Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Executive Spokesperson DOs and DON’Ts — Critiquing a CEO interview on CNBC

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I just watched a CNBC interview with a CEO (no need to disclose the CEO’s name or his company).  Critiquing what the CEO did well — and what he could have done better — is an opportunity to share some real life spokesperson DOs and DON’Ts.



Media Interview DOs:

  1. Given today’s news about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the CEO started his interview correctly by expressing genuine concern and empathy for the people of Japan.
  2. He delivered his key messages and repeated an important message more than once.
  3. The CEO reframed potentially negative perspectives paraphrased by the reporter in order to communicate a more positive company stance.  The reporter said, “…The news must be a win for your company.”  The CEO replied confidently, “The news is a win for consumers.”  Bravo!

Media Interview DON’Ts:

  1. In an attempt to demonstrate the company’s commitment to their customers, the CEO said that his company “thinks of customers as friends.” Unfortunately he took a positive point about wanting to deepen the company’s relationships with their customers to an unbelievable extreme.  Just sounded silly.
  2. He beat us over the head with his key message. Once is good; twice can be better if the actual wording or context of the message delivery is different. More than that begins to feel overly scripted and opportunistic.
  3. The reporter asked a tough question and the CEO handled it, calmly responding that he had nothing to add to the information already released on the issue. (Better than saying “no comment.”) But then he kept talking and ending up mentioning the negative perceptions that he was hoping to avoid. It’s almost always better to stop talking after you’ve answered a tough question.

Overall, the CEO did a very good job. There are teachable moments everywhere for corporate spokespersons who want to polish their media interview skills. Start paying attention to executive interviews–whether on CNBC, the nightly news or in print media and do your own constructive critique. What is the spokesperson doing well and what would you do differently?

Communication Lessons for Managers from Patriots’ Star Quarterback Tom Brady

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The Great Communicator A surprising headline to find on page one of today’s Boston Globe Sports section.

The New England Patriots’ star quarterback, Tom Brady, is a coach on the field — “tutoring, correcting, cajoling, applauding.”   As Brady describes it, “You take the learning when it comes, but it’s a constant process.  It happens in the meetings, happens in the walk-throughs, and happens in the games.”

The article’s analysis of Brady’s role as a communicator and coach on his team offers the following ten tips for managers in the workplace.

  1. Managing is a continuous process.
  2. Managers should have a crystal clear sense of their role.
  3. Managers need to listen, be open to questions from their team members.
  4. Managers need to tune into all possible options and anticipate the “what if’s.”
  5. Managers need to demonstrate a proven ability to execute.
  6. Managers need to have a clear understanding of their company’s “game plan,” and be able to drive that game plan forward.
  7. With consistent success comes greater trust by senior management to make independent decisions and improvise when necessary.
  8. Managers need to master the details (as Brady needs to be a “master of the minutiae that decides football games”) while still maintaining sight of the big picture.
  9. Managers need to be in sync with company leadership.
  10. Managers need to share both accountability and glory.

10 Tips to Lead Meetings That Get Something Done

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I read a statistic that there are more than 11 million meetings in the United States each day. You would think we’d all be great at leading meetings with so much experience, but there’s definitely room for improvement.  Here are ten tips to help you lead meetings that get something done:

  1. Know why you’re meeting and recognize when you don’t need to meet.
  2. Think through your desired outcomes (insights, ideas, agreement, decisions, an action plan) because we move towards that which we think about.
  3. Build an agenda that drives toward your outcomes — and, here’s the catch, limit yourself to only three agenda items.  Most agendas resemble laundry lists of ten, twelve or twenty issues for discussion.  I guarantee you won’t get to all twenty items.  I’ll also guarantee that you can cluster all of those individual items into three “buckets.”  (Ask the participants in my recent workshop who doubted but were won over.)
  4. Distribute the agenda — including desired outcomes — in advance. Let people know how they can prepare to contribute fully in the discussion.
  5. Lead your meeting as a conductor leads his orchestra.   Bring together the individual sounds in beautiful and unexpected ways that excite the participants.  Pace the discussion, weaving between fast-paced crescendos and softer, slower and calmer moments.  Start together (on time) and wrap up with a clear, satsifying conclusion.     I could keep going…
  6. Actively engage your participants.  Select a perfect warm-up to jumpstart the discussion, ask fruitful questions, frame or reframe the discussion, connect the dots, pose “what if” questions, and challenge assumptions.    Beyond driving the discussion forward, meeting leaders need to remember to stop talking, listen and leave “air time” for others!
  7. Encourage constructive participation.  Make it safe for everyone to share their ideas.   Control those overexuberant individuals who tend to dominate because they have so much to say.  Watch for “bullies” who poison meetings with their negativity and judgment.
  8. Move beyond stuck.  Too often meetings get derailed or hit a brick wall.  Get your meeting back on track by revisiting mutual goals and shared perspectives, envision success, help participants understand different perspectives and “park” topics that need to be continued at a different time.  (Be sure to revisit the parking lot at the end of the meeting and talk through next steps.)
  9. With 75% of our meetings taking place by phone, it’s good to recognize the ways in which you need to facilitate phone meetings differently. Keep phone meetings smaller and shorter.  Direct questions to specific participants or offices.  Listen more intently for cues and signals to make sure people are staying engaged.  Distribute parts of the agenda among the offices.
  10. Clarify take-aways, agreements, decisions-made,  and next steps.  Follow-up with a meeting report distributed within 24 hours.

A future blog will troubleshoot challenging meeting scenarios (e.g. when the senior decision-maker gets called away minutes before your big presentation, or when you’re only on slide #7 (or 25) but you can tell the group has lost interest, or how to handle a meeting when no one is prepared for an important discussion…).

Images and Our Unspoken Communication

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

What image best represents who we are and the reality others perceive about us?

A recent experience renewing my passport got me thinking…I dutifully filled out the forms and went to the local FedEx/Kinkos to take new passport photos.  I smiled, ready, but was told that we are supposed to look expressionless in passport photos.  The photo that resulted is dull and almost scary-looking and bears no resemblance to the person I am — but it will represent me on my passport for the next ten years.   Looking at this image of me you might imagine that I was at the very least depressed and, at worst, that I was dangerous.   So tell me why “expressionless” is the preferred look for a document that will be used to evaluate our identity when we travel?

Images create an impression.  Images tell a story about you.   Are you happy with what your image is telling others about you?

Tuned In

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

When did we stop tuning in?  

Reveling in the warm and sunny weather today, I went for a walk outdoors instead of on my home elliptical.  I intentionally left home the iPod, instead wanting to hear some of the signs of Spring.  I eavesdropped into conversations (though only for seconds as I walked by), heard children squealing with delight as they rode their bicycles before the school bus arrived, noticed birds seemingly chatting, was greeted by neighbors who I rarely see all winter long…and was struck by a few moments of silence.  The walkers rushing by with their ears plugged may have been enjoying their favorite tunes, but they were definitely tuning out. 

Not only do we live in a world overstuffed with information, but we’ve grown used to noise clutter and have grown unaccustomed to the sweet sound of silence.  We’ve stopped really hearing though we think we’re listening all the time.

Managers engaging in a courageous conversation with a team member talk at the other person rather than allow a moment of silence, time for the other person to think and respond.  Presenters too-often miss the dramatic impact of a pause, worried instead that their silence will be misinterpreted as a mistake or nerves.  They even fill those wonderful seconds without content with mindless fillers (um, uh…).    Teenagers do their homework while listening to music rather than allowing their brain the total concentration that silence might afford.  We’re told that Gen Y may actually focus better with noise in the background, because the noise actually calms rather than interrupts.   How is that possible if we’re also now told that multi-tasking isn’t as effective as studies had indicated in the past, and that, in fact, once you interrupt what you’re doing to begin another task, you can lose up to 15 minutes trying to get back to your initial task.  Or that the reaction time of drivers who talk on their cell phones is up to 60 seconds slower than the driver just driving.  

Imagine what we might achieve if instead of tuning out, we all tuned in consciously, with focus and commitment.   What more would we hear?  What else would we notice?  Who else might we meet?


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Yesterday my internet provider challenged me to find ways to be productive without access to e-mail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs.  As the repairman struggled to find the source of my problem, I confess that I was initially a bit disoriented at being so disconnected.    Of course, I wasn’t completely cut off thanks to my still-working Blackberry so my clients were able to reach me….but my routine wasn’t the same.  Despite my baby boomer status (which means I came later-in-life to the internet and social networking), I love searching online for whatever information I crave about anything or anyone.   For whatever reason, I really like overstuffing my already cluttered brain with the endless knowledge I find thanks to my internet connection.

 Unplugging for a day was an adjustment, but, I’m happy to report that it was a healthy and productive one.   I remembered again how much of my work I do offline, untethered to the outside world via my internet connection.  At least my laptop still worked…At least I wasn’t worried yesterday about the Conficker worm…