box(es) to use, even as you embrace the ambiguity inherent in doing so. It is these new models, these new boxes, these new ways of thinking that will free you to see not only what is possible but also what you must do to survive and to thrive. MW Alan Iny is the senior specialist for creativity and scenarios at The Boston Consulting group (BCG). Luc de Brabandere is a fellow and a senior advisor in the Paris office of The Boston Consulting group (BCG). Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from Thinking in New Boxes by Alan Iny and Luc de Brabandere. Copyright 2013, Alan Iny and Luc de Brabandere. Published by Random House, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


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The Power of Mastering Direct and BY AUDREY S. LEE

“Well, it’s more work than I expected just trying to manage!” Suresh answered rather sheepishly before ducking into his office. His boss had just asked him how the launch project was going. “I know you’re working hard,” his manager replied. “Great work—look forward to the launch!” Suresh sighed. I’m in over my head, he thought. Why doesn’t she get that? I’ve been living out of this office for the past two weeks. I’m not sure if I’m going to make it. Suresh was frustrated by the process of bringing the new product to market. When the deadline arrived a few weeks later, the results of that frustration showed. The launch schedule was completely off track. The product was not ready, orders were put on hold, and customers were waiting even as the marketing machine was already out there making promises. Suresh was left thinking that his resignation was the only solution to a failed situation. What’s going on here? And more important, what is at stake? Suresh happens to be an indirect communicator. In his cultural upbringing, it was important to keep your head down and solve a problem on your own, without questioning authority. He had hinted that he was overwhelmed. But he never thought to walk into the boss’s office and admit that he was having issues. And back in her office, the boss thought everything was fine, not understanding Suresh’s indirect response to her question. At the failed launch, all she could think to say was, “Why didn’t you just tell me what was going on?” She had asked him a direct question and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t answered directly as well. It is clear that although Suresh and his manager speak the same language, they use very different styles of communication. These differences often present the kind of high-stakes misunderstandings and conflict that occurred in this case.

MASTERING DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH In an increasingly diverse and global workplace, you are likely to encounter similar situations as you manage across various differences—cultural, gender, generational, and many others. My colleague, Jane Hyun, and I encounter this type of dynamic again and again. We have borrowed the dimension of direct versus indirect communication from Edward Hall and Geert Hofstede, cultural anthropologists who researched the patterns and traits that emerge from 38

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Indirect Speech different cultural groups. We find these dimensions helpful in evaluating differences in communication preferences without ascribing judgment to the styles. Using this nonjudgmental vocabulary, managers can evaluate their own communication style and compare it with the style of others in their workplace. When it comes to understanding people from different backgrounds, this process of evaluation and comparison is not about identifying a “right” or “wrong” style. It’s about determining which style will be most productive in a particular context or situation. Are you communicating your intention and your message? Who is receiving your message? Will that person or audience understand you? I often hear clients say, “This is just who I am and how I get things done!” But what relationships and opportunities might you miss if you hold to your style and refuse to understand people who interact in a different way? If you find that you are not able to connect with others and that your communication style isn’t working with your team, it’s time to consider how that “style” is working for you—and where others might be coming from. “Flex” is the skill that allows you to switch your style so that you can successfully manage people who are different from you.

SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, MEAN WHAT YOU SAY A direct communication style is most common in the American workplace. If you prefer a direct style of communication, you are more likely than indirect communicators to address issues, conflicts, and feedback explicitly to communicate the messages you feel are most important. You “say what you mean” and “get it out on the table,” and you probably equate a direct style with honesty, openness, and even truthfulness. Those who favor indirect approaches may see direct communicators as rude, confrontational, forward, harsh, and insensitive. But sometimes, these individuals may need to flex and access the benefits of clear, immediate messaging and communication. Taking a more direct approach is often critical in situations where the speaker needs to convey urgency and time constraints. In these cases, a softer approach may be misunderstood.

INDIRECT COMMUNICATION: MORE THAN WORDS Indirect communicators may rely on mitigated speech, nonverbal communication, body language, and even third parties to communicate their meaning. To be effective, this style depends upon the receiver of the communication being able to decode the speaker’s meaning and understand what he or she is trying to say. If you have a preference for indirectness, you may refrain from explicitly MWORLD SPRING 2014

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verbalizing your intentions and instead drop hints to others about your feelings regarding an issue. It’s important to note that true indirect communicators are not avoiding issues. They are actively addressing the issues by using a different style to get their message across. Direct communicators may view indirect approaches as underhanded, passive-aggressive, avoidant, or even immature. But when you consider how relationships are built and maintained, sometimes indirect approaches are more effective than direct messages. A more indirect delivery helps the listener receive the message in a productive and open way. For example, managers can use indirect approaches when giving feedback as a way to invite people to consider a situation, rather than confronting them directly about certain behaviors or giving a harsh directive. This approach encourages both parties to actively participate in thinking about a problem. If you simply tell someone that what he’s done is wrong, he may get stuck on this first step and not move on to changing and striving to model more appropriate behavior. Softening a message also can help other people save face, and it can show respect for others (and, in some cultures, deference).

TOOLS FOR FLEXING Here are three tools you can use to move between direct and indirect communication styles: 1. Know Your Listener’s Style and Understand Context

You can open a dialogue and discover what is behind your own style and the communication preferences of your listeners. These people may include your employees, customers, colleagues, superiors, and partners. Are they direct? Indirect? Somewhere in between? Find out how the style plays out for them in various interactions. Ask yourself these questions: ៑ ៑ ៑

Is this style the best way to communicate in this context? Do I understand what could be driving this person’s style preference? Is direct communication a barrier to building or maintaining the relationship? Or are clarity and urgency paramount in the message? If you are direct and are working with someone who is indirect: Is he truly being indirect, or is he actually avoiding the issues and situation?

2. Master Mitigation

Mitigation is an important tool that helps to soften the impact of a message, request, or problem. Understanding the nuances of mitigation will allow you to flex between direct and indirect styles effectively. If you’re a direct communicator, try these approaches to mitigation: ៑

Phrase a demand as a question.

Direct: “Do this by Friday.” Mitigated: “Can you do this by Friday?” ៑

Make it conditional—would, could, maybe, sometimes, possibly.

Direct: “Give me the report by COB.” Mitigated: “If possible, I’d love to get the figures in time to look them over tonight.” ៑

Hide the message in a subordinate clause.

Direct: “I have a business degree from a top school. I have the background to lead this project.” Mitigated: “When I was at Stanford getting my MBA, we worked on a test case similar to this one.” 40

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If you’re an indirect communicator, you may need to amplify the urgency of your message to be heard by the more direct person. Try the following tips: ៑

Don’t offer an implicit alternative.

Mitigated: “You know Suresh pretty well. Would you be able to speak to him about this?” Direct: “Please speak to Suresh about the project or we won’t meet our deadline.” ៑

Drop the qualifiers.

Mitigated: “If you have time this week, let’s go over your process on that last assignment.” Direct: “We didn’t meet our objectives last week. Please get on my schedule tomorrow morning and we’ll do a postmortem on your last assignment.” ៑

Don’t apologize.

Mitigated: “Sorry, just bear with me, but what if we went in a totally crazy direction here?” Direct: “Our old approach isn’t working. We need to get creative about a new direction for this campaign if we’re going to connect with our market.” 3. Use a Third-Party Approach

In conversation, you can use a third-party approach to address an issue when it might be difficult or embarrassing for your listener to discuss it directly. Here are two examples: ៑

Giving feedback or addressing a problem: “I have a situation that you might be able to help me with.” (Describe the issue this person is facing as if a third party is experiencing the problem). Then ask, “What would you do in this situation? What are the barriers here?”

Interviewing a person or getting him to discuss his accomplishments: “It sounds like you have a lot of experience in this area. What would your boss and colleagues say about your achievements/leadership?”

Sometimes, it may be appropriate to ask a third party to convey a message, especially if you think your listener will not respond positively to you. The third party should be someone the listener likes and respects—perhaps a coach, a mentor, or a friend who is in an advisory role. The person also should be able to handle the situation discreetly.

SO, WHO MAKES THE FIRST MOVE? In an ideal world, everyone would try to flex so that the effort is mutual, but someone always has to initiate the process. It may not be a 50-50 effort at first, but you can lead the way by making the first move, whether you are in a position of authority or not. Although differences in communication styles are sometimes viewed as barriers to success, they can be advantages if we understand how to leverage them. And while flexing between the direct and indirect styles may take a while to master, the process is well worth the effort. MW Audrey S. Lee is a global leadership strategist and executive coach who brings her expertise to Fortune 500 companies, universities, and nonprofit organizations. She has written for the New York Times and is coauthor of Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences (Harper Business, March 2014). A portion of this article comes from Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. She can be reached at and @Audrey_S_Lee on Twitter. At AMA’s seminar Building Better Work Relationships: New Techniques for Results-oriented Communication, you will learn how successful work relationships help build successful careers. To find out about this seminar, visit www.amanet/2235


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A Note to Emailphiles, Smartphone BY KRISTI HEDGES

Every communication has one or more layers to it. And with each additional layer, we understand more about the sender and his meaning. Written words give us baseline information, verbal intonation a layer more, and finally body language provides a giant leap in understanding. That’s why nuanced messages are communicated far more effectively in person. Presence is a full-contact sport. What does this mean for a society in which email has become such a default communications vehicle that, without even thinking about it, we type a message to someone in the next office? What does it mean when texting is replacing voice as the most-used application on mobile phones? These days, leaving a voice message is beginning to seem quaint. Please don’t get the impression that I fail to appreciate people’s love of electronic communications. I really do! While I wouldn’t say I’m an early adopter of new technologies, I’m definitely in the next wave. I love my BlackBerry, I email prodigiously, and I blog, tweet, and text frequently. That said, I also see a lot of problems occurring because of the overuse of these technologies. New norms are developing quickly but not universally. Generational gaps are dividing companies. And there’s a ton of bad behavior happening behind innocent-looking keyboards. You and your team should be aware of the following six scenarios as you use electronic communications:

SCENARIO 1: Management by Email You know you are managing via email when most of your directives, accolades, and communications happen through keystrokes. And there are many of you out there. Email is an effective management tool in many ways. The problem is that overreliance on it is decidedly ineffective—and not always for the reasons you may imagine. Take the quiz titled “Your Email Acumen,” on the next page, and then read on to learn what works and what doesn’t in the use of email. Managers know that they need to be in front of their teams to deliver their vision, rally the troops, and tackle uncertainty—in other words, to tend to the big stuff. But email tends to be a convenient default mechanism in the day-to-day realm of getting work done. Most managers will say that they use email in the interest of saving time. It’s easier to delegate projects through email than by catching people on the phone or in their office between meetings. I would argue it’s not generally the case that email is a timesaver. The answer to question 1 is b. 42

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Addicts, and Turbotexters The most important aspect of assigning work to others is to be clear about your expectations. This clarity generally requires a give-and-take about content, resources, and deadlines. If that process is absent, you are likely to run into a lot of time-consuming inefficiencies. Once projects are understood and under way, email can be enormously efficient at managing a group of people toward a final delivery. However, depending on the complexity of the assignment, you may still need verbal check-ins. That leads us to the question of what subordinates do when they receive unclear work assignments via email. The answer to question 2 is both b and c. The primary reason email wastes time is that guesswork is involved when a directive isn’t fully understood. Perhaps it’s a human response to authority, but we don’t like to burden our boss with a lot of follow-up conversation in response to an email. Email has a way of creating distance. When a manager sends messages via email, the impression is that she might not want to be interrupted by in-person conversation, whether or not that is true (and let’s be honest, sometimes it is true). More than likely, we’ll go elsewhere for the answer, which of course only increases the likelihood that we’re off-base. When I learn that an executive is not getting back the quality of work he expects, I’ll ask him to describe his delegation process. Typically, it starts with an email. There are also times when email works well. The answer to question 3 is a and b. Using email to rev up the whole team behind recent wins or to highlight corporate events allows everyone to be “in the know” simultaneously. Calling out an employee for excellent performance, either in a group email or individually, can be YOUR EMAIL ACUMEN gratifying for the subordinate. It allows the Answer these three questions. Circle employee to read the positive review one or more answers that apply. multiple times, send it to friends and 1. Using email to assign projects usually: family, and get pats on the back all day a. Saves time b. Wastes time from coworkers. And you can’t beat email for outlining neutral information such as administrative processes that require a detailed explanation or reminders. Clearly, a push to submit better expense reports doesn’t warrant a staff meeting. Thank you, Microsoft Outlook, for saving us from those boring meetings.

2. When a subordinate receives a work assignment from his

Now here’s where email should never be used: to communicate bad news. And I would even add to this category anything that could be interpreted as bad news.

b. Neutral news (e.g., process-related or administrative


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supervisor via email that is unclear, he’s most likely to: a. Ask for clarification b. Spend time conferring with others to get their take on the assignment c. Take a guess and do what he thinks

3. It’s effective for a manager to use email to deliver: a. Good news (e.g., promotions, pats on the back, awards) updates or reminders) c. Bad news (e.g., reprimands, constructive feedback)


SCENARIO 2: The Never-Ending Workday of 24/7 Emails I regularly hear complaints that someone’s manager (including the CEO) constantly emails. It’s not simply the volume that’s distressing; it’s the lack of boundaries. The emails don’t just come during the workday, but at 6 a.m. or midnight or on Sunday at 2 p.m. It creates the impression that work is never over and that the employee must always be on the job. Employees then drop everything and rush to respond to keep up the pace. Here’s the interesting part: managers often say that they email when an idea hits them, not necessarily because they expect the employee to respond. However, there’s a power dynamic at play. The leader sets the tone. And when the boss’s emails don’t respect boundaries, the implication is that there aren’t any. By the way, constantly emailing can damage a manager’s reputation. It makes him appear scattered, inefficient, one-dimensional, or sorely lacking in time-management skills. We want our leaders to work hard, but we also want them to have a life. Constant emailing is mainly an issue for the manager to address. If you want your team to be burned out and resentful, 24/7 emails are the way to go. Otherwise, give people the courtesy of having a life.

SCENARIO 3: You’ve Got a Nastygram


Nastygrams go beyond bad news. These messages are sent with malicious intent and vitriol. They are the equivalent of a sucker punch by someone who is too !!?!! !!?!! much of a coward to say something to your face. You see this firsthand if you’ve ever confronted someone who has sent a nastygram. The back-pedaling starts immediately. The genesis of a nastygram is usually something like this: someone gets angry due to either a personal affront or work gone wrong. He or she pours out all that anger in a cathartic email and hits the Send button. (These emails are often worse late in the day.) Nearly everyone has sent one nasty email at some point. Some people get a reputation for sending them. When you see their names pop up in your in-box, you get a pit in your stomach. Whatever the circumstances, there’s a simple trick you can use whenever you find yourself furiously typing away on an emotional missive: save a draft and sleep on it. This eliminates 99% of the issue because after the anger subsides, the same email will rarely go out. Sending emails in anger doesn’t accomplish anything; in fact, it ruins connection your connection with others (once bitten, twice shy) and can even get you fired. As a leader, practice common courtesy when sending emails. With the power dynamic thrown in, even sparsely worded emails can seem to have a tone of frustration. Again, when there are no cues to be drawn from the sender’s physical presence, the email’s recipients are left hanging on the small lines and curves on their screens.

SCENARIO 4: Hostile “Reply Alls” This scenario combines a few of the previous points. Most of us have seen someone on an email thread suddenly call out another person on the thread through a “reply-all” message. It’s essentially the same as being dressed down in a meeting. It can get worse, such as when the recipient tries to discuss the issue privately, only to have the other person reply by bringing the full group back on the email! It’s downright hostile behavior. 44

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I had a client whose manager hit the Reply-all button so frequently that the subordinate refused to respond to emails. This practice created an environment of fear and retaliation. My client tried to address it directly with his manager but was never successful. No surprise that he moved on. Suffice it to say that this strategy accomplishes little. Whether the email thread includes a group of peers or colleagues at mixed levels, as soon as any individual’s issue turns the least bit negative, take it off the group email and handle it one-on-one. If it seems to be a topic that could be embarrassing to discuss in a group, it is.

SCENARIO 5: Smartphone Addiction Not only are smartphones a pet peeve of mine, but it’s a definite detractor from our presence as well. We cling to our smartphones as if we are all doctors being called to perform lifesaving surgery. Nearly every meeting has people who constantly check their devices for new messages. You have lunch with someone whose phone sits right on the table, face up, so he can check it on a whim. Why do people who aren’t even in the room take precedence over someone who makes the effort to be right in front of us? It’s ridiculous, but we seldom recognize the absurdity of the situation. Instead, we experience it as rudeness, plain and simple. If you behave this way, you are sending a not-so-subtle message that those you are with are “less” than someone else. Less important. Less critical. Less interesting. Less deserving of your time. If you are trying to strengthen your presence, you won’t get there by making those around you feel diminished. I know successful executives who, despite their busy lives, are artful at checking their smartphones in private. Their companies survive—and thrive—without them constantly checking their mobile devices. So don’t be a lackey to yours.

SCENARIO 6: Unintentional Social Media Notoriety I’m of two minds about social media in the workplace. Here are the positives: Facebook, Twitter, and to a certain extent LinkedIn (and all the similar sites coming out every day) have put a human face on coworkers. We can learn more about people by scanning their Facebook page than by working with them for a year. Facebook encourages us to show our authentic, unvarnished selves in their totality. In fact, social media norms dictate that you should be informal and personal, lest you risk standing out as gauche or “sales-y.” Most executives I know blend respectable personal details with a bit of information about their work on social media sites. They show a witty or introspective side that doesn’t always come out in the office. It’s a good thing. Here comes the but…I also see people making corporate faux pas with social media technology. There are the big examples, such as the spate of journalists who have been fired or reprimanded for using Twitter in a way that was deemed inappropriate. Mostly, though, we are exposed to small discomforts that make us squirm in our seats when we read them. Consider when professional colleagues do the following: ៑ ៑ ៑ ៑

Use social media to share polarizing political or religious positions. Post and share racy or suggestive photos. Discuss corporate information that isn’t confidential but shouldn’t be shared, either. Use social media sites as essentially an email list to spam the entire group about events and personal updates.


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Maintain a controversial or discordant blogger or Twitter persona. These are a few common examples. You can undoubtedly add more to the list. If you are using social media to enhance your presence and build connections, you need to make sure your efforts don’t create barriers. You certainly don’t want to alienate people. Ask yourself whether your social media communications support your KEY TAKEAWAYS intention. ៑

We’re all still trying to reconcile how to use these sites. A few years ago, communicating to friends and coworkers in one information stream would have seemed crazy. We’re getting better about differentiating what’s appropriate and what’s not. Updates to Facebook and the rollout of Google+ offer new options for grouping contacts. As a general rule, though, I advise you to post to Facebook or Twitter the way you would speak in person to a mixed work group over lunch. If you wouldn’t say it there, don’t put it on social media. Some people choose to operate two different sites for work and home. Just remember, it’s hard to hide online.

1. Email communications often have a deleterious effect on a person’s presence. Our perceptions of others are predicated on multiple senses, and if we have only written messages to go on, misunderstandings are commonplace.

2. Managers set the tone for email use in companies. Be aware of both the volume and the content of your emails. If effective delegation is a problem, email is a likely culprit.

3. As a general rule, use email for positive and neutral information. For negative content, deliver the bad news in person. The phone is second best.

4. Checking mobile devices in the company of others is a definite presence detractor. It diminishes the person in front of you. This point seems obvious, and yet the practice is rampant.

5. Social media has to support your personal image of yourself. Realize that it’s one more data point that people use to understand you, and it is most effective when it combines selective, appropriate personal information with your professional life.

IS DISINTERMEDIATION COMING BACK IN STYLE? There is some hope that perhaps this intermediation through electronics isn’t solving the world’s problems after all. Just as societies typically swing far to the extreme before coming back to a sustainable middle ground, companies have begun to recognize the inherent problems of social networks and are developing guidelines similar to policies they already have regarding email use. Businesses are actively finding ways to bridge global and spatial divides. It’s exciting to witness and experience these technological breakthroughs that make connections easier and more personal. I can’t wait to see what happens next. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my BlackBerry under the table and my political opinions off Facebook. MW Kristi Hedges is a senior leadership coach with a specialty in executive communications. Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others by Kristi Hedges. Copyright 2012, Kristi Hedges. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit


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Talk May Be Cheap, but Listening Is Priceless As American journalist Christopher Morley wisely wrote, “There is only one rule for being a good talker: learn to listen.” This is a lesson that every leader should frame and hang on his or her office wall. Because the only way to gather the critical information needed to successfully develop and execute any strategy is to ask for people’s input and then stop talking long enough to truly listen to what they have to say. Letting another person speak without interruption isn’t easy. Often, people hesitate while they translate their thoughts into words. It takes patience to resist the temptation to speak before the other person can respond. But it’s a technique that every journalist (like Morley) and every leader must embrace if he or she is to “get the story.” One leader who lives by Morley’s words is Jim McCann, the founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM and the subject of the lead article in this issue of MWorld. McCann, whose new book is titled Talk Is (Not!) Cheap: The Art of Conversation Leadership, understands the power of listening. McCann is a proponent of what he terms “conversation leadership,” which he describes as “the process I’ve developed to engage with others and not just give orders or advice, but use the ebb and flow of conversation to create forward momentum.” He calls conversation leadership “the most powerful leadership tool I use.” This idea of leadership as a two-way conversation is echoed in another article in this issue of MWorld—Howard Guttman’s “Communicating Effectively: Lessons from High-Performing Organizations.” Guttman discusses the need for today’s organizations to evolve from the traditional top-down hierarchical model to one that is more horizontal and collaborative. Today’s leaders can best accomplish organizational goals through collaboration and engagement, not by dictating what needs to be done. Put simply, leadership requires the wisdom of the many, not just the exalted few. Although the means by which we communicate with each other has radically changed in recent years, no matter which medium we use—email, text, telephone, Skype, social media, or the all-toorare face-to-face conversation—we must learn to listen to each other if we are to move forward. With over 90 years of experience delivering training solutions to our customers, we at AMA have long recognized that our ability to be effective depends on our ability to listen. We continually refine our worldwide training programs to help you meet today’s challenges. Each solution we present is about you and your needs. Jim McCann told us, “People who are genuinely interested want to listen.” We’re interested. And we’re listening.

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Mworld spring 2014  
Mworld spring 2014  

The Journal of the American Management Association Volume 13, Number 1 Spring 2014