Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Power Pose & Stilettos - Can They Create Confidence?

Yesterday morning, I happened to catch Hoda and Kathie Lee while at the airport. Interestingly, the segment I watched featured two life coaches opining on how to "Create Confidence".  They advised adopting a "power pose," citing research which demonstrated that a power pose for as little as two minutes can boost confidence, making people feel more powerful and more willing to take risks.

The segment continued with advice on how to be more assertive and improve your confidence when walking into a business. Their first piece of advice: "wear stilettos". The positive attributes of that instruction are aligned with research that indicates taller is better and taller is more attractive which is also better and sex sells which is ...well, a fact. However, this strategy fails if you have to walk either fast or any distance. Try and walk six blocks on uneven concrete  to a meeting dragging a wheelie bag. Not only will you fail at impressing, your flat shoed male colleagues will end up either waiting for you, or not.

As an expert in communication, I endorse the idea of using space and body language to your advantage. However, a stiletto might not have been my first go to accessory to suggest. 

What's your "go to" confidence booster

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Communication Styles Impact the Teachers Strike

As the public watches reports on the Chicago teachers strike, it is hard not to notice the stark difference in communication styles of the two sides. While speaking, the Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey did not present himself as a person who is looking for a win-win. Using the word 'draconian' was a show of arrogance, not cooperation. The Union President, Karen Lewis, was calm but rather bullish on the 10:00 pm news interview when she spoke about the latest city proposal on the table. The city spokesperson, in contrast, was professional and strong, but reasonable.

Are they different at the negotiating table, or are we getting a glimpse of the conflict?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Juror Fashion - What Does It Mean?

Jurors showed up today donning sports team wear for the Drew Peterson trial. It is not as uncommon as you might think for jurors to get all matchy matchy during trial. At the Edwards trial, jurors had red, purple, grey and even black days. Sports jerseys were seen recently in a murder trial in an east coast courtroom. Scooter Libby faced a jury dressed in Valentine apparel shortly before his conviction. There are likely dozens of other unreported instances of ‘team jury’ apparel.
What does it mean? It could mean the jurors are just messing with us. They want some attention, are releasing tension or have started to bond on a hostage level. Most likely they are trying to amuse themselves. Being admonished daily not to discuss the case and running out of weather (it is just hot) conversation, they have taken to game playing. Think of it as a long boring car trip. You find other ways to entertain yourselves. They are no doubt tired of counting the number of ‘uhms’, guessing what color tie will be worn by which attorney and pondering lunch. But unless they show up in matching orange jump suits…don’t read too much into jury fashion.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shocking But True

Guest Blog: Bill Grimes
You would think intelligent, sophisticated people like federal judges and lawyers arguing high profile federal cases would know basic email jargon. WRONG! Not all of them.

The lack of familiarity is right there in the transcript of the Washington, D.C. perjury trial of former baseball star Roger Clemens. Outside the presence of the jury, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton and the attorneys were discussing whether to ask witnesses questions jurors had submitted. One question referred to "email threads" between Clemens and his personal trainer. Judge Walton and Clemens’ attorney Rusty Hardin, didn’t know what “email threads” were. Seriously. Prosecutor Daniel Butler cleared it up for them, "In other words, a series of emails." Judge Walton said, “I never heard the word ‘thread’ used in that context.” Rusty Hardin added, “I haven't either.”

Surprising as it is that Walton and Hardin never heard of ‘email threads,’ it reveals a delicate position communicators often find themselves – not insulting their audience by explaining every expression while making sure they are understood. There are many people, mostly on the other side of age 50, who resist learning too much about computers, email, social media, Internet, etc., because they’re just not into it. Just like there were legions of people who insisted on sticking to the horse and buggy years after the automobile was invented. People uncomfortable with change miss out on the new vocabulary that comes with it. It’s not the communicator’s fault, but it’s the communicator’s problem if the unenlightened individual is someone the communicator must inform.

A good rule of thumb: if the word has been commonly used in another contexts, such as “thread” (as in sewing), “platform” (as in where one waits for a train), “server” (as in what a tennis player does), explain it in as few words as possible. The way prosecutor Bulter explained that a ‘thread’ is “a series of emails” is short and sweet.

BTW [which stands for “by the way”] I’m willing to bet Butler is younger than Walton and Hardin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When PR and Legal Advisors Collide

In Friday’s Reuters article Jamie Dimon was lauded by the PR crisis management industry and warned by the legal beagles. Clearly, the two groups should spend more time talking to each other. The best path for any corporate leader in a similar position – and there do seem to be increasing numbers in this club – is to come forth with an aggressive message that is as clear and open as the crisis communication gurus suggest while also taking care avoid legal words that lawyers will later pounce on.

As experts in communication, we mostly agree that some message is better than no message. The legal advisors have done a considerable amount of damage over the years by shushing their clientele, a strategy mostly born of arrogance on the part of the lawyers, plus a healthy dose of warranted fear for what the CEO, CFO, COO, etc. will say. For example, while dispensing words of wisdom and talking about the "court of public opinion", the public relations people, on the other hand, will not have spent much time in the courtroom seeing their strategically crafted message displayed on a ten by ten foot screen to a jury of Jamie Dimon's peers day after day.

Marry the lawyers’ caution and experience, with the legal ramifications of being too clever, with the count on honesty to carry the day philosophy. This strategy allows most any misstep to at least get some salve applied while the real healing begins. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nice Ladies Can Be Incompetent Communicators

City Sticker Design Decision Gone Wrong

Because this is a blog dedicated to good communication and not good sense, let’s ignore the merits of Chicago City Clerk Susan Mendoza’s decision to dump the city sticker winner design due to the alleged similarity to gang symbols being present in the design. Let’s go straight to the manner in which she communicated the controversial decision to the public - which by anyone’s measure was a disaster. I do not know Ms. Mendoza and I will take Herbert Pulgar’s word for it that she is a “nice lady”. Yet, nice ladies can be incompetent communicators. Here is how it should have gone down.

  1. Mendoza should have started with a heartfelt public apology to Herbie, his friends and family and especially his teacher who guided him in this competition.

  2. She then should have been told of the difficulty in making the decision and named ALL the people she consulted and their credentials for assisting her. Using words like regret, sad, upsetting, empathy, etc. would have made her appear less icky.

  3. Next she should have stated that the young Mr. Pulgar was believed to be blameless in the accidental association to gang symbols and that he would not be punished by taking away his $1,000 prize.

  4. Ms. Mendoza should have been very quiet as to what the City was to do about a new sticker design. Let the dust settle on ousting Herbie before crowning a new king (or queen as it were).

I am sure I have more to say but the more I write the less rational become over poor Herbert. Did you see him? Gang promoter? Jeeeez!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Does A Fresh Coat of Paint Really Matter? What is the Motive Behind the Message?

On October 12th, United Airlines President & CEO, Jeff Smisek, will present to the Executives Club of Chicago. Regretfully, I will be unable to attend.

I am baffled by his generally well crafted and delivered video presentation currently playing on United/Continental flights. Will someone please ask him, in a polite and respectful manner, what caused/prompted Mr. Smisek to believe that his message to his passengers (clients) should tout the “painting of airplanes” as progress in the coupling of the two airlines?

Other than the time I boarded a United Airline flight to Des Moines that looked like a Mr. Potato Head with its grey body attached to a red, blue and white nose, there has never been much interest in the paint job. Branding through paint may have been high on the transition team’s list of priorities, or maybe it was just any easy and visually obvious step toward integration. But a major step toward integration? Not hardly, from a passengers perspective.

Mind you, I am not complaining about how the process of combining the two giant birds is moving along. The merger and subsequent rolling-into-one would be a daunting task for even the heartiest CEO. Nonetheless, as a communication strategy, it is baffling to me why painting the planes was front and center in the on-flight CEO video now seen by passengers over the past several months. At first, I thought maybe that is the only thing he has to talk about? Now, however, there is an updated version of Mr. Smisek’s promotional video and he continues to discuss the paint job. As a continuous assimilator of human behavior, in particular - the thought process that goes into formal, practiced, vetted communication - I am anxious to know the motive behind the message.

Anyone know the answer?

Please, would someone ask the question on October 12?

Until then, I remain perplexed.