July 2015

I coach folks on personal impact.

Sometimes, I get a little fancy with my coaching.

And then, once in a while, I am reminded that the simplest adjustment often produces the most compelling results.

I stumbled on a chat about upspeak and vocal fry last week, moderated by Terry Gross, host of the Fresh Air program on National Public Radio. Upspeak describes the tendency by some folks to raise their inflection at the end of a sentence. The individual wishes to make a declarative statement but what comes out sounds like a question.

Vocal fry describes the habit of drawing out ends of words and sentences with a low, creaky voice.

Both habits are often ascribed to women. I coach many men, however, who engage in upspeak and vocal fry, as well. These habits significantly impede personal impact.

I chuckle at a line of reasoning proposed by one of Ms. Gross’ guests.

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I heard this phrase last week.

The Art of the Possible.

Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist for The Washington Post, uses it on a television program to describe the outcome of the Iranian Nuclear Arms deal.

We’re not discussing that deal here. But the notion of what’s possible is of compelling interest in every daily interaction. And the art of how we get there.

My colleague Indra Guertler, Professor at the Simmons College School of Management, introduces a class of 16 seasoned business leaders to a financial case study. It involves a contract between a business and the US Government. Divided into 4 teams, folks are asked to do a bit of financial forecasting, assess risk, and come up with a financial negotiation strategy with the government entity.

Each team conjures a clear financial negotiation strategy. And each strategy, Indra reveals, falls well short of what would have been attainable.

The possible eludes.

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Veteran Broadway star Patti LuPone, the original Evita, is fed up.

During last Wednesday’s evening performance of Shows for Days, a play in which LuPone is starring at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center Theater, LuPone walks offstage and approaches a woman sitting in the second row. The woman has been texting for minutes at a time throughout the play’s first act. Without breaking character or saying a word, LuPone takes the cellphone from the woman. Walks off.

The audience gasps. Applause erupts.

When is enough enough?

This audience member’s conduct is, of course, standard behavior in most business meetings. We sit in our chair, beam a smile, feign interest while our hands are under the table, feverishly monitoring our email stream, sending messages.

I know how compelling this impulse is within myself.

We have convinced ourselves that nobody notices. That it doesn’t bother anyone. Doesn’t get in the way.

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I think of it on Independence Day.

The Miami Classic Music Station plays Americana. Aaaron Copland. Stephen Sondheim. George Gershwin. John Williams. 

Soaring music. Lush and expansive. It stirs me.


Everyone of us, day in and day out, in very mundane ways, has the power to inspire others. It’s hard to do if we do not know how to inspire ourselves.

I’m reading Faisal Hoque’s inspiring new book, just published. Survive to Thrive, co-authored with Lydia Dishman.

I am moved by the book’s 9 inspiring stories of resilience by successful entrepeneurs. Each story ends with 3 suggested daily practices. One practice, in particular, resonates with me: I am developing healthy rituals.

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