Posts Tagged ‘leadership communications’

A Tale of Two Speeches November 13 2013 no responses

podiumsNot to get all Dickensian on you but it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That was the case at a conference I attended recently. To accommodate the schedules of two high powered CEOs who agreed to speak during the lunch session, the meeting organizers scheduled two keynote addresses during the meal.

That’s a risky agenda move but one that could work if both speakers rock the house. Unfortunately that was not the case. The first speaker was awesome. The second speaker was just awesomely bad. So bad, in fact, that after 30 minutes I just couldn’t stand it anymore and slipped out the back door of the ballroom. It turned out I wasn’t alone. There were other terrible speech refugees hanging around waiting for the next session to start.

One of them was a guy I had met earlier in the day. We both exchanged knowing looks which indicated why we were both standing in the lobby. I asked him, “Why do you think the first speaker was so great and we’re standing out here to escape from the second one?”

Here’s what we came up with. Consider it a list of things to do and not to do when you’re asked to give a presentation.

How to Find Out What’s Really Going On June 7 2012 one response

I’m on the road for the rest of the week working with new executives on delegation skills today and delivering colleague feedback to a senior executive coaching client on Friday. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been conducting a lot of colleague interviews for that client and two others. Even though I’ve conducted these kinds of interviews for a dozen years now, I’m still learning new things about how to find out what’s really going on for a client.

What got me thinking about this was an article I read recently in Booz and Company’s Strategy and Business Magazine. It was called “Navigating the First Year:  Advice from 18 Chief Executives.” It’s a good read for any leader who finds or expects to find themselves in a new job.

One of the CEOs who participated in the article was Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss. Here’s what he said about how he figured out what was really going on in his new company:

I spent the first month mostly listening. I came up with a set of standard questions: What three things must we preserve? What three things must we change? What do you most hope I will do? What are you most concerned I might do? What advice do you have for me? … I spent an hour with (over 65 people) and basically just listened and took notes as they answered the questions.

What was interesting was that after about 15 or so interviews, it was pretty clear what the objectives needed to be. People inside the company knew what needed to happen, and it was pretty consistent.

Bergh’s experience is similar to three things I find in conducting feedback interviews for my clients.  First, if you work from a standard set of questions you can compare and contrast the answers and see the patterns.  Second, if you ask short, open-ended questions you can learn a lot.  Third, you don’t have to interview scores of people to find out what’s really going on.  The patterns emerge pretty quickly after a dozen or so conversations.

Bergh asked some great questions.  Here’s what I’ve been asking my clients’ colleagues lately and why I think they’ve helped in finding out what’s really going on for my clients:

How to Talk With People May 10 2012 3 responses

This is one of those titles that when you read it, you might be saying, “Really?” Yes, really. There’s a big difference between talking to people and talking with people. If you’re the designated leader in your organization, that difference has a multiplier effect that can cut in either direction.

In a post a few weeks ago, I asked if you were a transmitter or a receiver. Transmitters talk to people. Receivers talk with people. Transmitters take the teaching stance. Receivers take the learning stance.

When you’re the leader, you end up leading a lot of conversations in which multiple people participate. Sometimes you need to transmit to get a point across. That’s talking to people. Most of the time, though, you’re going to want to set things up so you learn from people and they learn from each other. That requires talking with people.

As the leader, you’ll set the tone as to whether it’s a talking to or talking with conversation.

Here are three ways to improve your communication skills by talking with people when you’re the leader.

What Kind of Weather Are You Making? March 13 2012 no responses

For the past couple of years, I’ve had a lot of great conversations with my clients about the idea that leaders control the weather. You can test this idea for yourself right now. Have you ever worked in a place where the first question everyone asked when they arrived in the morning was, “What kind of mood is he (or she) in today?” Most of us have, and if you have, you understand right away how leaders control the weather. If the leader is sunny and bright, everyone else is likely to be sunny and bright. If the leader is stormy and cloudy, get your umbrella out.

If you’re the leader, what you say and how you say it matters. A lot. In this Coachable Moment video from “The Next Level” self-assessment, I offer three simple, practical and immediately applicable ideas on how you can get a handle on the impact of your comments on the organization and make your own appropriate choices.

Don’t forget to read the first four posts in this series, which originally ran in SmartBlog on Leadership. (For more business leadership news from SmartBrief, sign up for SmartBrief on Leadership.)

Want more information? Take the free leadership self-assessment, which takes about five minutes and gives you a picture of how you stack up on three key components of leadership presence: personal, team and organizational.

6 Leadership Communication Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr. January 16 2012 4 responses

On this Martin Luther King Day, I’m going into The Next Level Blog archives for this post on what we can learn from the speaking virtuosity of this great leader.

Several years ago I was given the gift of the recordings of the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. The sermon set is called “A Knock at Midnight,” and the speeches set is titled “A Call to Conscience.” There are companion books of the same title for each set. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I listened to every sermon and speech in the recordings. I learned a lot about King from that experience and came to some conclusions about what made him an effective speaker.

As we take today to recognize King’s life and its impact on the world, I thought I’d share six qualities in his speaking that I think all leaders should emulate. If you’re pressed for time as you read this, you can skip ahead to the list. If you have a few minutes more, watch the You Tube clip of King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech. Most of the six qualities that I identified in listening to his recordings are illustrated in this clip.

Here’s a quick synopsis of some of the qualities that King had as a speaker along with some questions to get you thinking about your own opportunities to be a more effective communicator.