How to Control the Conversation

conversation

How to Charm, Deflect, and Defend

 

When someone answers a question, you should answer it, right?

Not according to James O. Pyle and Maryann Karinch, authors of Control the Conversation: How to Charm, Deflect, and Defend Your Position Through Any Line of Questioning. They believe you should respond to the question, and they explain more in our discussion below. James O. Pyle is a human intelligence training instructor for the combined services of the Department of Defense. Maryann Karinch is a body language expert and the author or coauthor of 28 books.

After reading their fascinating book, on a topic I love to study, I reached out to them to learn more about their work.

 

“The first step to success is putting assumptions aside.” -Pyle and Karinch

 

Characteristics of Control

What characteristics do you notice if someone is not good at controlling the conversation?

Here is how this often works in an office environment:

First, the person has a firm agenda that precludes listening. She lays out her points with an intent to control the conversation, but sabotages that desire for control by talking over others. Almost immediately, other people shut her out. They want to reach for the smartphone, grab a cookie—basically do anything that gets them away from her noise. Politicians, CEOs, and even managers sabotage themselves all the time this way. They used their vested power to command attention, but never truly control the conversation.

 

Contrast that with someone who is spectacular at controlling the conversation.

SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell comes into interviews with an engaging conversational tone. As she answers questions, she finds ways to work in messages of vision, safety, quality, and so on that inspire a sense of trust in SpaceX technology—it’s easy to find yourself cheering her, and the company, on to greater heights (pun intended). Part of her success in conveying these messages is that she weaves in timelines, expertise of the team, descriptions of specific events, and a sense of location.

 

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.” -Carl Sagan

 

Respond, Don’t Answer, a Question

The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

humble leadership

Humble Leadership

 

To be successful today, leaders must develop relationships based on openness and trust. Leaders can no longer rely on formal hierarchical structures and processes. Instead, the new era of leadership is based on service, on teamwork, and even on humility.

In their new book, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, authors and organizational culture experts Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein introduce their new model of leadership based on personal relationships. I recently spoke with them to learn more about their perspective and research.

 

“Leadership is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along.” -Edgar and Peter Schein

 

Traditional versus Humble

To get us started, compare and contrast traditional leadership with “humble leadership.”

We see two common myths surrounding “traditional leadership” that humble leadership calls into question. First is the heroic “I alone” myth that suggests that the greatest leaders rise to the top on their own individual brilliance. By contrast, humble leadership proposes that leadership occurs throughout an organization, at all levels and in all roles, and reaches its pinnacles of success when groups drive better decisions and achieve better outcomes.

The second myth is that organizations are machines, directed with command and control, most successful when they can be described as a “well-oiled machine.” Humble leadership proposes that this is at best an antiquated view of organizations. Instead we think of organizations as living systems capable of cooperative resource sharing and adaptation better suited to the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world we are only now starting to accept.

 

“Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work.”

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of humble leadership?

Humble leadership is not about humility in the individual or religious sense. Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work. Humble means I go to work embracing the fact that I do not have all the answers and will do a better job by asking for help and helping others in the group to arrive at the best decisions. In Ed Schein’s Humble Leadership series, he refers to this framing of humility as “here and now humility.”

We see leadership as a verb not an entitlement. The foundational idea is that humble leadership requires the formation of personal relationships (at work and home) that allow two people or a group to achieve more than the sum of their individual outputs.

In Humble Consulting and Humble Leadership, a human relationship model is presented that describes human relationships in four levels. Level 1 is domination and exploitation (think prison guards or shop floor bosses in a sweatshop). Level 1 is transactional role-to-role interaction, cordial but typified by “professional distance.” Level 2 is a cooperative empathic connection between two whole persons formed by inquiring and sharing information. A Level 2 relationship is based upon, and continually reinforces, openness and trust. We refer to the process of creating Level 2 relationships as “personization.” Level 3 adds intimacy to openness and trust. This Level 3 ability to “finish each other’s sentences” is typically associated with lovers more than co-workers, though we do see Level 3 relationships in the highest performing teams (e.g. SEAL teams, orchestras, improv performers, and so on).

The essence of humble leadership is building Level 2 relationships with the people around you in order to improve and maximize information flow (openness) and cooperative work (trust). With these Level 2 relationships, anyone can arrive at work with here-and-now humility, knowing that he or she does not have all the answers, and confident that with inquiry and curiosity, better answers and outcomes will result.

 

Would you share an example of humble leadership?

Jane Austen

6 Principles of the Convenience Revolution

 

Amazing Customer Service

Whenever I hear the word “amazing,” I immediately think of my friend Shep Hyken. He probably has the work trademarked. Shep sets the bar high for customer experiences and challenges leaders everywhere to raise their game. It’s not enough to be good. You need to be AMAZING.

His newest book is amazing. It’s called The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty. It’s all about how to wow your customers by becoming more convenient. How do you make it easier to do business with you? Shep takes it one step farther, saying it’s not only for companies but also for individuals.

 

“People do business with people, not organizations—and they do more business, more often with AMAZING people.” -Shep Hyken

 

Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He’s also a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and he has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession.

 

“Amazement is all about showing up at the top of your game.” -Shep Hyken

 

In this video interview, we talk about the six principles of the convenience revolution. Shep shares examples ranging from 7-11, Amazon, Uber, Panera, Salesforce, Walmart, to small businesses like Shep’s personalized car dealership and a dentist that delivers wow experiences. Learn how these six principles can revolutionize your organization:Convenience Revolution

  1. Reducing friction
  2. Self service
  3. Technology
  4. Subscription
  5. Delivery
  6. Access

 

“What happens on the inside is felt on the outside by the customer.” -Shep Hyken

 

“Think of the relationship before you start reciting the rule book.” -Shep Hyken

Exit Your Comfort Zone and Become a Networking Pro

networking
This is an excerpt from Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn’t Work for Every Woman and What to do Instead by Kathryn Sollman. Kathryn is a recognized leader in helping women navigate the many stages of work and life.

Become a Networking Pro

One of my coaching clients, a 56-year-old woman from California who was navigating her way back to the workforce, realized she needed to network far out of her comfort zone. She emailed me this question:

I have connections at organizations where I’d love to work in a flexible way, but they are either people I’m not close to or people I don’t feel comfortable approaching. Call it anxiety or an old-fashioned sense that I’d be “using” them to get a job, but it’s an obstacle for me. How do I get over this? Just be pleasant and directly state what I want? That’s it, done?

Yes, that’s pretty much it. Here’s how to do it well:

 

“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” -Karen Salmansohn

 

Establish even a very loose connection.

Networking involves a shared connection, not just out-of-the-blue cold calls to strangers. Networking connections do not need to be people you know well: you can establish connections through relatives, school or employer alumni groups, club members, or a friend of a friend of a friend. Figure out how to give your connection the comfort level of knowing that in some way you are connected. It could be as simple as having children in the same soccer league or being connected to the same person on LinkedIn.

 

Be specific about the help you need.

No one wants to hear, “I’d just like to pick your brain about flexible fundraising jobs.”  That’s a conversation that could wander aimlessly with no easy end. Busy people want to slot you in for a quick brain dump of specific information they have at hand. A better approach would be, “I’m trying to get an idea of how most large fundraising departments are allocating part-time responsibilities among functions, and I’d like to see how yours is structured in relation to peer organizations.” If you lay this out in an email or LinkedIn message, your connection can think about and summarize a worthwhile, bite-sized response. This very focused networking request would help you gather information about where and how your skills and experience would most likely fit at your connection’s organization and many others. When you ask a dozen networking connections the same question, you start gathering valuable anecdotal research.

 

Limit the amount of time your connection needs to invest.