Less Communication May Be More Communicative

Leadership Moment: Submerging Your Voice

If you were on any part of the Internet last week, you probably heard about the lost OceanGate submersible. As with almost any ongoing newsworthy event, there were a lot of opinions, as people across the Internet engaged in the roleplaying game of “being an instant expert on a complex topic.” Some of those opinions were cringe-worthy (depending on your biases, different arguments were cringe-worthy), and many were more revealing about the biases held by the speaker than they were illuminating the newsworthy situation.

Your credibility as a leader is influenced by your aggregate historical credibility; the more you’re perceived to be “right” by your audience, the more they’ll believe you on new topics. One challenge is that quite often, we don’t share the same biases as the teams that we lead; opinions that mostly serve to reveal our biases can then sabotage our credibility in the future to parts of our team. Offhand opinions become arguments not that we’re wise or interesting, but that we’re only going to be good leaders to people who share biases with us … and that’s not a good argument for any leader to make. If the argument we want to make is that we’re a good leader, then the most defensible argument in support of that is, sometimes, to just be quiet.

One Minute Pro Tip: Don’t Sell Past the Close

A lot of us have been in that position where we marshal our arguments to convince someone to take some step that we think is important. We know it’ll be a hard sell, and we’re prepared to lay out a coherent and irrefutable set of arguments. Just as we get our rhetorical momentum going, our audience makes the dastardly move of agreeing with us. But we still have arguments to make…

As you lay out any argument, listen to your audience. If they agree with you, stop. Your argument is done. Sure, you prepped another five minutes, but at this point, the only thing those five minutes might do is convince your audience to stop agreeing with you. Once you’ve closed the deal, stop selling.

Upcoming Appearances

June 27: Fireside chat with Myrna Soto, Two Hall of Fame CISOs walk into a Zoom

June 28: Panel Moderator: C is for Change: The Evolving Role of the CISO, Cyberweek

June 29: Lightning Talk: Hacking Harry Potter: The Untold Story of Fantastical Social Engineering, BSidesTLV

July 20: Webinar, The First 91 Days of a CISO’s tenure, with Christina Shannon, KIK

Aug 9/10: Reducing Your Team’s Energy Costs: An Inclusion Microtalk, at Black Hat USA

Interested in having me speak at an upcoming event? Contact me via speakers@duha.co.

Chapter Cameo: Small Arguments

Chapter 31 of 1% Leadership originated from an unforced error early in my CISO journey (This isn’t the anecdote in the chapter). I was briefing the company’s management on risks, and felt that I wasn’t being listened. “Imagine if it was your data that would be breached,” I said. Instead of that engaging the executives, the room went even more silent. I finished my briefing, and headed back to my office.

A few hours later, my boss walked into my office, and congenially said, “I don’t think that conversation went where you wanted it to, could you explain what you were expecting?” I mentioned that I was hoping to personalize the risk to get remediation prioritized, and he nodded, and said, “Ah. It sounded like you were threatening to leak all of our executive’s data if they didn’t prioritize this work right away.”

I was stunned into silence, and he said, “The best advice I can give you is this: before you open your mouth, know what you’re trying to achieve, and whether your words will get you there.”

Leader Q&A: Letting Go

Leader M asks, With the economy where it is, our company is behind on its plan, and, like many companies, we’re going to have to lay off a few folks. When I look at my team, I have a really hard problem. I have a couple of poor performers I’m working on managing out of the business, but they’re in critical roles, and I’ll need to backfill them (which I’m working on in parallel). Meanwhile, one of my best contributors is in a role that is, unfortunately, one that we can survive without. They aren’t a fit to cover for my poor performers, or I’d have an easy choice. I know this person is observant enough to recognize the poor performers – they’ve helpfully mentioned strategies I’ve used to try to coach up these folks – but I don’t know how to message, “I’m laying you off, but keeping these other people around.” What would you recommend?

M, it sounds like you’re in a tough position from a communications perspective.

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