Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘business coaching training’ Category

Seek Connection Over Perfection

October 6th, 2013

Great communicators seek connection over perfection. Connection is crucial for communication to take place, and few of us can connect, or identify, with someone who appears perfect. Perfection is rarely reality, and we seek out people who are real.

Most of the executives I coach falsely believe their presentations must be perfect. They put tremendous pressure on themselves to say the right words, the right way, at the right time, all the time. Under this kind of pressure, it's no surprise so many of them would rather eat glass than present in public.

Think back to a recent conversation you had with a friend. You probably can't remember the exact words he or she used but you can remember the point he or she wanted to make. Great communication is far more than the words we use.

Great presenters focus on their audiences and not on a script. Research tells us our words - the actual words we use - account for only seven percent of our credibility as a speaker. Visual and vocal cues make up the remaining 93 percent.

When we strive to be word perfect, we do ourselves a disservice. In the unlikely event that our speech flows like milk and honey, it can also curdle for we appear scripted, stilted and not our natural, authentic selves.

If we stumble and lose our place, we do not have to lose our credibility. We can simply acknowledge we have lost our place and take a few seconds to find it. Most audiences want us to succeed as speaker. They will be patient as we find our place and resume our talk.

If we misquote a figure or statistic, we simply correct ourselves. Most audiences won't think twice about the correction.

If we don't know the answer to a hard question, we say so, but promise to find out the answer and get back to the questioner. Audiences will appreciate our honesty and responsiveness.

Audiences may not expect perfection, but they do demand humanity. They want to connect with the speaker above all else. They want to get to know us; they want to know that we can be trusted. Showing them our vulnerability accomplishes these important tasks.

We can be competent and not perfect. Competence comes from knowing your stuff, and many times we learn our stuff from the mistakes we make.

One of my more effective speeches was entitled, "Confessions of a Reformed Manager." In it, I recounted ten miserable mistakes I had made as a new manager. The audience of new managers was mesmerized during the hour-long presentation for they felt a real affinity with me. By exposing my flaws, I had invited them into my home. By sharing my humanity, we could walk on common ground.

In conclusion, great speakers combine competence with vulnerability. They seek connection over perfection. They know their stuff and are not afraid to show us who they are.

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How to Win People Over

July 1st, 2013

Jackie Onassis had it, so did Pamela Harriman. Hugh Downs and Bill Clinton have it, too.

Charm can be a communicator’s secret weapon. With it, we can communicate with anyone.  We can win others to our side.

By using these five tips, you can put the power of charm to work in your own life.

One: Focus.  Nothing is as important in developing charm as the ability to communicate with a person as if he or she was the only person in the room.

Someone asked Queen Victoria once whether she preferred the company of Benjamin Disraeli or William Gladstone. She answered that when she dined with Gladstone she felt he was the most interesting man in England, but when she ate with Disraeli she felt she was the most interesting person in the world.

Like Disraeli, we can put our egos aside and focus on the other person. We can make a conscious effort to put others’ wants and needs before our own, and one way we can do it is to ask questions.

“Questions are the sparkplugs of conversation,” says Nicholas Boothman in his book, How To Make People Like You.  Through questions, we learn where another’s passion lies, and when we show interest in another’s passion, we are well on our way to establishing rapport.

Questions are only as effective as our ability to listen, and key to listening is providing feedback. “Feedback,” says Ken Blanchard, co-author of the The One-Minute Manager and other motivational books, “is the breakfast of champions.”

Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., is his book Charisma, offers these four suggestions for providing proper feedback:

  1. Offer verbal responses such as “Hmmm,” “Really?” and “Wow.”
  2. Provide acknowledging gestures such as smiling, nodding and leaning forward.
  3. Make clarifying remarks that restate the speaker’s points.
  4. Establish eye contact.

Eye contact is also important in establishing credibility. In one study, speakers who are rated “sincere” looked at their audiences an average of three times longer than speakers ranked “insincere.”

Two: Help people feel good about themselves.  Find something – anything — you can like about a person. People can sense if we like them.

Begin by looking at people with empathy, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. F. Scott Fitzgerald is reported to have once said that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to see him or her exactly as he wishes to be seen.

Three:  Smile.  Pianist and comedian Victor Borge once described a smile as the “shortest distance between two people.” Anyone can smile, but a sincere smile shows in our eyes and can light up a room.

Four:  Remember the details. Charming people remember the details. Charmers remember names and those other details most of us are quick to forget. Keep notes if you need help remembering.

Top salespeople maintain customer files. By referring to their files, these salespeople are able to refresh their memories and demonstrate a personal interest in their clients’ lives.

Five:  Be energetic, enthusiastic and positive. People who possess personal magnetism are usually self-confident optimists. Be upbeat, sing praises, and freely give appreciation.   Energy, enthusiasm and a positive attitude are contagious.

In summary, charm can be learned, but it still must be earned. Sincerity and warmth cannot be faked; they must come from within. When we are naturally charming, we are at our communications best.

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The Power of the Pause

June 2nd, 2013

Psychologists say a typical group will withstand about fifteen seconds of silence before someone breaks the silence and speaks. There’s tension in silence yet power in the pause.

“The right words may be effective,” said Mark Twain, “but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

Great presenters understand the power of the pause and use it appropriately.  Pauses are especially effective when they are used to:

–  Establish authority

–  Emphasize important points

–  Regain lost attention

–  Allow time for key points to soak in

–  Close the sale

There are many different types of pauses, the most important of which are:

SENSE PAUSES: One-half to one second in length, these pauses are like using a comma when we write.

TRANSITIONAL PAUSES: Transitional pauses are one or two seconds in length and separate one thought from another like a period in writing.

REFLECTIVE PAUSES: These pauses last two to four seconds and emphasize points you want listeners to remember.

DRAMATIC PAUSES: Three seconds or longer, dramatic pauses create anticipation for a startling or pivotal point.

When we present, we have a suspended sense of reality. To the audience, a brief pause is only a blimp on the screen but to the presenter it feels like a lifetime.

Quite often I challenge students to experiment with pauses. After making a crucial point, I ask them to pause and count, “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi,” before moving on to their next point. After the presentation, I have them check in with their audience to see if the pause was too long. Audiences always say no.

Pausing and pacing can be teamed for more powerful presentations. When I work with more advanced students, we often experiment with this technique. The speaker delivers one thought to one person, then walks three steps in silence, plants, and offers the next point. Their audiences watch and wait in silence, eager for the speaker to resume.

Pausing is also effective for those of us who talk fast when we present. I coach students with rapid-fire delivery to slow down and pause.  By pausing they allow audiences time to consider and digest what is being said as well as refocus their attention.

Like any technique, pauses should be used in moderation. When used appropriately, pauses make us more powerful speakers.

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Getting Goals Wright

May 6th, 2013

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright liked to share a story from his childhood that he said helped shape his philosophy of life. When he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his rigid, reserved uncle. When the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him and pointed out their tracks in the snow. The uncle’s were straight as a line while young Frank’s tracks meandered all over the field.

“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle observed. “And see how mine aim directly at my goal.”

Years later Wright would say, with a twinkle in his eye, “I determined right then, not to miss most things in life as my uncle had.”

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