Talk Like a Winner
by Steve Nakamoto

ISBN: 978-0-0670893-5-5, Publisher: Java Books
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

This is a book about private speaking as opposed to public speaking. Few speaking arenas are as private or as important as the boardroom. The ability to communicate effectively separates the great directors from the merely good directors. It is one of the attributes that distinguish the 'winners'.

The book is presented in 21 short sections each of which addresses a facet of private conversation. It may be read from cover to cover or in bite-sized morsels taken in the order that most appears to meet your needs. There will, however, be something for you in each section; nothing in this book is irrelevant to speaking well in small groups or one-on-one. Some of the sections provide confirmation that we are already skilled at particular aspects of communication, others will provide a thoughtful indication of the causes of our failures to communicate.

I found the section on choice of topic to be particularly helpful; we all find ourselves from time to time struggling to find an appropriate topic to broach, especially in stressful situations. I seem to struggle more than my peers, although, as an extrovert, it may be simply that I will embark on conversations more readily than most.

The language is unassuming and friendly, much like the author, who is able to email like a winner as well as talk like one.

A key take-away from this book is that conversational success is a matter of intention, planning and implementation. Failure to prepare will lead to less than optimal performance in tense boardroom situations. This book provides some simple preparatory exercises that will help any director wondering how to broach difficult topics, assist the Chairman in building consensus (although it is not written for chairing or facilitation it will be a useful read for anyone engaged in those activities), or create stronger relationships.

The book is aimed at an audience that will make use of the material in social as well as business settings. Some of the examples are immediately relevant to board situations, such as the example of expressing a reservation about a course of action with which others agreed. Other examples will need to be 'recast' in a business setting. I found the task of 'recasting' to be a pleasant and rewarding exercise that enriched my learning experience. Time poor readers who desperately need that nugget of information immediately may find it disconcerting to have to translate from social to business environments.

My advice? Buy the book and read it now, before you desperately need it to help you with an upcoming difficult conversation. This is basic information that any master should practice and review and that any beginner should benefit from. Don't be misled by the subtitle; it is highly relevant to corporate communication at the highest levels.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a governance and board consultant. She is a professional non-executive director and an Australian Institute of Company Directors NSW Councillor. She is the author of "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and a mentor to aspiring and practicing company directors.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards