How Adam Neumann Could’ve Improved His Reputation After WeWork

by | General Power Dynamics

Adam Neumann had a TERRIBLE reputation and a lot of damage control to do after the whole WeWork chaos.

Finally, we see Neumann’s first interview since things went downhill for him post-WeWork.

In good part, he did great. His self-control is truly impressive.

Charlie from Charisma on Command said it’s a masterpiece of influence. And, there is some truth in that.

Yet, I don’t think it’s the whole story. You just need to look at the comments beneath the video.

Everyone still seems to think poorly of Adam—or worse than they thought of him before.

The consensus seems to be that he’s a smooth-talking scammer and manipulator. And, Adam gave plenty of ammunition for people to feel that way.

Look for example at this scene:

Interviewer: “Do you think that Softbank will ever make its money back?”
Adam: “I’m so (stops himself, takes a deep breath)…you were getting me excited.”

That sub-communicates that he was in full “fake, PR mode”.

He wasn’t there to converse and share his truth. He was there to present a front—to manipulate.

Not good.

A better approach:

Own The Darker Truth, Push Back Against Manipulative Virtue Signaling Frames

The interviewer was being a manipulative virtue signaler himself.

Think of the implied frames of the question below:

  • The venture capitalist SHOULD make their money back
  • If the venture capitalist doesn’t make its money back, it’s bad (implied: you screwed them over)
  • The venture capitalist is a poor, naive entity that has lost, and that’s not good

That was a great chance to hit back and come out of it stronger and more convincing.

For example:

Interviewer: “Do you think that Softbank will ever make its money back?”
Adam: I think it’s very possible. And yet, I think that’s a poor question, to be honest. It’s a question that implies that all VCs should be guaranteed to make money. Do you think that professional venture capitalists should be guaranteed to make a return on every single bet they take (frames VC as also self-interested entities, rather than an entity that has been screwed over as the question implies)? Because that’s not how the system works, Andrew. Not for WeWork, nor for any other company and investment. Not a single one of them. And you know that as an expert of capitalism. Venture capital investing carries risk.
And the same applies to everything else in life. If you ruin this interview, which you are not doing, you might not be given the opportunity for the next one (power move).
That’s how society works: seek opportunities, seek to make the most out of them, and if it doesn’t work out, fix it, or move on.

Higher Power, Lower Fake Warmth

I think Adam was TOO high in warmth and “sweetness”.

And that can come across as manipulative.

Less fake warmth, some more power.

Fewer Validating Statements That Confirm The Disempowering Frames

I’d have used less validating statements of the interviewer’s disempowering frames.

If the interviewer implies you were taking drugs and throwing away other people’s money on parting, you should NOT validate that.

So less of this:

I totally understand that

That sounds so bad

That would be bad

Because they come across as very sweet-talking, manipulative PR.

And more frame-challenging and imposing:

That’s not really what happened at all

Frankly, it’s a very skewed representation of reality

To read the full discussion on the Adam Neumann interview, check out this forum thread.

About The Author

About The Author