Scott Span, MSOD, CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions, wrote an interesting post for his company blog that got picked up by several other high profile business cites. The title says it all, 5 Hard Truths About Leadership That You Never Stop Learning.
In his truth #2,” Leadership isn’t management,” Span argues that one of the qualities that sets leaders apart is the ability to create a vision of the future and rally people around it. “Leadership,” he says, “connects the big ideas to what matters to the people around them: employees, customers, and stakeholders. Leadership sets direction, builds agreement, influences and motivates others, and inspires commitment.”
And he makes clear you can’t rally the troops around a vision unless you know how to communicate. The problem, he warns, is that “just because you may be in a leadership role doesn’t always mean you are an expert communicator. … Truth is, this is not a skill obtained by title alone. Some leaders have the gift for communication, some can learn, some may just never master the art.”
I would object slightly to that last sentence. While it’s true that not every CEO can become a master communicator, every CEO can learn to do a better job communicating his or her vision.
I believe in the power of a great script – I am a speechwriter after all. But I also know a terrific script can’t guarantee a great speech if you’re scared to death to stand in front of an audience. And the fact is, most of us start off feeling pretty scared and have to find ways to calm down, if we want to speak effectively.
Presentation coaches can help. Practice, practice, practice did the trick for me (along with getting in touch with my inner ham.) But the most interesting and unusual cure for sweaty palms has to be the one discovered by Earl Furfine, a serial entrepreneur, IT professional and… endurance racer.
Furfine wrote recently about his first real open-water swim, part of an Olympic distance triathlon. He entered the water nervous about swimming in Atlantic’s waves. About a third of the way through, he caught a glimpse of something swimming by that scared the daylights out of him. He stopped, screamed, but couldn’t find the creature. He resumed swimming BUT THERE IT WAS AGAIN. This time he reached out to grab the beast…and snared his right wrist in his left palm.
The creature was his own hand, obscured by the murky water.
And exactly what does this have to do with speaking? Furfine reports that he used to get very nervous when he had to speak publicly. But now when that happens, he grabs his right hand, the way he did in the water. It makes him smile, and gets him breathing calming again as he heads for the podium.
We can’t all be triathletes, but if we can find a way to remind ourselves that fear of speaking is self-induced, it can help make that fear go away.
My thanks to the folks at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce for posting my piece in their brand new business blog. As a good writer should, I don’t waste time getting to the point:
Dynamic executives think long and hard about how to improve their skills, so they can both help their organizations succeed and also move forward in their careers. As you weigh the skill sets you need, be sure to include public speaking.
You’ll find the complete post here
Presentation is the ‘Killer Skill’ we take into the real world. It gives us an almost unfair advantage.
The McKinsey Mind: Understanding and Implementing the Problem-Solving Tools
and Management Techniques of the World’s Top Strategic Consulting Firm
You can pretty much sum up my January smartCEO Thought Leadership Piece in six words: A great speech starts with research.
Why? Because a generic, one-size-fits-all speech is guaranteed to bomb.
To engage an audience, your speech must be tailored to a specific time, place and set of listeners. You’ll find some suggestions on how to do that here.