by Steve Adubato, PhD

Q--Sony recently hired Andy Lack, the president of NBC, to take over its music business. I assume Sony hired Lack because he is a proven leader and manager who gets results. The problem is Andy Lack lacks any experience in the music industry. Can a good leader lead any organization, even if he or she has no skills or even an interest in that particular industry?

A--Yes and no. A leader is a leader. He or she has certain qualities that get people to move in one direction to achieve a specific goal. Michael Bloomberg had no experience in government and now he is the mayor of New York City. Before George Bush became governor of Texas he was the owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Many corporate CEOs were former presidents of universities or vice versa.

Yet, even if you have the skills to lead and they can be transferred to a new arena, you have to have a genuine interest (some might say a passion) for that industry. There is no substitute for caring. Over the long haul, if that caring and passion is missing, the leader and the organization will most likely fail.

Q--PowerPoint seems to be something that physicians generally don't do well. So I'm wondering, do you think there is something about doctors or other highly trained professionals with a research or technical background that inherently makes them poor communicators?

A--Short answer, yes. We've all seen doctors, lawyers, scientists and academics become obsessed with jargon, acronyms and multi-syllabic words that mean little if nothing to the rest of us. Too often, these really "smart" people are speaking for themselves and their colleagues, engaged in a game of one-ups man ship. The other problem is that some of these same professionals just don't know when they are not making a connection with their audience. They are oblivious and no one has the guts to tell them so. Bottom line? People can go for decades making atrocious presentations and never knowing it. That's a shame, don't you think?

Q--I am a supervisor and one of my employees constantly accuses me of micromanaging her. In a recent review, I wrote that she takes too many breaks, surfs the Internet too much and has a poor attitude. Her argument is that I am looking too close at what she is doing. Is this micromanaging?

A--No, I wouldn't call that micromanaging. I would call it concerned coaching. If your employee's productivity isn't what it should be, you need to make it clear where there is a problem. The "attitude" thing concerns me, however. When giving feedback in the coaching process, you must be as specific as possible. If you tell someone they have a "poor attitude" most people will become defensive. Your feedback in this case is too vague. What is a bad attitude? Next time you sit down with your problem employee, be prepared to site a specific example where her attitude or behavior impacted her productiveness or effectiveness on the team. Then be prepared to offer some concrete advice for improving the situation.

Q--I am in the 5th grade at George Washington School in Hillside. I read your article about anger management and I agree. People should be more careful of what they say and it can fall on deaf ears. When you feel yourself getting angry, people should think before they act and it would create a better mood for everyone. Don't you think?

A--You're right, young communicator, we all have a lot to learn, including me.