Guest Reviewer: Marshall Goldsmith
Marshall Goldsmith has been recognized by almost every major business publication as one of America's leading executive educators and coaches. He is the author or co-editor of 22 books, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There--a New York Times bestseller and Wall Street Journal #1 business book.
Doug and Mette’s premise is that we’ve clearly moved from the “information age” to the “interruption age.” I agree! We’re barraged by emails, texts, and unscheduled conversations that seem to stand between us and getting the ”real work” done. Their book, TouchPoints addresses this head-on. In fact, it is the first and best source I have seen that shows how to USE these moments rather than FIGHT them – to expand your influence and get more done.
What is so powerful about this book is that is actually works. Doug Conant and Mette Norgaard walk you through exactly how to intentionally seize the moment in ways you have likely not fully considered before. What I particularly like is that Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup Company, has been applying this “approach” for years – and had the guts to write about these “small moments” -- versus something more grandstanding. There is a humility here, an authenticity that is great to see and learn from.
Also, this is not just a “make them feel good” touchy feely pitch either. It helps you to get to a well thought out “meta” conversation, if you will, in your own head as you confront the “issue.” In fact, what I really like is that the book pushes you to figure out your own leadership model that then dictates your reaction in these moments. You lead with intention…not reaction…even in the most “reactive” of moments.
In my book What Got You Here Won't Get You There, I list 20 habits that keep high performers, achievers, aspiring leaders …what have you …from really ascending to the highest levels. I also give seven steps to show how you can fix these habits. Among these are listen, thank, follow up. The approach in TouchPoints is exactly in line with what I am saying in my book – and it is useful frame in which to learn to really listen and, yes, get out of your own way.
Lastly, I’ll make a recommendation for you: read this closely and put it to work for at least one day – if in that day you see an effect, as I think you will, do it again the next day. If you forget or miss opportunities as you go – so be it…get over it and keep moving forward bit by bit, interaction by interaction. Over time you will start to see real impact – because this really is what leadership is about. In fact, I would argue that real “roll up your sleeves leadership” is exactly this – adding real value through these “smallest of moments.”
Q&A with Co-Authors Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard
Some days it feels like the information age has morphed into the interruption age. But what if you could step back and look at all of those interactions with a fresh perspective? What if, instead of seeing them as interfering with your work, you were to look at them as latent leadership moments? What if these moments were the answer to leadership in today’s busy world?
In our experience, that is precisely what they are. Each of the many interactions you have during your day is an opportunity to establish high performance expectations, to infuse with greater clarity and more energy, and to influence the course of events. Each is a chance to transform an ordinary moment into a TouchPoint.
So, what does a TouchPoint look like in practice?
Each day is an elaborate sequence of TouchPoints: interactions with one other person, a couple of people, or a group that can last a couple of minutes, a couple of hours, or a couple of days. Those TouchPoints can be planned or spontaneous, casual or carefully choreographed. They take place in hallways, on factory floors, in conference rooms, on the phone, and via e-mail or instant messaging. Some deal with straightforward, relatively minor issues, while others involve complex challenges with wide-ranging effects.
Sadly, leaders often see these interactions as distractions that get in the way of their real work: the important work of strategizing, planning, and prioritizing. Only, these touch points are the real work. They are the moments that bring your strategies and priorities to life, the interactions that translate your ideas into new and better behaviors. How do you do that? By infusing each TouchPoint, no matter how brief, with greater clarity and genuine commitment.
You talk about the importance of listening. Why is that so critical for a leader?
But, in a TouchPoint, listening with your head and with your heart is critical if you are to get a good understanding of the issue. Without that understanding, you can easily waste everyone’s time by solving the wrong problem or by merely addressing a symptom, not the underlying disease.
Can you discuss the TouchPoint ‘Triad’?
The TouchPoint Triad is simple: Listen, Frame, Advance. Asking the magic question, “How can I help?” gets you started. Listening intently helps you to figure out what is really going on and what others need from you; it is a way to tangibly demonstrate that you care. Framing the issue ensures that everyone in the TouchPoint has the same understanding of the issue. Advancing the agenda means deciding what next steps to take and who will take them. After the TouchPoint is over, following up with a question such as, “How did it go?” or “Is there anything else you need from me?” is a reminder that you care; it also lets you know how things worked out and whether you were genuinely helpful.
And, that’s it. You master the touch by listening intently, framing the issue, and advancing the agenda. So as you engage in TouchPoint after TouchPoint, all you need to remember is “listen-frame-advance,” “listen-frame-advance.” And you do it dozens of times each day, day after day.
You advocate using your heart when making decisions. That seems to run counter to the idea that all leadership decisions should be logical ones. Can you clarify?
Some leaders say, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” Don’t buy it! What these leaders mean is that they believe that to show strength you need to be tough-minded and tough-hearted. But the opposite is the case. What takes real courage is to make your work intensely personal; to care about your work and about the people you work with. We believe that when you use your heart, you will make better judgments concerning the issue; you’ll make stronger connections with the other people; and you will develop your personal authority as a leader.
Some of the decisions you need to make in a TouchPoint are clear-cut. You simply get the best data, analyze it, and make the call. Yet in most cases you need to consider more than the numbers. There are even times when the numbers reveal one course of action as the smart thing to do, yet you know it is not the right thing to do. In such cases, you need to trust your intuition and connect to your principles. You need to use both your head and your heart to make a wise decision.
—Stephen M. R. Covey, Author of The New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The Speed of Trust
“TouchPoints treats the intersection between leadership and interactions in a new, innovative way. Throughout his impressive career, Conant has driven results and culture by adhering to a set of core values. In this leadership perspective, with co-author Norgaard, he offers an impatient call to action and lessons to learn for all leaders and aspiring leaders.”
—Charles H. Moore, Executive Director, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy
“Great books on leadership can be inspirational or instructive in a highly practical way. TouchPoints is both, and enormously entertaining, to boot. If you aspire to have a highly positive impact on any kind of organization – whether it’s big or small, private or public – you must read this book.”
—Jeffrey E. Garten
Professor and former dean, Yale School of Management
“TouchPoints is a vivid reminder that leadership is a 24/7 role. Every human contact is an opportunity for leadership. This book is required reading for current and aspiring leaders. It will make you rethink how to approach the most demanding role of the CEO.”
—Carlos Gutierrez, Former Secretary of Commerce and Former Chairman and CEO, Kellogg Company
“Conant and Norgaard have captured the essence of great leadership by emphasizing the importance of what happens every day in both formal and informal interactions. All too often, leaders fall short of their potential because they focus more on time efficiency than personal impact. This book will convince you that the latter is what matters most – and can help you make it happen.”
—Jon Katzenbach, Senior Partner, Katzenbach Center at Booz & Company
“Leadership at the top is tough, and getting it right really matters. Every leader today struggles with the question, “How can I have more impact in the midst of increasing demands and uncertainties?” As Conant and Norgaard know, you do it by managing your TouchPoints well – moment upon moment, day upon day. Everyone who aspires to great and sustainable performance must master this discipline.”
—Saj-nicole Joni, Confidential CEO advisor, and author of The Right Fight
“As I read the book, I couldn’t help but remember a mentor who guided my development, and while he never used the term TouchPoints, his advice was all about TouchPoints, how to make the most of them and how they, in turn, helped you make the most out of your team. He would say, “It doesn’t matter how trivial the associate’s question may seem… the fact that they asked it means it is important to them. Take the time to work it. Walk all three shifts on the factory floor; you will learn more from that than what you read in the productivity reports. Make yourself available 24/7. Care about people; they are the business.” And so on. This book is all about effective leadership, and effective leadership is what drives shareowner value and career progression. It’s a read for all.”
—Bill Perez, Retired President and CEO, William Wrigley Jr., Former President and CEO, Nike, and Retired President and CEO, SC Johnson