Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville, NC

April 2009

Thank you to all who participated in the survey last month. Your feedback was invaluable. If you didn't get a chance to respond but have some suggestions on how I can better serve you, please e-mail me your thoughts.

My first public workshop for those who have been laid off will be held in Gastonia, North Carolina, on April 25. It's sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.

This workshop corresponds with the release of my latest e-books How to Stand in Your Power after Job Loss and The Charismatic Communicator: How to Communicate in the Flow. Also, check out a new section in Resources on both websites, Manage the Recession; it's packed with information that will help you survive in "the new economy."

This month, we'll look at how to communicate to pack a punch.

Communicating to Pack a Punch

If you want to write stronger reports, speeches, and presentations take the advice of top journalists: don't bury the lead.

Journalist, author, screenwriter, and funny woman Nora Ephron tells a wonderful story to illustrate this point. Many years ago, Ephron was in high school when the teacher asked the class to write a lead for this newspaper story:

"Kenneth L. Peters, principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college professor Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund 'Pat' Brown."

Ephron along with her fellow students condensed the five Ws—who, what, where, when, and why—into a single sentence: "Governor Pat Brown, Margaret Mead, and Robert Maynard Hutchens will address the Beverly Hills High School faculty Thursday in Sacramento...blah, blah, blah."

The teacher collected the leads, scanned them rapidly, and paused. Finally, he looked up and said, "The lead of the story is this: 'There will be no school next Thursday.'"

"It was a breathtaking moment," Ephron recalled. For the rest of the year, she said, we became detectives searching for the hidden point behind every assignment that would produce a great story.

Several years ago, I worked with a new college president on her inaugural speech. She was a talented writer. Her speech was beautifully crafted, yet something was missing. It sounded flat.

Looking closer, we realized she took too long to make her point. By bringing the central point to the beginning of the speech, she could capture her audience's attention instantly.

It's not enough to know the who, what, when, where, and how; you have to know why it matters. And whether it's a report, story, speech, or presentation, when you report it early on, you're guaranteed to garner attention.

Tip of the Week

In his book, Leading at a Higher Level, management expert Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager, suggests that leaders consider seven questions in determining their leadership point of view.

  1. Who are the influencers (leaders) in your life who have had a positive (or in some cases, negative) influence on your life? Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, or others.
  2. Think of your life purpose. Why are you here and what do you want to accomplish?
  3. Which of your core values will be the most valuable as you live your life "on purpose."
  4. Given what you've learned from past leaders, from your life purpose and your core values, what are your beliefs about leading, motivating, and inspiring people?
  5. What can people expect from you?
  6. What do you expect from people?
  7. How will you set an example for your people?