Real world examples of soft skill power strategies in sticky situations.
New examples are added at the bottom of the list.
“It was rush hour, and when the bus finally arrived. it was packed. I tried to force my way on but no one would budge, even though there was ample room in the back. Then the bus driver took over.
‘Excuse me, ladies and gentleman,’ he shouted. ‘Will all the beautiful, smart people please move to the back, and all the stupid, ugly people stay up front?’
I was soon on the bus.”
Nanette Nicotra Gingo in the New York Times
All In A Day’s Work
February 2004, page 74.
When someone says “Happy Holidays”
instead of “Marry Christmas”,
they’re not doing it because of
They do it out of respect.
From the 20th of November to January 24th,
there are at least 14 different religious holidays.
So, when someone says Happy Holidays to you,
Because they don’t know what you believe in.
It’s called respect,
Not a war on Christmas.
D. Kendra Francesco’s comment on the post:
“I worked retail, and we said it all the time. Did I get scolded, railed and yelled at,
and receive otherwise rude behavior? Yes I did.
Stopped several in their tracks when I pointed out that I had no idea what their
Some would stare at me, anger most of the time often accompanied by “there’s only one
true religion.” Sometimes, it was a stare of, “I never thought about that.”
In any case, after putting the brakes on the “there’s only one” car, I’d ask what they wanted
me to say. Then I’d say that.”
D. Kendra Francesco has almost 40 years of retail experience.
A blind member of Toastmasters figured out how to maintain eye contact during her speeches.
“All of the experts agree: Eye contact with your audience is crucial. This is impossible for me, but I have an effective workaround. Early in my speech, I try to say something funny. Once I get a laugh, I remember where those laughs came from and then look in that direction from time to time. I translate ear contact into eye contact.”
“Speaking in the Dark”
Mary Hiland, ACS, CL
May 2014, ,pages 26-27.
“My uncle was in his 90s when he saw a doctor about his bum leg. After examining him, the doctor said with a shrug, ‘You know, Mr.Whitney, at your age you have to expect things like this.’ Uncle Charlie wasn’t buying it. ‘Doc,’ he said, ‘my other leg is the same age, and it don’t hurt.’
Life In These United States
June 2023, pages 13-14.
“Dealing with the Network”
“[While we were shooting Lucky Louie], HBO asked us why there was no nudity. What they really meant was, Why wasn’t Pamela Adlon, who played my wife, nude? When I hired Pam, I didn’t tell her she was going to be doing anything like that. It wasn’t supposed to be that kind of show. So I said, ‘You know what, I’ll do it.’ And I did that episode, and they were like, ‘Okay, we have plenty of nudity, thank you.’”
September 2011: page 167.
“Neil Leibovits, president of Ajilon Professional Staffing in Saddle Brook, New Jersey agrees. When I first became president, staff morale was extremely low and our turnover rate was very high,” he says. But after Lebovits sent employees to the beach for one meeting and scheduled in time for them to “just goof off” together, the turnover rate dropped and productivity immediately improved.”
“Hit the Schmooze Button”
Working Mother Magazine
June/July 2003: page 42.
“While there’s a common belief that diversity in culture, expertise or thinking styles can be a boon to innovation and creativity, (David) Livermore’s research found that this is true only if individuals exhibit cultural intelligence.
‘We’ve found that if diversity is simply left on its own, it can do the reverse and lead to gridlock and frustration,” he says. “The key is that there has to be an intentional way of nurturing and tapping creativity, rather than presuming it’s going to happen on its own.’
Livermore once worked with a global pharmaceutical company on a campaign designed to get employees to contribute new ideas about improving the company’s products or services. The campaign was called “Speak Up.” While some leaders thought employees would jump at the chance to voice their opinions, they found that employees in regions like Asia-Pacific were resistant to the idea.
‘Employees in that culture had concerns about their ideas being judged, losing face or being viewed as incompetent if their ideas weren’t accepted,’ Livermore says. To adjust, the company created more discrete ways for people to contribute ideas, so they wouldn’t have to participate in open brainstorming with colleagues.”
“Other speakers adapt their audience- participation techniques to other cultures. Weech, the Foreign Service Institute specialist, is a fan of using interactive exercises in his leadership training sessions. But when conducting training in Kenya, he encountered some resistance to an exercise where participants were asked to work in small breakout groups and then report their findings to the larger group.
“Because they live in a hierarchical culture, the Kenyans didn’t have much interest in hearing their peers present,” Weech says. “When their peers were speaking, people ignore them and keep working.” So Weech made a change and instead asked each breakout group to report first to him, and then he presented that group’s findings to the whole class.
“They viewed me as more of an authority figure because I was the instructor, so when I said something, they paid attention and wrote it down.”
“Why You Need Cultural Intelligence”
May 2014: pages 24 and 25.
“Born to parents who struggled with mental illness and drug addiction, Lily’s Berkeley, California home, was in constant chaos, making it hard to concentrate on schoolwork. Being dyslexic made it even harder. So with no one telling her to go to school, Lily started skipping.
In fifth grade, she missed 52 days. Somehow she managed to pass. But her teacher issued a stern warning. If next year Lily didn’t do better, she’d be held back.
Another child in Lily’s circumstances might have shrugged it off. But Lily had promised herself that when she grew up, her life would be different. It’d be happy.
She was only 11. But for things to get better, Lily realized, I need to do well in school. The next year, she was absent just twice—because she was sick. She even made the honor roll!
But the following fall, Lily was removed from her parents’ home and placed in foster care. And like many foster kids,she began bouncing from home to home.
She felt lost. Alone. And scared that all the upheaval might cause her to fall behind in school.
Desperate, she begged her social worker to let her stay in the same school no matter where she was living.
It took some string-pulling, but Lily got her request.
The consistency and her determination paid off: by high school she’s overcome her dyslexia and was getting almost straight As! And she started dreaming about college.”
Lily graduated from Yale and now advocates for children in foster care.
“Lawyer Uses Her Own Experience As A Foster Kid To Advocate For Foster Care Rights”
The Hunger Site
“There is always hope for a better tomorrow!”
Woman’s World Magazine
January 9, 2012: page 34.
‘”If you are worried that due diligence will offend a potential partner, try leading by example. You could say: “Since you’re going to be tying your reputation to my business, you probably want a couple of references. Here are three or four of mine. And here’s the name of my commercial banker.”
“Ask Jim McCann”
CEO and Founder 1-800-Flowers.zoom
How can I assess the viability, reputation, and ethics of a potential strategic partner without damaging the relationship?”
May 2009: page 109.
Gorilla Fuel & Lube owner Robb Corwin had to renegotiate 600 one-year flat-rate contracts to keep his company afloat. In 2003 the costs of fuel rose, forcing Corwin to sell at a loss. He had to raise his prices. He offered his clients “new contracts with fluctuating rates set to a nationally published fuel cost, plus a margin for Corwin’s business.”
“With fuel costs soaring, Corwin had little to offer his clients except higher prices. But he did find one thing to sweeten the bitter deal: He told them they could choose the length of their contract.”
“When Good Deals Go Bad”
“The new branches are mainly outside city centres and are decidedly bare-bones. At a poky BTPN branch in Caracas, on the southern rim of Jakarta, a dog-eared sign hangs on the door and the floor could use a polish. This is deliberate, says Jerry Ng, the bank’s chief executive. Low-income customers “don’t dare” to walk into a posh banking hall (BTPN’s branches in central Jakarta are much plusher). Retired people get a tailored approach, too: BTPN operates branches that open at 5:30am on the first of the month, when state pensions are paid.”
Rich pickings: Jakarta
“Microlending has helped make BTPN one of Asia’s most profitable banks”
April 23, 2011: page 82.
“I was in the express lane at the store quietly fuming. Completely ignoring the sign, the woman ahead of me had slipped into the checkout line pushing a cart piled high with groceries.
Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned the woman to come forward, looked into the cart and asked sweetly, ‘So which six items would you like to buy?‘”
All in a Day’s Work
June 2003: page 71.
“How to Deal with Colleagues in Denial”
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky
March 25, 2020
After Medisys Health Communications revenue dropped from $5 to $1.4 million, founder and CEO Anna Walz made a decision.
“Over the next few weeks, Walz and her husband, John, the business’s chief financial officer, hammered out a business plan. Their decision: to drop nearly everything the company had done for years and focus on something it had been providing to customers for free—consulting services that helped disparate groups within large drug companies collaborate effectively. The idea is to get scientists, marketers, and health economists to figure out how to tell the story of a drug—before the marketing or advertising begins.”
Think small. In today’s economy, depth often trumps breadth.
Analyze your expertise. Find the thing you offer that no one else does, and stop trying to be all things to all people.
Treat rivals as potential partners. Tell them about your new found focus—and try to work as a consultant or subcontractor.
“Get small to get big. (In other words, it’s all about the niches.”
April 2012: page 92.
Austin, Texas advertising agency Door Number 3 had trouble landing national accounts. President MP Mueller put a lot of time and money into landing one particular big client. She never got any response.
“With more firms bidding on fewer jobs, that experience was becoming increasingly common, and Mueller recognized that she needed a new approach. She looked at her firm’s most successful and satisfying accounts and noticed a couple of things: First, they were solid relationships. And second, almost all of them were located in and around Austin.
So, in 2010, she made a change. No more Hail Marys aimed at snagging prestige accounts. Door Number 3 would focus on becoming the go to ad shop for clients in its hometown. Now, 80% of the company’s clients are in Austin, up from 15% a year ago.”
Be a joiner. Get active with local businesses and charitable organizations.
Speak up. Find local speaking opportunities and share your business expertise.
Be an expert. Exploit staff members’ knowledge of local issues to wow accounts.
“Act locally. Not globally”
April 2012: page 90.
Shirley Tilghman became the first female president of Princeton University in 2001.
“She recalls the first time she met with Princeton’s chief investment officer. ‘I didn’t understand a word he said,’ she confesses. But instead of delving into finance, she asked him to tutor her in the basics so she would know enough to ask key questions and delegate.”
“From Lab Table to President’s Chair”
U.S. News &World Report
November 19, 2007, page 61.
8. MANAGE AT EVERY LEVEL.
“An essential lesson in being managerial for Teresa White, 47, came when she was a 25-year-old manager for a credit card company. ‘I was the boss and I was going to impart my knowledge, telling everyone what they needed to do,’ says White, who is executive vice-president and chief operations officer for Aflac U.S., a supplemental insurance provider based in Columbus, Georgia. It was her first supervisory position. ‘When I got that 360-degree feedback—a tool for identifying everyone’s view of your leadership style—my bosses and peers thought I was the bomb. But my employees thought I was rigid, didn’t listen and didn’t care about their concerns.’ Their myriad complaints made her rethink how to best manage. She responded by explaining how she planned to be a more efficient, exemplary, humane leader. ‘And I told them, “When you see old habits, remind me, Teresa, you’re not being the person you want people to see.” They were able to exhale.’ From there, she kept broadening her skill set, mindful that ‘you don’t really have the luxury of just knowing what you do. If you’re solving problems and making decisions, you can’t live in a silo. You have to be able to sit among everyone and be inquisitive. Bottom line: Always listen and seek greater understanding.’”
“The Rules Of Engagement”
October 27, 2020
“In comparison to the boys in class, the girls are a lot more reluctant to speak.
Having the all girls’ school experience of not having to worry about that competition, I have an easier time speaking out in class.
And if there’s something I want to say or that I’ve heard, I want to make a point of speaking up.
If that something is what another female student said under her breath or in a small group, I want to make sure their thoughts are heard. And since it’s easier for me, I can say it while identifying the female student who I’m quoting.”
Personal conversation with Paula M. Kramer
“School was over for the day when a boy walked into my classroom with two guns and a knife. My student Chelsea was the only other one there. The boy kept threatening to shoot; I don’t know why. I told myself, I can talk my way out of this. We were there for an hour. He put a gun to Chelsea’s head, but she was cool. She said, ‘We want to help you.’ We said, “Don’t shoot us, shoot out the window.’ He did—and ran away.”
“We Stared Into The Eyes Of A School Shooter”
The Hero Issue, probably 2006
“11 Phrases To Use Instead of Automatically Agreeing With Someone—When You Actually Disagree”
Beth Ann Mayer
January 13, 2024 (?)
Workplace Coach Blog
November 21, 2023
© Paula M. Kramer, 2023
All rights reserved.
Updated January 24, 2024.