ESP Project Leader Profile: Andrew Silberman

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

Can you believe that this is the 40th ESP project leader profile published on the TESOL Blog since May 2015? This profile features a recognized leader, ESP practitioner, and lead singer in a rock band in Tokyo, Japan.

Please read Andrew Silberman’s bio:

Andrew Silberman has been coaching high performance individuals and teams since 1989.  At AMT Group, which he co-founded in Tokyo in 1992, he leads a team of multinational facilitators and staff whose mission is “developing global thinkers.” His clients are managers and executives from leading firms throughout Asia (as well as occasionally in the U.S. and Europe).

Since 2010 he has been an adjunct professor of HR (Managing and Developing Human Capital) for the Temple University Japan Executive MBA program and since 2016 guest professor for Keio University’s business school’s Global Passport Program. His volunteer activities include leadership positions at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), where he was awarded Leader of the Year in both 2006 and 2009 and was elected governor in 2012–2014. He is also a board member of International Secondary School (ISS), a high school for kids who have difficulties adapting to the regular school system.

In his “spare” time, under the alias Andy Atkins, he is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Moonshots, a feel-good/roots rock band, playing for weddings, charity events, private parties and “live houses” in Tokyo.

Andrew holds an A.B. in the political economy of industrial societies from U.C. Berkeley (1984) and an MBA in international management from the Fisher School of Business at the Monterrey Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, CA (with distinction, 1988).

In his ESP success story, he focuses on a program that prepares employees for successful communication in teleconferences.


Andrew W. Silberman
President and Chief Enthusiast, AMT Group

Define leadership in your own words.

Leadership is “influence.”  Anyone can demonstrate leadership by the influence they wield over a group.

In my MBA HR class, Dr. Loren Moore wrote, “Leadership = f (L, F, S).” He explained that leadership is a function of the leader,  follower(s) and a situation.

And then there’s my little brother Blaze, who, at age 14 was told by my step-mom that he needed to “be more of a leader.”  “I am a leader,” he said. “I just don’t have any followers yet.”

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

Background

A challenge in Asia is global teleconferences.  The time differences often mean late nights calls, but that’s just an inconvenience. More difficult are the cultural barriers when faced with assertive and sometimes aggressive participants on the other side of the world.  Companies want to help their more reticent participants participate more effectively.

Delivery

A large financial news gathering and reporting organization contracted AMT Group to implement “global teleconference impact” training for their Tokyo office.  The training takes a total of three hours and requires no preparation by participants.

The workshop opened with a fuel-tank analogy. We asked how much people like conference calls. In this case, like most, the average of all “tanks” was less than one-quarter full.  The purpose of the training, therefore, is to move the needle just a few notches up, so that everyone is at least more than half-way looking forward to their next call.

We then used a flip chart and asked, “What are the first impressions given by people who are on a call but who don’t speak up?” The answers included “not interested,” “not prepared,” “bored,” “shy,” “intimidated.” One said, “not even there,” and another, “doing something else.” One person said, “good listener.”

“Most of these are negative.  So why don’t we speak up more often? What are the barriers to speaking up?”  We listed possible reasons, some of which matched the impressions given above:  “not interested,” “not prepared.” Also “didn’t understand,” and one said, “didn’t want to interrupt.”

We then shared that all of those may be their reasons but that  “other people have excuses, I have my reasons.” And we went through this second list, one by one, checking to see if it’s worth creating the negative impression that silence gives. Instead of “not understanding, “ and giving the possible impression of “not interested,” how about  asking for clarification?  After all, no company is paying you to be “not prepared,” and this client was no exception.

What about that person who said the silent one was a “good listener”?  We asked, “When was the last time you heard someone complimented on how well they ‘listened’ on a teleconference?”  That brought laughter from the whole group.

We then introduced the analogy of a crew team (rowing) and shared that a teleconference has an objective, just like the rowers on a crew team, and that all call participants can help the call reach that objective efficiently.  We shared seven “conversational oars” that can get the job done, among them, breaking in with a compliment, asking questions, recapping, paraphrasing, and three more.

Finally, we ran through three simulated calls, and recorded them on a digital audio recorder, playing back for review. We encouraged participants to jump in whenever they wanted by stating a speaker’s name so the speaker would stop for a split second, and they experienced what it feels like to be acknowledged with a “great point” or an “I agree,” and how that differs being interrupted.

Outcome

Participants and call leaders learned that just like successful crew teams, conference calls have no dead weight (silence).  The Tokyo office earned kudos from their New York counterparts on their next call, and some brought the list of seven oars to their next call.  Another client did the same, and he received a congratulatory email from his overseas boss on how well he participated on the call. We’ve now delivered the training across Asia and have licensed their in-house trainers to deliver it around the globe.

Comment

What I love most about this training is that people can put what they learned into practice immediately, and they can raise their profile inside the company.  And some great ideas that used to go unsaid are now openly and freely discussed.  For those who successfully completed the training, their tanks are now way more than half full.


After reading Andrew’s success story, I thought carefully about the “deliverables.” The training left his students with a set of communication strategies that they could take with them to their various sites of engagements to get the job done. I am currently working on a program in which such a set of communication strategies will be especially important takeaways, so Andrew’s profile is particularly relevant to my own work at this moment.

I was also inspired by Andrew’s accomplishments in a wide range of fields. The connection between them seems to be leadership and professional communication, which are the two themes that appear in the ESP project leader profiles. You can access all of the profiles on the TESOL Blog or, if you are a TESOL member, in the TESOL ESPIS Library.

Do you have any questions or comments for Andrew? Please feel free to contact him directly.

All the best,
Kevin

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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One Response to ESP Project Leader Profile: Andrew Silberman

  1. THTH says:

    Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found it helpful!

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