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November 2006
Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence

Wisdom to lead minds:

"Most plans are organized and communicated according to marketplace logic.
But people don't listen for marketplace logic;
they listen for meaning and purpose....
The role of a leader is to create an experience that will inspire people to take action."

Bill Jensen, author & consultant, quoted in FAST COMPANY magazine

Five time-tested ways leaders boost their impact through speaking

Presenting ideas to make them matter is the master skill of leadership. Your eagerness and ability to connect with others and frame meaning defines your worth as a leader. And the podium is the best place to connect with and frame important ideas for an internal or external audience.

One of the great ironies of business and public life is that although leaders and aspiring leaders understand the value of speech-making, most present poorly. When they fail to make an impact their projects struggle for support and their ideas are ignored. Poor speaking also weakens a leader's reputation because it reveals a decisive flaw in their ability to impact others.

This is good news for those who speak well because they stand in contrast with the many who don't. These leaders lead where it counts. They influence industry and community agendas, and earn crucial support for their ideas from staff, peers, suppliers, customers and others important to their success. And they strengthen their reputations with each success.

Like all business skills, leadership speaking is learnable. Some have natural talents, but all improve with increased understanding and practice. Here are five ways to improve your results:

  1. Decide to make your speaking make a difference. Many executives convince themselves that they can't become effective speakers, and others put it off as something they will eventually get around to. The longer you wait, the more you lose to those who are already running hard. Every high impact leader has at some point in his or her career decided to develop this master skill.
  2. Get professional help. Good books can get you started, but you will develop further and faster with two kinds of professional support. First, most top leaders have taken training courses, and many retain an expert coach to hone their skills and help refine their ideas for specific presentations. Second, many also retain internal or external speechwriters who develop their ideas into the leadership language and structures that achieve the highest impact. They develop written speeches that refine and enhance their ideas for impact. This builds their capacity to powerfully articulate important ideas in formal and informal settings, from the conference podium to the meeting room to the water-cooler.
  3. Make time to prepare properly each major presentation. Trying to wing it from some boiler plate material previously presented is a reliable formula for failure and embarrassment. Every topic, audience, setting and context is different, and audiences have a finely tuned nose for under-prepared leaders. Nothing destroys credibility more than when an audience senses that you have disrespected them by not preparing thoroughly. Effective preparation includes understanding your audience and the context, aligning your content to suit the audience, writing a full speech or at least a detailed outline, and rehearsing it several times. Leaders who make their ideas matter have these activities in their diaries. Those who don't assign time sabotage their potential.
  4. Develop the courage and insight to be authentic. Leadership is not about transferring information. It is about connecting people to your ideas and leading them to some action or perception change. This means relating your own convictions and values in the context of the subject, and allowing people to see something of the person behind the leader. People want to trust you, but will assess first whether you seem authentic.
  5. Commit to action: Decide today how you will organise to improve and use speaking to achieve your goals. Assess your current skills and decide what to improve and how. Assess your leadership purpose and decide how speaking will help you take it to higher levels. Assess what professional support you have, or what you need to put in place.

Leaders who take speaking seriously ensure serious future success. Those who keep putting it off are placing an iron lid on their potential.

More next month...


Geoff Kelly works with leaders who are frustrated that others don't fully support their ideas and strategies. He mainly works with corporate leaders around the world, but also leaders in Government and Not for Profit. He is also a popular speaker on this and related subjects. See www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au, email [email protected] or call +613 9678 9218 for more information


© 2006 Geoff Kelly All rights reserved.
You are free to use material from the Leading Minds eZine in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear. The attribution should read: "By Geoff Kelly of Kelly Strategic Influence. Please visit Geoff's web site at www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au for additional articles and resources on earning support for your ideas and strategies." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)



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