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5 minutes

That’s how long I wait.

After that I’ll leave the call and write a note asking if anything got in their way.

I always give a second chance. But not a third.

Fortunately, that rule is rarely needed.

How do you handle late comers and no-shows?

Effective communication

In school, you’re taught to write a commentary. But rarely do you find a teacher who teaches you how to comment effectively.

Usually, you will pass the exam if your text ticks the boxes, regardless of whether the content is genuinely convincing or insightful.

Many businesses approach their work documents in the same manner. They write (for example) a strategy document, but not necessarily an effective strategy.

It sounded good during the strategy retreat and it ticked all the boxes. But a few weeks later, there’s no progress.

Feels very much like school, season 2. Only that in business it’s not about getting a good grade. Customers don’t buy because your strategy document is textbook perfect. They buy because your strategy works in real life.

That requires effective words, not just words that tick the textbook case.

What’s often overlooked — in school just as much as in business – is that this is deeply intertwined. You need to think it through, but you also need to articulate it effectively.

It’s not substance or style. It’s both. Driven by the will to make an actual difference.

Can you trust your team?

You can’t trust your team.

I mean, you gave them the freedom to make choices. But they didn’t make the right ones. Certainly not how you would have decided. Wasn’t that obvious? Past experience is proof that you can’t trust your team.

Or wasn’t it so obvious after all?

What if the goal wasn’t specific enough?
What if the why wasn’t shared?
What if their choice was a good one, only different?
What if your communication wasn’t clear?
What if they saw something you didn’t?

Obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious to them. And vice versa. If your team doesn’t make the choices that you hoped they would make, consider

  • whether your communication was clear
  • whether their choice might actually be good
  • whether they really had the freedom to make choices

How does a hero look like?

We heroize people for the wrong reasons.

For taking wild risks.
For pulling all-nighters.
For being constantly busy.
For winging it on the stage.
For constantly being on call.
For micromanaging projects.
For multitasking excessively.
For enduring extreme stress.
For attending every meeting.
For saving it single-handedly.
For hustling it in the last minute.
For pushing through despite burnout.
For neglecting their health for “success”.
For prioritizing work over personal relationships.
For making decisions on the spot without consulting the team.

I mean I get it. It’s the stuff that great stories are made of.

It’s got thrill, tension, last-minute saves, all the while being constantly on the brink of failure.

Pure adrenaline.
One person saving the whole thing.

But is it heroic?

Is it something we should applaud them for?

Is it something we would want to build an organization on?

Sometimes extraordinary efforts are necessary, but should they be the norm? Should we continue to glorify the chaos?

Or would we rather try to find a way …

For taking calculated risks.
For treating health as a priority.
For running only essential meetings.
For finding balance between work and rest.
For planning and managing time effectively.
For recognizing and addressing burnout early.
For managing stress through healthy practices.
For pacing the work to avoid last-minute rushes.
For collaborating and seeking help when needed.
For delegating tasks and empowering their teams.
For focusing on one task at a time with full attention.
For preparing thoroughly for important presentations.
For making informed decisions after consulting the team.
For valuing and nurturing personal relationships alongside work.
For maintaining clear boundaries between work and personal time.

Some of those might even be boring stories, but then again, that’s often the stuff that sustainable success is made of.

It’s got thoughtfulness, resilience, consistent efforts, all the while maintaining balance and clarity.

Drama free.

Now, isn’t that heroic?

Isn’t that something we should applaud them for?

Isn’t that something we would want to build an organization on?

Or would we rather continue glorifying the chaos?

Stories that change the world

The stories that change the world are stories that get told.

No matter how groundbreaking your story is,
it can’t change the world until you tell it.

If you don’t tell yours,
other people’s stories will fill the void.

They are not flawless, either.
They are not perfectly eloquent.

But they get told.
That’s why they change the world.

The people behind these stories started to tell them.
Somewhere. Often in an unpolished form.

But they told it.
That’s why they change the world.

You can always polish it later.
Listen to the feedback and tweak it.

But you need to tell it.
That’s how you change the world.

So, what’s your story?
We’d love to hear it.

Clear vs. clever

Clear beats clever almost every time.

So, it’s tempting to conclude:
Don’t be clever, be clear!

I think you shouldn’t.

Because, of course, clear plus clever beats both.

Be clever and clear!

The better story wins

From a communication angle, influence is a pretty simple game: Whoever tells the better story wins.

It’s not the most accurate facts, the most complete analysis, or even the best intentions.

It’s the best story.

Which means that if you care for the facts, the analysis, and the intention, you need to get better at weaving them into a compelling story.

If you don’t, the facts remain facts etc. … while other people’s stories connect to the audience.

PS: We need, of course, an understanding of what makes a story “better”. Would love to hear your take on that!

Things get heated

Heated discussions make for great drama in a TV show, but who likes that in real life?

Let alone in high stakes meetings?

Sure, it makes for a great story when Taylor saves the day at the last minute with his quick-wittedness, persuading the board to approve the plan. Emotions were flying high, the situation was on a knife’s edge. But Taylor just rose to the occasion with his sharp remarks.

Many of us dream of pulling off something like that, visualizing ourselves being the quick-witted hero in tense moments. It feels like the gold standard—the stuff heroes are made of.

Or is it?

Because Cameron handled it very differently with her board. She foresaw the conflict. She made calls beforehand. Listened to their objections. And addressed concerns.

The board meeting went smoothly. Boring almost. Definitely not the kind of story you’d brag about at the bar this evening.

And yet, they arrived at a solution that everyone was happy with, no-one lost their temper, and everyone’s status remained intact.

What would you prefer?

I think that quick-wittedness is very much overrated. I’d certainly prefer the thoughtful “slow-wittedness” of Cameron.

How about you?

Wait, why care about finding better words?

Maybe because precise language can shape your brand’s identity and make it memorable and trustworthy? Or because clear and compelling messages attract customers, foster loyalty, and drive sales?

Hm, all true.

But I think that a better reason is because …

The right words can put a smile on your customer’s face.

They can make Darren, who’s faced a lot of setbacks recently, feel seen and heard.

They can turn a simple hello into a warm embrace, even on a Zoom call.

Transform a moment of confusion into a moment of clarity.

Turn an ordinary message into a cherished memory.

Make difficult conversations a bit easier.

Lift the team’s spirits after the bad news about the project cancellation broke.

Because they can make the new team member feel that they belong from the very first moment.

Or because they can spark joy and laughter when things are about to get too serious.

But perhaps, simply because you can.

In the end, it’s a choice.

Picture of Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz