HBR’s Management Tip of The Day: A New Twist on “In a Prior Life”

Speaking in an executive manner allows you to converse more easily with the C-suite influencers who hold the key to your advancement. This skill has to be learnt through experience, as it is not included on the curriculum of most business schools. At HBR we do teach our students this essential skill and will share our expertise with The Turunn Tribune readers in our “tip of the day” segment. Today’s tip is how to use the phrase “in a prior life…” more effectively in corporate situations. At HBR we encourage our students to differentiate themselves from their peer pack of MBA-wielding corner-office wannabes. One way of doing this is to take an favorite executive aphorism and repurpose it, breathing new life into a cliche, making it sound impactful and resonant. “In a prior life…” is usually a lead-in to a desperately dull story you have already heard multiple times about what the leader did in a previous role, usually at a previous employer, and usually using a system that is even more outdated than the ones they impose on the company in their current role. We advise students to use this phrase with a twist: use it to mean literally what you did in a prior cycle of karmic rebirth before you transmigrated into your current physical manifestation. For example:

In a prior life…I was an Oxpecker bird living on the back of a very bad-tempered rhinoceros in central Africa during the early years of the first century. I learned that to get the juicy parasites buried in the hippo’s skin sometimes I had to whistle a sweet melody to calm the animal and then strike swiftly to excise the tasty prey. I think we should use the same tactic to leverage this IPO….”

Many variants of this tactic can be employed, be creative! Search back through your prior transmigrations and choose one that illustrates a pertinent aspect of any conversation you are in with senior leadership.

Try it and break ahead of the pack today!