Five Stars | Book Review

“Emotional connection is, indeed, the winning ticket in a world where technologies such as automation, big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating millions of jobs and disrupting entire industries, businesses, and careers.”(p. 7)

Carmine Gallo builds on The Storyteller’s Secret in his new work subtitled The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great. Gallo continues with relevant case studies such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, noting Siri and Alexa are digital personal assistants that live in the cloud; Lin-Manuel Miranda is a human composer who lives in our hearts (p. 1).

Gallo goes deeper in the this work essentially challenging each of us (read the conclusion on page 215 first) to Find the Tune That Makes Your Heart Sing. He references Dr. Larry Smith (University of Waterloo) who, after 23,000 career conversations with his students is convinced passion and communication are two qualities required to achieve success in any field (p. 215).

In short, by answering Why? Who? and How? we can better understand how to move people, how to excite them, and how to ignite their imagination (p. 3). Gallo convincingly argues emotional connection is the key. This review connects Gallo’s Why? Who? and How? sections to leadership habits we should be practicing. Gallo’s 5-Star principles are summarized at the end of each chapter for easy reviewing.

Why? | Communication | Connection

Fundamental communication skills are not new. Andrew Carton identified the rhetorical formula behind Kennedy’s successful communication (Apollo Program) and explained how his speaking skills triggered massive action (p. 19). Gallo emphasizes that Kennedy made [people] feel, combining what Aristotle called Pathos and Logos: emotion and logic (p. 20). We may additionally combine persuasive techniques, such as those used by Thomas Paine in Common Sense (p. 23):

Antithesis            Juxtaposing two contrasting ideas.
Anaphora             Repetition of the same word or words in successive
                             sentences or within clauses.
Alliteration          The repetition of similar letter sounds in two or more words in a group
Parallelism           Several parts of a sentence are expressed in a similar way to show the ideas are equally
                             important, adding balance and rhythm to a speech

Recall in our Feedback: The Essential Connection workshops, our role as leaders is to make connections primarily through our words and actions. That’s why our written Personal Leadership Philosophy is so important. According to Andy Grove a leader’s first task is to form a mental imageof what he or she wants the company or division to look like (p. 31).

In Dan Pink’s Drive, he broadens use of the word persuade to the more encompassing and active term move. Gallo similarly cites that persuasion (think move) is now 30 percent of the U.S. economy, according to economist Gerry Antioch (p. 36). Increasingly, we’re returning to classical rhetorical knowledge. Gallo reminds us Aristotle believed that audiences found a speaker (think leader) to be trustworthy if the speaker (leader) had three characteristics: wisdom, virtue, and goodwill (p. 42). A speaker (leader) must back up the argument using three rhetorical proofs: logic (Logos), credibility (Ethos), and emotion (Pathos).

Of the three criteria, Pathos leads to vital emotional connections, and subsequent action (influence). Why? Emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events, says molecular biologist John Medina (p. 45). Apple understands this. According to Angela Ahrendts, vice president of retail: 

“The more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more we need
to go back to the basic fundamentals of human connection.” 
(p. 53)

Who? | Curiosity | Culture | Breakthrough

For Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, his approach runs deeper than just passion. He calls his style the manifestation of curiosity (p. 66). We can think of curiosity as source fuel for passion. 

When we extend curiosity to teams, breakthroughs may result. Anders Sahlman promotes interdisciplinary work drawing together experts from different fields and academic disciplines –- with different values, assumptions, and methodologies – and asks them to perform research together as a team (p. 76). Over time, a culture of learning (see The Knowing-Doing Gap) and openness may form. Alfred Lin (formerly of Zappos) has said a major part of a leader’s role is to keep the culture and the mission of the company front and center (p. 86). Bravo!

In elementary school and college there is great focus on mastering technical skills and accumulating knowledge. Just think about all of the credential designations we wear as badges of honor (e.g. MBA, Ph.D., CPA). However, in a recent Hart Research Associates survey of over 300 employers more than 93 percent of employees said that when making hiring decisions, a job candidate’s ability to think critically and communicate clearly outweighs their choice of college major (p. 99). Yes, we need to know our business. However, in a Gartner survey of 485 CIOs, the second-most important (first is business knowledge) trait to be a successful CIO is “communication skills to influence decisions.” (p. 110)

Gallo mentions that neuroscientists are proving the ancient brain is wired for story (p. 137). We often hear other terms for highly developed communication know-how, such as soft skills. David Rock (in Strategy + Business), which merges neuroscience and leadership, frames soft skills via the acronym SCARF (pp. 123-129): 

Status:                We don’t like to be compared unfavorably to others on a team.
Certainty:           People hate not knowing.
Autonomy:         “A perception of reduced autonomy can easily generate a threat response.”
Relatedness:      “If you help people grow personally they’re going to serve their customers better.”
Fairness:             Fairness is served by transparency.

Empathy matters. Other people want to know we care. Dr. David Feinberg (CEO Geisinger Health)  exemplifies this via a wonderful CICARE Program (see, I care) | Connect, Introduce, Communicate, Ask Permission and Anticipate, Respond & End with Excellence (p. 121).

How can we sustain this? Curiosity, or as Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi models:

Leaders must be lifelong learners. (p. 130)

How? | Storytelling

According to Alan Alda, the missing ingredient in communication is empathy or what actors call “relating.” (p. 147). Soft skills and sharing stories may seem very weird, or outside our comfort zone. How to start? Gallo lists three kinds of stories we can tell (p. 157):

• Stories about personal experiences
• Stories about real customer or clients
• Stories about signature events in the history or a brand or company

Our Personal Leadership Philosophy already offers personal insights. If we tie elements of our leadership philosophy to customer stories and milestone company events, we probably have a powerful story, which will lead to a more energizing culture.

Gallo illustrates a useful Three-Act Storytelling Structure on page 165: Act I The Set Up, Act II The Confrontation and Act III The Resolution and correlates a Hollywood Screenplay to a Business Presentation. It’s a simple and effective template for developing an effective business story. Give it a try.


Great communicators are made, not born. (p. 214)

Note: Carmine Gallo generously provided a copy of his book for review.

JE | June 2018