How to Win Your Next Argument

Passion may hurt you more than help you in your next argument.

That’s a conclusion of new research into persuasion by a pair of university academics and reported by Shankar Vedantam of NPR. Passion, often highly prized by leaders, may actually work against that leader if he or she is trying to reach out to someone who may not agree with them. Passion works when communicating people who share your point of view but it actually does the opposite to those with whom you disagree. Anyone who has argued politics – or the merits of Star Trekover Star Wars (or vice versa) — can attest. [More on Trek vs. the Force in a moment.]

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First posted on 12/19/15

VIDEO: Think and Act Positively

How do you motivate yourself?

That’s a question I sometimes get and when I do I like to give a three-word answer: Accentuate the positive! It’s the title of a Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer tune from the 1940s.

Also consider the maxim that legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to preach: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

That simple statement offers such clarity. So often we sabotage ourselves by thinking negatively. We may posit a lofty intention and then we de-loft it when we weigh the obstacles in our path.

Indeed the biggest obstacle may not be a boss or a circumstance — it is ourselves. And so we kill our motivational motor just as it begins to turn over.

Instead, learn to “accentuate the positive.”

First posted on Smartbrief 11.13.15

When You Present, Don’t Preach

Without a trace of irony, the CEO looks straight at the young Ph.D. analyst and says, “Speak as you might to a young child, or a golden retriever. It wasn’t brains that got me here, I assure you.”

That memorable line is from the movie Margin Call, the fictionalized story of the collapse of a Wall Street investment company. The CEO (played by Jeremy Irons) is not being facetious; his tone and manner (seen here on YouTube) reflects exactly what many senior executives want: simple explanations, not in the weeds details. Sadly too many rising executives fail to understand their bosses’ desire quick explanations. And so when they present to their higher ups they believe it is their duty or even their obligation to go on long, too long.

This disconnect arises for one or more of the following reasons: one, they believe they need to show what they know and prove it to everyone; two, they fail to realize that senior managers do not want to know how the sausage is made only that is available; and three, they believe in the law of plenty – if one fact is good; three are better.

You can sum up these failings with a simple statement: when presenting to a senior executive your job is to inform not educate. Executives want information so they can make up their own minds; they don’t need explanations that will be perceived as extraneous and irrelevant. And, very important, they do not want interpretation.

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First posted on 12.05.15

VIDEO: Truth Will Set You (and Your) People Free

Governance is the challenge that faces every leader. The ability to get things done is management’s role.

The ability to inspire people to get those things done right is a leader’s responsibility. Trust is vital to inspiration.

Mark Twain opined, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

This is good advice for anyone seeking to provide backbone to governance and substance to actions that benefit individuals as well as organizations.

First posted on SmartBrief 12.04.2015