James E. Lukaszewski, the man known as America’s Crisis Guru, shares how to handle and resolve crises within organizations from a strategic perspective.
1. The power of being a strategist and thinking differently than everyone else
2. The 7 disciplines of being a trusted advisor
3. The 3 steps to giving impactful 3-minute advice
James (Jim) E. Lukaszewski is one of America’s most visible corporate go-to people for senior executives when there is trouble in the room or on the horizon. As America’s Crisis Guru®, He has been recognized for lifetime achievement in his profession by most of the major public relations organizations in the United States. He served for 22 years on the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) and is now its first Emeritus member. He has written twelve books, including Why Should The Boss Listen to You, and hundreds of articles.
Items mentioned in the show:
Jim, thanks so much for being here on the “How to be Awesome at Your Job” podcast.
James E. Lukaszewski
Love to be here, thank you.
So I’d love to hear… So you’re known as America’s Crisis Guru. Could you maybe tell us a juicy story just to kind of warm things up a little bit about a time that there was a crisis you parachuted in and how that organization resolved it well.
James E. Lukaszewski
You described my business perfectly there, that’s pretty much what I do. People really wait to call me until it’s leaking, foaming, sinking and burning and then all of a sudden I have to show up. Or increasingly don’t show up, ’cause there isn’t time to even get an airplane and you’ve got to get to work. And we got the technology these days to really get it done.
But I was just in Arizona recently, and the company had called me after they had an accident with some of their transportation equipment. And it’s not a large company, but it’s a medium-sized company. And they were concerned that they were caught unawares, and some employees were injured and some went to the hospital, some went through care. Nobody died, turns out.
And I didn’t actually know much about the accident that triggered all of this, so in my pre-meeting with the CEO of the company I said, “In talking to some of your employees, no one really knows too much about what happened, and maybe you should walk them through what you did as a way to get them in the mood for dealing with this.
And so, he opened the meeting and typically when you start this process, I like to have the Chairman or the owner, the senior person, to open the meeting because that sends a signal to everybody that this is an important meeting, that we really mean it about getting ready for these things. And he went through it in great, great detail. The story was amazing.
What happened was, there was a vehicle, it rolled over actually several times, and the people were injured. It happened actually in Nevada, but anyway, what he did was he called the owner of the company – he’s not the owner but he’s the CEO – and they split up the duty immediately, and the owner of the company got on the telephone and discovered immediately for example that he didn’t actually have the email addresses for some of the key officials in one place. They had them all over the place, so they wasted an hour’s time trying to find people; it’s very common.
But the CEO, who’s talking, went to the hospital and stayed near the ICU for the entire time. And this is a circumstance where, some of the people in the accident didn’t speak English. So they were having great trouble there; they were really injured. And it turns out that some years earlier, this company had been using a kind of software that translated to lots of different languages, and after about 3 or 4 hours of real confusion and fear he remembered the software, checked it out and was able to transfer it to his hand-held device.
And so all of a sudden, the gates open, and they could translate to Spanish or Portuguese into English, English into Portuguese, and things got really better. He began to fly in relatives… This is all from the hospital, got people first-class flights to come in to be with their injured relatives and that sort of thing.
And what he was describing was, in many respects the perfect response. And as I’m hearing him talk I’m thinking, “Typically what happens is somebody fouled up and didn’t fix the brakes, or somebody was careless, or the driver fell asleep at the wheel.” But this was sort of the opposite circumstance in almost every instance, except that they weren’t ready for it, that’s all.
So it turned into a different meeting, because then we were talking not so much about crisis communications – I usually talk about “readiness” and making mistakes – we were taking about how leaders behave in crisis. Because the main lesson in what I do is, so much focus on crises is about what the media is going to do and the bloggers, the bloviators, the belly achers these days in social media.
But here’s a company that, essentially on its own had these inclinations in every respect to do the right thing. And that’s really how I define integrity. So I had a discussion about integrity and purpose and compassion; and we had a really solid 3.5-hour meeting with these folks totally engaged, because it turned out to be something entirely different than they anticipated, but it was really a tremendously powerful exercise for them going through this. And I left in the middle of the afternoon, but here’s a group that’s really committed – they’ve already called me 3 times – to really get this down and get it right in the record book, so to speak, so that they can teach it to people in the company and replicate what they did this time. Very interesting circumstance; often not the case though.
Well, that is a happy story; it has kicked us off well, with some positivity. And I know that positive remarks and focus are a big piece of what you teach in your book, in your work associated with “Why Should the Boss Listen to You”. And could you maybe draw the connection a bit between crisis communication stuff and the boss listening to you? How did you find yourself in both those worlds?
James E. Lukaszewski
Well, it’s interesting because… It’s a longer story than we have time to talk about, is how I actually got into this business, but I actually came out of the government years ago, and I was in government handling the bad news for the Governor of the State. And that’s overstating it – lots of people handle it, I just happened to be the person delegated to bringing it to him, so I got in the middle of things.
And I started watching and listening to people who gave advice to important people, and when I opened my own practice many, many years ago, I work at high levels and I work with the senior people in the organizations because of the nature of the problems they face. And in that capacity, you get a chance to see a lot of people give advice.
So in moving forward, what I recognized was to answer the question which was, “Why does the person in trouble listen to somebody and not listen to somebody else?” They’re both very smart, they both might be highly educated, but one penetrates and has influence; the other doesn’t penetrate and doesn’t have influence.
And so I began to sort of catalog what are the things that made people more influential. And I was learning for myself; I didn’t even think about a book at that point in time. But as I moved through what I was doing, I found myself working with the staff functions that serve leadership, all of them – law, planning, security, HR, that sort of thing – and because they were so ineffective in having influence on the boss, and they were the insiders, I’d always been an outsider to organizations.
But I believed firmly and do today, and the reason I wrote the book was because there’s absolutely no reason people inside functions can’t be as influential as somebody who flies in from Timbuktu, gets a big buck and makes a presentation.
So, that’s what the book really came from, is to help people on the inside, who are very defensive about their skills in these areas and helping senior management, especially when there are lots of people running around like me, who are outside consultants. And so this really is what the book is about, it’s really the 7 disciplines of the trusted strategic advisor. That’s really what I’m talking about – how to become a trusted strategic advisor.
Well, you tee it up so well – that’s a juicy, engaging question, and I’m dying to know – what are some of those disciplines and difference-makers between those listened-to to versus ignored?
James E. Lukaszewski
Well, I happened to pick 7. I guess in working with the publisher we decided there could be 31, but… [laughter] Why don’t we do something that’s more digestible for people. So we settled on, and I had some editorial help in deciding this, on 7 disciplines, and very simply they are:
The first one is to be trustworthy – that means exhibit trust in the relationship with the people you’re dealing with.
The second one is to be a verbal visionary; and I talk about that because most senior leaders don’t read memos for advice in crises; they listen to other voices of knowledgeable people and make their decisions based on that.
The third one is to develop, really what I call a management perspective, meaning essentially if you walk in there… I’m a communicator, so if you walk in there and you talk communications, and that’s all you’ve got… Most leaders believe they’re great communicators, and in fact the more important the leader, the better they think they are, whether it’s true or not. And when I’m talking to my colleagues I always ask this question, “How many of you in this room have bosses who feel that they’re bad communicators?” Never seen a hand go up yet.
The fourth one is to think strategically. This is the hardest part for staff people. What does it mean to be strategic? And we talk about that.
Now, “Be a window to tomorrow” – this has to do with the concept of recognizing that everything that’s happened to somebody in a organization, a product, a service, an agency, has happened to somebody else before. And therefore we know a lot about it, because there are probably patterns we can figure happened as a part of the circumstance you’re now facing.
So, I teach people to be essentially students of patterns. And the thing about patters is that if you understand the patterns of events, you can actually predict what’s going to happen with some accuracy. I always warn my clients when I make predictions – and I’m always making predictions, that’s what they hire me for, what’s going to happen tomorrow – I always warn them I’m going to be wrong half the time. But here’s the scary part – I’m going to be right half the time, even in the most serious of circumstances.
The last 2 are to advise constructively. I teach actually a system of giving advice – it’s 6 simple steps, and we’ll talk about them if there’s time.
And then finally once you do all this stuff, you have to show the boss how to use what you’re talking about. Because this sort of thing coming from a staff person is pretty unusual. So you have this option really, this necessity of teaching the boss how to do what you’re telling them.
But the point of the book is this: There is this notion, this fallacy out there that there is a table somewhere that you’re trying to get to. You’ve heard this phrase, right: “I’ve got to get to the table.” Well, the people I work with, who 50% of what I do is with operating people, they know what I talk about ’cause their employees talk about it. And they always ask me this question, “Jim, where is this table you keep talking about? It isn’t anywhere near my office. And if I find this place, I have to go there. And Jim, if I go there, who’s going to be there?” And I said, “That’s easy. The same whiny internal voices you hear all the time.”
But the fact is that, the bottom line of the book is this: There is no such thing as a table; the table is a myth. It’s still there, it’s widely thought about, but it’s a myth for several important reasons. One is, no senior official I’ve ever worked for made a decision based on a gang of people in a room shouting out ideas for solving problems. You watch any meeting, senior people, and when their meeting breaks up, the boss will say, “Hey, Mary? You’ve got a minute? Stay back a second.” “Tom, you got a second?” That’s when the real meeting is going to start. Not with the 29 consultants who were in the room, and the 16 lawyers.
The only reason that bosses do that is because they’ve got to do something with all these people whose clocks are running. So they put them all in the same room and see how they perform, and maybe 1 or 2 of the 20 will actually break through enough to get an invitation to stay after the meeting, and make a real decision.
And the point of the book is really that you are the table. If you care enough about being a trusted strategic advisor, then you have to think differently about how you do your job, how you think, about what you do. And we can talk about what those soft changes are, but the point of the book is essentially: The table’s a myth. You have to do the skills I’m talking about, these 7 disciplines, and more, to really have the influence, the power, and the satisfaction that you’re really seeking by being an efficient, effective staff person. Make sense?
Okay, it absolutely does, and I’ve absolutely seen that happen with regard to folks hanging back in and so… Boy, there’s just so much content to dig in here, so with your 7 disciplines, could you share what are some kind of frequent mistakes among some of them? Like you say – “Be trustworthy” – that makes sense to me. But are there some ways that people damage their trust or appear non-trustworthy or they do a poor job of being a verbal visionary?
James E. Lukaszewski
Let’s talk about those. It’s very interesting and very important. The trustworthy part is really about changing the pattern of thinking of staff people. Most of us are communicators, as I mentioned, and most communicators believe that the solution to your problems is going to be communications. Well, it’s probably true to some degree. But before you can share your wisdom, you have to understand how the person you’re advising, the person who operates the business, thinks.
So you start essentially the thought process that beings this way. I always tell people: All problems in business, all questions in business and organizations are management questions before they’re any other kind of question. I don’t really care what your specialty is. Now if you start taking about your Human Resources solution, or your Security solution, or whatever, before you understand how management has to resolve the problems in the first place, or go above resolving them, they’re not going to hear you. They’re just not going to understand it.
So the very first 2 chapters of the book are about management – how do leaders lead? Where do they come from? Why do they want these kinds of jobs? ‘Cause they’re tough jobs, and bad things often happen. So, my standpoint is if you want to really understand how things happen, and you want to have the trustworthy part of these individuals, they have to understand from your perspective that you have their future, their thinking, their operational issues and questions in mind in some substantial way.
But I mentioned trust as the first discipline because there are sometimes problems with trust. One of the most important questions I get asked by consultants at every level is, “Jim, I work for a guy who I trust; I think he’s honorable, I’ve learned a lot from him over time, but he has a habit that he pursues that I’m trying to change. I’ve been working on this for a long time. How do you do this? How do you walk in and talk to these people and get them to change?”
And I said, “Pick a problem and tell me how long you’ve been working with it.” And I said I have a rule about ideas and suggestions to people who run things. It’s called the “10-day rule”. If they won’t do it in 10 days, they’re never going to do it. So get off it.
There’s a lot of things you can do to change people. Think about something else to rag on; otherwise whenever he or she sees you coming, he sees this mouth moving about something he’s not going to do. So, give it up in 10 days.
In the areas I just talked about, I’ve been doing this a long, long time. I’ve learned a couple of important things over time: One is that when a girl becomes a woman, at whatever age that is – around 13, 14, 15, 16, they become the person they’re going to be in life. They just really do. Boys reach this a little later. Boys are late to everything, but especially this. But when a guy reaches 17, he becomes pretty much the person he is going to be, and he just doesn’t change. It doesn’t change, no matter what the catastrophe is in your life. People generally have formed the way they’re going to be that early in life.
And it’s interesting from my perspective to understand this; it took me a while to get there. But I’m not in the change business in the way one thinks about walking in and changing how people live and those sorts of things. I’m in the truce business; my job is to help them understand what’s going to happen or what is happening, and the specific things that they can do to change it.
And in my practice, I’m kind of the last person you call. I sometimes say, “It’s me or the Sheriff” or “me and the Sheriff”. Because so many organizations and leaders try to do everything they can to do nothing, or not to do much of anything, just to see if it will pass, and when it gets so bad that you have to call me, it’s pretty bad. So, the trust part is an important part, ’cause it’s you trusting them as much as them trusting you. So trust matters.
If we go to the notion of being a verbal visionary, which is the second discipline – and I mentioned quickly before – most leaders tend to lead with their voices; they don’t really lead by memos or books or all that other stuff. They tell people what they want or show people what they want and then people are expected to respond. In crises this is especially true.
And one of the things that tends to be really crazy as far as internal staff is concerned is when bad things happen, the boss reaches out and finds all these consultants to come in to talk to. And so, what happens is the folks around the boss join hands, join arms, the staff are in there too, and they want to block anybody coming in from the outside to give the boss outside advice. But the problem with that is that if you’re running something, when trouble happens, you want a lot of input. You want to ask all kind of questions of all kinds of people. And you find that your staff is a huge barrier to getting this done.
And so I coach people and counsel people, “If you really want to have influence and show the boss that you’re trustworthy and really helpful, you get on the phone and call people that they should be talking to.”
And what I tell these staff people is that, “Your job is not to be a solution-finder, first of all because you cannot be. If you’re a staff person, you don’t run anything.”
No staff runs anything, and most staff people don’t know much about how to run a business anyway. That’s one of the reasons they’re staff people. So, you’re unlikely to come up with a solution, the so-called “silver bullet”. Your job as an advisor is to provide and think up options the boss can use from which to fashion a solution as the operator of the business.”
It’s a whole different way to think. And it’s an easier way to think; it’s much harder to think up a grand solution, particularly if you have trouble with addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, as many consultants do.
So the issue becomes, how do you give advice? And the notion I talk about is, you want to be a person who provides options for action that are chosen by the person you’re advising. And some of the options are really terribly small, but terribly vital. One of the questions I ask when I’m in a crisis situation – the first question is, “Who’s talking to the victims?”
And it’s a simple question, but it’s amazing the crazy answers that you tend to get. ‘Cause no one’s really thought about it. And the lawyers are obviously, “Don’t ever talk to these people, ’cause that’s big trouble.” And this is also one of the problems – we’ll talk about the legal issues maybe in a minute when you want to, but the verbal visionary is… Your goal is when you make recommendations to people, you always develop 3 options and then you let them choose.
‘Cause they want to choose – that’s why leaders lead and boss is boss. They want to make these decisions. But they want input, as opposed to solutions. It’s a subtle kind of a thinking, but it has a tremendous impact on the boss when somebody doesn’t walk in a say, “I’ve got the perfect solution. You do what I tell you, it’ll be fine.” ‘Cause he knows that’s never true, but he or she knows that if someone comes in and says, “Look. You can do nothing, you can do something or you can do something more. Let me share some ideas with you.” Does that make sense?
Well, I like that so much. Yes, it’s really resonating with that option perspective because it’s sort of… It almost turns me off if I’m in charge, I run my own business so I get to call the shots and stuff so… If I’m in charge and then someone tells me what I should or have to be doing, with Instagram or whatever, I already don’t like it. Even if they’re dead right, I already got my guard up, whereas if you showed me those options, like, “Pete, there are 5 great ways that you might want to consider promoting your podcast. One is through social media like Instagram…”
James E. Lukaszewski
If you run a business for 2 months, or even if you’re a supervisor for 2 months, you automatically learn that there’s half a dozen ways to do everything right and there’s half a dozen ways to do everything wrong. The point is, there’s more than one way to do everything. So the issue what the boss is doing by talking to all these voices when the crises are happening, bad situations are happening, they’re deciding their own evidence to justify what they’re going to be doing. And they want a lot of input for this sort of thing, and it’s very natural.
And it’s very important to recognize how they want that input. Business happens, and crises especially happen in real time. So let’s say you’re a communicator or an HR person, and you go to the briefing session, and that’s at 10:00 o’clock in the morning. You get the memo down to the boss by 2:00 in the afternoon, you get permission to come back and talk to them.
People running the place have been running into this problem ever since you left. So they’re going to have to stop and go back to 10:00 o’clock in the morning, where came from and listen to what you thought about all that time, and you’re just wasting time. It’s not helpful. And they’ll be polite, ’cause most organizations are relatively civil, and it’s a nice place to be, and that sort of thing.
But the moment you finish speaking, they jump ahead 5 hours where they are now. And it’s hard to understand. So when people ask, “What do these people want anyway? What do they want form us?” Well, what they want is very clear – the first thing that leaders want in these situations is advice on the spot. They don’t want you to lead; that’s one of the reasons they hire outside consultants.
So advice on the spot. People who have to leave and write a memo, are not very helpful. The memo might be terrific, but one thing you learn in crises is – and this is one of the great rules of crisis success – is that speed beats smart every time. Most companies get into trouble because they wait to think up… They treat a crisis as though it’s just another problem that’s a little worse than something else. So they get meetings and they waste time and they write memos, and all this stuff.
Meanwhile, victims are being created, the problems are getting worse rather than better because bad news always ripens badly. They ask me how it’s going to go, I say, “It will be worse tomorrow before it gets better.” That kind of thing.
James E. Lukaszewski
Yeah. So, anyway. The second thing that they generally want, is they want to know essentially what’s going to happen. Where are we going to be tomorrow based on where we are today, if we do the things that you tell us to do? They want people to be able to sort of forecast the future.
Not “sort of” – they want to know. If you were in a miserable situation, you’d like to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. And here again, you can forecast 2 or 3 different scenarios, depending on the decisions these people make. So they’re still in charge, but they’re getting a preview of what’s going on.
And interestingly enough, they want to know what to do, and what to do next. And I first learned this lesson early on in my career. I was one of 4 consultants chosen to be selected to coach this very senior insurance executive. The company was changing its whole marketing plan – it wasn’t a crisis necessarily, but they’re changing their whole marketing structure and they wanted to put this very famous executive they had there in charge of representing the company.
And he’d never done this before, although he’s very good in person, he’s a very well-known person actually. So the appointment to visit with him… He made the final choice. People selected us and tested us, but he made the final choice himself. And we had a 15-minute meeting with him and we were advised to be there early because he was on time, he had his day in 15-minute increments. So I was there early.
And I was greeted by this officious woman who actually said, “Mr. Lukaszewski, he’s waiting to see you.” Anyone who can pronounce my name correctly without help, makes me nervous. [laughter]
I’m ushered into this room, I walk up, shake his hand, I’d seen him before around town and that sort of thing, so I knew who he was. Anyway, he reaches across, shakes my hand, there’s a single paper on his desk – just a single paper. I looked down, and it’s actually a paper with one paragraph on it. And I can read that paragraph upside down and, it begins with Jim Lukaszewski, and how he pronounces my name. And it’s his briefing for this 15 minutes about who’s in his office.
So as soon as we shake hands and say “Yes”, the lady picks up the paper, takes it out, and leaves the doors go “Boom, boom, boom” shut.
He grabs your arm and you walk over to that window and he tells you the story of that view. That’s a minute and a half. You’ve only got 15. And once you start on the first window, you have to go to the second window. So that’s another minute and a half, he tells the story. He’s done this a million times. So you get to the third window; my brain is saying, “Jim, Jim, say something that matters, because the next wall has the door.” Which it did.
So anyway, so I stopped him and I said, “Would you answer a question for me? You’ve got 14,000 people in your company; I have 14 in mine. How do you do it every day? What’s the plan? How do you manage all these people and get something done? I’ve got so many problems with 14 people.”
And he looks out the window and he kind of smiles and says… Now this guy by the way had been the head of this company for 18 years, and before that he was a salesman and worked his way up. He says, “You know the Board hired me to have this job, the CEO’s job. Because I think they trusted me in the sense that at least half the decisions I would make would be the right ones, just inherently because of my experience, they trusted me.” He said, “Half of the rest of the decisions, they knew that I had 31 floors of experts below me, so I wouldn’t get us too badly in the ditch if I made a bad decision. The problem I had with the job”, he said, “is that last bunch of decisions, nobody told me what they were; nobody told me what they would be.” So what do you do? I said, “Do you make it up?” He said, “I wouldn’t call it making things up.” And then he looks out the window, smiles and says, “On the other hand, the higher somebody goes in an organization, the more they have to make it up every day because there’s nobody there to tell them what’s next.”
When you walk into these people’s rooms, they’re very civilized, so they talk to you about fishing or whatever it is that they know. But they don’t want to talk about fishing; they don’t care about your kids; they’ve got a problem. So if you spend 15 minutes yakking about your kids, the weather, the view and the rest of it, you’re wasting their time. And the more you talk like this, the more their brain is saying, “Who is this guy? Who let him in here? For God’s sake, I’ve got stuff to get resolved today.”
So, my book is about… My philosophy is that to be workable, it has to be simple, it has to be sensible, it has to be doable, it has to be achievable, and it has to be useful. If it’s outside any of those little boundaries, you’re wasting somebody’s time – more than likely, somebody more important than you. So that’s really what the book is about.
And so can you tell me, when you’re actually delivering that advice, you say there are 6 steps to doing that optimally. And what are those steps?
James E. Lukaszewski
Yeah, I call it the “3-minute rule”. There’re other similar systems to it, but they’re all long – they’re all 8 or 9 steps. So let me walk you through the advice-giving process. And this whole concept really is “Advise Constructively”. And it’s also another principle of mine called “Talking to Time”.
When I write memos, in a corporate setting especially, or letters, whatever they happen to be, they all have a word count at the top. And they have a word count at the top because, remember I talked about that executive living in 15-minute increments, they all do.
So if he gets a draft document from me that says “450 words”, it’s likely to be on the one side of a sheet of paper. They can deal with that. But if he gets a paper form me that has 10 pages and it says 4,500 words on it, what’s he going to read? He’s only going to read the first page. Doesn’t matter how brilliant I am, he’s only going to read the first page.
So the issue here is always thinking about the time you’re consuming of these people, and how they work – they make decisions on a whole lot of fragments of information, but they don’t necessarily make it based on some tome that you wrote in your senior year in college on some aspect of running a business. That’s what they have lower level people to do – to read the tomes, and boil them down to one page, so to speak.
So, the same is true when you’re actually giving advice. And when I teach this process, it’s a life changer. It changes your relationship with people. I tell them, “You have to talk about with your boss or the people you’re working with, how you give advice.” Let me walk through…. It only takes a minute to talk about these. 3 minutes to do, but a minute to talk about.
Each step is timed so that when you’re done with this strategy, you can … 3 minutes. And the reason I know that is because the metric that I’m using is 150 words per minute. In English-speaking cultures, we talk about 150 words a minute, so that means if in the process you use consumes 3 minutes, that means you have 450 words to give your information. And that’s where we’re headed with this 3-minute rule. So when you tell a boss, “I need 3 minutes every time”, you can actually be done in 3 minutes.
Sounds easy to say “Yes” to. 10 minutes? I don’t know. Three? How could I say “No”?
James E. Lukaszewski
[laughter] Here’s the 3 steps. The first step is what I call the “Introduction step”. 60 words, just under 30 seconds. And the purpose is to introduce what you’re talking about. So many times, even in crisis situations we walk into an office with somebody and we immediately start giving advice, you’re talking about something that’s important to us, obviously.
But this person was somewhere else before you walked in the room. This is especially true of operating executives. They spend their whole lives in meetings and presentations and decision-making circumstances. So when you walk in on something out of the blue, it may be fresh in your mind, but you need to introduce what you’re talking about. Why are we spending 3 minutes together?
The second step is also 60 words, and I call this essentially the “Information step”, or the “Explanation step”, excuse me. And what I’m talking about here is, why are we meeting? What is the urgency? What is the issue? What is the problem we’re talking about? This again is 60 words, just under 30 seconds. So we’re bringing this person along, getting them out of where they were mentally into the vein you want them to be in.
The third step is also 60 words, this is what I call the “Goal step”. And what this means is – and this is true – any leader in presentations, and so often when we make presentations, we don’t reveal the punchline until the end. And if you’re a boss, you want to know where it’s going. So you have to talk about what the outcome is going to be before you’ve even talked about what the circumstances are. And I call it the “Goal step” because I’ve learned this – if they’re going to say “No” in 20 minutes after a presentation, they’re going to say “No” after 60 seconds. So why not save them 18 minutes and get to know early? Why are you waiting until it’s all over? Sounds crazy, but it’s very, very helpful; it settles them down.
So, then we get to the fourth step, which is what I call the “Money step”. This is the option step. Now I’ve referred to this earlier. This is where you’re going to give this person 3 options to choose from, and I said the 3 options are: Doing nothing, which is always a strategy in almost any situation, and in crises half the time doing nothing is actually an important strategy, ’cause if you’re doing something and you don’t know things, it gets worse ’cause you made it worse. But anyway, doing nothing is one. I call it the “0% option”. The second option is doing something, which is the “100% option”. And then the third option is doing something more, the 125% option. You get a full minute – 150 words – to lay these out. And you can do this, and one of the reasons is you’re generally talking to pretty smart people; they can figure these things out. What you’re giving them is the pathway to sort things out in a very productive way.
Now if you do this, when you get to this point, there’s going to be a question the boss is going to ask you, which is step 5. And that question is, “Okay, you gave me 3 options. If you were me – without my perks, bonuses, company plan and the rest of it of course – which one would you choose?” And so many times I see good advice going forward and they get to this question, and somehow the advice-giver freezes, because they don’t want to choose. They want the boss to choose. So they haven’t thought about it. I call this the “Recommendation step”.
I tell people, “When you use this system, make a choice. If they don’t use it, who cares? If they don’t use anything you say – who cares? But make a choice, because they’re going to want you to do that. They’re going to want your input on what you’re suggesting.” 60 words again, just under 30 seconds.
And then, if you do make a choice, be ready for the final question, which is, “Why do you want to do choice B over A and C?” I call that the “Justification step”. And again 60 words, and if I got my word count right, it’s 450 words, 3 minutes.
But I’ve always thought that the reason I’m in the room is for two reasons: My selfish reason is I want to see how this goes. I want to see why people decide what they decide. And when you think about it, I’m more of a management anthropologist than a communicator. My job is to study and understand how leaders think, how leaders behave, how leaders decide.
And so I want to be there for as much of the time as I can be. So I’m less invested in the advice I give from the standpoint that it has to survive the whole process, which is awfully frustrating, or I just want to see how the thing works. I want to make a contribution to it. And the more of the process actually that I get to see, the more I get to help go on down the road.
I want to make sure we get to the cover off kind of the final piece, the Fast Faves. And so if you could share with us a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring again and again?
James E. Lukaszewski
I think my favorite quote in the world I work in is what I mentioned already, “Speed beats smart every time.”
Okay. And how about a favorite sort of resonant, nugget or piece that you share in your books or your training that gets people really nodding their heads and taking notes and re-tweeting?
James E. Lukaszewski
But my job is to work with very busy people who have lots on their mind, who are very smart, in many ways a lot smarter than me. But to get their attention, actually it’s not so much something I read, but it’s the techniques I use to get their attention.
There are a couple of things I use – for example you’ve noticed I’ve used a lot of numbers today when I talk. People often ask me, “Jim, when I’m talking in a meeting, nobody’s writing anything. I don’t know what they’re doing. But whenever you talk, people are writing. How does that happen?” And the answer is, I make them write. Because everything I talk about that matters, I use numbers. Small numbers – 3s, 4s. 5 is a big number, but the moment I mention, “There’s 3 things you have to do to get this done”, people reach for their pencils. That’s what I’m doing. My job is really to get their attention and get them to interact with what I’m talking about.
And what would you say is the best way to find you if folks want to learn more and check out your stuff?
James E. Lukaszewski
There’s lots of ways. My telephone number is 203-948-7029. That phone lives with me, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can text me and email me on that phone. I have a website, which is a very important website in crises – one of the most important around – it’s www.e911.com. You can catch me on the web, I’m on LinkedIn. It’s pretty easy to find me, if you Google me right now there’s about 78,000 entries that pop up when you Google James E. Lukaszewski. So, I should be findable.
Okay. And how about a favorite challenge or a parting call to action for those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?
James E. Lukaszewski
I think actually it would be something I refer to as the “Ingredients of Leadership”. I’ve written an autograph; if people want to have that, they can certainly send it to… But it’s to be positive, it’s to be constructive, it’s to be outcome-focused. That’s pretty much like “Do it now, challenge it now, change it now, fix it now.”
But my favorite of this list of attributes of leadership is the last one, which is to be essentially consistently and constantly incrementally improving what you do every day from your perspective. I actually have, if someone wants it, a couple of what I call “Self Audits” that will help them do that, sort out their lives a lot better. That’s what I’m about – better lives, being more influential, really being a happier person. It’s the only important word.
Amen. Well, Jim, thanks so much. This has been a lot of fun, and I’m certain I’ve got some takeaways, and I think everyone else did too. So, I wish you tons of luck in the crises and all that you’re up to here!
James E. Lukaszewski
Thanks so much, Pete. Good talking with you!
James E. Lukaszewski