Drops from the Fire Hose – November 21, 2012 – Harvard Business Review

Disarm Your Audience When You Present — Harvard Business Review

Resistance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you prepare for it, you’ll sharpen your presentation and stand a much better chance of winning your audience over. By considering different points of view and addressing doubts and fears before they become roadblocks, you’ll demonstrate an open mind — and invite your audience to respond in kind.

How Ethical Are You? — Harvard Business Review

HBR readers back in the day saw themselves as somewhere in a middle ground, ethically — less ethical than professors or doctors but more ethical than government officials, lawyers, elected politicians, and union officials (in that order). If there were a difference between the two groups, it was that HBR readers of 1976 were somewhat more cynical than their counterparts of 1961 in that they were more quick to attribute questionable behavior to their colleagues than to themselves.

That was a mistake, said Brenner and Mollander, suggesting that managers needed to reexamine a number of their unwisely held assumptions. You will face ethical dilemmas in which values will conflict, they warned; don’t use that to rationalized unethical behavior. Don’t expect ethical codes to solve your problems. And finally, they advised in the strongest possible terms, decades before the communications revolution let loose by the internet, don’t deceive yourself into thinking you can hide unethical actions. If you wish to avoid being the victim of someone else’s ethical code, make self-enforcement work.

Have the Courage to Be Direct — Harvard Business Review

When we avoid conflict or try to skirt directness, it does a disservice to all involved, and often just plain wastes time. Consider the potential outcomes if you avoid directness:

• People leave the meeting thinking it was a good session, but they are not actually aligned, or
• People leave a little foggy as to the purpose and next steps.

Both outcomes lead to confusion, and often passive-aggressiveness ensues. And things often only get worse people then seek resolution through email and texts — such communication methods with have a tendency to spiral in the wrong direction.

Mitt Romney’s “Gift” Gaffe Is Not the Comment of a Savvy Businessman — Harvard Business Review

To see how obviously wrongheaded Romney’s comments are, imagine, for a moment, that we’re not talking about rival politics, but about rival businesses. Imagine that Main Street cuts a swath right through the middle of Small Town, USA. On the right is Red-Mart, while across the street, on the left, is Blue-Mart. The stores are rivals; each has about 50% of market share most of the time. But recently, Blue-Mart pulled ahead, and Red-Mart watched its margins decline. According to the Small Town Herald, this is mostly because town demographics are changing, and young people, minorities, and women (among others) prefer the products offered by Blue-Mart. Also, Blue-Mart recently invested in a comprehensive customer database that lets them contact their customers based on previous shopping history. Blue-Mart’s CEO and sales reps also seem to have a decent knack for connecting with customers.

Across the street at Red-Mart, it’s a different story. Red-Mart’s shelves are stocked with things that some townspeople want a lot; but a lot of townspeople don’t want at all. Red-Mart’s CEO isn’t as personable as Blue-Mart’s, and his customer database is prone to crashing. Plus, it seems that some of Red-Mart’s reps developed an unfortunate habit of saying really horrible things to customers on the topic of rape.

And yet, even as their margins erode, Red-Mart — the Republican Party — can’t figure out how to turn the situation around. Most Red-Mart employees seem to be insisting they just have a marketing problem; they say the products on the shelves don’t need to change, as long as they can change the store’s messaging. A few insist that they just have a talent development problem; if they get reps who look more like the townspeople, or who are better salesmen, or who can stop themselves from talking about rape, people will come back to the store. And a very, very few say no, they’ve got a product problem; they need to change the substance of what’s on their shelves.



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