Engagement, Empathy And Effective Communication For Leaders And Families With Krister Ungerböck

What do we need to learn to have an effective communication style? What is the secret sauce towards good communication between people? We find out in this episode as Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down for a talk with former CEO, bestselling author and keynote speaker Krister Ungerböck. Krister talks about his book, 22 Talk SHIFTs and what drove him to write the book on how to communicate, and why communication is key to healthy relationships. Tune in for more communication and engagement secrets in this show.



I’m so glad you joined us now because we have Krister Ungerböck here. Krister has written a book that is on the number one spot on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. It is called 22 Talk SHIFTs: Tools to Transform Leadership. He has done amazing things as a former global tech CEO, keynote speaker and author. It’s going to be a great show.

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Engagement, Empathy And Effective Communication For Leaders And Families With Krister Ungerböck

I am here with Krister Ungerböck, who is a leadership communication expert. He’s a former global tech CEO, keynote speaker and author of the number one bestseller on the Wall Street Journal list 22 Talk SHIFTs. I’m so excited to have you here, Krister, welcome.

I’m excited to be here too Diane.

Congratulations on being number one on the Wall Street Journal list. That’s quite a feat. Was that exciting? I imagine.

We had a goal back in January. I didn’t think we would admittedly that we would achieve it but the first step to achieving something is setting a goal to do it. The book actually had a story. Years ago, I was with a bunch of CEOs at a retreat and we were doing visioning for, “What do you want to be five years from now.” We were encouraged by a facilitator to come up with a short tagline. My tagline was to get Oprah-ready.

For me, it was more about physical fitness goals. If I ever get that moment of fame, I don’t want to be looking at myself on television twenty years later and be like, “I was 50 pounds overweight.” It was never about being on Oprah. It was a thought and then the crazy thing that the universe brought us is that the number two book that week that we hit the number one on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list was Oprah’s new book. It was a funny thing how it came full circle.

Your book is titled 22 Talk SHIFTs. You have all these tools to transform leadership and I want to make sure that people know there are 22 of them. It’s an interesting title. Twenty-two is not the typical number. We’re going to get into that because I do want to find out about your book. Before we get into it, can I get your backstory? A lot of people want to know what led to you becoming this leadership communication expert, Wall Street Journal bestselling author and all the things that you’ve done.

I was a CEO of a tech company that coincidentally was sold the day that the book hit number one on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. We sold the company for hundreds of millions of dollars, which gave me the financial fuel to not worry about making an income from this effort. My mission now is to dedicate all profits, I take no compensation and our mission is to change the words of the world.

My backstory was years ago, I walked out on the CEO job at the company that I helped build and loved. Two weeks later, my wife walked out on me. I found myself at the YMCA. I remember staring in the mirror, realizing and seeing the leader that I’d become. I was a leader with no followers. I had started reading business books when I was twelve years old. I threw out all the business books because I said, “Maybe it got us a very successful business but they didn’t necessarily get me into a successful place in all aspects of my life.”

22 Talk SHIFTs: Tools to Transform Leadership in Business, in Partnership, and in Life

I tried to surround myself with all the people that I would have judged as weird and far-out back when I was a CEO. I said, “What can I learn about the secrets to leading that cross both leading in the context of a business but also leading in the context of a family?” Ultimately, after some years, I believe that we found them. That it’s not about changing people. It’s simply about changing our words and then the people will follow.

We wrote the book to be Talk Shifts. Talk shift is a simple shift to our words that can help us to lead with more compassion, create deeper connection and commitment whether it’s employees or people in our family. When I was a CEO, our employee engagement scores were 99.3%. The word engagement stuck with me throughout this whole process that it is coincidence that before we get married, we get engaged. In companies, we talk about employee engagement.

As a leader, I always thought how I lead at home is very different than how I lead in the context of a team or in a business. Ultimately, what I tried to get through with the book is that the common thread of leadership in relationships and business is creating commitment and their specific communication tools. Many of them were very surprising to me, having read hundreds of books about communication over the years. Sometimes simple communication mistakes that we don’t even realize we make can be fixed with subtle shifts to our words.

That’s so interesting because I had written my dissertation on emotional intelligence and a lot of it is interpersonal communication. Having Daniel Goleman on the show was fun because I got to learn about a lot of the things he was working on. As you’re telling me all the things that you’ve learned, a lot of leaders do separate how they lead, how their personalities are so different at work and then how they are at home. They’re worried that they’re going to buy books that are woo-woo. That’s how they put it when they’re on the show. They don’t want that. Were you that guy that goes, “I don’t want to read that woo-woo stuff,” and then now you look at it in a different way? Do you still think that stuff is woo-woo and you went a different way?

I have a balanced perspective on the woo-woo. After this breakdown years ago, I purposely put myself in those woo-woo crowds, the people that I would have called weird and far out. Now, we just call them people from California so there’s no judgment there. Many of them happen to live on the West Coast in California.

What my point was in doing that is that I remember every time I would go off on some strange adventure, my CEO friends would be like, “Where are you going?” What would echo in my head is, “If you want to find surprising secrets, you need to look in surprising places.” I always felt my role was to go to these rooms, the people with the long hair, ponytails and there was no sport coats or suits in these rooms typically but to take the words out of that and how can I translate them into tools that work equally well in the context of our personal and professional lives.

I had a little bit of unique advantage in that and I learned to lead in French and German as an adult when I opened businesses in France and Germany after September 11. The language was always something that was prevalent. You talked about emotional intelligence. I read Daniel Goleman’s books and Emotional Intelligence 1.0 and 2.0 and I don’t know how many other emotional intelligence books.

[bctt tweet=”The first step to achieving something is setting a goal to do it.” via=”no”]

Despite reading all these books, I was probably, in the words of my employees, not a very emotionally intelligent leader. I realized on the journey is that I was making a very simple and common language mistake. When I was thinking I was being emotionally intelligent. I would say something like, “I feel like you did that on purpose.”

“I feel you did it,” and you’re thinking putting the word feels is going to soften it.

I thought if I said the word feel, we must be talking about feelings. Interestingly, in German and French, if you were to look up the French word for to feel is sentir. If you look up the word sentir in a French thesaurus, you will not see the word penser, which is the word to think but you do in an English thesaurus. We often get confused between we’re using the word feel but we’re conveying our thoughts.

The simple answer though is just to remove. If you ever say, “I feel like or I feel that,” you’re talking about a thought. When we speak our thoughts, we’re certainly not creating more connections with others. Often if we’re in a state of frustration, anger or disappointment, we say something that creates disconnection versus the antidote is simply to say, “I feel,” and then the next word must be a feeling word, sad, mad, happy, great or whatever. It shifts the conversation.

That’s an important thing and we don’t sit there and analyze the language so much. I’ve had some great wordsmiths and different people on the show who do that. You brought up something that I wanted to go back to for a second because you thought you had low EQ but you had a high engagement at your company. How do you think those two ended up together?

I was an engineer. I started learning Programming when I was twelve. I was severely introverted. I trained myself to be extroverted at least in situations where it was required. Maybe I had the foresight to surround myself with people who had much higher EQ than I did. In a leadership context, everything that I would read was always about setting the vision and we want to create a vision with a purpose that people want to follow. We did a good job or I did a good job in that but what I also realized is that a CEO or a C-level executive has that tool of casting a big vision that inspires people that wants to follow.

The reality is everyone else in the organization doesn’t have control over the vision. They only have control over how they are. People follow a vision set by a CEO or the high level of executives but everyone else in the organization is followed because they are people who someone wants to follow. I realized that if I had then both had a vision and a person that people wanted to follow, we would have achieved even more dramatic results than what we did.

I remember I deal a lot with engagement and deal with it from the curiosity aspect. If you could allow people to not be held back with their curiosity, it does improve engagement. We’ve seen that in some of the companies that I’ve worked with. Novartis has some great research in that and some more data is out there.

Effective Communication: A talk shift is just a simple shift to our words that can help us to lead with more compassion, um, create deeper connection and commitment, whether it’s employees or people in our family.

Recognizing these things that we have that we need to work on for engagement, one of them is sharing the vision. You did that, which is important because a lot of people are not engaged because they have no idea what the vision is or why they’re doing all the million things they do each day to reach it. They just see things as tasks. You definitely were ahead of that for that reason. I could see that alone would build a lot of engagement.

What you’re writing about is a lot of how we speak and communicate. You’re driving change based on our words. I love talking about the different words because I studied emotional intelligence with empathy as a big part of emotional intelligence. When you were talking, you could speak like an emotional Einstein with the language of empathy. I want to know what that is.

Are you aware of Marshall Rosenberg’s work?

Go ahead and share.

Marshall Rosenberg wrote a book some years ago. I recall it was one of the few books that sold millions of copies and has never appeared on a business bestseller list anywhere. It’s somewhat unknown. It’s a bit of a dry book admittedly but I thought this was the first book that I ever found where someone boiled emotional intelligence and empathy down to specific words.

He’s no longer alive but the book was written many years ago. The words that he used were maybe not great for a professional setting because the book wasn’t written for people in a professional setting. In 22 Talk SHIFTs, we took some of his things and the language stems or the sentence stems, we made them such that they could be used equally well in a personal or professional setting.

Another interesting thing about this book was it was the first book that Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella recommended that his entire executive team read after being named CEO of Microsoft. The point of this book and the reason why it wasn’t successful is you can imagine, you being an author as well, the publishers are always, “Does the book meet the airplane test?”

If somebody is sitting there next to you in the airplane, would you open it and allow someone to see that you’re carrying this book? The book is Nonviolent Communication so you can imagine if you don’t want somebody to talk to you on an airplane, just open your copy of Nonviolent Communication and you can shut down any conversation through transit flight.

[bctt tweet=”Leading is not really about changing people. It’s simply about changing our words and then the people will follow. ” via=”no”]

What you had is this concept that he calls empathy guesses. What it is, is when we talk to someone, we don’t necessarily have to ask how they’re feeling. In 22 Talk SHIFTs, when we talk about emotion, the most common thing that people tend to ask is, “How are you feeling or how’s it going?” The answer to that is often, “Fine. Good.” The interesting thing is fine and good are not emotions.

If we’re not even talking about our emotions, how can we create an emotionally intelligent conversation? We shift the question to say, “What emotion are you experiencing now?” If we’re talking about something that happened in the past, we try to get them to imagine what was the emotion you were experiencing at that moment when it happened.

It’s very difficult to say the emotion I was experiencing is fine or good. Reframing our questions can get answers that get us closer to the actual emotion being experienced. Marshall Rosenberg’s thought was also when people aren’t ready to state their emotions, I could say, “Diane, I wonder if you’re feeling afraid or anxious.”

What his point was is that if we make statements like that, which he calls empathy guesses then people often correct us. We can basically guess and I as a not very emotionally intelligent person, had a very hard time pinpointing my own emotions. If I’m not good at pinpointing my own emotions, I’m probably not going to be great at guessing others’ emotions. What I’ve found in starting to use this tool is that we start to develop more emotional awareness of how other people are behaving simply by guessing and then watching as they correct us.

I didn’t realize how my words often hurt people, typically giving people criticism or what I thought was constructive feedback about their work because I grew up in a highly critical environment, criticism bounced off me so much that I’ve had people in my life say, “I can’t believe that you’re not curled up in a ball after I told you that piece of feedback.” I’m like, “That’s nothing. I’ve been getting to criticize since I was six years old.”

The interesting thing is that because I was so impervious to criticism, we simply sometimes assume that other people are built that way. I didn’t have a very good meter for measuring how my words would land on others until I started this empathy guess and realize that people were in some cases hurt or if it was a professional context, afraid by the directness of how I shared feedback.

There are a lot of things I want to touch on that you just said. First of all, back to Marshall’s book, I want to read that. When I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, you couldn’t incorporate books. It had to be all peer-reviewed journal-type of research. I did read a lot of Daniel Goleman’s books and some of the other ones but I couldn’t incorporate that part of his work into my dissertation. I would love to read Marshall’s thing. Thank you for that.

As far as when you’re talking about words hurting people and the assumptions, all of that ties in so much to what I found in my curiosity research because there were four things that inhibit curiosity. There is fear, assumptions, technology over and underutilization of it and the environment. All the way you grow up, people and things that they say to you and those types of things. You say words hurt people. People get used to being led in a certain way.

Effective Communication: Typically, when we speak our thoughts, we’re certainly not creating more connection with others. If we’re in a state of frustration or anger or disappointment, we actually say something that actually creates disconnection.

I had a leader who was very difficult. They berated him and talked in a way that I thought he shouldn’t talk. He would talk to me that way. I can remember he asked me to do something and I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to do that. How do you do that? I’d never had to do that for any job in my life and no reason I should ever have to.” He looked at me and he said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” If I had been a young person, I probably would have been very upset by that. You’re shutting down people’s curiosity. You’re telling them, “Don’t ask questions. Pretend you don’t need the answers. I don’t want to know the truth.”

There are a lot of leaders who were taught, “Don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions.” You’re basically telling everybody who can recognize problems but I don’t have the training to give you a solution not to tell you anything. Do you think that’s where we’re getting a lot of these words and phrases that we use as we learned them from other leaders or they were in a book a long time ago that we thought was a good idea?

I think so. One of the things that I realized, and this was one of the things that I was passionate about writing a book that crosses over both personal and professional leadership is that, in many cases, those words that our leaders speak echo and they bounce off the walls and down the halls into the homes of the employees in their care.

My wife at the time had worked for the same company for twenty years and maybe the same boss for ten and she switched companies. All of a sudden, this was a trivial example but we stopped meeting. We would catch up and touch base. If we ever had a bunch of people, we would circle the wagons. These are the words that her new boss used.

My greater purpose with writing the 22 Talk SHIFTs was I believe that if leaders have more compassionate and more effective communication at work, that many people are going to take those communication styles and going to take them home to their families. They’re going to be better parents and spouses. The real work that we’re up to at The global Talk SHIFT movement is using business as a force to create stronger families and stronger teams of course as well.

You say there’s a global Talk SHIFT movement. In addition to this book, what is the global Talk SHIFT movement then?

The global Talk SHIFT movement is pioneering what we’re calling pay for performance philanthropy. Unfortunately, having sold this company that I don’t need to take financial gain from the sales of the books and keynotes and all the other things that go along with that. I’ve made a commitment for my lifetime at least that 100% of profits will be allocated towards the mission of changing the words of the world so much what we do is at our annual reader survey, we involve our readers in selecting where we give.

Aside from that is part of 2022, we’re going to be creating a legal Board of Directors that will provide accountability and oversight to the organization. All of our financials, board meetings, shareholder meetings and everything will be published online for entrepreneurs and leaders to hopefully learn by example.

[bctt tweet=”If you want to find surprising secrets, you need to look in surprising places.” via=”no”]

I remember when I was a CEO and especially when we were a smaller company with 10 or 20 employees, even when we were hundreds of employees, it would have been so valuable for me to see what would it be? What does a board meeting look like where a CEO and Senior Executives get pushed by independent board members who are coming from an outside perspective?

What we’re trying to do on the business side of things is we’re trying to create and set an example of transparency but also create where those open board meetings can be educational for leaders at all levels in organizations. On the separate angle is the more personal communication, how we can use these tools as mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and also as sons and daughters of aging parents.

From working with different boards, I’ve worked with DocuSign in different groups as a board of advisors in different aspects. I’ve had a lot of discussion about boards on this show as well. A lot of boards are so heavily focused on men, White men or financial experts. They are not focused on these behavioral experts like the HR components that I’ve seen more and more people are putting cultural experts in. What kind of board members are you putting on this? This is fascinating to me.

The one difference between a public corporation and what we’re trying to do is we do expect there’ll be a little bit larger boards so there probably 15 to 17 people, partly because of that reason like if I only have five board seats then maybe I wouldn’t have two HR people or a cultured person and HR person. The intention is that we’ll have individuals from all different job functions and in many cases, imagine someone like Brené Brown. We wouldn’t necessarily have someone like her. What about her Chief Financial Officer or Director of Marketing? We would basically bring together individuals from all functions, probably in different industries and perspectives.

Typically, if you’ve involved boards, you have a general board structure. There’s the full board, which meets often once per quarter and then we have an executive committee, which is a smaller group of 3 to 5 people that maybe meet for an hour once a month. The one thing that we’re intending to layer into that is that the board meeting would almost be like also a weekly show, where maybe we would take one of the HR experts on the board and we would have a conversation about HR. “What are the things that we’re doing within the organization,” and then opening those board meetings up where listeners can participate and ask questions. It’s not a podcast in that sense. We have a podcast for 30 minutes, we’d go into a closed-door session and then people can join and ask questions after the expert.

You’re trying to do a lot of things that are important because communication has been behind closed doors so much. You’re saying we’re in a communication crisis and you’re looking to fix that. I am curious what your now ex is, this must fascinate her that this all happened and you’re doing all this based on you saying this was part of the problem in the past.

Of the top three things that I’m most proud of in my life was that my former wife and I have had a good relationship for a lot of reasons why it probably wouldn’t have been. Our divorce was no better than anyone else’s. There was a lot of drama and a lot of negativity there. I remember the day that my marriage broke. My wife was the one who wanted to leave the marriage. The next day I sat down and this was still when we were like, “Are we going to try to work on this?” I said, “My actions will be guided over the next 6 to 12 months or whatever by the question of, ‘What is the story that I want to tell our kids twenty years from now.’”

At that moment of almost accountability for both of us to say, “It’s Monday. It’s 11:00 AM. What are we going to say to each other in the context of making that something that would be an inspiring story for our children?” I am very proud of how she and I behaved. It showed through probably about 3 or 4 years after the divorce was done. I was driving and my daughter who was in the back seat, talking to another friend who was also a child of divorced parents. My daughter was saying with such pride, “My parents get along.” The other person said, “Mine don’t.”

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

Divorce was never fun, I believe that it was the communication tools that we’ve developed over these years that was the difference-maker. I was going to say that I left my role as CEO of the company but my business partners were my family members. That was what I call a business divorce. It was just not me leaving my business partners or leaving a CEO job.

That same question guided me when I left that role as, “How am I going to leave in a way that if I told my kids twenty years from now that I would be proud of how I did it?” Years after, the person who I hired as CEO, delivered. The company didn’t skip a beat and years later, we had an amazing exit, which is now giving us the financial fuel to change the words in the world.

That’s important and as you talk about words, a lot of people will say, “Actions speak louder than words,” but you say, “Actions don’t speak, words do,” and I know what you’re saying but are you saying that words are more important than action or are you saying something else?

What I’ve found is, which I talk about in the 21st chapter of the book, if we use certain formulas for how we make commitments to others then the action is more likely to follow. What I come back to is, of course, actions speak louder than words but if I say, “I’ll get that to you sometime in the coming weeks, Diane.” That action is much less likely to be followed up on than, “Diane, I’m going to get that to you by 8:30 AM on Wednesday.”

There are a couple of other tips in that chapter that if we imagine an entire organization made commitments to one another in that way and our unwritten rule is, “As soon as I know that I can’t get that to you by 8:30 on Wednesday,” maybe that’s a week before or two days before, “I’m going to let you know and I’m going to give you a new commitment. It’s going to be Friday at noon now because something came up.”

Imagine the reduction in drama in an organization. It came out of a story that, in 1997, I was working with a company in Hong Kong. It was right after I joined the software company where I became CEO. There was this man and his name was KW Chan. He was, “Krister, I want to have a report on my desk at 8:00 AM.” He was very demanding. The people from Hong Kong are. That’s part of the culture. If you think that the old New York culture, multiply it times five and that’s the Hong Kong culture.

The time difference was very different and so I would say, “I’ll get it to you by 8:00 AM or I’ll get it to you by Friday evening.” I knew that by being fuzzy on my commitments, I never said the time zone. I was like, “If I don’t get it by 5:00 PM then at least I know I have seventeen more hours until the next day or thirteen more hours,” whatever the time zone difference is to my 5:00 PM not their 5:00 PM on Friday.

Admittedly, the client was very frustrated by this. You can imagine, if I’m a leader and you agree that you’re going to give me something at 12:00 PM on Friday, if I send you an email or pop in your office at 12:05 and say, “Where’s the project?” there shouldn’t be that much drama around that. If he’s there Friday morning and then I pop into your office at 11:45 PM, “I told you Friday morning. It’s not even 12:00 yet.” This is the point about actions don’t speak, words do and creating commitments in certain ways. The same thing applies to personal relationships. With my kids, if I commit to something to them, I say, “I’m going to do it by this date or this time so that I can renegotiate my commitment on that date.”

[bctt tweet=”If you aren’t good at pinpointing your own emotions, you are probably not going to be great at guessing others’ emotions.” via=”no”]

Coming back to me when I’m being in sales. We always were taught to underpromise and overdeliver. If we do enough of that, do you think everybody’s promising more than they should be promising?

I suspect that’s certainly an element and the more specific we are with commitments, that it is a little bit of an antidote to that. If I said to ten people, “I’d give it to you next week. I’m going to get Diane’s on Monday. I’m going do this,” we tend to overestimate how much we’re going to be able to get it done. If I know that I have a commitment to you at noon, somebody else at noon on Tuesday and somebody else at noon on Wednesday, I can start if I’m organized enough and I don’t think you even need to put it in your calendar.

Subconsciously we start to realize, ” I made a lot of commitment. I know that on Wednesday, I’m in a meeting all day long so I’m sure I won’t get that by Wednesday at noon.” By making these specific commitments in this specific way, it creates an environment where we’re more likely to think of the things that are standing in the way of us meeting the commitments.

You’ve learned so much from your past. You were saying how you’ve learned from your CEO position. Your foreign language and relationships taught you a lot of this. Do you feel like you’re continuing on a journey of learning? Sometimes you think, “Now I’ve learned this,” and then I don’t know, as I’ve aged, every decade you go, “I wish I knew that last time.” Do you think you’ll have more books? Do you think there will be 44 Talk SHIFTs in ten years or what do you think is coming next?

The book that was published was probably mostly written years ago. It was originally a book that was twice as long and we cut half of it out because we were already working on the next books in the series. I’m working on one concept that we’re thinking of calling the RelationSHIFT, which is less of a book. It’s more like I call a moving marriage of spoken word and music. We want to do things that are a little bit broader than the concept of books. Part of the reason is the book, 22 Talk SHIFTs, which we released as a videobook. It’s one of the first-ever videobooks and there was a specific reason for that.

What’s a videobook exactly?

It’s the same content that you’d find in an audiobook but it’s a video. We have a Smart TV app. You can watch it like Netflix on television. If you want to watch it with your family or your children to teach them the tools. We did it for a couple of reasons. In a professional context, if you’ve ever read a book and you’re like, “This tool, I wish my boss, this coworker Bob or whatever, I wish they had this one tool but I know they’re not going to read a whole book.” When you get the video book, you can share any chapter with anyone, even anonymously, to get them curious about this Talk SHIFT concept. Every chapter is its own probably mini head.

Is it a talking head kind of thing? Is it graphics? I’m curious what you have on the screen.

Effective Communication: In many cases, those words that our leaders speak echo, they bounce off the walls and down the halls into the homes of the employees in their care.

It’s both. It’s me speaking to the camera and its graphics to aid recall. There are a couple of reasons why it’s important. The audio of the inflection of how to use the Talk SHIFTs is certainly an element of that but then because I’m talking directly to the camera, if you’re watching something, what summaries a reporter is that it helps us experience what it feels like to be spoken to in that way, in a way that even an audiobook can’t do. The book was written as if when we talk it through the examples of the Talk SHIFTs that you can feel, “This is how I’m being spoken to.”

The bigger reason why I did the videobook is when the book was published, when you write a book, somebody’s like, “What are you going to do for your launch party?” The launch party was in the middle of COVID so there wasn’t going to be much of a launch party. A friend of mine called me two weeks before and I said, “What I want to do is I want to read the book to my mom at her grave.”

That was because that if my mom and dad had had these tools years ago, we would have all been happier children with happier husbands, happier wives and happier lives. I sat there for four hours and it was a symbolic moment obviously but reading to her and my father joined for lunch. I had read the book to him sometime before. When we were about three-quarters away through the book, he said, “I had no idea how my words hurt you.”

We sat at my mother’s grave and we ate sandwiches from the gas station. I asked him, I said, “What would it be like if we were friends?” He said, “I’d like that.” He got a little bit emotional and so did I. Over many years, my father and I had called each other so many terrible names, for the first time of our lives, I called my father, my friend.

That’s a nice ending to that. As you’re saying this, it brings up what a lot of people need, want and deserve is respect. As parents, it’s been a long time since I dealt with a lot of these things, as I look back, my mom didn’t think her mom was the greatest thing. You look back and you see how they were raised. Parents do what they think is best based on what they were taught. What you’re trying to do is change the cycle a little bit here because sometimes that’s what it takes. It’s the recognition of what we learned maybe isn’t the best way, don’t you think?

The reason that we wrote the book as a business book first, even though it applies equally well in all kinds of relationships, is that I can’t tell you how many stories I hear and talk to people or comments on the Facebook posts appealed. They say, “It’s a great book but my husband will never read it.” I was at an Airbnb at a winery. There was this Swiss guy in his 60s or 70s and his wife. She’s probably approximately the same age. I told them about the book and they’re like, “We’ll read it,” and then his wife said at breakfast, “Can I talk to you for a second?” I was like, “This is going to be good.” She goes, “Did he tell you about the book that I got him for Christmas?” I said, “No. What is it?”

When she showed me, she brought the book out. It was something about how to argue better or something like that, some marriage book. She said, “I gave him the book for Christmas and he opened it up and he was like, ‘Thank you,’ and he looked at the book and he goes, ‘Isn’t this the book that you gave me five years ago?'” She goes, “Yes. You didn’t read it then.” The point was some people who will never read that book about marriage or parenting that sits on their nightstand for six months until you finally take it away, those are the people who will read a book about how to be a better leader at work and help their career.

I’d like to add to that. They’ll read it, which I hate to say because the people who don’t like to read these fluff kinds of things, to them what they think is fluff is if they see it written by a man, they are more likely to, in my opinion. I remember seeing your name and not sure if you were a guy or a girl, Krister. I had to look up your picture. If a woman had written this and if a guy saw a woman on the back of this book and it’s talking about better communication and things, do you think it would be even harder to get a guy or a gal who doesn’t want to read the fluff stuff?

[bctt tweet=”Just because we are impervious to criticism, we sometimes assume that other people are built that way.” via=”no”]

There’s certainly some truth to that. The other aspect of being a successful CEO rather than an educator, researcher or whatever, we built a company that was sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. These tools add another element. It’s the combination of the two. At least that’s what other people have told me is it’s the combination of the two. When I was writing it, I pick up the phone when people call. Not all the time but when people call because they’re having ordering problems on the TalkShift.com website.

I’ve had calls from 75-year-old women who never worked outside of the home and they’re buying this book. Sometimes they’re buying it for their sons who are in their 30s or 40s who are in their careers or having trouble with their marriages. Even imagine I’ve had women who don’t work outside of the home and imagine for Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Christmas, they give their professional husband a book and then they’re like, “Honey, why are you giving me a business book? You’ve never given me a business book.”

The whole intention of the book is it was structured in a way that all of these tools can be used interchangeably in personal and professional life. I had an employee who worked for me many years ago, the week after the book was launched and I haven’t talked to him forever. He’s an tech Executive on the West Coast. He texted me and he said, “Is it common for people to cry while reading the book? Asking for a friend.”

I texted him back and I said, “What chapter made you cry?” He said, “It was one of the chapters in the leadership section of the book because it caused me to realize that the way that I lead in the context of how I lead my teenage daughter needs to change.” If someone’s drawing a parenting insight out of one of the leadership chapters and then there are about 6 or 7 chapters that are a little bit more positioned more as relationship tools, although they work equally well in a professional relationship.

Why 22 and not 21 or 20 or some other number? I know you said you pared it down but why 22?

Twenty-two has more alliteration. Probably one of the things I’m most proud of is the writing of the book. I like to play with words a lot so we’re amping that up in the next couple of books but you can imagine the 21 Talk SHIFTs and 20 Talk SHIFTs and 10 and 12 all have alliteration.

It’s definitely something that so many people need. Like talking to Daniel Goleman about people needing emotional intelligence probably won’t pick up emotional intelligence book and some of this stuff. Sometimes we need to get to the leaders at the top to share a good culture all the way down and then, I could see that sometimes you get to people through other people who need to read these things to see that they don’t have some of these skills and words matter. That’s a big part of it. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you about this book that you think is important for people to know?

To what you said, the original goal, this was now years ago was. How could I reach toxic bosses? As you said, the people who have the most to learn are not the ones who are reading books. That was one of the reasons why we wrote it so that the people around those individuals who maybe wouldn’t pick up a book with some of these things can either share it anonymously or share an individual chapter. Maybe their spouses are the ones that have more to lose because they’re the ones that have this variant of this toxic leadership at home.

Effective Communication: If leaders have more compassionate and effective communication at work, many people are going to take those communication styles and they’re going to take them home to their families, and they’re going to be better parents and spouses.

What we find is that by combining this business and personal aspect, that some of those people who are more difficult at work are more likely to change because the people in their families may have more influence over them especially if they’ve been very successful using whatever this more direct and aggressive leadership style. I speak that as somebody who had that direct and aggressive leadership style. I’m not judging those individuals. It’s much more difficult to change something that’s clearly working when you look at the financials and the growth.

There are so many people that could benefit from this. We covered a lot of ground and this is an interesting topic. I love looking at words coming from my family. A lot of them are huge on grammar and different things that they’ve studied throughout the years because they’re always correcting me. My daughter speaks all these languages so I’m always interested in looking at words and languages and how they’re used and how we communicate. I was looking forward to having you on the show to talk about this. A lot of people will want to get your book or find out more about what you’re doing with the Talk SHIFT system and all that. How can they learn more?

The best place to go is at TalkShift.com. We offer the book. We call it gift copies and we just ask people to cover our costs to print and ship the book. It’s all part of our mission of changing the words of the world. You can get it on Amazon. There are some other bonus materials and tools that you can’t get a few if you were to get it on Amazon but the best place to get it and the most affordable place to get it is on the website.

This was interesting, Krister. Thank you so much for being on the show. I enjoyed our conversation.

Thank you for the invitation. I appreciate it.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Krister for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com. If you go to DrDianeHamilton.com/blog click on the blog, you can read everything that we talk about on the show. It links to all the different books and different aspects of everything we’ve talked about. Sometimes I bring up some old shows that people who have been on that I found interesting and you can click on those and it’ll take you to those shows. It’s a nice way to get around and get all the information on one site.

We also have little tweetable moments so if you find something that you find is important to you, you’d like to retweet, please feel free to do that. All that is on the site. If you look at the top and the bottom of DrDianeHamilton.com site, you can find more about curiosity and perception, all the assessments that I’ve created and the books and everything is all there. Check out some of the testimonials. We get some great feedback from the show and from my speaking and training and everything. It’s all listed on the site. I hope you take some time to explore. I enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Krister Ungerböck

Krister Ungerböck is a leadership communication expert, former global tech CEO, keynote speaker, and author of the #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, 22 Talk SHIFTs: Tools to Transform Leadership. At age 42, after building a $200 million software company, Krister founded The global Talk SHIFT movement to transform 100 million marriages, leaders and lives.



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