The Executive Writer

The Executive Writer

The Executive Writer

The Executive Writer shows how to use writing as a leadership tool. It analyzes the pressures of corporate life. It shows how to speak for your facts and your convictions with the authority and the coherence that your position requires. It provides tips on how to develop your staff by showing them how to do what you do: communicate clearly.

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Editing and leadership

The leadership dimension of writing is nowhere more vivid than in the editing process. For it is here, working with writers to revise their documents and refine their thinking, that you can exert the greatest leverage in developing colleagues and staff.

Editing your own work is like trying to give yourself a haircut without a mirror when deep down you really think you look fine the way you are. Tackling someone else’s work is easier in a way. Your critical faculties are far more energetically deployed. This isn’t going to hurt you, after all.

But what happens when you have to edit not only the writing but the writer too? Editing someone else’s writing from the glorious sanctuary of your office or kitchen table is not the same as confronting the writer and convincing him that you know better than he does. The success of that confrontation is grounded in your ability to treat the writer, the writing process, and the revision process with respect. Some of the skills involved are editorial, but unless they’re part of an effective managerial dialogue you’ll never have the chance put them to work.

Editing sessions are much like performance reviews. The stakes are high; the data is often soft and subjective. As a result, the interpersonal dynamic is fragile.

Insecure writers generally make insecure editors. As I mentioned in chapter 1, the roots of insecurity run deep—and extend their subterranean grip on the editing process too. The way you edit is heavily influenced by the way you have been edited. Most people can report a run-in with at least one of these three editorial types:

  • the teacher: “There’s a right way and a wrong way, and you’re doing it the wrong way. Let me show you the right way.”
  • the slave driver: “Do it this way or else.”
  • the visionary: “I’ll know it’s the way I want it when I see it the way I want it.”

None of these editorial styles works. The reason? They’re bad management. They’re bad management because they create adversarial relationships, not collaborative ones. They create adversarial relationships because they assume that the “managing editor” is always right, and that the writer is there solely to do the manager’s bidding. All three of these styles, in other words, boil down to one: Do it my way.

This chapter examines the editing process in all its corporate complexity. By “corporate complexity” I mean politics. In the next chapter I show how to tackle the words on the page; in this chapter I show how to tackle the people who write them. I focus first on the management skills involved, since those are the ones most frequently ignored.

Critical praise for The Executive Writer

“An essential road map for making the transition from reader to writer, writer to editor, manager to mentor and leader. Read her book. Use her ideas. The results will speak for themselves.”

—Erik Anderson, President, Westriver Capital

“This is the book I recommend all the time. Edith Poor gives us a new and powerful way to connect thinking, communication, and leadership.”

—Cille Koch, Vice President, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies

The Executive Writer provides a compelling argument that effective writing isn’t an art form but a critical leadership tool.“

—David F. Ferreira, Chief Administrative Officer, Abt Associates



Voicework examines traditional perceptions of women’s and men’s voices and shows how those perceptions shape every speaker to the present day. Voicework reveals how a “masculine” style of speaking remains the ideal, even if women are the speakers.

Where does this quandary leave public speakers, male and female alike? Edith Poor argues in Voicework that only by expanding our perceptions of what the human voice can convey and by learning to listen to the voice in new, more open-minded ways–will we reach a higher level of communication.

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Why is this topic so loaded?

Her manager briefed me in person. He wanted to make sure that I knew what I would be encountering when I coached one of his top people. “She needs lots of work,” he said. “But the most important thing is her voice. She sounds so immature, so girlish. No one will take her seriously if she continues to use that speaking voice. It’s so high-pitched, so sing-songy. And the giggle has to go. She sounds tense and ill at ease. It’s simply a question of credibility, and she’s got to understand that.”

“Have you talked to her about this?” I asked him. He shook his head. “It’s difficult… it’s so personal. I thought it would be more effective if you did it. I thought it would be better coming from a woman.” (Why did he feel this way? Why is this topic so loaded?)

He continued, “It’s not so bad one-on-one, but whenever she’s talking to a group of people—and especially when she has to stand up to make a presentation—it’s impossible to listen to her. She’s assuming greater responsibility, she’s being groomed for a key role on the leadership team. She won’t be able to succeed unless she tackles this. Do whatever it takes. You must have done this thousands of times… Surely there are some exercises for this sort of thing.”

I’m not sure there are. Or rather, I’m not convinced that we have enough understanding about “this sort of thing” to know what kind of voicework will be most effective. What I do know is this. Women’s voices are different from men’s and sound different from men’s. Beyond the differences in physiology, there’s another factor at work: ancient, elusive attitudes about women’s voices and men’s voices; attitudes that we need to explore before we can understand voicework. This book explores some of these attitudes.

Critical praise for Voicework

“Edith Poor explores the issue of how women can effectively use their voices in public speaking. At the same time, she discusses the bias of listeners in favor of male voices…This small book tackles an important topic—not only for women in media, female speakers, but for all of us who want to be heard and taken seriously.”

—Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press