Authors: Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1118004357, 208 pages

You can become a great leader if you take to heart the message and the methods of Campbell Soup Company president and CEO Douglas Conant and executive management training consultant Mette Norgaard. They describe an innovative leadership model based on making the most of “TouchPoints,” those seemingly innocuous but quite powerful interpersonal events that pepper the daily lives of corporate leaders. Many executives resent “pesky” interruptions, but the authors reframe them as golden opportunities for leaders to move their strategic agendas forward via personal connections with their employees. Conant and Norgaard based their approach on the philosophy of “leading in the moment” that Conant developed and used to turn Campbell’s around when it was distressed. getAbstract recommends their book to executives seeking a workable model for creating and honing a personal leadership style.

“The action is in the interaction”

Leaders often make the mistake of trying to minimize or eliminate the “pesky” interruptions that plague them on a daily or even hourly basis. Instead of seeing these interactions as impediments, leaders should embrace them as the kind of contact that is at the core of their responsibilities and as “opportunities to influence” everyone they meet. Each encounter represents a priceless opening to connect directly with another person, to everyone’s benefit. No matter how small, every TouchPoint interaction offers a new occasion “to influence, guide, provide clarity, inspire, create a sense of urgency and shape the course of events.”

TouchPoints can happen one on one, with a few people or in a large group. They can be as short as a few minutes, or they can stretch into several days or longer. Whether “planned or spontaneous, casual or carefully choreographed,” TouchPoints happen in the commissary, in a corridor, on the production floor, in the conference room, or via telephone, email, or text message. All TouchPoints contain three variables that overlap:

“The issue” – Questions, problems, or decisions involving individuals, groups, or the entire company. Issues often need a quick response.

“The other people”– Internal stakeholders with a common interest in the issue, be they those who report to you, those to whom you report or your peers.

“The leader” – The person, regardless of title or position, who brings “magic to the moment.” A leader hears what others say, assists in contextualizing the issue, demonstrates determination and shows assurance about what comes next.

As you listen, decide whether the problem you are hearing about is your issue, the other party’s issue or a shared issue. If it’s yours, use TouchPoints to make visceral connections with your employees in the trenches. If others own the issue, TouchPoints offer you opportunities to teach the people involved how to make better decisions. When you share responsibility, TouchPoints demonstrate the mutual benefits of partnership and teamwork. Good news travels fast, and bad news travels even faster, so use TouchPoints wisely. They have an “exponential effect,” which means that, after a TouchPoint, other people may tell the members of their wide networks about your interactions. However, TouchPoints have no innate positive or negative value. They can inspire people to ever-higher levels of performance or cause them to quit trying. Balance being firm about issues with being gentle in the way you treat people. You want the members of your staff to make better decisions when you’re not around to guide them… 

Click here to read on and receive a free summary of this book courtesy of getAbstract, the world's largest online library of business book summaries. (Available through July 19, 2012.)

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