Harvard Business Review on Communicating Effectively: A book review by Bob Morris

Harvard Business Review on Communicating Effectively
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (2011)

How to customize the delivery of your presentation to almost any audience for “maximum persuasive power”

Those who aspire to master several different high-impact communication styles will find the material in this HBR book invaluable. It is one of the volumes in a series of anthologies of articles that first appeared in Harvard Business Review. Authors of the ten articles focus on one or more components of a process by which to pitch a brilliant idea successfully, connect with any audience, establish and then sustain credibility, inspire others to “see” and embrace your vision, adapt to any audience’s decision-making style, frame goals around shared interests, build consensus and obtain concessions, and neutralize stressful conversations.

Having read all of the articles when they were published individually, I can personally attest to the brilliance of their authors’ (or co-authors’) insights and the eloquence with which they are expressed. Two substantial value-added benefits should also be noted: If all of the articles were purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $60-75; they are now conveniently bound in a single volume for a fraction of that cost.

I  now provide two brief excerpts that are representative of the high quality of all ten articles:

In “Change the Way You Persuade,” Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller identify and discuss five styles of decision making (based on their interviews) and explain the best ways to influence each. They are:

1. Charismatics (25% of those interviewed) are easily enthralled by new ideas. They can absorb large amounts of information rapidly, and they tend to process the world visually.

2. Thinkers (11%) are the most difficult decision makers to understand and consequently the toughest to persuade.

3. Skeptics (19%) are highly suspicious of every single data point, especially any information that challenges their worldview.

4. Followers (36%) make decisions based on how they’ve made similar choices in the past or on how other trusted executives have made them.

5. Controllers (9%) abhor uncertainty and ambiguity, and they will focus on the pure facts and analytics of an argument. They are both constrained and driven by their own fears and insecurities.

Other articles in this anthology I especially enjoyed include “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” (Robert B. Cialdini), “Telling Tales” (Stephen Denning), and “Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations” (Holly Weeks)


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition
Robert Cialdini

Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead
Terry R. Bacon

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
Stephen Denning


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