How does your work help people prevent or resolve conflict and
deal with rapid growth or change while bringing out the best
in one another during difficult times?
A: As a consultant and
educator, I find that most problems and opportunities in
business and organizations have at their core a
misunderstanding-a situation where someone assumed,
misjudged, or in other ways failed to communicate. Often what
gets in the way of clear communications are our unexpressed
expectations, past experiences, or simply the distractions of
our multitasking business life where time and attention are in
These days when there's
rarely time to listen, let alone be understood, people are
discovering that courageous conversations with employees,
colleagues, communities, board members, and clients are needed
more than ever. That's why my workshops and consulting
provide fast-paced, applied learning situations enabling
people to develop advanced skills-to fully understand and
productively respond to what someone said, what someone meant,
and what was left unsaid.
How do I help people be their
best? They learn (1) to use new communication skills and even
more importantly, (2) to "operationalize" emotional intelligence
with a new outlook that enables them to pause long enough to
get curious and, with humility, ask themselves what they
didn't know or what they assumed or what they didn't think
to ask. This dramatically improves their ability to creatively
mine misunderstandings for gold, increase trust-often in short
supply these days-and to prevent problems in the future.
did your years as a journalist train you to be a better
problem solver and then train others as well?
A: When my colleague,
WBZ-TV reporter, Dennis Kauff was killed by a drunk driver in
1985, I knew we had to do more than just run a series of
public service announcements exhorting people not to drink and
drive-clearly that wasn't a strong enough message to keep
someone from driving drunk. That's why a team of us at the
television station partnered with the Harvard School of Public
Heath to launch the statewide pilot project that paved the way
for the national adoption of the Designated Driver as a
practical, life-saving concept. We had to have the humility to
get curious about what we didn't know were the hidden
problems and solutions affecting drinking and driving. That's
when I learned the importance of reframing a problem in order
to uncover a better solution-something I help organizations
and executives learn how to master.
HOW TO LEAD IN A CHANGING WORLD
What do you think it will take for people to succeed in the
world we face today?
A: To me, a leader is
someone-no matter what their role in life-who knows how to
take thoughtful action in spite of not having all the answers.
In these days of change, uncertainty and rapid-fire
opportunities, best described by Tom Friedman in his book, The
World is Flat, I think each of us has to be better skilled
at collaboration. And to do that, we have to communicate
better so that we can understand our differences, appreciate
what we don't know, and close the gaps that divide us.
THE POWER OF LISTENING AND COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY
When did you learn the power of words to make change happen?
A: I first learned
about the power of information to make a difference as a
reporter and as editor of my high school paper. I continued to
learn this lesson after graduating from Tufts University, as a
writer-producer at CBS News radio, and as Editorial Director
and Director of Public Affairs for Westinghouse Broadcasting
(now CBS). I had to really listen to the versions of each
person's story... not just to what people said, but also to
what they meant, and also to what they weren't telling me
During my years at
Westinghouse we launched this country's first nationally
syndicated public service advocacy campaigns including: For
Kids' Sake, Time to Care, Thanks to Teachers, Aids Lifeline,
and the Alzheimer's initiative, Whispering Hope. These
initiatives taught me how to create public private
partnerships where a company and a community could learn to
understand and to trust one another better and then solve
problems-doing well by doing good.
THE BOOK BEGINS
Q: What motivated you to
write the book?
A: Immediately after my
mother died in 1988, my work took me around the country as I
launched Westinghouse Broadcasting's nationally syndicated
public service volunteerism campaign, Time to Care. In
my travels I would tell my "lessons learned" stories
about unexpectedly coping with her death to the many people I
met. Friends and strangers kept asking me to write down the
stories so they could share them with others.
My own brush with cancer, a friend's miscarriage, and the
death of my former boss, U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas, made me
realize it was time to write the book. Once I started telling
my stories, other people started tell me their
stories-offering advice about what worked and what didn't
work when they offered or needed support during challenging
times at home and at work.
The book became a primer on
listening and communication for everyday life. Sooner or later
we're going to find ourselves facing an unexpected or
awkward moment and need to pause to think about what to say,
what not to say and sometimes, just how to be or how to ask
for what we need ourselves.
What inspires you?
A: Throughout my life
I've been especially fascinated with what it takes to inspire
someone to take extraordinary actions on behalf of
others-whether it was becoming an organ donor, making a
courageous call in business, getting relief supplies to
Ethiopia during the famine, or it is a stranger coming to
another's aid during the worst of times as happened during
(and after) September 11th, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. In my
work I want to help people be able to be extraordinary at a
moment's notice no matter who they are or what they do
or what is going on around them.