Worth Reading: Jock Talk
I am honored to have written the Foreword to Jock Talk by my friend Beth Noymer Levine, the head of SmartMouth Communications.
It is an inspiring book that will help any reader enhance his or her leadership communication skill. Well worth reading, digesting, and applying.
The following is adapted from the Foreword:
Thirty years ago I made one of the best business decisions of my career. I hired Beth Noymer Levine.
I had just started work in the world’s largest PR firm, one of 25 people devoted full-time to a single Wall Street client. I was a mid-level member of the group, tasked with assembling a small team to promote our client’s nascent investment banking business. Beth became part of our five-person investment banking communication team. It was 1985, the go-go years on Wall Street — just a few years before actor Charlie Sheen captured the pace and possibilities, as well as the consequences of overdoing it, in the film Wall Street. We spent our days at our client’s Wall Street offices and trading floor, grazing for news by morning and early afternoon, and speaking with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media by late afternoon, all to earn our client a disproportionate share of voice in the papers.
We were young and brash and somewhat fearless. We began not knowing a thing about Wall Street — in my job interview I had to point out that I didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond. My future boss reassured me, “you will.” And indeed we learned. And Beth was a star, earning not only our trust but also that of our (sometimes difficult) client and the news media. She was very, very good at it.
After a few years I left for another firm, and Beth also left for yet another. We reconnected at the end of the decade, when I became head of communication for a large investment bank. I retained Beth’s firm. Beth became my advisor, and I discovered that she had assembled her own team of young, brash, and talented investment banking communicators.
A couple of years later I had begun teaching investor relations and financial communication at New York University’s Marketing & Management Institute. They asked me to teach another course, so I needed to hand off Investor Relations. I could think of only one person to take over the course: Beth. She joined the NYU faculty and taught brilliantly for the next several years. Then her career led her to Atlanta, where she became head of corporate communications for a large bank – one that eventually would become part of Bank of America.
And then we went our separate ways. Beth started her own consulting practice and got involved in the world of Olympic and professional sports in addition to the corporate world. I spent the next 20 years building a crisis and leadership coaching practice, with a heavy emphasis on Wall Street, healthcare, and the military.
We reconnected over coffee in New York when she came to meet with people about her book idea – what became Jock Talk. And we discovered that we were each working on similar books – books on how to lead, build trust, and inspire loyalty through effective communication. Only I was doing it through the metaphor of military strategy, she through sports. We didn’t really compare notes. But we agreed to stay in touch.
My book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, came out in mid-2012; Beth read it only after she had finished writing hers. But – perhaps not surprisingly – the two books are completely aligned. We come at things from different directions and use different vocabulary. But we’re fellow travelers, applying and interpreting the same principles in ways we have found to work for our clients. And why not? We came of age together, discovering the hard way what works and what doesn’t. One small example: Beth’s First Principle is audience-centricity. My book’s Second Principle is that you can’t move people unless you meet them where they are. Same idea. But hers also embodies her Fourth Principle: Brevity.
I was honored and humbled when Beth asked me to write the Foreword. I devoured her book. It is brilliant. It is witty. And it works. I know that after you’ve read the book, and taken to heart Beth’s principles and techniques, you will become a more effective communicator, and therefore a more effective leader.
Beth and I agree on this: If you cannot communicate effectively you will not lead. Whether you’re an athlete, a candidate for political office, a business executive, or just someone trying to build a career, you will benefit mightily from Jock Talk’s approach.