How to Tell What You Know
by Arthur Secord

ISBN: 978 1 933715 88 9, Publisher: Tremendous Life Books, 2009
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

It does not matter how clever you are, as a director, if you can't get your message understood, accepted and acted upon by the rest of the Board you are pretty much useless.

This little book is full of practical observations of what works, and what doesn't work, when communicating your knowledge to others in a workplace setting. First published in 1956 the book is still relevant today. This is a 'how to' manual by 'been there and done that' manager. It is simple, direct, and clear.

The focus of the book is at the lower end of the corporate hierarchy but the methods will work equally well at the higher end. This book does not delve into the science of cognitive transmission or the psychology of words and their uses. It sticks to observed successful knowledge transfers.

Perhaps the most useful chapters are 5 and 6. The former deals with the phenomenon of using praise before finding fault. 'Softening the blow' may seem like a good idea but it detracts from the message and undermines all future praise. The latter deals with the use of tact. This is a fundamental requisite of boardroom effectiveness. The Machiavellian stratagem for getting another party to ask for a correction was sheer perfection. I am already adapting it to use in the boardroom!

Learning never to discuss an issue when either party is angry took me many years; this book gets there in 78 pages and then goes on to provide hints for making a person feel important and cared for even as you correct their behaviour. It took a very short time to read but I will probably spend a long time experimenting with and perfecting these techniques.

This book is a good companion to 'The Art of Conversation' (read review - May 2009) and, whilst lacking modern polish and board vocabulary, is a worthwhile quick read for a company director.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: practical case studies for company directors", "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards