Tony Bennett Knows

I’ve learned that it’s what you leave OUT of a performance, not what you put INTO it, Tony Bennett says. Less is more. It’s not because of my age, but it’s the right thing to do.

Tony Bennett is 88. Wondrous insight.

I think of the oh-so-not-helpful advice we give folks on how to maneuver.

Just be yourself.

Let’s be clear. At work, nobody wants you to just be yourself. We want you to make choices about the self you bring.

Channel the you that enhances execution and personal connection. Check the other selves at the door.

Tony Bennett knows. When you style a song, there’s the craft of singing. And there are the choices you make. Yes, less is more.

I have to be authentic with people.

The most overused leadership cliché of the past decade or so.

Mind you, I am fully in favor of being authentic. But you and I can authentically be many things. Which authentic self will you bring?

I think of a chat I have with Vera O’Neill, President of a highly profitable product division in a global marketing empire. Vera and I are talking about how to play well with folks who have social power. She mentions her relationship with Chuck, the empire’s legal counsel. Chuck, it is clear, pushes Vera’s buttons. He is the quintessential young buck climbing the social ladder, with a lot of bravado in the mix.

In a way Chuck is so transparent, Vera sighs. You just need to stroke his ego a lot to get things done. Another sigh. But I have to be authentic with people.

Are there things you genuinely appreciate about his gifts as a lawyer? I inquire.

Yes, there are, Vera sheepishly admits.

And can you authentically let him know that you appreciate those things? I ask.

I guess so. Vera says it with a pained look on her face.

It’s not that difficult. Choose. Leave OUT the rest.

I feel so lucky that I get to be myself, Taylor Swift states in an interview last week as she promotes her new CD “1989.”

Then Swift adds: I wouldn’t have been a singer if I hadn’t been a songwriter first.

I chuckle. When Swift sings, she does get to fully be herself. She wrote the songs. She gets to make choices about how she performs her songs. And yet, each song has stories and memories that it leaves OUT.

As I listen to the interview with Ms. Swift I am dazzled by her articulateness. When Taylor Swift speaks she sounds authentic. And she clearly knows just what to leave OUT.

Yes, Mr. Bennett. It’s not always about what you put INTO it.