Three hard to say sentences that execs don’t say enough

 In Mindset

”I don’t know”. 

Portrait of a man with a suspicious mind

‘It’s amazing how many people are afraid of these words, think that by using them they will somehow appear inadequate.

When I first shook hands with Arnold Palmer, I told him I could make only two guarantees.

First, that if I didn’t know something, I would tell him. Second, that when I didn’t know something, I would find someone who did’.

The above quote is from a section entitled, Three Hard-To-Say Phrases of the New York Times, best selling book, What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack.

The other Hard-To-Say Phrases McCormack shares are:

‘I need help’ 

‘I was wrong’

For the ‘I need help’ phrase, McCormack maintains, ‘There are limitations of course (for asking for help). Asking for the same kind of help might indicate some sort of learning disability.

Nevertheless, more often than not, particularly in aggressive companies, people tend not to ask for enough help, rather than for too much.’

For the ‘I was wrong’ phrase, McCormack argues, ‘The people who are less secure about their abilities have the hardest time admitting their mistakes 

. . . I have seen some very capable executives get excited about their mistakes. They feel that by doing something wrong they may have learned something right, and can’t wait to try again.’ 

Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post. For the next seven days, keep the three hard-to-say phrases top of mind – maybe on a post-it note in your wallet or handbag. In your interactions and meetings, when the opportunity arises, use the appropriate phrase.

Check out this post on how to enliven your direct report meetings

p.s In the present climate of a United States presidential election, with the saturation of political advertisements, you may not know that the first political advertisements in the United States occurred during the 1952 presidential campaign.

Spot political advertising was first used by the Republican party, and conducted by a firm known for its soap and aspirin advertisements.

The Democratic party dismissed the advertising as ‘Madison Avenue huckerism’.

Liberal journalist Marya Mannes, in a journal aimed at intellectuals, mocked the advertising, as follows.

‘Eisenhower hits the spot

One full general, that’s the lot

Feeling sluggish, feeling sick?

Take a does of Ike* and Dick*

Philip Morris, Lucky Strike

Alka Seltzer, I like Ike’

(from Eisenhower in war in peace by Jean Edward Smith)

*Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon

p.p.s. Here is a link to an SBS article that includes my analysis of the body language, speaking and presence of Donald Trump in the second Presidential debate. It might interest you.

p.p.p.s Regarding the ‘grilling’ of the CEOs of Australia’s four big banks last week, below is my analysis of the body language, speech, manner and presence  of the CEOs against the benchmark of a confident and competent CEO of a major public institution, who is facing public criticism of the institution.

– Analysis of I. Narev was only from viewing of two video grabs
– Analysis of B. Hartzer did not include his opening statement but did include a substantial viewing of the Q&A
– Analysis of S. Elliott and A. Thorburn was from viewing the opening statements and the first five minutes of Q&A
Ian Narev
Calm, professional, polished performance
– Measured delivery and the use of simple declaratory sentences
– Owned’ and occupied the physical space in front of his body.
– Match of voice tone with seriousness of the occasion.
– ‘ums’ detracted from the message
Shayne Elliott
Nervous, technocratic, opening performance with a rapid rate of speech, fitful head and body movement. Improvement in confidence in Q&A session
– Quick understanding of questions
– Perception of deep understanding of his operation due to quick responses
– Perception of earnest willingness to answer questions
– Rote delivery of an his apology of wrong doings, which lacked believability
– Vocal pitch break indicating nervousness
– Distracted side-way glances during opening statement
Andrew Thorburn
– Professional, certain and energetic opening statement but decreased certainty in Q&A through rapid speaking
– Ownership and occupying of physical space with strong gestures to support language
– Use of pauses during opening
– ‘Overcooked’ and agitated manner and speaking during Q&A
– Metronomic delivery
– Interrupting chairperson
– Not directly answering questions
Brian Hartzer
Professional, articulate, fluent and unflappable performance
– Personal connection with questioner versus delivering ‘a presentation performance’
– Direct answering of questions while omitting needless words
– Steady calm carriage of body
– Reading into a line of questioning and ‘managing’ the interaction
– Ready retrieval of examples to support points
– ‘um’ fillers
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