Influence and Persuasion Archives

Communications Skills – Be Hard and Exact

Trying to make those passes hard and exact
My son Jack, making those passes hard and exact.

My son Jack is 7 1/2 years old and playing his third season of soccer. He has a terrific coach this year, Coach Laurie. She’s led them through the season without a loss (though we’re not supposed to be counting points). Last week they won 4 to 1. That’s been their closest game.

How does she do it? Her mantra is “Hard and exact!”–with everything they do–”do it hard and exact”.

You don’t just move the ball downfield. You anticipate where your teammate will be and you kick it there hard and exact. You don’t just find an open space for the throw from the sideline, you move down the line. You don’t just do anything; you do something in particular, and you do it precisely .

That’s what we want from a coach of athletic sports, isn’t it?  That’s what makes legends of men like Vince Lombardi, the coach who led the Packers to the NFL’s first two Superbowl titles–demanding discipline. That’s what Coach Laurie provides, and it pays off for the team every week.

That’s what great communications takes? It may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. Here’s an example. Read the rest of this entry

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

It’s no secret that gov. Sarah Palin is a controversial pick as a Vice Presidential running mate for Senator John McCain. A Google on her name will lead you to pages of conflicting analysis.

What we’re interested in here is the communications strategy the sides deploy. And Ms. Palin’s pre-nomination throws into relief the failure of the democrat’s charge of “inexperience” against her at least in the context of on-air debates.

The reason the inexperience charge fails is that it invites rebuttal and the rebuttal is too easy and too obvious. Larry King Live last night, for example, hosted James Carville, CNN Political Contributor and Obama support and Nancy Pfotenhauer, advisor to the McCain campaign. Here’s an excerpt of the debate

James Carville

James Carville, CNN Commentator, Obama Supporter

CARVILLE: “I am completely floored by this choice.”

Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain Strategist

Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain Strategist

KING: “Honestly put, Nancy — and it’s a fair question — of all the Republicans, is she the most qualified to be next commander-in- chief?”

PFOTENHAUER: “Well, I think that she is eminently qualified to be vice president.

In fact, Senator McCain’s picking Governor Palin, she has more experienced as the V.P. nominee than Senator Obama has as a presidential nominee.”

My issue is not whether Sarah Palin has the experience to be Vice President. It’s that James Carville is a communications strategist and he lost a point on national television that he should have anticipated he would. And, in fact, I saw him and Paul Begala, another democratic strategist lose this point again and again all night. And I’ve been watching democratic strategists lose this point again this morning in the same way. Read the rest of this entry

Communication Skills – How Accountable Are You?

Keith Rosen

Keith Rosen

Keith Rosen recently wrote a nice article listing 10 questions you can ask yourself to improve your communications skills.  Here are a few excerpts from his list.

Am I taking full responsibility for the message being heard by the other person?
Did I acknowledge them?
Did I make my request clear?
Am I checking to see if the conversation was successful?

The thing I want to underscore is his emphasis on being personally accountable for the accuracy of your communications.

This is something I find many people, especially people who are accustomed to dominant roles, reticent to take on completely. Their reluctance shows up in small turns of phrases.

I was working with a woman who believed she put off other women in discussions with them. I sat in a discussion with her and noticed a pattern of dominance showing up in her speech. She would say, “You understand?” instead of “Am I being clear?” And again, ‘You’re just like me” but never “I’m just like you.” In fact, when I pointed out that last comment she said she wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it the other way around, even though the phrases have very similar meanings; it was giving away too much to the other person.  No wonder she had trouble connecting at times.

Tim’s Takeaway:

I’m not arguing for becoming submissive in your communications. Rather, I’m cheering Keith for reminding us that accountability is leadership. If you’re going to lead conversations, that means accepting responsibility for making sure the other person hears what you mean.

Death by Powerpoint is a lively issues these days. In fact, Business Communications Headline News gives us two presentations in as many days with the aim of helping us make better presentations.  Unfortunately, both miss the mark. We’ll look at each from a strategic standpoint to help you understand how they go astray and what you can learn to make your presentations more effective.

Sleepy Audience from Kapterev's Website

Sleepy Audience from Kapterev

You have to hand it to Alexei Kapterev for taking on bad powerpoint presentations and investing the time and effort to give you a solution (you can see his pdf presentation in it’s entirety here). It’s a good start. But his advice is a bit wide of the mark and his execution falls a bit short in particular ways. And understanding those missteps will help you make stronger choices.

Let’s consider Alexei’s central argument. Presentations, he says, are successful when they have Significance, Structure, Simplicity, and Rehearsal. Significance is the core, he tells us. In fact, it’s so much more important than structure that you can use any structure as long as it’s comprehensible and scalable. Alexei also gives us a definition of significance – you have significance if you’re communicating meaning that you’re passionate about.

This conception is backward and Read the rest of this entry

As much as the Chinese hope to win many medals in these Olympics, they also hope to use the

Olympics as a kind of coming out event, to let the world know that they are back. And the opening ceremonies were an auspicious start–a tutorial in nonverbal communications.

You likely saw the opening ceremonies. And I won’t add to the commentaris which are readily available on the internet. Our particular interest is communications, so we’ll focus on the messages that China was able to send subtextually through their staging of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium

Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium

1. While the US and Europe may be in a recession, we have the wherewithal and will to construct a magnificent Olympic Village including a stadium outfitted especially for one night’s celebration.

2. We also have the resources to invest as much in one four-hour production as American spends on a big budget summer blockbuster.

3. We are many.  China is large enough to field a production with

2008 Chinese Drummers

2008 Chinese Drummers

15,000 performers including, expert drummers, Tai Chi performers, lighted dancers, and artists of many stripes.

4. Don’t think we are backward. We have remarkable expertise to bring to bear, even in technology. China showcased the largest LCD screen ever displayted.

Chinese Print Block Artists

Chinese Print Block Artists

5. We can be remarkably disciplined when we want to be. The Chinese memorialized their historic rise as well as their development of technologies such as paper and print block.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the swift and intricate choreography of the blocks–now a set a waves, now drops in a pond, now a chinese character, now the great wall–was in fact, not the work of a computer but a highly trained troupe of human performers.

Tim’s Takeaway:

There’s a saying in screenwriting–show, don’t tell.  In other words, don’t tell me your protagonist is compassionate; show me your protagonist passing up a raise to help a co-worker. Whatever message you’re trying to send in a screenplay comes across much more powerfully in action than in words. The Olympic opening ceremonies were a terrific example of that maxim at work, the messages that China was sending to the world came across much more powerfully enacted than they would have in any written statement or flowery speech. 

 
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