Walking into the room to teach Rudy Giuliani something about dealing with the media was a bit daunting. Really? Some stranger is going to teach the guy who led New York City after 9/11 how to do a TV interview? Well, that’s exactly where I found myself in 2013.
And as strange as that felt, what was even more surprising was the Mayor’s reaction to our meeting. (More on that in a minute.) The reality is we are all in a constantly changed world. The mindset that will most quickly lead you to disaster is that you are a “finished product.” If you understand the idea that things are in a constant state of change you will be okay with learning, with the different perspectives of those around you and being wrong more than you might like. That doesn’t mean you walk away from your core values. You have to be founded on fundamentals like honesty, fairness and caring. What I’m talking about here falls into the category of being tuned-in enough to the bigger picture and know there is a lot you don’t know.
What kind of smart are you?
Some of us are traditionally book smart. Others have incredible intuition and can read others well. Still others are problem solvers or people who quickly put an entire room at ease. Years ago I started to realize I didn’t need to know how to perform surgery or build the stadium or fly the plane or run the company. Instead I needed to tell them how to explain it – how to word it so it made sense coming from them. That’s pretty much my job description. Many times very bright people struggle to explain their ideas. So being in a room with more skilled, talented, famous, rich or powerful people is all good by me. I’m there to play my roll and I get that.
One of the most important journeys for any of us is figuring out the roll we play – and then adjusting as the world changes around us. One good place to start is thinking about what others tell you. (I’m not talking about that mean uncle who said you would never amount to anything when you were a kid.) What do people who know you, care about you or are knowledgeable judges of talent tell you? What do the tests that are readily available tell you? What does your heart tell you? From reading “What Color is My Parachute” to visiting with people you respect, try to get to that place where you know your role and can be okay with the changing world.
What can I teach Rudy Giuliani?
And with that we return to that New York conference room with Rudy Giuliani. I was there to work on some messaging with him – getting him comfortable talking about the attributes of the product he had been acting as a spokesperson for over the last few years.
Instead of giving me the, “Yeah, yeah, got it,” I expected, he was actually very engaged. The guy who has probably spent as much time in front of a camera as anyone on the planet, short of perhaps one of the Presidents (he tried to get that job, too), also understood he was not a “finished product.” He knew that each of the rolls he plays in the world requires a certain level of preparation and serious focus. You may like or dislike Mr. Giuliani, but I came away from our session with a renewed respect for someone who was happily ready to be a student.
A longer version on this topic will be found in my new book, which will be available this fall. Stay tuned!
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: email@example.com.