What’s love got to do with it?

Talking about love in business might make us uncomfortable. Isn’t business all about head, not heart? When we talk of love at work, we don’t mean romantic love. It is love for what we do (passion), love for the people we do it with (teammates) and love for the people we do it for (customers).

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Real leaders don’t cry(?)

tearsRecently in a workshop a leader was moved to tears while narrating her story.  She apologised and received a very positive response from the group.

Immediately the leaders wanted to talk about how to handle vulnerability.  One leader said sometimes he’s so passionate about what he’s saying that he tears up.  He questioned if this was appropriate.

Recently, Michael Clarke, Australia’s cricket captain, broke down on national TV discussing the tragic passing of teammate Phil Hughes.  Many a blogger commented on how powerful the moment was as a positive influence on young boys. This comment captured the sentiment: “Not so long ago it wouldn’t have done at all for the captain of the Aussie cricket team to cry for a mate, and say how much he loved him, publicly. Glad our boys can see this.”

Our culture deeply conditions us to be brave and hide our feelings, particularly at work.  For women leaders this is compounded by fear of being seen as weak or emotional if we tear up.

Tears at work are awkward.  If you tear up (it can happen), how would you recover? If someone else at work tears up, try offering a hug or a pat on the back, or try some humour to break the tension.

Tears are a sign of vulnerability, not weakness.  Brene Brown the world’s foremost expert on vulnerability, says staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take to experience deep connections.

Real leaders cry – and real leaders also recover with grace.

Please comment, I love hearing from you.

Lonely in Las Vegas?

imagesWhat do you do when you are bumped off two flights and stuck in lonely, deserted Las Vegas airport overnight?

Shoot a music video on your iPhone lip-syncing Celine Dion’s All By Myself to share with all your friends, of course!  This is exactly what Dion super-fan Richard Dunn did and he was amazed when his video went viral with over 3.7 million views – turning him into an overnight internet sensation.

While this is a novel way to channel boredom – and perhaps the start of a new trend on the rise of airport videos (please no!) – what makes this piece of content work?

Richard Dunn says start by being true to yourself.  What do you enjoy doing? Think about how can you channel that into your next communication.  In a world where so much information is spun, genuine passion for what you are doing always shines through.

His next tip is to be surprising.  So much content washes over us because of its sheer predictability.  Surprise grabs attention.  Surprise is the secret weapon against information saturation.

And finally, Dunn says he made his video to make his friends laugh.  Simple, clear intent.  While we can’t have this as our brief, what matters is starting with how we want people to feel when they receive our message.  Staring with the emotion, and building our message around it, will help dramatically increase our influence and reach.

Richard Dunn is no longer all by himself.  Celine Dion also did a response video, saying how much she loved Richard’s video and inviting him to her show in Las Vegas.

Where have you seen great content / communication work? Please comment, I love hearing from you.

How would you like….?

download“How would you like your hair cut?” a talkative barber asked a client.  “In silence”, the man replied!  This is one of the oldest recorded jokes, attributed to Roman times.

Most people shy away from silence as it is awkward and scary.  We often see silence as a vacuum that needs to be filled, quickly and furiously.  Yet silence can also be powerful, if used well.

Consider the power of a well-timed pause – especially when you are presenting.  It takes practise to get the timing right (try counting slowly to three in your head).  This will feel like eternity, but gives your messages the space they deserve.

When you finish narrating a story, you will usually be greeted by complete silence instead of rapturous applause.  The silence does not mean your story has not worked; quite the opposite.  The silence is your audience thinking about what you have said.

Quite often you have barely finished speaking in most other contexts when people rush in with what they want to say.  As such, the novelty of being greeted by silence at the end of a story is so unusual that it can unnerve even seasoned presenters.  I prep clients by saying “Bask in the silence!”

Research (in a paper aptly titled ‘Why Silence is golden’) has studied the effects of silence in consumer advertising and found that a silent segment in a television commercial increased attention and recall.  The researchers recommend that advertisers should selectively pause for a cause.

So, how are you going to pause for cause?  Please share – I love hearing from you.

Look who is talking (too much)

Sad man waving a red flag gesturing defeatA few weeks ago at a council community engagement forum, a gentleman stood up and made a powerful point and followed it with a snappy example.  You could see a lot of heads nodding around the room.  Then he went to explain, elaborate, add, elucidate, state, repeat and reiterate his point for another five or so minutes, all without drawing a breath!

You could see the shift in the room as people started coughing, shuffling papers and tapping their feet impatiently. Luckily a break was called for coffee. The overheard comments about this speaker were most unflattering. “Loves the sound of his voice,” one person muttered. “Can never get him to shut up,” another said.  This person was not a close talker, but an over-talker.

Sometimes over-talkers start off by being persuasive, but then they undo their good work by becoming boring and repetitive.  Sometime over-talkers cover up a lack of preparation or knowledge by making one point in five different ways.  It’s conversational smoke and mirrors.

We all have been guilty of over-talking – I know I certainly have!  So here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Holding court for more than a couple of minutes without drawing breath, allowing no one else to get a word in
  • Repeating what you’ve already said, while one part of your brain is screaming ‘Stop talking now!’
  • People who were bright and sparkly when you started are now distracted and listless

Not for a moment am I suggesting we should be taciturn and speak in shotgun-staccato bursts of 30 seconds at a time.  Great conversations and deep connections are what make the personal and business world go around.  But over-talkers lose out on these benefits unless they regularly stop to take stock.  What are your thoughts on over talkers?

Please share I love hearing from you.

For dazzling presentations, smash the fourth wall

In the TV sitcom Modern Family, all the characters at different points speak directly to the camera. They talk to the audience in a break-the-fourth-wall style confessional.medium_movie_clapper

The fourth wall is the invisible barrier between the audience and characters in a movie.  You physically see the other three walls: one behind the stars, and one on each side.  In movies and TV shows breaking the fourth wall sometimes works and sometimes it simply annoys the audience as they lose the illusion of being immersed in the story.

There is the same metaphoric fourth wall between you and your audience when you present.  Your first goal as a presenter should be to break this wall, otherwise your audience will not connect with you and your message.

At an early-morning breakfast seminar Carolyn Creswell, the founder of Carmen’s Muesli, opened by saying: “When the alarm went off this morning, I thought, this better be good, and then I thought sh** – I better be good!” The audience laughed and immediately connected with her. She had successfully broken the fourth wall and she was one of us.

Standing behind a lectern or speaking to your slides rather than your audience strengthen the fourth wall and leave your audience feeling disconnected.  Instead, share the real you perhaps through a relevant story or a humorous opening that captures people.  Learning and using people’s names also work towards dissolving that fourth wall and immersing your audience in your presentation.

If you are directing a Hollywood blockbuster or a TV soap, by all means respect the fourth wall.  However, if you want your next presentation to be a blockbuster, spend the first couple of minutes smashing that wall to connect with and dazzle your audience.