Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What You Say

Be mindful of what you say — inside or outside of a board meeting.

It is a learning point from Walter Green, former chairman and CEO of Harrison Conference Services, a leading conference center management company. He has written a book, "This Is the Moment" (Hay House), that will be coming out this fall in which he describes a fascinating personal undertaking. Over the course of a year he went on the road to reconnect with 44 people who played an important role in his life — at which time he expressed to them his gratitude for how they shaped the person he became.

It was striking to him to realize that, often unaware at the moment, he did his own fair share of shaping.

Green writes: "We all do some things in life automatically, and that doesn't diminish the value of them. As my friend Stephen Kaufman, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School (and one of my 44), told me, 'Many times we fail to realize that simple, off-the-cuff comments or reactions that don't really register with us can touch important nerves or strike chords in others. My students and former colleagues often drop me notes referring to something I did or said five or ten years ago as having had a deep impact on them, yet at the time they just seemed to me like ordinary conversations with no particular import.' "

Green's important conclusion: "To be reminded of the variety of ways in which we impact people — no matter what our condition or position or locale — left an indelible impression on me. Being made aware of the value to others of what we do or say made me vividly conscious of how I might be more helpful in the future as well."

A sound piece of advice for modulating your formal interactions — and perhaps even more consequentially, those casual tossed-off comments — with your management team and fellow board members.