Volume 10 Number 3 |March 2020


The Sounding Board

A sounding board reflects sound and voices, and is popularly used to denote people who serve as testers for others’ ideas. It is a filter, or feedback device, or litmus test, depending on the importance and severity.

I’ve found that a preponderance—and I use that word advisedly—of my executive coaching and entrepreneurial coaching has been in the role of a sounding board. Oh, you might gloriously say I’m a “trusted advisor” or “expert coach,” fair enough. But I like to keep things simple.

Great Conversationalist

A woman at a social event told my wife upon our departure that I was a “great conversationalist.” My wife was dumbfounded, because I despise small talk and “mingling.” But what had happened was that I asked this woman two questions about herself and then merely listened for 30 minutes while she talked and I drank Macallan.

More than anything else, people want to be heard, even without their issues being “solved” or their conditions improved, they want their story to be public. A sympathetic ear is a finely-tuned instrument.

Most of my executive clients merely seek validation. They want a trusted other to listen to their plans and schemes and provide honest feedback. Because I deal with bright people, 90% of the time they’re in the right place. “Tweaking” what they propose doesn’t make any difference. The other 10% of the time I have to intervene and point them in a new direction.

Real Value

I was considering, at one point in my career, if the people I mentored and coached were really better off when I found I was merely listening and approving what they were intent on doing. Sometimes I could listen for almost all of our call or meeting without saying a word. Yet they were perfectly content.

It struck me that their goals were being met quite well, “thinking out loud” (I call this “articulating their cognitive processes”) and mutually exploring the validity of their thinking. I can’t tell you how many times someone, paying me handsomely, has said to me in mid-exegesis, “You know, I just answered my own question, never mind.”

The Sultan

I heard a story once about a British visitor to the Middle East two centuries ago. On a Saturday morning he saw a serpentine line moving slowly toward the sultan’s palace. When he questioned this, his guide explained that these were petitioners who were permitted to speak directly to the Sultan during this time every week.

“And the sultan decides on every request?” asked the stunned visitor.

“No,” said the guide, “they merely want their story heard.”

Don’t neglect this important aspect of your value: To hear your clients’ stories.

Personal Problem?

I’m offering a new, confidential, counseling service called “The Den.”

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Role Play Boot Camp


A small group will meet in an intense day to practice with me, and with each other, the most difficult conversations they encounter or anticipate. You’ll emerge from this prepared to handle any buying situation, request for referrals, fee conversation, and so forth, whether in person or remote. Limited seating. Fee: $2,500. Date: April 23, Los Angeles. (If you attend the Getting Started session below on April 22, this fee is reduced to $2,000.) Language controls discussion, discussion controls relationships, relationships control business.

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Sentient Strategy

Learn how to market and implement a novel approach to strategy for all kinds of organizations with a minimum fee to you of $50,000 and more in my 1.5-day intensive experience. Next sessions in New York City March 4-5 and LA on April 20-21. 

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Getting Started in Consulting and Re-energizing Your Practice

Sold out in Boston, approaching 100 people in LA, grab your seat quickly, spend six hours with me at a ridiculously low fee and gain a 1,000:1 return.  And I’m buying lunch!

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© Alan Weiss 2020

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