My New York on 9/11

11 Sep

I wrote these words shortly after the September 11, 2001 tragedy to explain to the many who asked about my experience and also, quite frankly, to make sense of it for myself. It was a day that changed all of our lives – and this is how it changed mine.

September 17, 2001

I am sitting here in my home in Rye, New Hampshire, looking at my flag at half mast. I am still in a daze.
When the first tower was hit, I was on the street in front of the Millennium Hotel directly in front of the Trade Center. My meeting was to start at 8:30am at 195 Broadway, half a block up Fulton Street from the hotel.

What I saw in the moments after the strike were horrific to say the least. The images of people leaping from Tower One and paper flowing down from the sky will never leave my mind. The horror is a living memory.  I can still hear the whine of the engine just before it hit Tower Two. The explosion – it was deafening.

The blast was a bright yellow that quickly turned to orange. Debris fell from every direction.

I ducked into the Millennium and was evacuated onto Fulton Street. As we headed up to Broadway, I saw a pair of women’s shoes buried in the rubble of cement; the debris was building on the sidewalk and street.

Once we got to Broadway, we stopped to watch the Towers burning.

I heard people screaming and repeating the words “Oh my God” over and over. Rescue workers were running past me to the scene. Rumors of bombs were circulating quickly. We were urged to keep moving but none of us knew where to go. I was told that the Lexington Avenue subway was running so our group ducked into the City Hall Station. A train pulled out and stopped. All power had been lost.

We made our way back to the platform and up to the street. Just as I got to the surface, the second tower was collapsing.

People were frozen in place. Some were crying, others were gasping. Everyone was trying to reach loved ones but cell phones were not working. We were told to get out of the area. Our only option was to go North.

Sirens screamed from every direction. Trucks and ambulances seemed to come from nowhere, heading to the scene.

We walked. No one talked, no one ran, no one cried: we just walked. I don’t remember anyone passing me and I don’t think I passed anyone. We all just walked. We didn’t get tired; we were not hot or cold. We just walked. All of us. Strangers. Walking.

Every pay phone was occupied so I kept trying to use my cell phone but it was out of commission. Just below 14th Street, I saw a taxi in front of an apartment building. I ran over and asked if I could get a ride uptown and was told, “Sure, but I have to wait for my wife to come down.”
As close as he was to the scene, he didn’t really understand the enormity of what was going on. He had no idea. He was living in the old world; I was in the new one.

He drove me to 41st and Park, my friend’s office. This was the first time I was able to call my wife, Mary. There had been considerable concern since she knew that I was there. Neighbors came over to comfort Mary as she tried her best to comfort our grown kids.

The next day, for reasons I can’t explain, I returned to the site. I won’t tell you how I got myself back there, but I did. What I saw was worse than I had expected. In spite of the sound of a siren here and there, the quiet moved me. No one crying, no one talking except to direct a truck or give directions. The cement dust, paper, and debris were everywhere. The air was thick with dust and smoke.

There was a quiet there that I have never known.

The rescue workers eyes were down — their shoulders sloped, their hands at their sides. Those that were sitting were in a slouched position, legs straight out, the exhaustion and anxiety evident in every move.

I tried to find a way to help but there was nothing I could do. There was little anyone could do. There wasn’t anyone to comfort or help.
The rescue teams couldn’t find any survivors. They did what they could do to support the firemen and police suffering from exhaustion, bruises, cuts and broken arms and legs, but none of us saw the survivors we were hoping for.

I walked up town and got on a train out of the city to New Canaan, Connecticut. Mary had driven there to meet me. We stayed with family and comforted those we knew who lost loved ones in the attack. It was a very long weekend.

We are both thankful to be alive, safe and living in America. Our country, which we love, is suffering: our bit is quite minor.

Let’s hope that this horror will be the catalyst to eliminate terrorism forever.


— Ted Fuller

Know Thyself, Know Thy Customer

9 Feb

Achieving superior performance from employees is the dream of every manager. Meeting basic goals doesn’t cut it these days: the competition is great and change happens fast. So, what’s the solution?

There are many paths to take, but learning to recognize the different behavioral styles of team members, clients and other partners is an excellent first step. When we understand behaviors (personalities) and then adjust our own accordingly, we build partnerships that lead to mutual success.

Last week, my Acela train to New York was cancelled, and I had to get a new ticket. The line was very long; we were all frustrated. Through the ticket booth glass, we could see two agents arriving for work.

One saw the line and quickly opened her computer, apologized for the cancellation and got to work. Her associate, on the other hand, did not.

Instead, he neatened his desk, fiddled with some papers, went to the backroom, and finally, slowly, lifted his “open for business” shade and gave the next customer a look that said, “Trust me, I don’t share your pain.”

We’ve all witnessed this before: two very different people doing the same job. Their styles were utterly different, and not surprisingly, the reactions of their customers were also different.

I’m sure you can imagine which line of passengers left happily.

If our troubled agent truly knew how his demeanor affected his customers (and their opinion of him), he might have adjusted his methods. This simple change would have made him a better employee and a happier one, too.

To be successful, we must understand ourselves and how our actions and reactions affect others. It’s just as important that we build our skills at knowing others.

The lifeblood of any organization is the ability of its members’ to make meaningful connections. We bridge the gaps between each other when we better “read” the needs of the people around us and adapt our responses accordingly, both verbally and non-verbally.

Lao Tse, the Chinese philosopher, said, “He who knows himself is learned. He who knows others is wise.”

But being learned and wise doesn’t always come easily. Like any tool, it must be sharpened, and of course, it only works when applied.

Trust me, I know: I was in the line with the guy who didn’t.

ACTION TO POWER, or No More “Wah Wah Wah”

19 Jan

Charlie Brown did a lot for beagles, but he didn’t do much for teachers.

Remember his? “Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah,” she said from the front of the classroom. Always out of site, she was a droning taskmaster to Charlie and his pals. She may have inspired some daydreaming but otherwise, it was never clear if her lessons would stick. As a child, it was easy to relate to Charlie’s interpretation, especially on a beautiful spring day. As an adult, even though we’d like to think our attention spans are larger, many of us still hear the Wah Wah Wah.

Traditional business training sessions have often been literally in the dark. Lights off, and often presented in a windowless room, participants were subjected to a series of slides flashing one after the other or the voice of trainer lecturing from a podium. While the tips and teachings were valuable, the delivery was flawed.

Imagine if Charlie’s teacher offered him a chance to actually build a different kind of doghouse? What is she allowed Schroeder his own in-class piano and instructed him to compose a symphony of his own?

Interactive teaching prompts learners (of all ages) toward self-discovery, and self-discovery is the shortest path to intellectual achievement and growth. More than just a “let’s have fun” approach — though that certainly is a benefit, interactive training techniques enable participants to rapidly absorb and sustain strategies and skills.

It’s time to bring professional skill building out of the dark! It’s time to step away from the black board!

We think of our style as putting action to power. We encourage an open environment in which self-discovery is the rule of the day, with students in charge of their own learning. We create diagrams and infographics together and offer follow-up exercises online that users can do on their own time. Through the use of revolutionary self-assessment technologies, participants analyze their own behavioral patterns, which in turn enable them to assess the same in others — and adapt accordingly. Action to power!

Maybe Charlie Brown gave his teacher a bad rap. Surely it wasn’t completely deserved, but the truth remains: we learn by doing and by knowing who exactly we are. And there is nothing Wah Wah Wah about that.

Need Creativity? Bust Open the Box

3 Jan

According to a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEOs have identified “creativity” as the most important leadership quality in our complex global economy.

But where do you find creativity? Do you simply hire more “creative” people to run your company? Can you teach “creativity”? Can you dip a person into the magical fountain of creativity and presto, you’re done? No, no and no.

Creativity is everywhere: the secret is to unleash what already lies inside.

Twenty years ago, Dave Kern, the then President of Xerox, asked if I could help his people to think “outside the box” – a thoroughly modern catchphrase in the 80s, but a metaphor that still works today.

What is the box exactly? The box is where we put ourselves and others, either knowingly or unknowingly.  The box stifles our  personal communications, making motivational speeches fall flat and meetings unproductive.  The box traps us into patterns that no longer work.

With Dave’s help, we instituted training programs that busted open the box. We taught senior executives listening and dialoguing skills that encouraged an “open” atmosphere. We taught techniques to coordinate, not direct, the flow of ideas. We helped make words like “respect” and “trust” more than just those chiseled on a plaque. Eventually, every Xerox manager learned how to inspire the natural creativity within their team members.

Dave Kern would come to lead Xerox as CEO through a decade of enormous pressure from Japanese and Chinese competition. To this day, Kern credits the creativity of his team for their success.

Creativity results from a process that opens all the boxes.  When companies build environments that allow employees to contribute freely and with confidence, naturally creativity is unleashed.

To think outside the box, you need to break it open first.

— Ted Fuller


Message in a Bottle?

29 Nov

Facebook it.

Tweet it.

Link it.

Blog it.

These thoroughly modern techniques are increasingly significant to the way we all do business, but frankly – what’s new is old. No matter the method, the goal is the same as it ever was: communicate often and broadly to reach clients and colleagues with the information (or inspiration) they need.

But if you aren’t communicating well, you might as well be stuffing a note into a bottle and sending it out to sea. Without the skills to communicate in a manner that is effective, engaging and useful to both clients and colleagues, your message is just bobbing uselessly on the waves of a giant ocean.

Shared experience and information have long been the backbone to successful businesses. In a world where the click of a button can multiply the process exponentially, the art of personal communication has adapted and in some cases, withered on the digital vine. We might be “speaking” more, but is our voice being heard, is our message being articulated with the nuance it requires?

Whether it be B2B or B2C, what was crucial decades ago is crucial today: P2P – person to person. Human interaction – online, via email, over the negotiating table, on a sales pitch – is and always has been the fabric that binds our connections and builds our businesses. Without it, we become as cold and impersonal as the keyboards we type upon. Communication, and specifically, effective communication, is the steady current that moves our ideas from “talk” into reality.

The skills we utilize as communicators are far more important than the methods we use to communicate. Bolstering our techniques, honing in on our individual strengths and weaknesses, understanding how are behaviors affect our message – these are the ways we uncork the bottle and truly send our best out into the world.

Is your message in a bottle?


17 Nov

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

—     James Humes

With over four decades of skill training experience, Fuller Communications greets the start of a new decade with the expertise that has sustained us and with an arsenal of cutting edge tools that propel us toward the future. In a world where the manner and means to connect is unprecedented, we are committed to providing our clients the techniques they require to rise above the chatter and be heard.

Our approach is powered by our proven coaching methods and a desire to implement our techniques rather than just intellectualize about them. We utilize Behavioral and Values assessments that allow us to fine-tune our exercises per individual or organization. We are dedicated to helping our clients sustain and maintain what they’ve learned by providing consistent follow-up via the web. Whether it be presentation, negotiation, sales or internal communication skills, Fuller Communications provides the solution for immediate and long term success.

But enough about us…

What about you?

What challenges do you face in our current corporate climate? How has the digital culture of modern business impacted your communication skills and requirements? How do businesses encourage effective communication in the age of the Tweet and the text?

Join us here as we share our thoughts and ideas on these and other questions, and where we’ll also pass along strategies for achieving superior performance through personal communication. We welcome your input!

Let the conversation begin here — and here!