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The Five Tool Corporate Diplomat

Jun 15, 2010


The conversation began innocently enough - sitting on a porch in Half Moon Bay, overlooking, ironically, The Mavericks - where only the best come to surf and conquer the monster waves.

“Cari, you’re a Five Tool Wife,” remarked one of my husband’s friends.

At first, I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or complimented. When I asked for an explanation, he offered the analogy of the Five Tool Player, a term used in baseball to describe a player that has it all and succeeds in every critical skill necessary to excel over the long-term. The Five Tool player, he clarified, “hits for Power, hits for Average, has Skills & Speed, exceptional Throwing and Fielding skills.”

As he shared some names of famous Five-Toolers in baseball, outlining each area in detail, I started thinking about the global skill sets that make for a Five Tool Executive and Diplomat. As I am immersed day to day through my Business for Diplomatic Action role in engaging and guiding corporate executives in public diplomacy efforts, it got me thinking about those incredible Five Tool Diplomats and Executives I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from over the past decade. And then I wondered, what do they all have in common that has helped guide their success internationally? What are the critical skill sets that comprise a Five Tool Corporate Diplomat?

In my mind, the foundation upon which a Five Tool Corporate Diplomat concept should be based begins with an acknowledgment at the outset that a global mindset is a critical component upon which all other skill sets are formed. Seasoned successful diplomats and global executives have this in spades; however it is hardly a uniform skill set and many acknowledge it is a difficult area to teach, especially in the business world where diplomacy has never been seen until very recently as a critical skill set.

Few MBA schools dare to delve into this area, yet Thunderbird, the #1 ranked international MBA program in the US, is leading the way with their GLOBE research efforts and Global Mindset diagnostic tools. The Global Mindset, as Thunderbird defines it, is encapsulated below and comprises the first three or my five tools: Psychological Capital, Intellectual Capital, and Social Capital. In a nutshell they mean: we must know ourselves and the environment extremely well, be open and constantly learning, and finally, know how to build and leverage trusting relationships.

The Thunderbird approach echoes attributes and traits that other global executive development experts have been espousing for decades. As Camille Lavington, (noted personal executive marketing authority and author of You’ve Only Got Three Seconds) recently shared, “In my work with executives who reach the pinnacle of their careers and then go further and farther in their success, their ability to harness and leverage a combination of powerful global skills to develop their own unique brand of influence and power makes all the difference. How they do what they do and why are the keys to un-locking the mystery of what makes a Five Tool Executive.”

The final tools, Passion and Discretion, round out what I would define as a Five Tool Corporate Diplomat, and are derived from my experience working globally with successful global execs and diplomats. All of the global mindset capital in the world cannot make for success unless it is paired with passion and discretion.

The Five Tool Corporate Diplomat:

  1. Psychological Capital – Enthusiasm for diversity; Self-assurance, self-confidence, and willingness to challenge oneself; Involves leveraging intellectual capital; Toughest to develop, takes a long time, based on experience.
  2. Intellectual Capital – Knowledge of industry, market, competitors, cultures, world events; Easiest to develop
  3. Social Capital – Ability to build trusting relationships with people from different parts of the world; Involves excellence in networking, listening, and negotiating
  4. Passion – Powerful and enduring enthusiasm for working globally, with people from different from parts of the world.
  5. Discretion -- Ability to make decisions and choices with prudence; the quality of being discreet, or careful about what one does and says

When taken as a whole, the Five Tools require an individual to have a high sense of self-awareness and the ability to understand and then implement changes in their behaviors as the environment and situation dictates. As great athletes (and particularly Five Tool players) know, you identify and focus on where you are weak, then work daily to build improvement. To some extent, improvement in any sport is easy to track - you simply follow stats and can readily measure improvement. Similarly, successful diplomats know that they have to, in their own way, constantly practice and hone their craft. With executives this is a difficult area to measure, especially since so much of this work is impacted by cognitive abilities, personalities and experiences. What is important to recognize about the Five Tools outlined above is that they are universal, and can be applied to anyone working anywhere, in any field, in any sector, including governments and non-profits. There is much we can all learn from Five Tool Executives and Diplomats that can help guide anyone who plans to pursue a global career.

In light of venerable journalist Helen Thomas’ outburst and prompt retirement last week, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to emphasize the last tool, Discretion. This day and age of instant and ubiquitous communication, where seemingly every detail of one’s life and every thought is regularly posted, tweeted, and blurted out (and everyone is obsessed with social media as a preferred message platform) has me longing for the days when discretion was seen as a virtue. Discretion, after all is a key component for building and leveraging trust, influence, and power.

Discretion demands wise conduct and management, cautious discernment, and self-control. Thomas Jefferson, when reflecting on the power of society, spoke of a “wholesome discretion” and Scottish novelist Walter Scott eloquently offered, “Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life.” Helen Thomas’ blatant disregard for the impact of her words, especially from someone who has built her life’s work on informing the public of current events, is not only irresponsible - it is one more example of how we’ve lost the art and skill of discretion in American society. However, I take comfort in thinking of all the Five Tool Executives and Diplomats I’ve had the pleasure of observing or working with, like Keith Reinhard and Ambassador Marc Grossman, who in their own way epitomize not only a global mindset but a grace, elegance, and quiet thoughtfulness that I wish more Americans sought to emulate.

And on that note, it is time for America to take a candid look inward, assess our global mindset and skills sets, and begin the hard work of preparing us all for engaging effectively with the world. Subsequent generations of Americans will be increasingly interconnected and global and it is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to prepare those generations to compete and lead on a global scale.

As we hurtle closer to the November elections, with crisis after crisis unfolding on a domestic and geopolitical scale, it is important to keep a global, long-term perspective. I don’t know about you, but I could also really go for a “wholesome discretion” movement right about now. The Five Tools can be a guide for success in our daily lives here at home and for those of us pursuing careers abroad.

If you know any five tool corporate diplomats you wish to recognize, please feel free to acknowledge them in the comments below.


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Powerful executives enhance

Powerful executives enhance their global influence by incorporating 5 tool skills. They leverage their success by building strong brand identity worthy of respect.

Hi Cari:

Hi Cari:

Thank you for an interesting post.

What is also important is to get a perspective on one's own standing in the world vis a vis the 'other'. This self awareness is something that is easily overlooked but plays a crucial role in the 'last three feet' interactions globally.

Also I beg to differ with you when I would say that tool number 3 is harder to develop than tool number 1. Tool number 3 is where one's skills as a diplomat to engage is tested to the maximum.

Thank you.

Madhurjya Kotoky

Cari, this theme goes along

Cari, this theme goes along well with our gathering at the National Summit on Strategic Communications. Take a look:

I would say that your husband's friend would not have made that compliment to you had it not been for your personal integrity and credibility, which all five tool diplomats must have. This is what Helen Thomas lost with her indiscretion. We all need to be mindful of how well our words and actions match. There is a lot in this world that makes us angry, but emotional outbursts are generally the least persuasive means of influence. Showing emotion (passion) is good, because we all are seeking inspiration. People who exhibit a sheer joy in what they are doing (like Keith Reinhard) have a multiplier effect. Others remark, "I want to feel what he's feeling.'

I am always inspired through

I am always inspired through the eloquent expressions shared by Cari.
Nancy Snow's comments voice a profound observation in addressing personal integrity, credibility, ...& I would add honored character which, collectively, defines the measure of moral & ethical quality. Here lays the foundation for which the 5 Tool Corporate Diplomat can effectively exercise his crafted skill set.
On a personal note, I have had years of experience in cultivating international relationships & the intention to honor a collective voice (Cari's expressed thoughtfulness) in a seamless distillation of action (defining a single voice), is the catalyst for forging long term successful relationships. There are two sides to a coin, however a successful diplomat will never loose sight of the whole coin!

Your thoughtful article is

Your thoughtful article is most timely. Experience, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of a New World Order are part of it. One would expect that Diplomats and Corporate Excecutives have the needed tools to implement these ideas. The Five Tool Corporate Diplomacy is a reminder that we live in a dysfunctional time, implementing these ideas would be the goal

To help add to the discussion

To help add to the discussion wanted to share a comment on my post received from a senior UPS exec:

"The content of personal acumen identified in the 5 Tools has application across all fields of leadership. I read this multiple times and the applications to business are absolutely evident. If one is honest, absorbing this information requires/demands personal improvement to truly identify oneself as a 5 Tool Corporate Diplomat."

"The seeker of truth should

"The seeker of truth should be humbler than the dust.
The world crushes dust under its feet.
But, the seeker of truth should so humble himself
That even the dust could crush him.
Only then, and not until then, will he have a glimpse of
the truth." Mohandas Gandhi

Five tools without humbleness are dull tools on the global playing field.

Given the ubiquity of instant

Given the ubiquity of instant communication, it seems as though indiscretion is on its way to becoming normalized as hasty comments are broadcasted only to become buried and forgotten shortly thereafter.

Therefore, wouldn’t “wholesome discretion” demand that we unplug ourselves occasionally in order to more comprehensively assess and evaluate our priorities within a broader global context?

Excellent Cari! Your article

Excellent Cari! Your article begins humbly with a laugh, and then captures attention quickly. Once involved the reader is forced into a a moment of self-assessment and an attendant will to improve. The likely outcome is that you will have made your readers better - and the people in your reader's circle better off. Mucho gracias, Andrew Susman

Additional Comment received

Additional Comment received via email...

Dear Cari,
I love it! A really insightful piece, its simplicity deceptive - actually achieving these goals, implementing them, is very very hard. In many ways the article outlines the challenges facing the American polis (the classic Greek concept is perfect, since it embraces both the civil and political society - which in those days of tiny communities could be done): you talk about - first and foremost - an attitude, a mindset, an inclination. I will forward it to my colleagues at the Air Force Culture and Language Center, because your posting captures perfectly the premise underlying the Center's philosophy.
I will also send it to others, and use it in my classes. Congratulations!

Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Culture and Security



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