Newsletter June 2012



Leadership & Communication
Insights from Lars Sudmann

Welcome to this edition of my newsletter on leadership and communication.In this newsletter I will be elaborating on useful techniques I learned while working with Investor Relations teams. Do you wonder how senior executives can sometimes answer a myriad of questions with poise and grace? Do they have super powers?

I will explain some of the methods they use and what can be learned to improve your leadership and communication skills.

Additionally, as promised last time, I have included some insights from the Next Web conference that took place in Amsterdam.

In the section ‘links worth clicking’ you will find an article from Stanford professor Robert Sutton on ‘good bosses’ now vs. 20 years ago. Hint: not too many changes.

Enjoy the reading!

Kind regards,

Lars Sudmann


The magic preparation tip to be prepared for any leadership challenge

Have you ever been interviewed or had a Q&A session after a conference speech?

I vividly remember the scene after one of my first professional speeches on leadership and life balance. The speech went well, but then came the Q&A.

“Lars, what is in your view the best company when it comes to Life Balance?”

My reply was neither super-quick witted nor very insightful.

“Well,” I began awkwardly, “You know, my current employer…”. I did not leave the best impression.

After my speech I reviewed some senior corporate executives on TV, who always seem to have all the answers ready. Have you ever wondered how senior level politicians and business leaders can answer almost any question, no matter how detailed or specific?

For example: Interviewer: “What is the impact of oil on your business in Argentina?”

Executive: “Ah, John, this is a great question, let me explain, the impact is such that…”

Are they smarter and more knowledgeable than the rest of us? No, the secret is that they have a system for answering. They have a list of FAQ’s with key answers that they regularly study. Senior politicians and executives have support staff who prep and brief them on the hot issues, and who have a list of company/party position answers of up to a hundred questions. Then once a week or even once a day the list gets updated with the top 10 hot topics or so.

What can be learnt from this approach, even if you do not have a department/staff ready?

  • Before a (big) meeting, ask yourself: what are the top 5 questions that might come up? We know the typical questions of e.g. the General Manager or of the Finance Director? ‘ What’s the background? What is the payoff? What is the impact on profit margin? Etc.
  • Practice an important presentation with a friend, coach or spouse. Then ask them: What questions come to mind? What would you ask me? Note down your answers.

When conducting a Q+A session after your team meeting or presentation, your answers will then be concise and to the point. A delivery tip: of course don’t repeat your answers verbatim.

And if a totally new question is asked – don’t panic. Answer it spontaneously, or say you will get back, then research your answer…and keep on building you FAQ list.

Applying this method will help you sharpen your topic. And it will also give you an appearance of ‘magic’ and being on top of things. (Thinking about FAQ’s is the ultimate version of ‘putting yourself in the shoes of your audience’).

Building an FAQ list has helped me greatly. Have you made any experiences with this?
I look forward to learning
about them.

Article: Start-up technologies for professionals and remote teams

I recently visited the ‘Next Web’ conference that took place in Amsterdam. Overall it was a great conference and I recommend it for anybody who wants to learn what will be hot and ‘next’ in terms of startups.

Links worth clicking

Robert Sutton, co-author of ‘The Knowing-Doing Gap’ and a Stanford Professor shares his thoughts and results from a study that compares what people considered a ‘good boss’ in 1992 vs. today, e.g. by looking at studies at Google. Read the outcome here.

The six enemies of greatness
Forbes. Useful and not at all cheesy reminders on how to achieve greatness that you can find here. I especially love the simple and doodle-like visuals – see how you can create an impact with very simple drawings? Try these as well in your next team meeting instead of PowerPoint.
In this thought-provoking article, Lisa Bodell shares ‘5 ways how process kills productiviy’. A controversial topic in multinational companies these days as processes have proliferated. Read it here.