Difficult conversations and opposing viewpoints are a part of life, and things can get messy really quickly, especially when ego is thrown into the mix.

Rather than rushing into battle, it’s good to step back to gain some space, reflect on our ultimate aim and imagine what our best-case scenario would look like. After that, it’s a matter of framing the messaging from there.

If you want a handbook of what not to do, look no further than the Spanish Soccer Federation (Real Federación Española de Fútbol or RFEF).

Consistently ignore players’ concerns

The Federation’s ongoing dispute with the women’s national team reached a fever pitch on September 9 when 15 players declared themselves unavailable for call-up due to “recent events within the Spanish team that have significantly affected [our] emotional state and health.”

Their decision to send an identical, carefully articulated text was surely a last-resort measure after months – if not years – of unheeded complaints about head coach Jorge Vilda.

The timing and wording of the communication were important: the players took steps to avoid any erroneous interpretation that they were quitting the team outright, as well as potential sanctions for refusal to play. The team’s next match is slated for October 7 against Sweden.

Add more fuel to the fire

Beyond finger-pointing and “who’s right and who’s wrong,” any organization faced with a massive walk-out has a massive problem. Sorting through thorny, often emotional issues takes time, which is why conveying a simple message of “We see you, we hear you, and we want to work together to resolve the issue” is so vital. It provides some breathing room to reflect and regroup, and prevent the dispute from further escalating.

So what did la Federación do? The exact opposite. Not only did it continue to disregard the players’ complaints, but it also twisted their words and selectively leaked them to the media.

First came the scathing reprimand“players have no right to question the continuity of the coach, as taking those decisions are not part of their role” – translation: Ladies, know your place – followed by threats of dismissal if they failed to immediately “admit their error and apologize.”

The RFEF further fanned the flames with a shame-based and nationalistic bent – “We only want players who are proud to defend our colors and wear Spain’s t-shirt” – and chides them for their unethical behavior, which “goes beyond sport to be a question of dignity.” Really? Is the RFEF now distilling lessons from the moral high ground? Hmmm…

Act in bad faith

If you read the players’ email, you will see it makes no mention of seeking the coach’s dismissal – albeit their ultimate aim – nor their intention to quit the national team. It simply states they are not in conditions to play until the current situation improves.

Rather than diffusing the situation, the RFEF reverted to the age-old power-over approach: force, coercion, domination and control, and a side dish of fear for further motivation.

The RFEF’s message: We see you but we refuse to hear you. Your concerns do not concern us. We kindly request that you bend to our will so we can put this matter to rest. Go team! ¡Qué viva La Roja!

The Spanish women’s national team is a global contender for the 2023 World Cup and their top performers are frustrated and furious following months of ingored and unaddressed complaints.

RFEF, is this the best-case scenario you imagined?


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash








We’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of editing several books over the last few years, from business memoirs and academic theses to works on learning methodologies, strategic innovation and general management from a Latin American perspective.

While they addressed a range of topics and diverse readerships, they all stemmed from the same 5-step process to ensure a top-quality manuscript:

1 – Defining the project scope

After reviewing the original manuscript, we meet with the author to learn more about the book’s objectives and proposed timeline and share our overall impressions and work process. We then prepare a project brief and quote based on these inputs.

2 – Production calendar

Preparing a production calendar is the next step. This visual tool offers a week-by-week roadmap for editions, revision rounds and wrap-up. We incorporate some wiggle room whenever possible, since experience has taught us to “expect the unexpected.”

On a related note, authors often underestimate the time needed to get their book publication-ready. For many, the counsel of author and writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant will come as a surprise: she advises authors to dedicate 20% of their time to writing, 50% to editing and 30% to proofreading!

3 – Single points of contact

We have worked both individually and as an editing team on book projects, sometimes with a single author and others, with several contributors. To avoid confusion and crisscrossing lines of communication, we define project leads at the start of the process.

4 – The editing phase

There are three main types of editing: developmental editing (editing of content), copy editing (editing of writing) and proofreading, an important last step to detect typos, formatting errors and other inaccuracies.

In the case of developmental and copy editing, the extent of our editions depends on the quality of the original manuscript and the author’s preferences. As an example, we have worked with several non-native English speakers who have written excellent manuscripts that still needed some smoothing over.

In all cases, we do our utmost to preserve the author’s style, tone and voice.

5 – Edition and delivery rounds

We break down the book into chapters, sections or word count extensions and work in short development cycles, establishing delivery dates and action items for each. This is a two-way street: we send our editions with track changes for the author’s review and integrate his or her modifications for the next round.

Generally, we go through two to three rounds of edits. Once each section or chapter is approved, we close the cycle and move on to the next chapter and voilà! Before you know it, your book is ready for send-off!


Image from Pexels.



In today’s globalized world, chances are you occasionally communicate in a language(s) other than your native tongue. There are situations and situations, however. After all, it’s one thing to chat up your Parisian neighbor and quite another to draft a make-or-break client brief for a French multinational.

When the pressure is on to sound competent, the following online tools might be helpful.

1 – www.linguee.com

This site is a good place to start if you have to write a short text (10-15 words) and aren’t sure about the precise terminology. As an “online bilingual concordance” system, Linguee translates a number of language pairs including English to Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese and many more.

Unlike machine translations such as Google Translate and Babelfish, Linguee uses a “translation memory system,” accessing a database of texts translated by flesh-and-blood translators. When you type in your text, you’ll get a list of around 20-25 entries for your perusal, which vastly increases your odds of a perfect customer-facing translation.

2 – www.deepl.com

Especially useful for longer texts, DeepL Translator is an add-on to Linguee capable of converting English into 10 languages: Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It sometimes offers alternative translations, although these tend to be shortlisted for space reasons.

3 – MS Word “translate” feature

If you have a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft 2019 installed on your computer, you’ll find a “translate” feature in the top menu under “Tools.” Like Google Translate and Babelfish, it will give you the general gist and help out in a pinch but isn’t 100% reliable.

4 – ProWriting Aid

ProWriting Aid is an amazing editing tool and picks up spelling and grammar mistakes sometimes overlooked by MS Word’s checker. Better yet, it offers tips for stylistic changes and suggestions to improve readability. We used to use the free online version but realized the yearly fee was worth it. In a word, it’s a better and more economic tool than Grammarly.

5 – Online dictionaries

Our go-to sources are dictionary.com and dictionary.cambridge.org, both of which offer American and British spellings (when applicable) and mainstream pronunciations of each with a click of the mini-megaphone button. For American English, another good option is merriam-webster.com, a modern version of Noah Webster’s famous printed tome.

6 – Online thesaurus

When you’re on a quest for the perfect synonym, both dictionary.com and merriam-webster.com are helpful, although www.powerthesaurus.com is by far my favorite. Since a “rose” isn’t always a “rose” :-), the site lets you filter for different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, idioms, etc.) to speed up your search.

Happy writing!


Photo by RetroSupply on Unsplash.

As American business communicators and long-time residents of Spain, we have edited more than our fair share of content – emails, reports, articles, project briefs, blog posts, you name it – written by people whose first language isn’t English.

Based on our years of “field research,” we’ve compiled a few suggestions to help non-native speakers avoid some common mistakes.

Here they go, listed in no particular order!

1 – There’s nothing wrong with contractions!

Native English speakers use contractions (don’t, won’t, she’d, he’d, it’s) all the time in both oral and written communications, yet some of our clients are decidedly “contraction-adverse,” considering them informal or somehow inferior to spelling out each and every word.

To be clear, texts that eschew contractions are grammatically correct yet can sound stilted to a native ear. If you are/you’re 🙂 still not convinced, for the sake of consistency, just make sure your text doesn’t mix them.

2 – Watch out for homophones

Homophones like there/their/there are easy traps for even native English writers yet add a layer of difficulty for non-native speakers. We’ve seen mistakes ranging from “this days” (these) to “in order to be affective” (effective).

The good news: you can catch nearly all mistakes by taking the time to re-read your text and using the spellcheck function! We also suggest doing a second-round edit with ProWritingAid or Grammarly, since they spot grammar and spelling mistakes often overlooked by MS Word.

3 – Nouns, nouns, nouns

Sentences with noun pile-ups (“female unemployment rate trends” or “technology revolution impacts”) are hard to decipher because they force readers to scan them at least twice to figure out which words are serving as nouns and which are modifiers.

To make it easier on your audience, either hyphenate where necessary (i.e. female unemployment-rate trends) or even better, clarify the concept by unpacking the components, as in “trends in female unemployment rates” or “the impact of the technological revolution.”

4 – Run-on sentences

Long and meandering sentences might sound perfectly fine in some languages, but they generally don‘t translate well into English. If you’ve just written a sentence so long it could pass as a paragraph, review the points you want to convey and try to spot a natural place to break it up. Trust us, your readers will thank you!

5 – Use vocabulary that resonates with your readers

Your ultimate goal is to clearly convey your ideas in a way that resonates with your audience. With this in mind, stay away from obscure words and opt instead for those that your average reader readily recognizes and appreciates.


Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash.


Most of us send and receive an ongoing stream of emails throughout the day, most of which are back-and-forth workaday communications. But every so often, we’ll have to write one that literally gives us pause.

With no way around it, we’ll have to relay a message – whether to a colleague, a higher-up or a prickly in-law – that sends our shoulders northbound and staggers our breathing. If you’re faced with this situation, here is our advice:

1 – Take a deeeeep breath

And remind yourself to keep on breathing 🙂

2 – Flip the script

If it were the other way around, what would you like to hear? For the sake of argument, let’s say you screwed up – and let’s face it, we all do. Ask yourself: if you were the email recipient, what would you like to hear? Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes before banging out an email.

3 – Ask yourself: what’s your main objective?

As the magnificent Mary Poppins taught us, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Remember Mary’s advice if you’re about to serve a potential bitter dose of medicine.

Do you need to gently remind a colleague that you – not them – have ownership of a project? Do you have a client who changes her mind every other day, two steps forward and three steps back? Or perhaps you’d like your adult children to know that you’re no longer willing to host all of the holiday meals?

Whatever the case, put a positive spin on it! You simply want the optimal outcome, the best possible product and a truly enjoyable holiday meal!

4 – Set the tone

At some point in time, we’ve all been on the receiving end of messages along the lines of, “I run the show and you will do as I say.” Honestly, is this approach really conducive to achieving any objective? We think not.

Nearly always, the how is remembered far more than the what. The late, great Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” With this in mind, reflect on the right tone to achieve your objective.

And while we’re at it, a word about capital letters. As most – but trust us, not all – people know, THEY MEAN THAT YOU’RE YELLING. Never use them unless you mean it, and try not to mean it!

5 – Write it, read it, revise it. Repeat the last two steps. Then wait.

Say what you have to say, re-read it at least twice and if possible, wait a while before sending it. Never be afraid to speak your truth, but remember that emails last forever like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstoppers, so don’t be in a rush to hit that “send” button!


Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.




We had the pleasure of working with IESE Professors Joan Enric Ricart and Adrián Caldart on the recently published General Management in Latin and Ibero-American Organizations: A Humanistic Perspective. Exploring the role of the general manager, the book features insights from international scholars on topics ranging from the CEO agenda and sustainable business models to the importance of solid corporate governance structures.

Before delving into the specifics of the role of the CEO, the book opens with a historical overview of general management as a profession, from its inception in 1910 to today. In the wake of ongoing corporate scandals, its evolution offers food for thought.

As the authors explain, the field known as “Business Policy” was first introduced by Harvard Business School in 1910. In the early days, the course was taught using case studies in the absence of textbooks and other conceptual foundations. For the first 60 years, the roles and responsibilities of CEOs were clearly defined from a humanistic perspective, with senior leaders modeled as beacons of ethical leadership whose objectives transcended boosting the bottom line.

By the 1970s, some considered “Business Policy” too enmeshed with HBS and its case-method paradigm. In consequence, they proposed splintering off to create a new field – “Strategic Management” – that they felt better reflected the scientific and analytical rigor inherent in the general management role.

With this new approach, the relative weight of humanism and business ethics in the CEO agenda became increasingly diluted, replaced by economics, empirical analysis, mathematics and statistics. Under the rallying cry “If you can’t measure it, you can’t measure it,” the yardstick for CEOs was now measured by their ability to formulate strategies, devise business models and leverage analytical schemes.

Stifled by the short-term pressure to hit their numbers, many business leaders inadvertently overlooked another organizational asset essential to corporate success: their people. In a word, humanism got lost in the shuffle.

Now there are signs that the tide might be turning. Case in point: a joint statement signed by 200 global CEOs a few weeks ago emphasizing the need for responsible leadership, corporate purpose and delivering value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. If their words actually translate into action, the pendulum might be finally swinging back in the other direction.

People have deliberated the qualities of true leadership for as long as there have been leaders. Among the long list of leadership essentials, one concept currently stands out: humility.

A while back, I had the pleasure of preparing an article for “IESE Business School Insight” based on excerpts from Humility Is the New Smart by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

According to the authors, the only way to stay relevant in the age of AI and automation is to outsmart the smart machines in areas where they don’t excel: critical, creative and innovative thinking. The linchpin to building these competencies? You guessed it, humility.

By humility, Hess and Ludwig aren’t referring to submissiveness or self-effacement. Rather, they mean the capacity to set our egos aside, recognize that we actually don’t have all the answers, and remain open to learning from a variety of sources. Ideas and insights can emerge from myriad directions, often outside our professional circles: from the factory floor, subordinates, your children, your parents, neighbors, people from completely different walks of life…

Hess illustrates the importance of humility by generously sharing firsthand accounts from his distinguished career as a top-level executive. Back then, he approached conversations as purely transactional interactions to transmit messages from A to B, and if they could be conveyed faster through interruptions, all the better. Eye contact was optional and perfunctory nods sufficed if there was no time for friendly banter.

He received a wake-up call one day when HR informed him they were about to lose an outstanding up-and-coming analyst – and it was all his fault!

“He doesn’t believe he has a future here because you don’t like him.”

During his short tenure at the company, the young analyst had taken Hess’s lack of engagement personally, interpreting them as brush-offs and personal rebukes.

Luckily, the story ended on a good note: after Hess sincerely and publicly apologized to the analyst, he decided to stay and eventually became one of the firm’s top performers. It also taught Hess the vital importance of leadership based on heartfelt communication and genuine interest in others, a lesson that had a positive ripple effect in both his professional and personal life.

Staying grounded in humility may seem like glaringly obvious advice, but we all fall short of the mark sometimes. Have you ever stopped to think about how your behavior impacts others?

Those who think they have all the answers might be in for a surprise!


It’s tempting to use jargon in written business communication. And why not? Everybody is doing it: “Let’s think outside the box.” “We don’t have the bandwidth.” “We’re getting radio silence on the launch date.”

It usually happens when speakers are focused on being entertaining, rather than meaningful. It also occurs when they are seeking to impress the audience, rather than help them.

As communicators, we know the value of avoiding jargon to craft clear, straightforward messages. Using jargon sparingly can make your language a bit more interesting, but using it excessively dilutes your ideas and undermines your credibility.

Clear, concise statements lead to effective communication. They are also more accessible to a global audience, reducing the risk of your idea not being heard at all.


Words mean different things to different people. That’s why we need to be so careful with them.

Imagine the boss says, “This social media campaign is going to bring us a gigantic boost in sales.” The boss may be thinking 5 percent, while her employees imagine much higher numbers. If no further context is provided, then everyone is living in distinct realities.

Using concise language and providing context ensures that everyone understands the issue in the same way. It improves the quality of our communication.


Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash.

Silence at work exacts a high price on both companies and society. But when we are able to freely express our opinions, everyone benefits.

Research suggests that people who feel empowered to share information and ideas at work tend to be more engaged and motivated. This positive attitude then flows into other realms of life.

When people think it’s useless to bring up problems they face on the job, they begin to feel powerless outside the office, too. Due to a spillover effect, “learned helplessness” in the workplace presents big risks for communities. It can affect the quality of ties that people have with others, whether they vote in elections and the amount of volunteering they do. It can also impact how they identify with their communities.

What to do, according to researchers: learn to listen, give everyone a chance to speak and reduce hierarchies.