Leading and Communicating in Difficult Times by Karen Friedman

August 6, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a realistic risk exercise involving scores of local state and federal officials. The purpose of the day- long event was to allow participants to implement emergency response plans, coordinate activities and practice responding to a potential incident that could threaten public safety in order to protect the public should a real life emergency occur.

As an observer and evaluator of communication tactics and strategies, what impressed me most was the constant attention of every participant across multiple agencies to protect those who were affected by the threatening situation that was unfolding. To their credit, no one asked how they could protect their organizations reputation but instead at every turn of events, the focus was on protecting the public from harm. No one tried to hide information. No one even talked about damage control. In role playing scenarios, they communicated what they knew as often and as quickly as possible in order to control information and minimize risk.

We can all learn from this group of admirable people whose sense of responsibility prompted them to do the right thing. While society sometimes reserves different rules for celebrities and high powered people, no one should be immune from doing the right thing regardless of income, status, power or relationships. As a leader, it is your job to set the bar and no personal relationship regardless of circumstances should compromise the integrity of your business or those around you. Period.

Regardless of the nature of your business or uniqueness of company culture, there should be a steadfast sameness when it comes to responsible behavior and communication.  Applying these four golden rules will help you do the right thing when the wrong thing is taking place.

Tell it all and tell it fast

Not swiftly and decisively addressing problems makes situations worse. In today’s 24/7 news cycle, it’s more important than ever to report your own bad news and tell people what you are doing to make sure it never happens again.

Make it personal

Approach every situation as if it was happening in your own family. What would you do if your own child or loved one was a victim? How would you right the wrong? Speak with the same unbridled compassion and outrage you would unleash if something unspeakable happened to someone you love.

Sins of spin

Spinning should be reserved for bicycle classes at the gym, which is why you should take the word spin out of your vocabulary.  Strive to create an environment of straight talk which speaks the truth as you know it to foster trust and respect.

Tough transparency

Strong leaders welcome tough questions and answer them openly and honestly even when they don’t have all of the answers. They often choose unpopular paths that are fraught with resistance. Cowards put their tails between their legs and take the path of least resistance. When leaders place their own interests before what’s best for those they serve, they take everyone down with them.

Karen Friedman

Karen Friedman

Karen Friedman is a professional communication coach, speaker and chief improvement officer at Karen Friedman Enterprises. She is the author of “Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners” and winner of the Enterprising Woman of the Year Award.


Book Review: Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners by Karen Friedman

November 14, 2010

Shut Up and Say Something by Karen Friedman

Shut Up and Say Something by Karen Friedman

2010, Praeger
Hardcover, 249 pages, $44.95

HBA Greater Philadelphia member, 2010 Leadership Conference seminar leader, and HBA Greater Philadelphia chapter speaker Karen Friedman has written a practical, easy to use reference guide for business communications. As her title implies, people often talk a lot and say very little. Karen set out to correct that and empower you to communicate clearly, concisely and passionately in order to impact others with your intended messages.

This practical guide is organized from Z to A in order to “remind readers to keep the end goal “Z” in mind when faced with daily communication challenges. Each entry is stand alone so that while you can read the book from start to finish, you can also pick it up and focus on the section that relates to your current challenge from Z for zip it—“you never have to explain what you do not say” to A for approachable attitudes that remind us that “the vibe you give off is the one you get back.” Karen sprinkles the book with first hand experiences from her years as a communications consultant and as a television reporter. Her coaching notes give you the take home messages from the section in short, actionable bites. Sticky, easy to remember sound bites are in boxes to stand out. Some examples:

  • Great leaders empower others by making them feel important so they want to follow.
  • Executive presence is how you use your personal style to empower and connect with others.
  • If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Clearly Karen understands business communication well enough to explain it simply.

Reviewed by Carol Meerschaert, MBA, RD

HBA members who have written books are invited to submit them for review. We also welcome suggestions for business and leadership books to review. HBA members can volunteer to write book reviews. Contact Carol Meerschaert, HBA director of marketing and communications for details.

Get to the Point: Karen Friedman Practices What She Preaches at HBA Dine Around Event at Davio’s in Philadelphia

July 24, 2010

by Nancy Powell Connelly

“Get to the point,” was the message from Karen Friedman’s dynamic presentation at the HBA Greater Philadelphia Chapter’s Dine Around event at Davio’s restaurant in Philadelphia. Friedman, a leading communication coach, used all the techniques she shared with her rapt audience in making the points in her talk, “Powerful and Persuasive Presentations and Communications.”

Make your point early
In this age of tweeting important messages in 140 characters, Friedman advises that you get to the point in the beginning of your pitch or presentation. “People remember what they hear first and last,” which she demonstrated very effectively with a short exercise. She recited a list of 10 or 15 words which we then had to write down after the fact. We remembered the first and last words AND one included one that was NOT even on the list as we struggled to remember all the info. So, make your point and don’t belabor it.

What does your audience care about?
Whether you are making a speech or presentation, sales call, or meeting with your boss, think about why your audience cares? If it’s improving the bottom line, creating benefits for customers, improving productivity, whatever, speak to what is important to the audience.

Reinforce the point
Friedman was a reporter for much of her career and said, “It comes down to the story. Make the point of the story. Back it up with examples, analogies, case studies, whatever reinforces the point. People remember stories and examples.”

Be passionate
Make your audience believe that YOU believe in what you are saying. Make eye contact. Be excited about your ideas and your message. Use plain language and speak to everyone in the room regardless of the size of your audience.

And passionate she was as Friedman competed against a delicious Davio’s menu that was enjoyed by about 40 members of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of HBA during this casual, very interactive event. A great interactive presentation, followed by questions and discussion, networking, and door prizes made this event informative – and fun!

Read the review of Karen’s new book: Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners by Karen Friedman


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