Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole 640 427 C-Suite Network

by Lewis Denbaum


C-Suite leaders can think of business communication like a game. As Zette H. writes in her article for BlogHer, we can use the rules and play of poker as an example of effective communication to our team, colleagues and customers. It begins with the shuffle, where we must listen intently to clients rather than make assumptions. This is followed by the ante up, where we validate and acknowledge what we’ve just learned by listening. The deal is where we lay out the options to our clients, and the play is when the client chooses his or her solution. This closes with the showdown, where the project or deal is signed, sealed, delivered.

What else do communicating with clients and playing poker have in common?

  1. Improving your skills improves your chances of success.
  2. Paying attention to your client or your opponent gives you valuable information.

You can take a class in poker to improve your playing skills, and you can take a workshop to improve your communication skills. While I have never taken a poker class, I have taken and taught communications workshops, and I know they work. Listening and paying attention to body language helps in both poker and client communications. While a professional poker player learns how to disguise what he has in his hand, your clients are much more likely to want you to know what’s up for them. Good listening skills and paying attention are invaluable.

There are instances when the tactics we use to win a game of poker should not be used during interactions with our customers. Nevertheless, we can learn what not to do in the game of business from the game of poker.

What do communicating with clients and playing poker not have in common?

  1. Bluffing doesn’t payoff when communicating with clients.
  2. You and your client can both be winners at the same time.

When communicating with clients, I never bluff.  There is little to gain and lots to lose. Being authentic with your clients is one of your aces in the hole. Commitment to giving your client what he or she needs is another. Make your client a winner, and you will be a winner too.

*This post originally appeared on

Lewis DenbaumLewis Denbaum is the CEO, Chief Communication Consultant, Executive and Life Coach at Lewis Denbaum and Associates. He knows from firsthand experience that top-notch communicationskills are key to productivity, team building, employee satisfaction and company growth. He has developed and honed a range of effective communication techniques during his diverse career, spanning law and accounting, senior-level management, teaching and relationship coaching, that are applicable in any business environment. Connect with Lewis on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter @LewisDenbaum.