The CIA and FBI do it.

Charles Darwin started it.

“It” being the art of facial coding, the insights and reads taken from an individual’s expressions and body language.  Of the two modes of translation, our super spies admit to preferring the face, above all.  It’s here where our emotions truly show what we’re thinking – and feeling.

Do we as communicators and other like professionals use it?  Except for executive coaches, not so much.  We’re often so busy with words and meetings and presentations and pitches that we forget to counsel leaders on how they say what they say.  Sure, a good speechwriter does act as an adviser, helping his or her client maximize the speech/presentation’s impact.

On the other hand …

Because human beings boast more facial muscles than other species; because there are universal expressions, whether blind or sighted; and because a true smile is easy to recognize, we need to pay attention to the ways our senior-most executives communicate facially.  Besides, people are willing to pay three times as much for products and services sold by a smiling versus an angry spokesperson.

Numbers and stats aside, it’ll all about authenticity, in language and tone and style and expressions.

Anyone for lessons from a Deep Throat?



Next to the August Harvard Business Review’s cover article on influence – and how to wield it, the type of confidante-companion-influencer we’re thinking about is less dramatic.  But potent, nonetheless.

Our idea stems from the personal shopper hired, usually, by department stores, often, by high-end boutiques.  Popular in the ‘80s, image stylists’ employment waned during the 90s and ‘aughts, but now is flourishing.

The reasons are many:  To bridge the gap between on-line retailing and stores.  To offer consumers a winnowing of the humongous variety available on the Internet.  To give shoppers a one-on-one friend who will validate their choices, naysay any non-figure flatterers, and, in general, become her go-to buddy for purchases – and other paraphernalia.

That last reason is the critical one.  Sure, apps now exist that can take the place of this personal shopper, in many cases linking an actual salesperson via texts and images to a potential buyer.  There is, though, no substitute for a “live-and-in-person” friend, one who will be frank about what you’ve selected.

Why not, then, a similar live app for work? Gallup has long advocated for a best friend at work, citing it as one important employee engagement criterion.  Yet a best friend won’t always truth-tell, especially in corporate America.  Mentors, too, exist in a different sphere; their function is more coach and sponsor than confidante and companion.  The buddy system usually works during the onboarding of a new hire, left behind when that newbie finds his/her grounding in the business.  And our manager is, well, our manager.

Combine the best of personal shopper with work friend, though, is our thinking.  All of us can use an objective sounding board, an individual who also understands us and our interests.  No one we know would turn down the opportunity to spend time with an influencer, and that mutual investment of time.  An inside confidante will know the players, understand the context, and act as a trusted guide when gut and experience aren’t clicking.

Call it MyInfluencer.com – and make sure it’s real.   [PS:  Please credit us.]


The jury’s still out, as they say.

Everyone, though, agrees on one fact:  The current (and sad) state of American education.  After that, there’s zip consensus, with remedies as wide ranging as our demographics, from charter schools and online curricula to the strict disciplines and draconian demands of the early to mid-20th century. 

Our take:  No one’s right.  And no one agrees.

What bothers us most about this ongoing, never-settled argument are the implications for us, as mentors, coaches, and teachers for our professions.  A healthy debate, according to our thinking, should be about forever learning, or life-long education.  The skills and knowledge we accrue throughout our earlier business years only serves as a great foundation for continuing to feed ourselves intellectually.

Yet there’s always a but. 

All these ruminations got started when we volunteered last year as teaching assistants in an urban Midwestern elementary school.  Now we’re interacting with what might be would-be communicators and designers and marketers of tomorrow. 

It’s not pretty.  Kids can’t spell, can’t read, can’t do simple math – in spite of one-on-one work and patient repetitions and drills.    They do like to draw, and express themselves freely when asked for visual representations of concepts and numbers.  And they’re extremely voluble, looking for conversations about home and life and the world.  But not about school and education.

What does that mean for us as practitioners?  Where are the future change leaders and branding experts?  And how do we engage our staff, our teams in not only helping them learn and grow, but supporting  others in their brain- and capability-building efforts?

It’s a puzzlement.  And a very personal responsibility that begs for hearing about lessons learned – from others.