Feb 15, 2017
Sharks, Ships, Snakes, & Cakes
Ray Bigger and his team call themselves “The Productivity Architects,”
which should immediately alert you to their appreciation for the power of
metaphoric language to influence and persuade rather than forgettable
language like “Executive and Team Development Consultants.” Indeed, the
Architect metaphor is woven throughout their
Singapore based, with an impressive client list that ranges from Oracle to
Burberry, Ray shared a number of metaphors with me that he uses in his
management and sales development work to re-shape client’s thinking and create
change in individuals, teams, and companies. Here are four that you might adapt
to your work.
Blood in the Water
Management consulting often uncovers serious problems within an
organization. Understandably, managers are not always willing to hear how bad
things are. In
fact, they sometimes default to defensive explanations as to why
a situation is the way it is.
When that happens, Ray pulls out a gut punch
metaphor to get the client to re-focus and take action. In one case, he told a
senior manager, “Look, you are swimming in shark infested waters here! Your
team is dysfunctional and split and, if you don’t take any action, there will be
blood in the water very soon, not only for you, but for the company, and its
share price as well.”
Ray says, “That usually snaps them out of their defensiveness, gets them
to see the issues through a different lens, and then we can begin work on
the recommended corrective measures.”
However, consulting isn’t always about surfacing problems. Consulting often
uncovers opportunities as well, but visions without action is just
one instance, Ray was counseling a mid-level manager who was
fearful of moving on to a more senior, more visible job opportunity. After
presenting the case for accepting the job, and seeing that the manager was
still wavering, Ray clinched his argument by saying, “You will never
discover new horizons if you never leave the shore.”
The magnitude and resonance of the opportunity metaphor ultimately eclipsed
the client’s apprehensions and he accepted the job.
When They Go Low…
It can be very tempting to accept business from questionable clients. After
all, revenue is revenue. Right? Wrong. What is a questionable client? One
who is itself in a suspicious business, one who deals badly with its
clients, one who thinks nothing of maximizing your services and then demands
that you lower your fees, etc.
“This dilemma doesn’t happen often, but when it did,” Ray said, he asked his
client, “Why do you want to do business with someone who has morals
lower than a snake’s stomach?”
Cast in that light, Ray’s client eventually saw the folly of continuing to
work with that client and ended the relationship.
Having Your Cake & Eating it as Well -
Finally, in the age of the acceleration of just about everything, clients
often want to cut corners on a process to get a project done more quickly.
After Ray explains the downside of doing that and the client is still
pushing for speed, Ray has said, “What you are asking for is rather like
expecting to bake an award-winning cake by leaving out 50% of the recipe.
Can’t be done.”
That usually ends the client’s unrealistic demand for short-cutting a
These examples reflect Ray’s understanding of the power of crafted*
a new lens for how someone “sees” an issue
Stimulate fresh thinking
Achieve a different outcome.
What lens do you need to change to advance your causes, your business, or
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors
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High Stakes Metaphors: Casual? Crafted? Or Creative?
My latest post on LinkedIn explores three levels of
metaphors you can use when you need to sell, influence, persuade, or
explain anything to anyone.
"The Same Show, but a Changed World"
If you are a John Olivor fan as I am, you will enjoy this print
interview with the late night TV host. From a “Metaphorian” point of
view, notice how many metaphors he uses – no surprise since comedy,
like metaphor-making, is about making unexpected connections to make
Need to Craft or Create a Winning Presentation or Demo?
Call today for individual coaching or
team workshops and
learn how to turn information that tells into a story that sells. 212-876-1875
"Anne and I recently worked together on a speech I gave at a large
conference. She helped me turn a series of somewhat interesting points into
an expertly crafted, compelling and actionable story. Together, we built a
storyline with attention-grabbing headlines. We worked and re-worked the
language, making sure every word was important. Finally, Anne coached me on
the delivery. The result was so exciting - I've never been so well received
in a speech before. Thank you, Anne!" Kate Griffin, Vice President, CFED.org