01 December 2018

With Peace on Earth

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime

Then from each black, accursed mouth,
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"


(C) Bredholt & Co.

01 November 2018

Delivering Exceptional Service

"From now on the essence of this hotel will be speed.  If a customer asks you for a three-minute egg, give it to them in two minutes.  If they ask you for a two-minute egg give it to them in one minute.  If they ask you for a one-minute egg, give them the chicken."

--Groucho Marx, "A Night in Casablanca"

Recently Uber Technologies, Inc. let it be known that within three years the company intends to expand its services to include a fleet of food-delivery drones called, UberEats.  

Instead of having your Domino's Deluxe Pizza brought to the house or apartment by a friendly delivery person, that box, wafting with the smell of your favorite toppings, would sail through the air landing at your doorstep, hot and ready to eat.

While UberEats already has a ground delivery service, the announced timeline calls for a drone service to be in place by 2021 according to the original Uber posting on its website. 

Several big tech companies, Amazon and Uber among them, are keeping a George Jetson-future in front of hungry investors, and media.  On the ground over $3.5 billion has been invested in food and grocery delivery services in 2018.  Instacart, Inc., Postmates, Inc., and DoorDash, who delivers Wendy's hamburgers and other menu items, are vying for ways to carve out positions in this emerging market.

In the meantime  

This past summer I made a business trip from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Minneapolis, by way of Detroit, that somewhat resembles an obstacle course.  During each segment I became increasingly dependent on others to help get me to my destination safely and on time by delivering exceptional service:

Amtrak Station in Kalamazoo.  

When my train was posted late, Tod, the Amtrak station manager, offered to find a ground transportation service at Dearborn Station, about 30 minutes from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.  There's nothing unusual about a late Amtrak train.  That happens more than it should.  

What was different on that Thursday in June was Tod's effort to make sure we didn't miss our flight in Detroit.

Amtrak Station in Dearborn.

Eddie, our polite and knowledgeable driver, navigated heavy congestion and construction between the train station and airport.  All for a reasonable fee.       

Delta in Terminal A.

As it turns out my dash to the gate was unnecessary.  Delta 23 was running a little behind and boarding had yet to begin.  Then Delta announced that the scanning system for reading boarding passes was down.  All 167 passengers on this oversold flight would have to be boarded manually through the backup system.  

Susan, the gate agent, called for boarding and began a tedious process of getting passengers onto the Boeing 737-900 plane.  I asked how she felt about being alone at Gate 70 in Terminal A with a broken system. Her response:  "You do what you have to do."  

Within a reasonable amount of time, everyone was boarded and Delta 23 nonstop to Minneapolis was safely on its way.  

Hertz at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport.

I returned to Kalamazoo by renting a Hertz car at Detroit Metro Airport and driving two hours west on Interstate 94 to the Portage Road exit. In my haste to fill out the rental agreement (gas, mileage, time) and get home, I left my mobile phone in the front seat.  

Fortunately, when associate manager, Michael, did the vehicle inspection, he found the phone and held it for me.   

With appreciation

I am grateful to Tod, Eddie, Susan, and Michael for their spirit and quality service.  Each acted as much out of who they are as what they may have been trained to do.  

What happens next?

Who knows what will unfold when it comes to delivering products and services through a variety of methods, including by air.  With technology and artificial intelligence advancing at rapid speeds the sky may indeed be the limit.  

It's important to find ways for your business to stand out among the competition.  One path to success is providing exceptional face-to-face customer service.  When necessary, give them the chicken.  

Delivering what's promised on a daily basis is not easy to do--but that's the goal.  

For now, your Domino's Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza will still be arriving by car, truck, or SUV--delivered by a mortal being.  When The Wall Street Journal contacted Uber about a flying drones program the company removed that posting from its website.  

Apparently, the air version of UberEats has been temporarily grounded.      


(C) Bredholt & Co. 

01 October 2018

What a Game!

"You'll like baseball.  It's a civilized pastime."

--From the Broadway musical, "Ragtime" 

Fifty years ago this month the Detroit Tigers won the 1968 World Series 4 games to 3 over the exceptionally talented St. Louis Cardinals (Curt Flood, Mike Shannon, Orlando Cepeda).  Detroit (Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Jim Northrup) was down 3 games to 1 and Tigers fans, including me, thought there was little chance the Motor City team could win a seemingly insurmountable three straight.  Especially with Game 7 being played under the Arch in St. Louis against future Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Gibson.  

Detroit pitcher Mickey Lolich won three complete-game victories and was named World Series MVP.  The improbable comeback was due in large part to Lolich's left arm--and Willie Horton's perfect throw in Game 5 to catcher Bill Freehan who tagged out Lou Brock as Brock decided to stand up and not slide into home plate. 

A baseball era ended Thursday, October 10th at 3:07 p.m., Central Time, with the final out at Busch Memorial Stadium. The Tigers winning 4-1 before a sellout crowd of 54,692.

There are several historical observations about the '68 World Series in which the Tigers were managed by Mayo Smith and the Cardinals by another future Hall of Famer, Red Schoendienst.  Most notably is that was the last World Series where American and National League champions would enter a Fall Classic without going through a playoff process.  In succeeding years TV money, seven figure contracts, best of five and best of seven series, plus team expansions, would launch baseball into a totally different era.  

That was then       

If the business model of professional baseball was about to change in significant ways so was the nature and development of its future talent.  

Five decades later what is the status of baseball pipelines such as Little League, high schools, college, farm systems, and minor leagues?  

"They can't play catch," says Jack Thompson, a 40-year high school baseball coach from California who spoke with The New York Times.  While Thompson says young players can scorch line drives, hit 400-foot homers, and hurl blazing fastballs, these future major leaguers have to be taught how to play catch.  

The story makes clear that the new "holy grail" is a college athletic scholarship.  However, in pursuit of that goal "the fundamentals are falling by the wayside in favor of flashier skills like big-league-style hitting and pitching," according to sportswriter, Bill Pennington.  

The report adds that private coaching, specialized camps, and travel teams, all have the same objective--to place youth players in college recruiting showcases.  

As a result of these new values, Pennington concludes, "a generation of top ballplayers has, in most cases, spent little time learning how to accurately throw across the diamond; catch a fly ball; field a ground ball and turn a double play; run the bases effectively; make a tag at a base, or, God forbid, bunt."

Where are the parents?

I shared a Southwest flight from Kansas City to Chicago with a sports consultant who specializes in identifying young talent for major colleges and professional sports.  What I learned is that the driving force for these kinds of changes in player development and recruiting is often the parent.  

My seatmate said that even the advent of newly designed uniforms by traditional football programs (Notre Dame; University of Miami; Iowa State; Arizona State; Army and Navy; Texas A & M) is an enticement to high school athletes and their families to come and be part of something new.  

Well-rounded players

Let's take this idea of specialization and move it into the marketplace.

What are employers looking for? 

They want employees who are talented but can also work as a team.  Who know how to play catch, and maybe hit an occasional home run.  They're after personalities that are more fully developed in all aspects of life.  Those who are composed and balanced in their dealings with colleagues and customers.  

There's no going back in time and the past was never as good as we remember it to be.  Nonetheless, hard work, proficiency, and maturity are traits as desirable in people today as they were fifty years ago.  For inspiration, look at the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals whose 1968 rosters were filled with players of that kind.  


(C) Bredholt & Co.


01 September 2018

On Becoming a CEO

"Nobody knows how to be a CEO. It's something you have to learn.  It's a very lonely job."

--Ben Horowitz

In his valedictory "Corner Office" column, Adam Bryant summarizes a decade of interviews with 525 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).  "What a rare vantage point a CEO has for spotting patterns about management, leadership and human behavior," he notes.

What else can we learn from a rich trove of CEO wisdom?


After sorting through the insights, Bryant begins by offering three themes from the "Corner Office" interviews:

1. Applied curiosity.  CEOs tend to question everything.  They want to know how things work, and wonder how they can be made to work better.  They're curious about people and their back story.

They wonder less about the right career path and make the most of whatever path they're on.  Lessons learned from their experiences are crucial to their development.

2. Challenges are motivating.  The last thing this category of leadership wants is to be comfortable.  

3. Management discipline.  On the way to the top the focus is on doing the current job well.  If the concern is more about the job you want than the job you have, that's a problem.  And those nearby can sense when you're emotionally absent from the current position.  There's nothing wrong with thinking and planning ahead.  But the focus should be on building a track record of success.  When you do, people notice.

It's not simple

Leadership is a series of paradoxes.  For example, needing humility and confidence at the same time.

The highest attribute


Making the right hiring decisions

If you could ask somebody only one question, and you had to decide on the spot whether to hire them based on their answer, what would it be?

"What are the qualities you like least and most in your parents?"  (Bob Brennan, CA Technologies)

A CEO story

As told by Bill Green, chief executive of Accenture ...

"I was recruiting at Babson College.  This was in 1991.  The last recruit of the day--I get this resume'. I get the blue sheet attached to it, which is the form I'm supposed to fill out with all this stuff and his resume' attached to the top. The resume' is very light--no clubs, no sports, no nothing. Babson 3.2 (GPA).  Studied finance. Work experience: Sam's Diner, references on request.  

"It's the last one of the day, and I've seen all these people come through strutting their stuff and they've got their portfolios and semester study abroad. Here comes this guy. He sits.  His name is Sam, and I say:  'Sam, let me just ask you, what else were you doing while you were here?'  

"He says, Well, Sam's Diner.  That's our family business, and I leave on Friday after classes, and I go to work till closing.  I work all day Saturday till closing, and then I work Sunday until I close, and then I drive back to Babson.'  I wrote, 'Hire him,' on the blue sheet. He had character. He faced a set of challenges. He figured out how to do both."

What else should we know?

"It's work ethic, Green said."  "You could see the guy had charted a path for himself to make it work with the situation he had.  He didn't ask for any help.  He wasn't victimized by the thing. He just said, 'That's my dad's business, and I work there.'  Confident.  Proud."

A desirable trait

What's to admire about successful CEOs?  The columnist Bryant concludes: "They own their job, whatever it is."


(C) Bredholt & Co.


01 August 2018

Lessons from Tham Luang Cave

"We're not sure if this was a miracle, science or what."  

--Thai Navy SEALS posting on Facebook

A courageous and exhaustive 18 day rescue effort to bring 12 soccer players, 11-16 years of age, out of a treacherous cave in Mae Sai, Thailand had an innocent beginning.  A decision on 23 June 2018 to celebrate a team member's 16th birthday by exploring the Tham Luang Cave turned into a frightful ten-day period of uncertainty for the players, coach, families--and a watchful world.    

The dozen Thai boys, members of the "Wild Boars" soccer team, and their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, were found on 2 July.  They were safely removed from the Tham Luang Cave but not without a lot of 12 hour days, and the loss of a Thai Navy SEAL, 38 year-old Samarn Gunan, who died placing oxygen tanks along the passageway to make their rescue possible.  

News reports have the head of at least one Hollywood production studio in Thailand looking at ways to recount this incredible story.

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Wild Boars Soccer Team, Mae Sai, Thailand. (C) AP 
What can we learn?

The military, and those in the cave rescue business (yes, that's a business), will spend time looking carefully at this near-tragedy, although the death of diver Samarn Gunan is tragic. They will document the process as we should try to learn from the experiences of others.  

Based on interviews with the soccer players, coach, families, and rescue workers, what can be gleaned to-date from the miracle in Mae Sai?

1. Pay attention to warning signs. 

There are signs at the entrance to Tham Luang Cave warning visitors not to take risks. It's reported that locals know not to enter during monsoon season as the cave system rapidly floods with water during that time of the year.  Parents tell their children to stay away from the cave.  

(There were weather warnings on 19 July 2018 ahead of the Duck Boat tragedy at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri.  Seventeen people died, including nine members of one family.)

The RMS Titantic, a British ship which sank on 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic, had received several warnings about icebergs but they were mostly ignored.  Nearly 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives that night.  

Sometimes warning signs are posted, other times they're not.  If they are we ignore them at our own peril, and those under our care.

It's worth noting that consequences may be unintended--but also foreseen.  

2. Don't panic.  

Robert Laird, co-founder of International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery, observed that "rescues are rare."  In an interview in The Atlantic Laird says that when cave divers get in serious trouble, they usually die.  "There is no one to rescue, just a body to recover," he adds.  

Notes Laird, "The worst thing you can do is panic."   

We know from interviews conducted with the boys that the first few days were filled with panic.  It was not until Day 3 that Coach Ek was able to get the soccer team to stop crying.  The focus turned to being quiet, breathing deeply, and getting sleep.  That emotional reversal created a frame of mind that survival was possible.    

3. Admit the need for help.  

Military experts.  International cave divers.  Medical personnel.  Farmers.  And a Thai rock singer.  They all played roles in the rescue effort.  

Narinthorn Na Bangchang, a popular entertainer from Bangkok, who flew to Mae Sai, posted equipment needs on her Facebook page.  Bangchang's followers responded in generous fashion.  For example, a request for 200 regulator air tanks resulted in 400 tanks being donated.  

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Part of rescue team.  (C) USA Today
She also found an expert cave diver who trained Thai Navy SEALS.     

In addition to pumps that took out billions of liters of water from the cave to make the rescue possible, the retinue of resources included 100 plus divers; 500 air tanks; 1o,000 support personnel; 900 police officers; seven police ambulances; and 5,000 meals each day for people on the ground.  

The Thai Navy SEALS are trained in open water diving, not caves.  They knew there was need for greater expertise and welcomed experienced volunteers.  

4. Persistence pays off. 

When the Thai Navy SEALS arrived at the cave on 25 June they had gotten inside as far as Pattaya Beach, a piece of dry ground four kilometers (2.1 miles) from the mouth of the cave.  It was there they found footprints and shoes confirming that the boys had passed this way.

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Tham Luang Cave (C) AP

When the SEALS decided to turn back due to a lack of air canisters and coming rain, they were just 400 meters (.2 miles) from where the boys and their coach had taken shelter.

With heavy rains filling the cave it would be another week before anyone could return.

However, giving up was not an option.

"We had to dive, we had to walk, we had to climb through stone and rock but we had to keep fighting," says Thai SEAL Commander, Arpakorn Yookongkaew.  "If we did not keep moving there would be no hope for the children."  

Using guide lines set by Belgium-born Ben Reymenants and his diving partner, British divers finally found the boys and their coach on 2 July. 

In the meantime, the soccer team exchanged letters with their parents, delivered by divers, which further encouraged the boys and their coach.

5. Technology has limitations.  

What about hi-tech?

"The Silicon Valley model for doing things is a mix of can-do optimism, a faith that expertise in one domain can be transferred seamlessly to another and a preference for rapid, flashy, high-profile action. 

"But what got the kids and their coach out of the cave was a different model: a slower, more methodical, more narrowly specialized approach to problems," observed Dr. Zeynep Tufekci from the University of North Carolina.     

Dr. Tufekci also noted that a "safety culture" approach to problem-solving, along with decades of training, allowed airline captain Chesley Sullenberger to safely land US Airways flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River on 15 January 2009 without incurring any loss of life.

No doubt technology will have a role in future cave rescues but it will likely be in support of a "slow is smooth--and smooth is fast" approach used by a consortium of Navy SEALS and international cave rescue experts in Thailand. 

6. Leaders go last.

While in the cave the soccer coach apologized to the parents in a handwritten note sent through divers.  Coach Ek promised to take care of the children during the rescue mission, "as best I can."  And he did.

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Coach Ek.  (C) Ek Facebook Page

It was fitting that the coach was in the last group of four boys to be rescued on 10 July.  Staying behind until everyone was safely removed was the right thing to do.  

No doubt Coach Ek, who was orphaned at age 10, will have plenty of time to reflect on his decision to enter Tham Luang Cave with the soccer team.  Successful leaders make mistakes but they generally don't make the same mistakes twice.

A lesson for everyone is summed up by the late actor and social commentator, Will Rogers, who in a different era and a world away, once said, "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."       


(C) Bredholt & Co.  

01 July 2018

Trends Worth Watching

Here are 10 U.S. and global demographic trends that may be of interest to you:

1. Millennials are projected to be the U.S.'s largest living adult generation in 2019.  More than Baby Boomers.  Millennials are already the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, making up 35% of the total

2. Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past.  The U.S. is projected to be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. 

3. Americans' lives at home are changing.  After a decades-long trend, just half of U.S. adults were married in 2015, down from 70% in 1950.  With marriage in decline cohabition is increasing with the largest gains among those ages 50 and older--doubling between 1990 and 2015.

4. Changing household structures.  A record number of Americans (nearly 61 million) were living in multi-generational households--those that include two or more adult generations or grandparents and grandchildren.

5. America’s demographic changes are shifting the electorate – and American politics. The 2016 electorate was the most diverse in U.S. history due to strong growth among Hispanic eligible voters, particularly U.S.-born youth.

6. The share of Americans who live in middle class households is shrinking. U.S. adults living in middle-income households fell to 50% in 2015, after more than four decades in which those households served as the nation’s economic majority.

7. Christians are declining as a share of the U.S. population. And the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion has grown. While the U.S. remains home to more Christians than any other country, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian dropped from 78% in 2007 to 71% in 2014. 

By contrast, the religiously unaffiliated have surged seven percentage points in that time span to make up 23% of U.S. adults last year. This trend has been driven in large part by Millennials, 35% of whom are religious “nones.” 

8. The world is aging. The demographic future for the U.S. and beyond looks very different than the recent past. Growth from 1950 to 2010 was rapid — the global population nearly tripled to 7.6 billion. However, population growth from 2010 to 2050 is projected to be significantly slower and is expected to tilt strongly to the oldest age groups, both globally and in the U.S. 

9. U.S. population is still growing.  Latest estimates show 325.7 million as of 2017.  That's up from 308.7 million in 2010.  The Wall Street Journal reports a "lull in the U.S. birth rate since the 2007-2009 recession.  The whole country now relies on immigrants, who are typically young adults, to slow its aging."

10. More years in retirement.  As longevity rises over time, people spend more time in retirement.  Between 1962 and 2010 the average time spent in retirement rose by five years (from 10 to 15 years).  Life expectancy rose by eight years.  By 2050 the years in retirement are projected to reach 20.  

-Pew Research Center
-U. S. Census Bureau
-The National Academies of Science, 
     Engineering and Medicine
-Compassion International 


(C) Bredholt & Co.   

01 June 2018

Books of Summer

"A person only learns in two ways, one is by reading, and the other by association with smarter people."

--Will Rogers

Read any good books lately?

A close look at the U.S. populous finds Millennials are the top readers.  According to the latest Pew Research Center study on reading, 18-29 year olds are the age group most likely to have read a book in any format in the past year.  And they generally prefer print to e-books, which have plateaued since 2016.

The Pew study shows the typical American having read four books in the past year. 

What to read?

We love books and our reading list generally comes from recommendations and reviews. 

If you're in a position of leadership, here are five books in our 2018 summer library that would contribute to your personal and professional development:

1. "Character."  By Samuel Smiles.  Serenity Publishing.  254 pages.

"Character is one of the great motive powers in the world.  In its noblest embodiments it exemplifies human nature in its highest forms."  --Samuel Smiles

We can't say enough about this topic.  Character is a strength that's often overlooked when interviewing, and assessing personnel.   The right character, and its many attributes (honesty, integrity, manners), are needed now more than ever.

2. "Silence."  By Erling Kagge.  Pantheon Publishers.  144 pages. 

"Twenty-five years ago, the Norwegian adventurer Erling Kagge trekked solo across Antarctica without a radio (actually, the aviation company that flew him to the coast insisted that he take one, and he did—but he dumped the batteries in the plane’s trash bin). The experience of being alone for 50 days inspired this book: a meditation on the need for, and meaning of, silence."

--The Wall Street Journal BookShelf 

3. "On Grand Strategy."  By John Lewis Gaddis.  Penguin Press.  384 pages.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.   

"The best education in grand strategy available in a single volume ... a long walk with a single, delightful mind."  --John Nagl

4. "Lead Yourself First."  By Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin. Bloomsbury USA.  240 pages.  

A guide to the role of solitude in good leadership, including profiles of historical and contemporary figures who have used solitude to lead with courage, creativity, and strength. 

--Publisher's comments.  

5. "Alone Together."  By  Sherry Turkle.  Basic Books. 400 pages.   

"Technology has become the architect of our intimacies.  Online we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication.  But this relentless connection leads to deep solitude.   As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down."   

--Publisher's comments.

To quote Wordsworth ...

"Books, we know, 
Are a substantial world, both pure and good,
Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness can grow."


(C) Bredholt & Co.

01 May 2018

The Persuader's Tool Box

"Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion."


In case you're just joining us we're examining the concept of "persuasion."  In March we began with Dr. Robert Cialdini's research on this topic, "A Short Course in Persuasion."

Then in April we looked at a perplexing condition sometimes referred to as, "Partial Attention Syndrome."

We now turn to the "persuader" with the assumption that what's being proposed is of a clear and ethical purpose.  The warning for nefarious activity is found in an old proverb, "Lead good people down a wrong path and you'll come to a bad end."   

The toolbox

Creating a "persuader's toolbox" is one way of addressing a variety of leadership styles, settings, and topics. In doing so it reminds me of my dad's toolboxes which were filled with hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures.       

Here's a tool that's often overlooked--a question. Whether it's a formal presentation or conversation, what will make the listener want to agree with you?  And in your situation, what's the best way to make that happen?

In addition to a legitimate proposition, and asking the right questions, what else should be in the persuader's toolbox?

o  A persuasive theory

A persuasive theory seeks a favorable response from the audience.  It begins with "why."    

Carefully chosen language becomes a motivating argument that causes others to want to decide in favor of (fill in the blank).  The theory, or reason to believe you, should be communicated succinctly in a few sentences. Offering too much information is likely to overwhelm an audience.  

Image result for images for "word"

Think about how preparation in the early stages might improve the chances for success.  Sorting through information ahead of time makes it easier to understand what you're asking people to do.  It's the job of the presenter to sort, not the audience.

As Robert Louis Stevenson once said, "All speech is a dead language until it finds a willing hearer." 

o  Stories and themes

Our research business was asked to help arrange a mock jury.  The law firm and jury consultant put the package together. Recruiting participants were up to our staff.  It was that engagement that prompted a closer examination of how lawyers try to persuade juries. 

What did we learn?

Experienced courtroom practitioners attempt to know their juries (or judges), while rolling out what they hope is a persuasive theory of the case (See United States Government v. Microsoft Corp., 2001)

Image result for images for microsoft logo

"A skillful trial attorney knows how important it is to join a series of facts with a unifying theme as jurors deliberate and rely on themes to sort out the evidence.  If attorneys don't provide the theme jurors will do it for themselves," according to University of Washington law professor, William S. Bailey. 

Employees, customers, voters, even congregational members, are juries of their own making and require context by which to make decisions.  

In his autobiography, prominent litigation attorney David Boies writes: "There is much to be said for staying on message, but when you seek to persuade, you must address the concerns of the people you are trying to convince."  

Image result for images for coca cola

What's the difference between a story (Coca-Cola's history) and a theme ("More Than a Soda Company")?  

"Stories are about the growth of character.  They provide the mythic and emotional skeleton.  Themes are the development of ideas and conceptual coherence," says Tristine Rainer.  Powerful themes are those that resonate with ordinary human beings.  A good theme acts like glue enabling a few details to stick.    

Ask yourself--do you need a story or theme to persuade?  Likely both.   

o  Rule of 3  

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Carmine Gallo makes a strong case for staying close to the "Rule of 3" when presenting ideas.  Gallo begins by quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence which celebrates three inalienable rights:

-And the pursuit of happiness

Image result for images declaration of independence

He reminds us that those three powerful ideas inspired France to arrange its own freedoms into groups of three--"liberty, equality, and fraternity."

Gallo says Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, loved threes.  Macintosh; iPod; and iPhone.  The iPad came in three models:  16, 32, and 64 GB of flash storage.  The iPad was "thinner, lighter, and faster than the original."  

While our April StrategistBlog reported that attention spans have much to do with the person and context, using only three pieces of information (or words) increases the likelihood of some retention on the part of the listener.

Maybe that's why preachers are trained to prepare three-not four or five--point sermons.  

The longer the list the more difficult the recall.  

You get the idea.

o  Five persuasive words

Gregory Ciotti is a gifted copywriter.  I came across his "copy blogger" website and found his wordsmithing approach to persuasion intriguing.   

Here's a list of Gregory's "five persuasive words:"  

1. You     

Using someone's name is even better.

2. Free   

But used only when it makes sense and only in the right context.

3. Because   

People simply like to have a reason for doing what they do (Dr. Cialdini). 

4. Instantly  

We want things yesterday.  This idea is showing up everywhere.

5. New

New fixes to old problems.  New features, improvements.  New designs.

o The 3-6-9 principle

When it comes to messaging, which is central to persuading, I recommend clients think about the 3-6-9 principle from Robert Dilenschneider.  Mr. Dilenschneider is a professional acquaintance who, fifteen years ago, conducted a seminar for a board retreat that featured this multiplication formula:  

3x:   Number of times it takes to make an impression.

6x:   Number of times it takes to be reached.

9x:   Number of times it takes to be believed.  

Image result for images for the word repetition

This reinforcing matrix is a reminder that one time is not enough when attempting to deliver persuasive-type messages.    

o  Who you are

Content and context are vital to persuading--including the right platforms. But nothing is as important as your own character.  

A lot of what it takes to get and hold someone's attention, to be persuasive, rests with the individual doing the persuading.  In the beginning, Aristotle reminded us of a strong causal relationship between character and convincing others.  

The toolbox may help but successful persuasion is up to you.


(C) Bredholt & Co.

Note:  Images are copyrighted--Stack-On; New York Times; Microsoft; Coca-Cola; U.S. National Archives; dreamsOin1digital