Hi, I'm Dan.
I created Confident Communicators, LLC after 20 years in corporate communications and 10 years leading mountain climbing expeditions.
None of that was as difficult as dealing with my three teenagers though!
I believe that anything is possible if we can just learn to talk to each other.
For a long time, I was the guy who helped executives prepare for high-stakes communications like re-orgs, layoffs, legal troubles, and those dreadful company-wide meetings where “big news” needed to be carefully explained to hundreds of people.
The executives in the corner offices had some tough stuff to communicate, so they relied on trained experts like me.
But, having spent years leading teams up mountains, dealing with life-and-death situations, with people under significant stress (sometimes myself), I understood from first-hand experience how communication is vital for everyone.
So it got me wondering, why is it that only the big-time execs get this kind of support?
Every day I interacted with plenty of other employees who were dealing with their own difficult communications situations.
Analysts had to pitch ideas in high-pressure meetings. Managers were navigating charged topics like racial injustice and politics. Project leads were presenting at conferences, dealing with unreasonable clients, or cleaning up after someone on their team messed up.
Everyone had to deal with unrealistic expectations, with difficult people, and sometimes those difficult people were their bosses!
The reason many people struggle with these sorts of conversations is that people are put into management positions because they are great performers at their subject area.
It was almost like someone said, “Hey, she’s good at what she does, so let’s make her a manager!” And everyone agrees.
Then they throw her to the wolves!
No training on how to say what needs to be said, how to give feedback to a team-mate, to ask for more resources, to say no…
Most people just avoid tough conversations, shut down by fear of power imbalances, or dealing with unreasonable people, or unclear expectations.
But, being the “Comms Guy” who worked with high power executives, I realized that they got into those positions because they were not afraid to speak their minds. In the moment, when pressure was on, they could persuade, influence, or listen.
So I started coaching regular staff. I just started doing it. No one asked me to.
I figured the fastest way to get someone to learn a new skill was to practice, so I made them role-play.
Someone would come to me with a tough situation, and I’d say, “Ok, I’ll be the other person, and you be you. Go…”
And we would just take it from there.
They messed up, but it was ok. It was just me, not the real situation. They could start again and practice as much as they wanted to feel comfortable.
I gave them coaching, and books to read, and videos to watch, but it was the practice that actually made them more confident. (Turns out the Harvard Business Review recommends the same approach).
And that made a monster difference in their lives.
As they learned how to communicate confidently, I started seeing amazing changes happen.
Many people reported getting kudos from the teams they work on, and their clients.
One woman, who had been feeling very uncomfortable by her boss’s behavior, said something to him. She was nervous about it, but saying something in the right way, she helped him see how his behavior was affecting her. He became aware and changed his actions, and she didn't have to go to HR. She used her own power.
One person received a promotion, with more responsibility and a big raise.
I was blown away by the transformative power of communicating with each other respectfully, honestly, openly.
Just by changing the way we communicated with each other, our teamwork, efficiency, and camaraderie all improved. Stress went down. People became more enjoyable to be around.
Plus, everyone thanked me. They said I was really good at it, and that felt good.
So, I struck out on my own, to bring this training to as many people as I could.
Sometimes you just believe in something so much that it becomes a calling.
I really do believe that all conflicts (from office spats to war) can be solved if we just learn how to talk to each other.
P.S. You can also consider joining me on a mountaineering expedition to raise money for breast cancer research. Learn more at ClimbForHope.org.