How a Swiss Army Knife Won the Day

In the office of Dr. Robert Maloney is a basket containing hundreds of pairs of discarded eyeglasses.

A sign with the word “See” is hung above the basket.

Robert is one of the early surgeons to pioneer LASIK surgery.  Words are not the only, or often the best, tool we as communicators have to deliver our message.

In addition to focusing on what we say, we are wise to consider how a prop can help us make our point, Peter Guber, former CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment tells us in his powerful book Tell to Win.

Peter had been invited to a lunch with former President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.  Peter recognized the event as an opportunity to open a dialog about bringing Sony’s Loews theater chain into Russia.

Peter remembered reading that as a boy President Reagan had cherished his Swiss Army knife.  Peter thought it possible or even likely that Gorbachev might also have had one of the knives growing up.

So, at the start of the meeting, he presented each leader with a specially designed, engraved silver Swiss Army knife. 

Peter’s intuition was this prop would create an emotional connection by prompting these two leaders to share stories from their youth.  

He was right.  The knives served as a common reference point that leveled the emotional playing field.

After the meeting, Gorbachev personally vouched for Peter and directed him to the appropriate people in Russia to discuss the expansion of Sony’s theater chain. 

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Reflection:  When in the past have I used a prop to help deliver my message?

Action: Look for an opportunity today to use a prop to communicate my message.

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