How to Get That Person to Listen to You

Breakthrough Communication

By Harrison Monarth

Success depends in large part on how to “break through” to the right people, writes leadership coach Harrison Monarth in his new book, Breakthrough Communication. To break through, you need to communicate effectively so that you can be noticed and supported by the people whose attention you seek. The goal is that they will listen to you and take action based on what you communicate.

The process of breaking through can be as short as an instant — asking a colleague for help on a project, for instance — or as long as months or years. Successfully implementing new policy can be a long and arduous process of persistent communication. However, no matter what timeframe might be involved, breakthrough communication still rests on four steps, according to Monarth.

Getting on the Radar

The first of these steps, Monarth writes, is to get on the radar. Before anyone will listen to you, they must notice you. Being noticed (in a positive light, of course) begins by making the right impression when you have the opportunity to be before influential people. Monarth offers a variety of suggestions for making an impression, from looking your best to cultivating a reputation for expertise.

Monarth also emphasizes the importance of managing your status — that is, how do the people you want to influence see you? Monarth suggests creating a chart or list, starting with the people who will have the most impact on your success at the top. Impact includes interest; in other words, if you work for a Fortune 500 company, it’s possible that the CEO or the Chairman of the Board will never know your name. Although they are powerful, they are not a high priority in terms of your success. Once you have a prioritized list of people, you must carefully manage your status with them, ensuring a continuing dialogue so that they have the right impression of you.

Salience and Meaning

The second step in breakthrough communication is what the author calls “salience-agenda.” This means that you are the one who knows what is salient — what is most important to discuss and consider. You are, in essence, setting the agenda. One way to set the agenda, writes the author, is to take advantage of “focusing events.” Focusing events are major, usually unexpected events that grab the attention of most people — a hurricane or an oil spill, for example. These events are opportunities to focus attention on the agenda that matters to you; thus pollution control activists would leverage an oil spill to bring attention to the policies they advocate.

There are, of course, much less dramatic opportunities to set the agenda. Imagine that corporate leaders want to reorganize the departments in your unit; now is the opportunity to advocate the creation of that specific department you’ve been thinking about. Even running into the CEO in an elevator, Monarth writes, can be an opportunity to set the agenda.

Setting the agenda is not enough to ensure success in your communication. Equally important is the next of Monarth’s four steps: creating meaning. The goal in this step, in short, is to put your spin on the agenda item. The Newtown tragedy was a focusing event for gun legislation, yet both sides of the issue drew different meaning from the massacre. While gun control lobbyists argued for stronger legislation, the NRA and others — including a mother of six who, Monarth notes, wrote that gun control was “sexist and antifeminist” because guns empowered women — infused the shooting with a different meaning. One of the most powerful tools to create the meaning you want to create, according to Monarth, is storytelling.

Monarth’s final step is to “spark the action you want to see.” Having people take the action you want them to take is, after all, the ultimate goal of communication. Monarth emphasizes that breakthrough communication requires persuading people, which is emotional and practical — not convincing people, which is rational and abstract. Fear and ambivalence are two major barriers to persuasion, although there are many other barriers, including failing to understand the audience, failing to engage the audience, or simply not being likeable.

Through nudging and other techniques, Monarth shows how to overcome resistance and spark people to action in the final section of this practical and engaging manual on communication.

Making a Bigger Impact By Saying Less

What does it mean to be brief? For most of us it means cutting down the time spent to say or do something. But Joe McCormack provides a different definition: Brief = Clear + Compelling / Time. Being brief is not just about time, it’s also about what happens during that time.

Joe McCormack is on a mission to help organizations master the art of the short
story. In an age of shrinking attention spans, non-stop interruptions, floods
of information, the messages business leaders send out are getting lost in a
sea of words.

In our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, Making a Bigger Impact By Saying Less, Joe tackles the challenges of inattention, interruptions, and impatience that every professional faces. His proven B.R.I.E.F. approach, which stands for Background, Relevance, Information, Ending, and Follow up, helps simplify and clarify complex communication. BRIEF will help you summarize lengthy information, tell a short story, harness the power of infographics and videos, and turn monologue presentations into controlled conversations.

Please consider joining us for our conversation with Joe. It’s guaranteed to be brief!

Keeping Business Simple

Checklists are a modest way to reduce failure, ensure consistency, and safeguard comprehensiveness. We use checklists to do the grocery shopping or to plan a weekend project. What if there was a checklist for running a successful business?

Jim Kerr provides an “executive checklist” for those dealing with the extreme complexities and challenges of the 21st century business world.

  1. Establish Leadership – the foundation for change.
  2. Build Trust – a vital component for enduring achievement.
  3. Strategy Setting – translating vision into action.
  4. Engage Staff – the way to gain support and accelerate success.
  5. Manage Work through Projects – a means to strategic alignment.
  6. Renovate the Business – a way to become “of choice.”
  7. Align Technology – it’s at the core of all we do.
  8. Transform Staff – the people part of enterprise-wide change.
  9. Renew Communications Practices – transparency improves performance.
  10. Reimagine the Organization – the expressway to the future.

To learn more about this checklist, how it works and how to use it, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Jim Kerr on April 10th, entitled A Guide for Setting Direction & Managing Change. Put this eventon your must-do checklist.

Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation

QUICK AND NIMBLE

Out of the Mouths of CEOs

What are the core elements of an effective culture that encourages and enables innovation, and how can leaders create such a culture? These two questions are at the heart of Quick and Nimble, a new book from New York Times feature writer Adam Bryant. Bryant replicates the process he used for his previous book on leadership, The Corner Office, by interviewing more than 200 CEOs, then gathering their insights into focused chapters on key topics.

Leading Innovation

In the first part of Quick and Nimble, Bryant outlines the basic elements identified by the CEOs he interviewed as essential to an effective innovation culture. A sample of these elements include:

  • A simple plan. Complex objectives and goals won’t be understood and will therefore fail to inspire and focus employees.
  • Values. Behavior in the organization must be driven by clearly communicated values.
  • Respect. Interactions between all leaders, managers and employees must be built on unwavering respect.
  • Team focus. All members of the organization must be ready to do their part for the team.
  • Frank feedback. Misunderstandings and disagreements are unavoidable, but they need to be resolved through honest and open “adult conversations.”

In the second part of the book, Bryant shifts to guidelines for leaders who want to build on the cultural foundation of their organizations and foster innovation. These guidelines include the importance of:

  • Constant communication to keep employees focused on priorities.
  • Training managers on key managerial skills, behaviors and habits.
  • Offering learning opportunities to high-performing employees by moving them around the organization.
  • Surfacing problems that might be hiding under the surface.
  • Knocking down silos.

The Wisdom (and Wit) of CEOs

At the beginning of the book, Bryant writes that he structured each chapter “much like a dinner party conversation, with me as the host, guiding the conversation with a large group of CEOs.” The metaphor is apt, as the reader can imagine a circle of CEOs gathered around a dinner table, adding their insights and stories to the discussion at hand. The chapter on having values as the guiding “rules of the road” is a case in point.

Lars Björk, CEO of data software firm QlikTech, shares the values that drive his fast-growing company: challenge (the conventional); move fast; be open and straightforward; teamwork for results; and take responsibility. Robert LoCascio, CEO of software company LivePerson, recounts the challenge of changing a culture that had become hierarchical and bureaucratic. The major changes he introduced — beginning with asking leaders to move out of offices — did not go over easily: one-hundred twenty employees and three-quarters of the management left the company, either voluntarily or not.

To reinforce the values through stories (one of the most effective reinforcement techniques), City National Bank CEO Russell Goldsmith describes how he organizes a quarterly American Idol-inspired “Story Idol” for employees (Goldsmith, it should be said, is a former movie industry executive). Other CEOs share the clever expressions that summarize the culture, such as LinkedIn’s “next play,” which echoes the phrase Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski yells to his players at the end of any play, offensive or defensive. Like Krzyzewski, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner doesn’t want his team celebrating what they’ve just accomplished or lamenting what they failed to do: Just move on to the “next play.”

For health care supply company Medline Industries CEO Andy Mills, a favorite expression is “kissing frogs.” Mills often tells employees that “they have to kiss a lot of frogs,” which means that they should not be afraid to take long shots that might not pan out. After, the frog might just be a prince.

Filled with the wisdom — and wit — of 200 successful practitioners and well organized into focused topics of discussion, Quick and Nimble is an insightful, comprehensive and entertaining overview of the role of culture in building an innovative company.

The Truth About Trust

New Revelations About Trust

Whether to trust or not trust someone is a recurring dilemma in our lives. One of the fundamental lessons of The Truth About Trust, a new book from psychologist and researcher David DeSteno, is that there are no easy answers. One might think that the integrity of another person might be a deciding factor, but what about competence? We are obviously only going to trust a doctor if we feel he or she has both. And how do we judge such factors? Research shows, DeSteno writes, that we are not necessarily very good at judging the integrity of others.

The Unexpected Factor

One of the earliest of the many academic experiments that pack this book reveals the surprising complexity of why we might trust people. The experiment was designed to show whether someone trusts a person they are partnered with. The results showed, not surprisingly, that when the partner had previously helped the other person — by recovering lost documents on a computer, for example — the other person was more likely to trust the partner. This result falls into the easy assumptions one might make about trust: The Good Samaritan partner, after all, demonstrated his integrity. However, the results also showed that grateful participants also trust their partners more even if the partners were not the ones who helped them. In other words, simply being in a state of gratefulness — that someone had come to your rescue — will make you more ready to trust people… anyone.

Opening Insights

The Truth About Trust reveals the full complexity of trust, which encompasses biological instincts, societal guidelines, unconscious emotions, conscious calculations of self-interest and more. DeSteno’s crystal-clear writing in explaining the research and its implications makes this a fascinating read, helped along by the short lists at the end of each chapter that summarize the learnings of the chapter. For example, he brings his first chapter into focus with these insights:

1. The competing elements in trustworthiness are not good and evil, but short and long term. Being untrustworthy can bring short-term benefits but long-term pain, and the choice is not easy.

2. Reputation is overrated: Everyone cheats.

3. Trusting others is always better on average, which doesn’t mean a whole lot if you lose your life savings to a con man.

4. Competence is as important as integrity.

5. If you think you can trust yourself, think again.

Rules for The Trust Machinery

Every chapter is rich in detailed research and revealing insights that, in the end, help us understand what DeSteno calls our “trust machinery.” To effectively operate this trust machinery requires following some important rules. First, he writes, “trust is risky, but necessary, useful and even powerful.” Our minds are constantly weighing the risks and benefits of trustworthiness, although DeSteno emphasizes that our ethical principles may sometimes require us to override our instincts.

The second rule is that we must remember that trust permeates every area of our life from the moment we are born. It’s not just about the big contract or the wedding vow. A third rule is that reputation is situational, meaning that past behavior is not a good measure of trustworthiness. Rule number four is to pay attention to your intuitions. Don’t follow them blindly, DeSteno writes, but don’t ignore them in favor of simplistic and misleading signals (e.g., the averted gaze).

A fifth rule is to allow some “bumps in the road” — to keep a trusting relationship alive even though there might have been a slip, perhaps unintentional, in trustworthiness. Finally, DeSteno warns that helicopter parents who try to shield children from all feelings of shame or guilt may in fact be hurting their ability to trust in the long run. There are inevitably, after all, success and failures in the journey.

With every chapter offering new revelations about trust — from the complexity in children’s calculations of trustworthiness to the rigorously tested and confirmed conclusion that upper-class people are to be trusted less — this brilliant addition to the trust literature is almost an anomaly: a deeply researched, learned treatise that reads like the best of novels, keeping us wondering what is going to happen next.