Question 1. First of all, thank you for you for
taking the time to talk with the Insight section of business-in-asia
today. Your book, entitled Putting First What Matters Most:
Proven Strategies for Success in Work and in Life, has just been
released from NAL, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, and audio CDs are also
available. I notice from your
biography that you have an MBA from Babson College in Wellesley,
USA. How did you come to write this book, and why do you think such a
is needed today?
Answer: I have spoken to hundreds of
thousands of people in the last ten years on a variety of communication
topics. It became clear to me that a lot of people weren’t focused on
success, they were simply coping. Many people feel overwhelmed
– they’ve been down-sized, right-sized, and re-engineered to within an
inch of their lives. They don’t need more ideas on how to be productive
– they need ideas on how to succeed at work and still live the life
they’d like to live. I wrote the book to offer practical tactics to
help people move beyond mere coping, and to begin to achieve their
Question 2.What is your work experience and how much
of what you write about in the book is based on your own experience?
Answer:: In the mid 1980s, I founded a
marketing consulting company, and for ten years, my company assisted
our clients in their efforts to communicate effectively in person and
in print. We did
copywriting and graphic design, market research, and strategy
as well as speech-writing and presentation skill-building. I closed the
company about eight years ago because I found I was spending all my
administering things…and I hated it! In the last fifteen years, and
for the last eight – I’ve written about various communication topics
provided seminars and workshops on everything from business writing to
winning marketing plans.
First What Matters Most is based on mine and others’ experiences.
In addition to the tens of thousands of seminar attendees I’ve worked
with over the
years, I conducted dozens interviews with very successful and often
famous people. I looked for trends, for strategies that transcended any
one person’s success, and analyzed the trends so as to identify how
people could model on the successful strategy.
Question 3. In your book, you explain that there are
four types of people: Accommodators, Optimists, Producers, and
Data-collectors. Could you define the four types and answer whether
these are absolutes or are people really on a continuum with parts of
Accommodator likes people, but prefers small groups. Accommodators
are kind, gentle, calm, methodical, and prudent.
Optimist is sunny in spirit, impulsive, dramatic, fun,
articulate, emotional, and sensitive. Optimists are party
Producer is impatient, focused, ambitious, goal-oriented,
competitive, and intolerant of peoples’ foibles. Producers are
Most people are
of all four types. When I ask people how many of them act differently
home than they do at work, most reply that they do. Yet we have only one
personality! What most of us do is bring forth different aspects of our
personality depending on the circumstances.
Data-Collector is independent, self-reliant, rational, curious,
systematic, and self-contained. Data-Collectors love research.
perhaps you’ve learned that your boss hates it when you bring up a
problem unless you also propose a solution. If you’re a Data-collector,
this is difficult for you; Data-collectors prefer to state a
problem first, then carefully research and analyze potential solutions.
But because your no-nonsense, be a problem-solver, Producer
boss demands different
behavior than that which you prefer, you’ve learned to change what you
You’re able to do what’s necessary by bringing forth the Producer
part of your persona. You may never like it, but you do it, because you
realize more of your priorities get met when you do so.
Question 4. Which of these four types will be the
one that is more likely to read your book and religiously put it to
work? Which will be the least likely and why is this so?
Answer:Producers will be most likely
to read the book and put it to work because they’re highly motivated to
get things done. If they perceive the value, they’ll embrace the
system. Optimists are least likely to read the book. In
general, Optimists aren’t great readers. Also, Optimists
are more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sorts of people, so it’s
unlikely they’d religiously put any system to
Question 5. In the book, you give many examples
which help the readers to understand and practice their skills in
communication and problem solving. In your book you use the term
"high-impact communications". Can you define this and explain why this
form of communications is important in business and in other fields?
Answer: It’s interesting that you picked up
on that phrase. I got the term "high-impact" from the title of two of
my other books – How to Create High Impact Design and How
to Create High Impact Newsletters.
The first issue
in communications is getting your points across, which is way easier
said than done. But even if you succeed in making yourself understood,
there’s still the issue of affecting change. In other words, in order
for you to consider any communication successful, you must ensure
you’re understood – that’s the minimum. High-impact communication
takes the process further. High-impact communication means that
in addition to understanding you’re able to persuade someone to your
point of view. Both in business
and in personal relationships, in order to have our own priorities met,
we need to persuade other people to our points of view.
Question 6. Another term you use is "put the tools
to work". In your experience, how long does it usually take for a
person to "put the tools to work" and gain "high-impact communication"
with others? Why is
Answer: You can put the tools to work right
away, and you’ll succeed immediately. The changes that I recommend that
people make are small, hopefully painless changes. For example, if you
can identify that someone is an Accommodator, ask them for help
(a prime motivator to that personality type). Vocabulary is powerful,
and choosing your words with an eye to creating high-impact
communication is an easy-to- implement change.
Question 7. I believe that your guidelines in gaining
high-impact communication can be applied to multi-national and
multi-culture contacts in international business. Could you explain how
to use these techniques keeping in mind the possibility of language
barriers or cultural differences?
Answer: I agree with you. In fact, I’m
delivering a series of seminars on this subject throughout Asia this
believe that our personalities evolve from our environment, and others
believe that we’re born with completely developed personality
others believe that both of these factors, plus others, come into play.
For our purposes, it’s irrelevant how people get to be as they are, all
that matters is that we’re able to identify our own and other people’s
personalities, and that we’re able to use that information to get our
ideas across well.
This means that
cultural and language differences matter to us only to the extent that
they impact someone’s personality. Knowing how the culture in which
differs from your own allows you to adapt appropriately, and
Successful business people choose their words carefully whether they’re
speaking to a person who is fluent in their native language or not, and
whether they’re using a translator or speaking directly.
that all of the principles explained in the book to create high-impact
communication will work in all cultures, and in all languages. Adapting
your communication to suit your listeners whether for cultural,
language, or personality differences shows respect. And I believe that
high-impact communication is respect-based.
Question 8. Would the same considerations you
note above, also apply where the communications between peoples in
various continents is occurring in e-mail communication?
Answer: I would say that they matter even
more in e-mail communication than they do in person-to-person
or on the telephone because you’re relying on the words alone. Research
has demonstrated that body language and tone of voice share in creating
impact, so when you’re relying on words alone, adapting to suit your
matters even more than when you have visual or verbal clues to help you.
Question 9.. Do you
believe that your observations about communications and for developing
strategies for success in work and life apply internationally in other
countries in Asia, such as China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam etc? Also,
have you any plan in the future to publish you book in other languages,
e.g. in Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese?
Answer: Each culture has a unique
definition of success. For some it’s money, for others it’s family,
education, self-sufficiency, and so on. Achieving success within any
culture requires that you know how the society defines success. Once
you know that, you’re in a good position to develop a winning strategy
and to communicate it effectively.
The book has
been published in the U.K. by Piatikus, and they’re distributing it in
Singapore and Hong Kong. I’m meeting with a Thai publisher in May about
the possibility of publishing the book in Thai, and the book may be
available in Chinese later this year. The audio CDs are only available
Question 10. From your advice, can you give a step
by step approach to assess and set priorities, that the readers could
utilize prior to attempting to start to "manage" these priorities?
Answer: Your question is very apt, because
in order to manage priorities, you have to set priorities. It’s
critical that people define success for themselves. If you don’t do
this, you are condemning yourself to living your life according to
someone else’s standards. As you start thinking of what you
value, I encourage you to use a five-step checklist to ensure that your
goals are properly framed. If a goal satisfies all five of these
standards, you have given yourself a real "leg-up" in
the achievement process. To make the five steps easier to remember, I
formed the acronym CAN DO.
stands for Concrete. In other words, in order to set a goal you
understand what you’re talking about, and you have to know what you
to do to achieve. I run into people all the time who tell me that
stymied by not knowing something. For example, if you want to have a
joint business venture with a client in Vietnam, but you’ve never done
this, you need to get yourself the knowledge you need before you
on to step two.
The second step
is Attainable (and realistic). If your company is fully
occupied with maintaining your business, creating the new joint
this week isn’t realistic. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be
at all. That’s the difference between attainable and realistic.
Attainable asks you to consider if you’re capable
of doing the activity. Realistic asks you to consider the parameters
you’ve set. Just because it’s not realistic to create the joint
venture this week, doesn’t mean that it can’t be created at all.
stands for Narrow. The more specific and narrow your
goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. It’s almost always better
to have more goals that are narrower in scope rather than fewer
that are broader. It’s easier to understand something small, and it’s
easier to motivate yourself to act. For example, it’s better to state
your goal as creating a joint
business venture with your Vietnamese client rather than creating sales
with all clients in Asia and leaving it at that. Certainly start big.
break it down into manageable units.
The fourth step
is to add a Deadline. Without a deadline, you don’t
have a goal. Probably what you have is a dream. Dreams are excellent
– but you need to convert the dream into a goal, and to do that, you
to add a deadline. I recommend writing it in pencil though, not
even ink. And don’t carve it in stone – because a goal is not a vow –
statement of direction, nothing more.
The final step,
the O, is to ensure that you can answer the question, "How can
I tell when I get there?" You need an objective form of measurement.
Use examples to illustrate success ("I know I’ve succeeded when my
Vietnamese client and I celebrate the launch of our company over
dinner."), or insert a quantifiable form of measurement ("I know I’ve
succeeded with our shared company when we receive our first paid
satisfy all five variables, you have completed the first step to
Question 11. You’re a successful business woman and
an author who has used books, newsletters, CDs and a website, www.jkcleland.com, as marketing
tools to promote your products (books, tapes, and CDs), and your
services (writing and delivering keynote speeches, and conducting
workshops that are customized to the needs of the audience or
organization). In your opinion, which mediums have been the most
effective for you in reaching out to customers and why?
Answer: Word of mouth remains my most
successful marketing tool. But I’m excited about the possibilities of
e-mail. I’m experimenting now with creating and maintaining an e-mail
data base. I feel very strongly that e-mail has to be "opt-in" in order
to create positive goodwill. So
far, no one has "opted out," which I take to be a very good sign. But
neither have I received any registrations or product orders that I can
track directly to my e-mails. I’m going to stay with it for awhile at
least, because I
think anything you can do to stay in the forefront of your customers’
Question 12. Does your observation above in your
opinion apply generally or are there classes of businesses that you
believe would reach customers better through one medium than another?
Answer: Each company has to do its own
cost/benefit analysis. It’s easy to say that personal contact always
generates the most sales, but that’s only true if there’s a reliable
way of reaching your target audience, say at a trade show. But if the
cost of reaching them is so high that breaking-even is impossible, it
makes sense to consider other options. It’s even more complex that
that, however, because you need to factor in the "life value" of your
customer, and not simply analyze value based on the amount of a first
sale. Which is to say that it’s almost always cheaper to generate
repeat business than it is to acquire a new customer.
Question 13. You’ve just written a highly successful
book and we know your very busy promoting it and holding seminars. What
are your plans for additional projects and are you planning more
international travel in Asia to promote your book and other services?
Answer: I usually travel to Asia twice a
year, in spring and fall. Next November I’m scheduled to deliver a
series of seminars on one of my all-time most popular topics – How
to Write and Design Successful Promotional Materials (including
Marketing via the Internet).
I have two
books coming out. One book will be called Everything You Need to
Know to Bring Out the Excellence in Everyone Who Matters to Your
Success. The other will be called Business Writing for Results.