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What does it take to be a leadercommunicator?

The Grossman Group CEO and communications expert David Grossman shares his insights on the importance of meaningful leadership communication in today’s business climate. With high level tips on engagement and connection, insights into employee motivations and behavior, and firsthand stories from the frontlines of America’s leading companies.

The leadercommunicator blog is instructive, entertaining, and a must-read for leaders, communicators, and leadercommunicators.

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Starting Thought: 5 Items on Every Employee’s Holiday Wish List


holiday wish list

It’s officially the month when we’re all talking about which “hot” items are on everyone’s holiday wish list. Stores and online retailers create wish lists for every type of person you could ever need to shop for: for teens, for sports fans, for the cook in your family, for the outdoor person, etc. This flurry of wish-list making got me thinking about a different category that we don’t hear much about: employees. If employees developed a collective wish list, what would be on it?

From my experience working with employees around the globe, a few common needs rise to the top:

  • Opportunities to give feedback- Create an environment where employees feel safe to have a candid conversation with you. Listen, listen, and listen some more. By helping employees feel comfortable giving feedback, you let them know that their views are valued. You’ll also gain valuable information that can help you lead and communicate better. 
  • Less BS and more humanity- Enough beating-around-the-bush or, even worse, “spinning” of messages. Employees want to know what’s happening and why in a direct way.  Tell them what you know when you know it.  Don’t wait until you have all the information to communicate. Doing so is a sure-fire way to feed the rumor mill. Chances are you’re waiting too long to give employees key information.
  • Understanding of your expectations- People rise to the expectations set for them.  Many problems in business are caused by a lack of understanding of expectations or a misunderstanding of what’s needed and expected. Unless you’ve taken the time to share your expectations with employees in a formal way, you’re limiting their chances of success.
  • Empathy- Pause and imagine how employees are feeling.  The desire to be heard is a basic human need. Employees want to know they’re being heard, and they want you to know where they’re coming from. The payoff is an employee who knows you care, and at the same time, you gather information that’s useful to motivate that employee
  • More listening- Stop talking so much.  Ask for input and feedback.  What employees help create they are more likely to support.  Employees don’t want monologues but instead, real, two-way conversations.

The best part about fulfilling employee wish lists? It’s free. You don’t need coupons, discount codes, or the resolution to brave crowded stores to give these gifts. You don’t need to inquire about return policies either. When you gift an employee one of these items on the wish list, you’ll see the benefits not just in the holiday season but year round. You make a significant difference for your employees, and you improve your leadership impact. Fulfilling the wish list offers a little something for both the giver and the receiver.

Which item on this list, if given, can make a difference for your team?

- David Grossman

This post originally ran in December 2013.


Looking for more leadership tips? Our Leadership Toolbox ebook is filled with the best tactics and strategies all in one place.


Why Context Is King


Why Context is King Image


con - text  [kon-tekst] – noun

1. the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect: You have misinterpreted my remark because you took it out of context.

2. the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

At the heart of organization-wide alignment is a common context. Context influences how we interpret information. It’s the lens through which we view and make sense of the world.

Think about context like a map at a large airport.  To understand where you are, you need a map of the layout – that’s the big picture.  That’s context.  From there you can determine where you need to go and how to get there

Each of us comes to the workplace with our own context because of how we’re raised, our experience, background, and so on. That’s a wonderful thing because we need diversity more than ever today, especially when innovation is critical for business success.

However, to make smart business plans and decisions, employees need to understand the collective context and way in which leadership views the environment in which the organization operates. The goal is one message about the organizational strategy; many voices.

Every leader might have a specific point-of-view on customer issues, the marketplace or top strengths that an organization needs to leverage. In the end, the leadership team needs a collective point-of-view that everyone backs. You don’t want a rogue leader confusing employees or causing you or other leaders to do clean-up because they choose to share their individual opinions vs. your collective leadership view. Alignment means getting on the same page—literally.

One of the biggest benefits of a common context is that leadership and employees are focused on the customer and not on the navel-gazing that often happens inside organizations.

What topic are you communicating that might need more context to be understood and acted upon?

-          David Grossman     


Want more tips on how to be a more effective leader? If so, check out our CEO Resource Center, today!


Standing Tall: Ways to Improve Your Body Language and Communicate Better


Standing tall blog post pic

It’s a truism – how you say something often trumps what you say.

Research shows that 93% of communication is based on two factors: Body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%). The rest is about your words (7%).

What’s more, your personal presence speaks volumes about who you are. Without saying a word, non-verbal communication can inspire confidence – or send signals of uncertainty and doubt. 

Leaders need to be aware of what they may be communicating nonverbally, whether it is intentional or not. Here are tried-and-true strategies to send the signal you intend:

  • Watch others – Start as a keen observer of others. Watch presenters or leaders you admire and see how they engage others through verbal and nonverbal communication.  Note what works and what doesn’t.
  • Evaluate yourself – Use a mirror to watch your facial expressions. Even better, record yourself interacting with others, informally or formally, and decide what changes you may need to make.  Watching yourself on videotape is a powerful way to observe yourself in action and note any blind spots you have, or identify signals you’re sending that you don’t intend.
  • Check with others – Ask someone you trust if they notice any nonverbal cues that may give the wrong impression.
  • Practice – Answer questions and make statements in front of the mirror or camera until you are comfortable delivering a sincere message with continuous eye contact.

Once you have identified what works best for you, model the behaviors regularly. The most critical are:   

Make strong eye contact – Regular eye contact builds relationships and inspires confidence. Looking someone in the eye during a conversation shows respect and interest in what they have to say, while it can seem you are not listening if you avoid eye contact when someone is speaking. If you look away, it can be interpreted as a lack of confidence or give the impression you are lying.  

Practice good posture – Stand and sit up straight to show you are relaxed and in command of a situation. Whatever your actual height may be, you will make a positive impression if you stand, walk and sit tall. Holding your head held high indicates open-mindedness and attentiveness. Even if people see you from a distance they will get the message that you are confident and in control. 

Use positive expressions – Your facial expressions and body positions are like pictures that paint 1,000 words. A smile engages people and promotes positive interaction. Being still, leaning forward and focusing on the person in front of you demonstrate interest and suggest you are open to what they have to say. The opposite impression is given by crossing your arms or legs, hunching shoulders forward and having a rigid posture. If you are trying to connect with people who present this “closed” position, ask them about themselves or their concerns and listen to what they have to say.

Respect personal space and position – People can become uncomfortable if you encroach on their personal space, which typically ranges between 30 and 36 inches. Consider this when setting chairs for meetings as well as in one-on-one interactions. Also remember seating positions can send a message – placing chairs at a 45-degree angle to one another tends to encourage collaboration, while having a desk or table between people can be a barrier to teamwork. 

What message might you be sending unintentionally that – if you corrected – could help you be even more effective?

David Grossman

This post originally ran in August 2010.


Looking for more communication tips?  Download Mastering the Art of Messaging, today!

mastering the art of messaging, messaging in the workplace, corporate messaging, storytelling, david grossman



Weekly Round-Up: On Proven Ways to Earn Employee Trust, 5 Practice of Values-Based Leaders & Giving Useful Feedback


Weekly Round-Up, Leadership, Giving Feedback

Welcome to my weekly round-up of top leadership and communication blog posts. Each week I read and tweet several great articles and on Fridays I pull some of the best together here on my blog. So in case you’ve missed them, here is this week’s round-up of top posts.

They’ll provide you with tips, strategies and thought-starters from many of the smart folks in my network. So whether you’re a new leader or an industry veteran there’ll be something here for you.

  • The Importance of Creating a Culture of Why
    By Art Markman, Fast Company
    Good knowledge is at the core of innovation. The more that people understand the way the world works, the more that they can develop novel solutions to problems. This type of knowledge is called…”
  • 5 Practices of Values-Based Leaders
    By Shawn Murphy, Switch & Shift
    Are your personal values personal? They shouldn’t be if you want to make a difference.  Something personal is not often discussed. It’s rarely discussed, and held close to the chest. Your values need to be unleashed, visible in your actions, apparent in your words...”
  • Proven Ways to Earn Your Employees’ Trust
    By Carolyn O’Hara, Harvard Business Review
    “Trust is often talked about as the bedrock of a company’s success. Most people think about the issue in terms of customers: They have to believe in you and your products and services. But trust within the organization…”
  • What Makes a Piece of Performance Feedback Useful?
    By Young Entrepreneur Council, SmartBlog on Leadership
    When asking or giving feedback, it’s important to be specific. We like to follow the format of SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive. Rather than saying, “You need to track accounts better,” it’s better to say…”
  • Why Leadership Should Be Hard
    By Tanveer Naseer
    “With the arrival of this last month of the year, I’ve been finding myself in a mixed state of mental exhaustion and reflection, which considering the work involved in bringing my first…”


What were some of the top leadership articles you read this week?

-          David Grossman 


Check out our Leadership Toolbox eBook, filled with popular leadership posts and all of their actionable tips!


The Four Fs of Feedback


4 Fs of Feedback

If you were to give yourself a grade for how effective you are at giving feedback, what grade would you choose?  Many of the executives I work with are brutally honest and give themselves an F. They don’t make giving feedback a standard part of meetings and discussions; they give general (“good job!”) versus specific feedback (“Here’s what you did extremely well on this project….”); they often don’t give feedback at all or wait too long to give feedback; and they would have a hard time giving their boss feedback.

Chances are, most of us can be even more effective if we gave others feedback sooner and more regularly. Feedback helps all of us be better, recognize blind spots, know what to keep doing that’s effective, and helps build relationships with those who give us the gift of feedback.

Here are the “Four Fs of Feedback” to help you move from F to A:

Frame – Set up the discussion and share why you’re sharing feedback, including your intention (most often your intention is to be helpful, and it’s critical to say that).

Feedback – Discuss what went well, or what could be better and suggest an alternative: “This behavior had this consequence, and here’s what I’d prefer to see…”

Feelings – Check-in to see how effectively you’re communicating: “How do you feel about what I just said?”  Allow the person to respond, and clarify or amplify, if needed.

Follow-up – Discuss next steps and how you can help and support 

I’m a big fan of being direct and not beating around the bush.  Avoid emotionally-charged language or judgments, and just state the facts as they are:  “I need to give you feedback…, here’s my intention…, here’s what I saw and the consequence…, here’s what I’d prefer to see….how do you feel?”

Finally, pick a time that’s best for you to ensure you’re in the right frame of mind.  Then, ask the other person whether they’re open to feedback.  If so, proceed.  If not, schedule a follow-up.  Either way, offering up the choice gets you off on the right foot.

What feedback haven’t you addressed yet that would be helpful to someone else?

- David Grossman 

This post originally ran in May 2010.


Learn more best practices for communicating with employees.  Download: The A List: The 17 Most Read, Most Commented On, and Most Thought-Provoking Lists for Communicating Your Way to Great Leadership.

The A List













Weekly Round-Up: On Creating a Results-oriented Culture, Understanding When to Give Feedback & Actions of Transformational Leaders


Weekly Round-Up, Leadership

Welcome to my weekly round-up of top leadership and communication blog posts. Each week I read and tweet several great articles and on Fridays I pull some of the best together here on my blog. So in case you’ve missed them, here is this week’s round-up of top posts.

They’ll provide you with tips, strategies and thought-starters from many of the smart folks in my network. So whether you’re a new leader or an industry veteran there’ll be something here for you.

  • Two Vital Steps for Fixing Your Employee Engagement Problem
    By Kevin Cope, Fast Company
    Recently I was working with a Chief Human Resources Officer from a large Fortune 500 company and, a little frustrated, she asked me for some ideas around employee engagement. Not surprisingly, this is a topic that has come up quite frequently…”
  • Need to Cut Costs?  Deliver a Better Customer Experience
    By Jon Picoult, Watermark Consulting Blog
    If you want to deliver a great customer experience, you better be prepared to pay up…  right?  Maybe not.  Conventional wisdom suggests that with an enhanced customer experience comes greater expense.  But that’s not always...”
  • How to Create a Results-oriented Culture
    By Lou Adler, Inc.
    “Creating a results-oriented culture doesn't start by finding people who are results-oriented. It starts by defining the results you want to achieve and then finding people who are capable and motivated to achieve them…”
  • 5 Actions of Transformational Leaders
    By Luis Gallardo, Switch & Shift
    As a business leader, inspiring people to follow you in pursuit of your company’s mission is your job.  After all, your personal success is directly linked to the success of the company. If the top and bottom lines don’t…”
  • Understanding When to Give Feedback
    By Harvard Business Review
    “Providing feedback is not merely a hoop to jump through when the time for performance reviews rolls around. It should be an ongoing process woven into the fabric of everyday work. That’s not to say that every behavior…”


What were some of the top leadership articles you read this week?

-          David Grossman 


Download—Cutting to Win: 6 Steps for Getting Employees on Your Side During Cost Cuts— and start communicating changes in a way that engages and retains your workforce.

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Leaders: What’s the story with stories?



We all tell stories naturally that illustrate who we are as a person, what we do, and what we believe in.  Think of your last conversation with a friend, someone in your family, or a neighbor at a barbeque.  “Once upon a time” (or a spin on that) is an everyday, multiple-times-a-day occurrence.

Yet at work, something happens when we “badge in” at our organizations.  Stories get lost, and pie charts and copy-heavy slides take over.

But it is important to remember that we follow leaders because of how they make us feel.  And stories are the most powerful way leaders can make an emotional connection with employees.

Forget facts.  Skip the supporting points.  Push past the proof points.  Stories rule.

This is especially true in many organizations where the majority of employees are left-brained, appreciate the literal, and value a logical sequence of facts.  In these cultures leaders aren’t hardwired to share personal experiences, yet stories get the results other communications can’t.  For example, facts wrapped in story are 22-times more memorable.

How powerful would it be if all leaders had a personalized storytelling platform with a library of stories that tie to the actions they need to accomplish?  This platform will help the leader find and raise his or her voice and drive the business results he or she wants.

Stories are the ultimate low-cost, high-return strategy.  Isn’t that what happily ever after is all about?

Do you have a core set of stories in your communication toolbox?

- David Grossman


Want more tips on how to be a more effective leader? If so, check out our CEO Resource Center, today!


Weekly Round-Up: On Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Criticism, the 3 Beliefs of Human Business & Showing Your Employees Respect


Leadership, Weekly Round-Up

Welcome to my weekly round-up of top leadership and communication blog posts. Each week I read and tweet several great articles and on Fridays I pull some of the best together here on my blog. So in case you’ve missed them, here is this week’s round-up of top posts.

They’ll provide you with tips, strategies and thought-starters from many of the smart folks in my network. So whether you’re a new leader or an industry veteran there’ll be something here for you.

  • Why We Shouldn’t Be So Afraid of Giving or Receiving Criticism
    By Deb Bright, Fast Company
    Not long ago I was visiting with one of my clients named Steve, who is a managing director of a major NYC financial firm. Steve mentioned to me that he wanted to explore some ways in which he might influence a work environment where…”
  • Why Showing Your Employees Respect Is Even More Important than You Think
    By Inc.
    “It's incredibly important to convey respect when you're interacting with your employees. While that may seem obvious, unfortunately not nearly enough bosses do it. In a survey of more than 19,000 people...”
  • The 3 Beliefs of Human Business
    By Mark Lukens, Switch & Shift
    “It’s all too easy to forget the human side of business. We get so bogged down in the processes and procedures, the board meetings and balance sheets, that we forget that business doesn’t exist for its own sake…”
  • Assume the Positive
    By Skip Prichard
    You’re flipping channels on the television when all of a sudden you land on a game show.  You hear the crowd shouting answers.  The person playing the game is trying to answer the host of the show, hoping.…”
  • What Should Managers Regularly Ask Team Members?
    By Young Entrepreneur Council, SmartBlog on Leadership
    “Managing a team where members are highly determined and conscientious is a wonderful thing. There are times, however, when conscientious can become an issue. A team member might be afraid to admit that…”


What were some of the top leadership articles you read this week?

-          David Grossman 


Get your leaders on board with internal communication.  Download the Top 10 Barriers Communicators Face today!

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Your Favorite eBooks From 2014: On Top CEO Care-Abouts, Internal Communications Barriers & Effective Communication Strategies


We’re humbled when we hit the mark on content that makes a difference for you.

As we head toward the New Year, I wanted to share with you the Top 3 most popular eBooks from 2014.  Use them to learn something new before year-end, to finish 2014 strong, or to make resolutions for what you want to work on in 2015.  Here they are in order:

3. How To Think Like A CEO

How to Think Like A CEO

Understanding how others think is critical to influencing them and getting results. Once you know what someone is thinking, you're in the best position to be able to persuade them and move them to action.

How To Think Like A CEO lists the top 10 things that a CEO cares about and provides a self-reflection point for each. 

Download This eBook Now!

2. The “Secret Weapon” Every CEO Needs

Secret Weapon Every CEO Needs

There's no question that CEOs are under more communications pressure than ever before.

The “Secret Weapon” Every CEO Needs provides the facts about the benefits of communication along with some questions you can use to uncover the evidence and then do some internal cross-examination to build a winning case for your own approach to internal communications. 

Download This eBook Now!

1. Top 10 Barriers to Effective Communication

Top 10 Barriers to Effective Communication

Today, the savviest executives realize the power and potential of communication to drive results.  Smart leaders know they need to connect the dots differently than before.

The Top 10 Barriers to Effective Communication reveals what communication professionals can say to their leaders to help guide their thinking and offers a host of actionable tips for moving leaders past these barriers.

Download This eBook Now!

Let us know what you’re working on.  We’d love to hear from you.

What are some topics you’d like to see covered in 2015?

-David Grossman


Thanksgiving Brings…A New Recipe From Grandma Elsie’s Kitchen!



With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I want to share a new and delicious recipe from Grandma Elsie’s kitchen that you can use while planning your own holiday meal.

But before I reveal the new sweet treat, I’d first like to take a moment to share with you the Grandma Elsie tradition. 

Instead of getting holiday gifts for friends and neighbors, Elsie Edelstein made pumpkin pies and hand-delivered them before Thanksgiving.  The blessing, as she used to say, was in the making (“food brings people together”) and in giving ("it’s better to give than receive!”).

A tradition that started with one creative and thoughtful woman was quickly adopted by her daughters and grandchildren, along with friends and neighbors.

For 13 years, The Grossman Group has adopted her wonderful tradition by sharing in her sentiments with our clients by sending Elsie’s famous spices and sharing her treasured recipes. 

Now here’s another one of those treasured recipes for you to indulge in over the holidays.

Grandma Elsie’s Decadent Organic Chocolate-Cinnamon Fudge


  • Butter, to grease the pan
  • 1 (14-ounce) can Santini* organic sweetened condensed milk (Santini Organic, if you can get it)
  • 1 tablespoon Grandma Elsie’s cinnamon sugar mix (or 2 3/4 teaspoons sugar, dash cinnamon, pinch ginger, pinch nutmeg, pinch salt)
  • 2 teaspoons ground organic cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure organic vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
  • 16 ounces (2 bags) Dagoba* organic chocolate Chocodrops
  • Kosher salt


  • Butter the sides and bottom of an 8x8-inch pan, then line it with an 8x14-inch sheet of parchment paper. Let the extra paper hang off the sides. The paper makes removing the fudge from the pan a snap.
  • In a medium stainless steel bowl (one that fits in a saucepan), thoroughly combine the condensed milk, Grandma Elsie’s mix, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir in the soft chunks of butter and the chocolate chips.
  • Put the stainless steel bowl into a saucepan of simmering water and mix 8 minutes until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth and thick. Scrape the mixture into the greased pan using a spatula. Smooth the surface and then very lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Put in refrigerator for at least two hours until solid.
  • To loosen the fudge, run a warm knife around the edge of the pan and lift the fudge slab out using the parchment paper. Peel off the paper, put the fudge on a cutting board and slice into 1-inch pieces.
  • You can store Grandma Elsie’s Decadent Fudge in airtight containers or freeze.
Many thanks to our dear friends and colleagues Brad Whitworth & Peg Champion for these delicious extensions to the Grandma Elsie tradition with recipes that feature Grandma Elsie’s spice mix.

To learn how to make Grandma Elsie’s Famous Pumpkin Chiffon Pie and other time honored recipes from her kitchen click here: http://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/thanksgiving/

Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving.

-David Grossman

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