One area of business research indicates as being neglected, is communication. It’s the area of business that has the greatest impact on financial success. Because of that, it could be the last area of differentiation between businesses that grow and prosper and those that either limp along or wither and die. What an opportunity!
The results produced by every function in a business or organization are directly tied to some form of communication – the more effective the communication the better the results. The quality and effectiveness of top-down communication are your responsibility as the leaders in the organization. No matter if you are the CEO, the President, the executive team, directors, managers, supervisors, team leads, anyone responsible for producing expected results by guiding and inspiring others must have excellent communication and speaking skills to be effective at their jobs. They must be ready to speak at meetings, to the board and often to represent the company at events and conferences. If you are feeling nervous at this prospect just ask yourself, is security more important than opportunity?
When I started out in my career I was evaluated based on how good I was at a specific task or skill. You might have started out as an engineer, an accountant, a doctor, a carpenter, a programmer, a salesperson, a custodian, a customer service rep. If you interact with others in the performance of your work you need some basic communication skills to do your job well. At this point, you’ll be evaluated and promoted based on how well you perform using your technical skills. The better you are at what you do the greater the opportunities for advancement.
However, once you’ve impressed people with your work skills you may find yourself in a position that requires you to produce results with and through others – a leadership position. Your work skills will always be important and should continuously be improved. However, once you’re in a leadership position, your communication and public speaking skills become much more important than your work skills.
When this became obvious to me I joined a local Toastmaster’s Speaker’s Club www.toastmastersinternational.org and picked up tips and techniques I knew were essential if I was to lead my own company. I was invited by a publisher to write about my own experiences ‘Making a Short Speech or Toast’ Practical advice, useful ideas and tips for anyone asked to speak in public, is the result. Now before giving a speech or presentation, I look out over the audience and smile before I start — this is something I always do. It’s a reminder to myself that I choose to enjoy it. Yet many people are more terrified of public speaking than they are of death itself. Perhaps it’s because there’s no security once you’re up in front of people. You’re totally exposed.
But you also have tremendous opportunity — the chance to influence people, to make a difference in their lives, to have an impact. If security is more important than opportunity, you’ll deny yourself some tremendous opportunities, both to help others and to help yourself as a leader.
Last week I coached a young woman who had just been given a wonderful opportunity. She had been asked to present to the international board of directors at her company. She was terrified. Her words to me were:
“I am rubbish at public speaking, I dry up and feel totally inadequate.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I know that this young woman was an event manager in her last job. She had stood up and spoken in front of parents and children on a regular basis. She had presented ideas for events to her peers and taken the plans to the committee. She had organised events and was totally unaware that 50% of her job had been “public speaking”
I asked her to tell me about the times when she had given presentations and spoken in public. She was amazed to realise that she had, in fact, given many successful speeches and presentations. What was it that was blocking her in her new role? What voice was she hearing that said security is more important than opportunity? She was considerably younger than most of the international board members. She had only been with the company for eight months and she felt inferior. She was anxious that questions might arise that she couldn’t answer. She also felt her voice was not strong enough.
After some questioning and deliberation, what solutions did she come up with to help her?
She decided to speak to her direct Boss who had asked her to present. She would find out exactly what information the board needed. She realised that her voice would be stronger when she was more confident. She would try to anticipate any questions that might arise and be comfortable with saying:
“I am not able to answer that right now but I will come back to you by the end of the day” or “That’s an interesting question, may I come back to you on that?”
She was also going to create rapport by asking hypothetical questions and involving the audience in her presentation where possible. She would look at ways to do this and we would discuss them later. She was going to open the presentation with a couple of interesting facts that she felt would get their attention. She would oust the voice telling her that security is more important than opportunity!
Being prepared to ask for help was the first step. Then to think about planning and organising her presentation to suit her audience. Finally, to realise that she was a competent speaker and that presenting to the international board was a privilege and a great opportunity, far more important than security!
More coaching and communication tips at www.coach4executives.com