Webinar Recap: Communicating UP!


Communicating UP!
Posted: 2/6/19
Presenter: Carl Pritchard
Moderator: Kyle


Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Carl Pritchard’s Communicating UP! webinar being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.


Welcome, everybody here! And, I want you to know something. I want you to think about a magic moment, you’re walking down the hall and the president, the CEO of your company walks up and goes “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met, my name is…” and he introduces himself and you’re like “Oh, crap, it’s you! It’s um, uh…”. Boy, you hate that. You really, genuinely do. You hate that because what happens? Well, frankly, you’re caught kind of…cold. You’re kind of, a little, worrying about just where you’re going to go, what you’re going to say, you’re going to embarrass yourself today. And today, in the next hour, we’re going to take care of that. Now you’ll notice it says “hour+”. Actually, the hour+ doesn’t go beyond the top of the hour, I do want you to know that. The plus part is, you and I are going to have an ongoing relationship. Very interpersonal. Just me and 95 of my closest friends and the trick here is going to be if you have concerns here on the outside the framework of what we talk about here today. I don’t want you think “Well, that was interesting but I didn’t get what I needed”. I do want to deliver what you needed and that’s why I’m just an email away but today, we’re going to talk about these things. These are the things that are actually going to help us sell ourselves to senior management, to communicate up. And communicating up is a very big deal. It’s a matter of selling management on our ideas, it’s about getting management to notice us in a positive light. To get them to look and whenever they see you, they go “Oh, Janine, you make my day!”. Yes! That’s the perfect moment and in order to do that we have to leave…well, a pretty good impression. I am going to ask you to warm things up for me a bit by using the chat interface. Specifically, you’ll notice the first bullet-point there is “You will get guidance on how to stop one bad behavior”. Well I don’t know what your bad behaviors are so I’m going to give you a second to write those in and while you’re doing that, I’m actually going to justify myself as being the guy who can help you get passed that bad behavior. In addition to all that PM stuff Kyle was saying about at the very beginning, kind of interesting, I have a checkered past. I’m proof that PM is the “accidental profession” and the reason I say I have proof is because I got into PM directly for being a member of, and I apologize in advance for this, the media. I was a member of the media, I was a journalist in good standing and I still have my congressional press pass on the wall over there but what’s notable about this is that I also got to work with a woman, her name was Lillian Brown from Georgetown University. And Lillian had a distinction: she was the speaker’s coach in the CBS green room in Washington D.C.! Whenever they get the proverbial “man on the street” interview, whenever they get one of those, they would instantly go about the very basic premise of trying to make sure that the person on the street actually looked intelligent. And so, the person on the street would get to spend a couple of minutes with Lillian Brown and I learned a lot from Lillian about how to make people look good and how to ensure that, well, they’re just basically shown and shown well and they were standing up. When they were actually out there, when they were doing things, she wanted to make sure they looked like they were the smartest person on the planet so they didn’t run int the problem of “Oh…golly”…that’s a real problem. So let’s go into some of your bad behaviors.


One person said “I over explain things, I’m too wordy”. That’s actually a common problem. We all do that and it’s a sign of being ill prepared. It really is. Winston Churchill was famous for saying “I would’ve given a shorter speech but I didn’t have enough time”. The whole key is, the more time you actually have to prep, the more compact you can make your messages. And the way to do that is to use something from journalistic style. Journalistic style, one of the things they taught us, when I was actually in journalism school, I actually went to college for that, that’s the really sad part…it was something called “the inverted pyramid style of writing and of speaking”. The inverted style is something you see in the newspaper if it’s done well. If it’s done well, the headline tells the whole story. You should be able to compress any idea into the point. The military has a name for this. They call it the “B.L.U.F.”…bottom-line upfront. And that should be that big headline. Whenever you start any kind of communications event, oral, whatever the case may be, the trick is to make sure that you are actually going to share the whole story in a headline. That’s right, it should all be in the headline. Sometimes you’ll see in the newspaper what I refer to as “tease headline”. They’re referred to as a tease headline and I just want to stress to you, that’s a bad headline. It really is because sometimes you have to dig through the story like a mystery novel, trying to figure just where this person is going with this. Bottom-line upfront says “You start by telling everybody this is where we’re going to go”. And look at this, first slide of my deck. Boom, it’s all there. This is what we’re doing today. Now the nice for you is, it actually settled on a couple of things. The headline of the headlines here on this slide, you notice it said what we’re going to do in the hour ahead. That was important to you, knowing that I’m going to end on time. For some of you, that’s a beautiful and a wonderful thing. The reason it’s wonderful is that you have assurances, you have a belief system now and for anyone who has ever been at one of my presentations, you know I’m an anal-retentive, clock watching bastard. I am. We’ll end before the hour is over. I promise. It’s all about just hitting that clock. That gives some of you real comfort. For one, you know you get your PDU. Two, you actually know that it’s going to end. We’ve all been in that meeting, that presentation or that encounter where the person says to us, “Oh, before you run, I just need to cover…one…more…thing”. Just as you never want to hear that, I want to stress to you, your boss doesn’t want to hear that. People up the food chain don’t want to hear that. “Oh, just one more thing”. No, no, your clock has expired. You’re done, done. This goes back to the original question, I over explain things…stick with bottom-line, upfront. In many cases, as long as people get a sense they’re going in a good direction, they’ll let you go, they’ll let you be a little wordy. They’ll also reign things in and if you’ve given them the bottom line, you can take in the direction they’re comfortable and you’re comfortable because you’ve already laid out this is what I’m comfortable talking about.


Next person said “Interrupting”. Interrupting is a bad behavior. Now, interrupting…is something that’s very hard to overcome. In fact, our family has made a-well, we’ve made it legendary. Our entire family is from “verbous interruptous”. We all just have this nasty habit of interrupting everybody. And, if you want to stop interrupting, what you need to do is start paying attention to when anybody is interrupting. If you do, and we have a family trick for doing that, if you do, it goes away very, very quickly. That is, whenever someone interrupts you, here’s what I’d like you to do. That’s right, just stunned silence. Let them go and when they finish, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt”. Give them, like, 5, 10 more seconds then say, “Okay, am I good to go back to where I was?”. They’ll never interrupt you again or they’ll do it very rarely. And you because you just made a deal of this, I won’t call it a big deal, you will catch yourself long before you start interrupting people. Just learning how to handle others who do it to you just makes you feel blatantly, horribly guilty about the whole thing.


Oh, next person said, “I feel like I sound angry because I have a fix for every problem and I have a nasty habit of just interjecting my fix”. Sounding angry. Vocal tone and inflection is, well, everything. Most of us break our vocal range into 3 separate sections according to Albert Mehrabian. Albert Mehrabian wrote a lot on communications theory. We have the “high” voice, that’s the voice up here. That’s the one that’s in the upper range of your voice. This is the easiest voice to sound truly angry in. It’s because you sound stressed. When you’re using your voice up here, it’s what I call my help desk voice. You know, we’ve all had that moment, “They’ve just rebooted for the sixth time! I am not rebooting a seventh”. Now, you want to take the anger out of your voice, stress out of your voice, you use the lowest 30% range of your voice. That’s your voice down here. Now I want to stress to you, this is not just a “guy” thing. We’ve had women say, “Well, we don’t have the lower range”. You do, you do indeed and the next time you’re on the phone with the help desk, let me stress to you…when they’re making that call, you get to go, “I’m sorry, I’ve just rebooted for the sixth time, I won’t be rebooting for a seventh”. It sounds serious. It adds a level of gravitas but it does not necessarily sound angry. And the difference is, it’s because you don’t sound stressed. You can get away with a lower voice, a very directive voice down here if, and this is a big if, if you don’t sound stressed. In the lower range, it’s very hard to sound stressed. So, do use the lower range of your voice. Providing too much information, we’re going to go to that in just a few minutes so I’m going to put that one on hold. Actually, I have a slide on that one later on.


“Nervous laughter or just being caught flat-footed”. You know, I don’t necessarily have the cure for that but I do have some suggestions-now, this person also said, “Ummm…”, is also one of their problems. To those of you who are “um-ers”, and Lilian-this is actually a Lilian Brown thing, one of the things she used to recommend to people if they were the “um”, the ones who “uh…”, in the course of “uh…”, trying to “umm…”, provide and “ummm…”…in the course of just doing that, notice what you just did. There are some people who, as soon as I said the fifth or sixth, “uhhh…”, in there, were like, “I’m gonna start counting”, because you’re so distracted by it and that is one of the most distracting things you can do. If you have the, “Uh…”, problem, the cure…and it is a cure, is keep doing it. “What?! Are you insane?”…I’m not insane. But think about this, this is how I want you to do it from now on. Every time you are tempted to say, “Uh”, I want you to replace it with a different word. “Okay Carl, what’s the magic word?”. The magic word is: (silence). That’s right, every time you want to say, “Uh”, just replace it with a second or two of silence. You can go ahead and say, “Uh, uh, uh, uh”, go to town. Just keep saying, “Uh”, in your head. When it comes to your lips, just shut it down. Just leave a second of silence in there while you’re saying, “Uh”, up in your head. What happens with that is…your voice…sounds more…measured. And you’ll note what I just did. Every place I would have said, “Uh”, instead I [?] second of silence. It creates a cadence in your voice and I would lay odds on this that our previous President, President Obama, I believe that he was one time an “uh-er”. The reason I say that? Listen to the cadence of any of his speeches because he had the habit of taking that moment…pause, and it sounds thoughtful. It sounds, “Ah! That guy is thinking big thoughts!”-no, he’s just trying not to say “uh” all the time. And notice what it does. It served him well all the time. He gets the marks as a great communicator and we can take full advantage of that.


Let’s see here…”Talking about traffic or negative news first thing in the morning”. Now, to the person who wrote that, I want to stress, bad idea because you are getting known as a gloomy guss. If you are tempted to talk about anything that is a third-rail subject, “Hey, let’s talk about the state of the union from last night”, AHHH!…panic sets in. No, we don’t want to do that. Instead, what you want to do, you want to be that person that has that one really positive aspect to all of these things, even if it’s the weather. Now I live in Maryland and today is a dreary, gray, overcast kind of day. It’s a little chilly after a beautiful day yesterday. So, you know what I would start talking about if somebody starting talking about the weather? I would say, “Do you have any idea what it’s like in Scottsdale this week? Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting down there sometime. Right now, this week, it’s supposed to be 70s and sunny all week long in that beautiful, arid, dry climate. If any of you are in southern Arizona or central Arizona, I just want you to know about it”. But the beauty of that is if you’re the one who is able to take where the conversation has gone, try to paint it in a more positive light, try to go someplace that is indeed more positive…state of the union address-do you have any idea how long those things are going on? I also find it kind of interesting that the President is supposed to report to congress, it really didn’t become commonplace that they called a joint session until the early 1900s. That was a relatively new convention in terms of the overarching history of our country. Now notice what I didn’t do. I didn’t talk parties, I didn’t talk about the specifics of anything that was said last night and yet, I was able to cover the same ground in a positive light. As soon as somebody starts talking about traffic and that’s the other thing this person mentioned. Being just negative, negative. “Gosh, traffic is just miserable!”. Trust me, I did 15 years of a 51 mile commute to Washington D.C., I know your pain. But when someone says, “How’s the traffic this morning?”, have a pat answer for that that’s just kind of upbeat. “Well, you know, I got a lot of thinking time in”, just have something in your hip pocket so that rather than saying, “I hate these people…I want everybody in the left lane going less than 60 mph, I want them dead”, yeah, I don’t want to hear that, no! I want to hear the person who is actually saying, “Yeah, I got some good thinkin’ time in this morning. I heard some amazing tunes, thank heaven’s for *insert your favorite radio station here*”.


The next one is, “Giving too much detail to management”, we’re going to go there in a few minutes.


“Not making direct eye contact”, oof! To the person who said this, I have [?] the cure. And it’s a cure I gave to my eldest when he had to do the first presentation he was doing to present his paper on his doctorate. But he had to do the big presentation, he said, “Dad, I can’t make eye contact, I’m scared of these people”, and I said, “Adam, it’s so easy, here’s what I want you to do”. I never want you to make eye contact with them. Instead, what I want you to make is forehead contact. That’s right, I want you to stare just below the hairline, if they still have one. Below the hairline, above the eyes. That’s what I want you to use when you’re trying to focus on an individual, when you want them to get the message. Don’t look at their eyes, look at their hairline, just above the eyes, on the brow, that’s your focal point. The intriguing thing is, if you do this with somebody, and try it after we’re done here, walk down the hall and talk to somebody, make forehead contact and they will look at you and think, “Wow, she’s being much more intense than she’s been lately”. They think you’re just staring down, that you’ve got focus on their eyes when in fact, you’re studying their forehead like never before. Now this is only a problem with somebody who has no forehead, who’s follicle-y challenged and if that’s the case, just pick a point on their forehead you’re going to work with. But that’s a good way to not make direct eye contact and still give the impression you’re making direct eye contact. Also, a note on that. WebX and Skype…the camera is directly in front of you in the middle of your laptop, that’s where your focus needs to be. Not that little image of yourself down in the corner. In fact, if you’re finding that little image distracting, hide it because you need to be looking right towards the lens. You’re not looking at him, you’re not looking at her, you’re looking at you and that’s what matters there.


“Talking without breathing. Getting caught mid-sentence with a gulp of air”. Actually, I want to tell you where this goes back to: two things. One is, “Uh”. Just as with, “Uh”, leaving a moment of silence in there helps. Intentionally putting in that moment of silence helps those people sound more measured and it goes back to the lower 30% range of your voice. Your voice down here. When you’re using the voice down here, you’re inherently using more air. You’re like, “Yeah but I’m talking blahblahblah, yeah, yeah-“, desperately gasping for air. You know, that’s not what you do when you talk down here because in order to keep going down to the lower range of your voice, one, you never sound like you’re (he inhales hard) gasping for air, that’s a good thing. And for two, because you’re talking down here, you realize you have to breathe more frequently. Your higher voice doesn’t require as much air so you’re up here, you can keep going for quite a while and then suddenly realize, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been talking for so long, I can’t even breathe anymore”…yeah, that’s where it becomes problematic. So, lower range.


“I don’t speak up enough”. That’s put as a problem, I count you as a bonus by the way, I do want to stress that and that goes to, when you are sharing, gathering information. Ask yourself the question, “Do I really want to chime in or do I want to make notes?”. First off, taking notes is a powerful way of staying focused on the conversation. Out of all the people who are on the this call, the 115 or so who are on this call, I want to stress to you, there’s one person and I don’t know who you are but (makes kissing sound). Geez, I love you because you’re sitting there taking notes. You’re actually feverishly writing stuff down. And you know that, when you’re writing stuff down, you’re paying attention. And people who are in the conversation with you while you’re making some notes, they’re looking at you and realzing, “Wow, he’s paying attention”. Guy I used to work with actually used to have that habit. He would, while you were talking, he’d be making notes. He had a little hip pocket notepad that he would keep with him and when he was talking to you, he’d take a few notes. Now the beauty of making those notes is if something comes up where you’re like, “Oh my gosh, they’re preaching heresy, they’re saying something horrible, something awful”, you get the opportunity to actually take pause and say, “Excuse me, I’m taking notes here and I just want to make sure I have this right or that I understand”. The notes are a crutch. If you’re uncomfortable speaking in a group or feel like, “I should speak up more often”, having the notes in front of you, for one, makes it look like you are the one paying attention. People love that. And for two, it also gives them the sense, “Oh wow, you’ve got a much more gifted insight in terms of what I just said than anybody else does so please chime in”. They’re going to appreciate your input more than what I refer to as “generic” input. That’s a good way to go.


“My problem is that I have a tendency to show that I’m smarter than the boss even though I really am”. Yeah, that is a bit problematic and I think it’s a matter of going back, I said I wouldn’t talk politics, but Ronald Reagan actually had the quote, he said, “It’s amazing how much you can get accomplished when you don’t care who gets the credit”. Now, if you are smarter than the boss, good on you but you have to be willing to seed some of the ideas that you give and offer when you’re around the boss. If you think you’re smarter than the boss and the boss just came up with a third of an idea and you have the other two-thirds of the idea, it’s brilliant to just look at her, look at him and say, “You know, I just want to make sure I understand what you’re saying because what I think I heard you say was-“, and re-share their third of the idea and your two-thirds because a good boss will actually pause and go, “I never thought of that but that’s an amazing idea”, but they appreciate the fact that you were willing to seed credit to them. When you’re like, “No, no, I’ve got to be on credit for my spec of genius”, that’s where we all falter, that’s where we tend to fall kind of flat on the whole thing.


“Patience communicating bad news even with supporting facts and data”…that goes back to BLUF. Bottom-line upfront. And if there’s bad news. If you just discovered your most critical client just pulled all the work you’ve got going in March, every last bit of it, gone. You’re like, “Crap!”. Well, it’s a wonderful time to show you’re a solutions kind of person. So when you’re talking to the boss, you’d say, “We just got a little bit of bad news and I want to explain to you that I’ve taken some time and I want to start figuring out how we’re going to fix this. At least one avenue on how we might fix this”. Notice what you’ve done. Before you’ve dropped the bomb, before you’ve completely lowered the boom, you’ve given them the bottom line up front. Bad news and you’re going to tell them a way to fix it. So they’re not going to be taken completely aback when you share the bad news, whatever the bad news is and you get the opportunity to frame it in your solution. Even if you have the supporting facts and data, even if it’s bad news, if you have your game plan for it, that takes the edge off. If you’re straight forward about it, it doesn’t sound like, “…and, um, people are dying”. You know, it doesn’t sound that bad. It’s not that dark.


And the last one up here and then we’re going to go into what I actually planned to talk about and that is, “[?] before entering a conversation”. That’s not a bad thing. If you allow other people to share their inputs-and I teach courses on meeting management as well and one of the things we talk about is the notion of “the last word”. There’s a person, not just a term, a person in meeting management who is referred to as the last word. Many of you have met the last word and there are good last words and I would cite this person, if this is your concern, just so you know, you need to be the last good word. If you wait too long before you enter a conversation, then it’s an opportunity to say, “I’ve been listening intently to what all of you have been saying and…the last word”. And then you share that last tidbit. The beauty of that is, you’re saying I haven’t been sitting here in dumb silence, I’ve been listening. I’ve been paying very close attention. In fact, you might have noticed I’ve been taking notes but the beauty of that again is, you get to look like the person who is cogitated on all this. You’ve spent some serious time in this, you get to assert yourself in the role of the last word. The good last word. The bad last word is an interrupter. The bad last word is that person. That’s problematic.

So, we did cover some guidance in how to fix at least one bad behavior, we covered more than that and it all starts, effective managing up, communicating up, it starts with crafting your message. My favorite of these three bullet-points-you know, you had the person who said, “I tend to get bogged down in all the data, I have too much information, I’ve shared too much information”, it goes back to BLUF. I had the honor, when I was a member of the media, to meet Mr. Rogers. I did a Sunday morning talk show and I got celebrities to come in now and again and it was interesting because I got to sit down and spend 45 minutes with Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he was a kid’s show host just out Pittsburgh on public tv, PBS. Fred, for decades, was the gentlest voice on television. He really was. Fred Rogers came into the studio and I treated him like I did every other celebrity, “Good morning Mr. Rogers, can I get you another cup of coffee? Would you like a newspaper, is there anything else you need before we get started this morning?”. Fred looked at me and he said, “Carl, I just need you to do one thing”. I said, “Name it Mr. Rogers!”. He said, “Carl, when we’re done here, what, 45 minutes from now?”, I said, “Yup, 45 minutes”. He said, “How does the world look different when we’re done?” and I said, “I’m sorry, what?”. He said, “When we’re done…does the world look different when we’re done here?”. (Hooo). I expected a lot of things out of the conversation with Mr. Rogers, I did not expect the man to be profound and he was. It was amazing because he dropped, what is in my mind, the perfect question. If management calls you in and asks you, “Hey, I wanted to ask you some stuff about the project”. “Yup, I’d be happy share that but just so I know, we’re going to be here together for, what, 20 minutes?”, “Yeah”. “When we’re done, how would you like the world to look different?”. It is an amazing question, it really is, it is the most profound question I’ve ever been asked my whole life. It is a question I’ve used 10,000 times and I find it amazing because it the ultimate in non-threatening questions. If you are worried that management is about to tear you a new one over something, you’ve got to kind of peal back the onion a little bit before the conversation ever starts. If you know they’re calling you in to dress you down about what’s been going wrong on a project…”Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about the ACME project”. “Great but before we get into the conversation, when we’re done here, how would you like the world to look different?”. And the answer invariably is the same one I gave Mr. Rogers. “I’m sorry, what?”. I’d just like to know, how wold you like the world to look different…If I do this right-it was interesting because I had come with a preloaded set of biases for Mr. Rogers. I was a snarky 20-something and Mr. Rogers changed that altogether with that one question and that attitude bender, I actually found myself, when he walked out that door, I was the man’s biggest fan. He walked out, I was like, “Bye Mr. Rogers!”. And, to boot, when he passed away, I genuinely mourned because I felt the world lost something. And it gets down to-here’s somebody who is not looking at where we are now and all the problems we face now in front of us. That’s the reason we have problems communicating up. We are mired in today and Fred Rogers said, just basically, how do you want the world to look different? What’s a great tomorrow look like? What’s a beautiful tomorrow look like? When we’re done here, how do you want the world to look different? It works with angry customers, it works with angry management…oh, and those of you with teenagers? Let me just stress to you, it’s amazing! It really genuinely is. I remember when my youngest was, oh, 15…he’s pushing late 20s now but I remember when he was around 15 and he came in one day just blowing steam out both ears and he looked at me and he goes, “Dad, you have no idea!”, he just starts screaming at me. And those of you with kids have had them have this kind of emotional outburst. And I’m looking and him and I go, “When we’re done here, how would you like the world to look different?”. “I hate it when you ask that!”. Parent. Win. Yeah, it’s a truly profound question because it’s disarming, it’s positive, it’s looking to a future desired state of being and it puts you in the light of being the problem solver. Being the person who wants the world to look like the way they want it to look like. I do want to stress as I ramble along and I just keep on rolling like a freight train here, I do want to stress to you, if something I say spurs a question, do dump it into the chat box please because otherwise I just keep on rolling. I just keep going.


The other thing to remember is, thirty seconds is a win or lose proposition and I was reading a more recent article on which I based this slide, just a couple of days ago and it said, “You’ve got five seconds to make that first impression.” Five seconds. Holy smokes. Five seconds. Most of us waste the first thirty seconds on [?] trivia whenever we’re just encountering somebody. “Hi, how are you?”, “I’m doing okay. Hey, just before we get started, you do know it’s about twenty-two until I’ve got a big meeting coming up and as long as we can wrap this up and-“, Oh my gosh, you’ve lost the first thirty seconds. Instead, the first thirty seconds is that the person who said, “I hate it because I tend to focus on the negative news or the traffic or whatever in the morning”, the opening thirty seconds are your chance to say, “Turn that frown upside down, it’s a good day”. And it is funny, my mother, when I’d come down the stairs with teenage angst, I remember my mom would look up the stairs and she’d say, “Uh-uh-uh, it’s a lovely day today”. I was like, oh mom, please don’t. Please do not do that. But by the same token, in the morning, I am feeling like it’s raining all over the world, I’m the guy going, “Hey, it’s a wonderful day today. Woke up breathing, right side of the dirt. Not looking at roots, looking at daisies”. That’s all in the positive. The more we can do to actually just get through the opening thirty seconds with a positive attitude, with a smile and prepared to provide a bottom-line upfront. You know this goes to your elevator speech, it really does. It’s how everybody thinks an elevator speech is an opportunity sell something. That’s not it at all. It’s an opportunity to let people know that you believe in the positive. It’s an opportunity when you see your boss in the hall to look at her and say, “Hey, you know, it’s a good day, it’s a good day at *insert your company name here*”, and just keep walking. They’re never going to fault you for saying it’s a good day at your organization. They really won’t. They may look at you like an alien life-form. You know, that’s not an inherently bad thing. The opening thirty seconds matter enormously.


And they create the ambience, the sense of what they’re going to walk out saying. These are three examples out of my life and I’d like you to remember this: when you start a conversation, you have to have a sense as to what are they going to say when they walk away from you. The first one, I was talking to my wife about this last night because I knew this presentation was coming up, a guy I met in North Carolina because I was evaluating new instructors and I met this particular individual. He walked up to me during a break and he said, “You’re Carl Pritchard, you’re that guy from the company”. I said, “Yes I am”. He said, “Well, Carl, I understand you’re going to be evaluating me today but before we get started, I want to make a psychological contract with you. That contract has but one clause: I mean you no harm”. And I sat there in dumbstruck silence. I was like, “Oh my gosh…weirdsmoble”. Truly a genuinely weird human being. I said, “I’m sorry, what?”, and he said, “No, no, no, it’s important we have a psychological contract. You know that I would never do anything that would cause you or your organization any harm because our relationship is going to last across the years. I just want to start from that starting point”. Think of how many people you’ve met in the past quarter century. Think of all the times, even people you know extraordinarily well…you can’t fathom or remember the first meeting. You can’t quite remember. No, this guy, I remember like it was yesterday. He sat at the stage, albeit weirdly, and left me feeling like, “Wow, I’m not sure if this guy is good news or not”, but he left an indelible mark with his psychological contract. Now, the interesting component of that is that he lived to that contract. He really did. Over the years, him and I established a long term friendship and anytime I thought he was violating trust, I would call him out in a heartbeat. I’d say, “Rick, I’m sorry, I think you’re violating your psychological contract”, and he’d say, “Carl, I have no idea what would make you think that but please tell me, I want to make this right”, every time. It stuck with me and part of the thing you need to know about that is, if it is your idiom, you need to make sure people know who you are, the genuine you. And that was the genuine Rick. From the first time I met him to the last time we talked a couple of years ago. For over two decades, I would say without hesitation. Somebody said to me, “Hey, what about this guy?”. I said he’s honest, he’s trustworthy, he’ll make sure he tells you that on day one.


The second bullet-point up there, my wife is kind of an interesting human being. She’s a CPA but she’s also very new age-y and when she found out a few years back, the Dalai Lama, the leader of modern buddhism, was coming to radio city music hall for a couple of speaking engagements, she was like, “Oh, I’d really love to go”. So I wrangled some tickets and we got to go see him. And the Dalai Lama was the lead speaker. Walked in, orange robe, makes sense but he walks in and immediately, every monk on stage fell flat, they all laid prostate on the stage. And the Dalai Lama walks up to each one and he goes, “Oh no, no, please get up, get up!”, hugging each one as they stand and he’s giving them a nice warm hug and then you realize, when he turns, he’s wearing an Indiana University visor. It’s like, that is so bizarre. And he plops himself down in this big, cushy chair up front, kicks off his sandals…so now you’ve got the leader of a major world religion sitting shoeless on a big chair up front wearing an IU visor. And he’s smiling and he looks up and he goes, “I want to thank you all, I appreciate you all being here. I apologize by the way, the lights in this hall are so bright, they hurt my eyes and the young man backstage, I just want to say, thank you. Thank you so much. He was wearing this visor and he gave it to me and says please, I don’t want you to hurt your eyes. I just want to say thank you, this visor is wonderful. I can’t appreciate it enough”. And then he went into his speech. As we were walking out, my wife and said very little, what we found though was listening to other people walking out of radio city music hall was compelling. Because as each person walked out, we heard the same comment over and over. “Wow, what a genuinely nice guy”. Now, I want you to think about this. Leader of a major world religion. Nice guy. That is generally not the framework we think of when we think of people who are leading millions of followers. You don’t tend to think, “Nice guy”, and yet, that was the impression, that’s exactly what he left behind. All the compelling arguments, all the stuff about politics that are involved in buddhism, the politics are significant. All of that was fallen by the wayside when he said, “The young man in the back, he did such a nice thing for me. He actually went ahead and loaned me his visor. I just want to say thank you”. That was really a special thing for him to do. That was kind of really impressive and it made him more human.


I attended the worlds worst PM meeting, worst one ever in all of history. I watched a PM kill a project in the first few sentences. I did. First few sentences of the kickoff meeting, he had people begging for the door. He got up and said, “Well, I want to thank you all for being here. I know the term death march has been thrown around this project”. You could’ve heard a pin drop. And you knew. Everybody was walking out, “I gotta get off this project. This things going to be horrible, its death on a stick. This is going to be just too awful for words, it’s unbelievable”. And the kicker is, he killed his project in two sentences. You can know from the moment you start encountering somebody whether or not you’ve left a positive vibe or a negative guide. Hey, it’s another great name and insert your organization name here. Those are things that matter.


It’s also important that, particularly when you’re dealing with management, you know you’ve got your message across. Knowing you got your message across is something a little difficult to do because you start feeling like the old Verizon commercials. “Do you hear me now?”. No, no, not hearing you now. The key is going to be, to find a way to actually have what I refer to as an “amen” moment. To get management to acknowledge you’ve actually accomplished your goal int that communications encounter. Communicating up, sometimes it’s really hard to tell what’s going on in their head. Are they listening, are they paying attention? And today is a perfect example of that. I ramble for forty minutes, forty-five minutes. I don’t know if you’re on the other end or not. I really don’t. Now it says there are 115 people here but I don’t know. I don’t know if you’re doing something else, checking your email or whether you’re actually participating mentally in the conversation we’re having. So I am going to ask you a favor. If there’s one little nugget, one little tidbit, one little shard of anything I’ve shared over the past fifty minutes, I’d like you to just chat that over to Kyle. He’ll put it up so I can see it but if you could chat that over to Kyle in terms of one little thing that I shared in the course of the past fifty minutes that you can actually use. Any one thing. All I’m looking for, I’ll give you just a second. Go ahead and key those in then I’ll give Kyle a second to move them over to our chat interface. The “intentional pause”. Thank you, that’s actually a good one. Also that tends to bring down the upper edge, the crisp edge of your voice. That’s one of the other advantages to that particular approach. “Set a positive tone within three seconds”. Absolutely. Now, it doesn’t take words. A quick eye contact or forehead contact, quick eye contact and a smile. Just a decent smile. “The Mr. Rogers question”. Thank you, I’m glad somebody picked that up. Yeah, when we’re done here, how do you want the world to look different. As you give me those and believe me, I [?] those as a gift, as you provide those, I want to make note about something. What you’re saying to me is amen. If you’ve ever seen those old movies where the pastors going, “Amen. Can I have an amen?”, all they’re looking for is affirmation, message was received. That’s what they’re looking for and when we’re closing out a communications event, it’s not like you can turn to your boss and say, “So, you’re on board? Can I have an amen?!”, I think that would be insane. I think that would be a career limiting moment but, by the same token, to say to your boss, “So, we covered this, this and this. Is that what you wanted to cover today, oh senior management?”, and if you get them to say, “Yeah, actually you covered everything, you did, you covered those things”, what you’re getting is the amen. That amen matters. It goes miles in ensuring that you’re going to have a more positive experience. “Your tone”, “using silence”, “BLUF”, some of the other things…”being a good last word”, bravo on that one. That’s kind of important, don’t be the last bad word.


As we’re parting ways and I’m going to cut my end of this off here in just about two or three minutes, as we get to the very end, I do want to stress a couple of things. A good communication ends with expectations, it does. I’m actually expecting some of you to try some of this and those of you who are perhaps a little more introverted, you’ll try a little more forehead contact in your next encounter with somebody. You’ll actually just be talking to them, looking at their forehead, nodding knowingly and they’ll have no idea, have no clue that you’re looking at their forehead. They’ll think, “Wow, geez, they’re so much more focused than normal”. That’s a good thing. And you’re expecting me to do something here at the end that I do want to do what you want. And that’s that [puts up his contact information on the screen].


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Written by Carl Pritchard
Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the author of seven project management texts, and co-produced “The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam” with Bruce Falk. He is the U.S. Correspondent for the British Project Management Magazine, “Project Manager Today” and serves on the board of directors for ProjectConnections.com
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