How to Control the Conversation

conversation

How to Charm, Deflect, and Defend

 

When someone asks 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?

How to Recruit, Retain, and Advance Remarkable Women

women leadership

Gender Equality

Not too long ago, I read a new book on gender equality in the workplace. I’ve read many of these types of books but this one was from a different perspective. Rania Anderson’s company, The Way WoMen Work, is specifically geared toward helping male business leaders obtain the skills and perspectives needed to intentionally advance women.

Rania realized long ago that many men want to support women at work but don’t know the best way to do so.

In her new book, WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work, Rania not only explains the benefits of recruiting, retaining, and advancing high-caliber women, but she also provides hands-on advice on how to do it.

 

Ernst and Young Study: Over 50 percent of leaders said they need to do more to attract, retain, and promote women to leadership positions.

 

A Surprising Question

In your book, you mention that, while at companies working with women, men were often stopping you to ask for help. Many men want to know how to work more effectively with women. Given the many years of focus on diversity, did this surprise you?

It did. After I was approached a few times, I recognized that many men are ready to transform their workplaces and the way they work and lead with women.

Some are motivated by talent shortages. Others are under pressure to innovate and understand the changing needs of consumers, many of whom are women. They recognize that they cannot win by continuing to rely on half the talent pool.

Yet others want to have flexibility in their work environment and recognize that the changes that women want in the workplace would also benefit them.

The motivations of the men that spoke to me were varied, but what they were asking for was the same – to no longer be left out of the conversation and to be invited to be part of the solution.

 

“Just as companies measure return on equity, there’s also a demonstrated return on equality.” -Rania Anderson

 

The Benefits of Gender Diversity

Communication Tips from Don Hutson

Communication Tips

Public speaking is not only a common fear, but it is also one of the most important skills if you want to see rapid promotions at work. I previously shared 7 Reasons Why You Should Improve Your Public Speaking. It is an incredibly important skill.

Don Hutson is a world class public speaker and past President of the National Speakers Association. His decades of experience made him the perfect person to sit down and discuss the art of public speaking.

Don has also authored or co-authored fourteen books. Two of them The One Minute Entrepreneur and The One Minute Negotiator have been Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestsellers.

 

“The number 1 antidote to fear is preparation.” -Don Hutson

 

In this video interview, I talk to Don about:

  • The importance of preparation.
  • How to overcome your fear of public speaking.
  • Techniques to handle hecklers.
  • 3 Tips to improve your speaking skills.

 

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This is Day One: Leadership That Matters

day one

Everyday Leadership

Leadership educator Drew Dudley has spent the last 15 years teaching a more inclusive concept of leadership. His approach has resonated: his TEDx talk Everyday Leadership (The Lollipop Moment) was voted one of the 15 most inspirational TED talks of all time. His first book This is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership that Matters is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. I recently spoke with Drew about his work.

 

Why is it that so many people fail to recognize themselves as leaders?

We’re educated out of our leadership at an early age. The examples you’re given to illustrate a concept shape how you come to perceive it for the rest of your life, and the leadership examples we’re given as kids are usually giants: presidents, scientific groundbreakers, people who conquered empires. As those archetypes are reinforced through media and cultural institutions, we come to see leaders as looking a certain way, sounding a certain way, and having a certain level of profile and influence, and we don’t look for leadership from anyone who doesn’t fit that profile. Most people don’t see themselves as fitting that mold and regularly dismiss moments of impact, generosity, empowerment, courage, growth, etc. as “little things” rather than moments of leadership. How is a moment that causes someone to walk away from you feeling empowered not a moment of leadership? Someone is better off because of you and is likely to pass that along to others. Let’s face it however, because it impacts one person and not hundreds or more, those moments are rarely celebrated as leadership. That type of behavior isn’t how we’re introduced to leadership – it is presented after the giants, and as such is perceived as a somehow “lesser” form.

 

“You can’t add value to the lives of anyone else until you’ve added enough value to your own.” -Drew Dudley

 

Leadership is a Daily Practice

You make it clear that it’s a daily behavior, a daily practice. Why and how did this become a focal point for your leadership teaching?

Presenting leadership as a daily choice makes it far more accessible. I started working with university students—passionate, driven young people who fought for social justice, organized to provide support to their fellow students, volunteered hundreds of hours within their communities, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities. However, the vast majority of them didn’t see themselves as leaders. In fact, their perception of themselves was best encapsulated by one student who responded to the question “Why do you matter?” with “Well…I don’t yet. That’s why I’m working so hard.”

As I continued with my work, I found that people of all ages had subconsciously adopted the perspective, “I don’t matter yet, that’s why I’m working so hard.” When leadership is determined by titles and what you have done rather than about behaviors and what you are doing each day, people look at what they haven’t accomplished as evidence they don’t deserve to call themselves leaders.

However, perceiving leadership as a daily choice rather than accolades and influence gained over time reminds us that each and every one of us awakes every morning having done nothing that day to earn the title of leader, and we have the opportunity and obligation to act in ways that impact people and organizations positively. You may have spent 10 years acting in ways that made you the CEO, but on any given day the individual who sweeps the floors in your building could actually engage in more impactful behaviors than you do. On that day, they were a bigger leader than you were. It’s a perspective that keeps you from getting complacent because of what you have done.

 

“Leadership recognized is leadership created.” -Drew Dudley

 

Develop a Personal Leadership Philosophy