How do you put a price or value on connection? On being present?
Jay-Z is a genius and talent in music who is practically unequaled. As I watched him as a guest on David Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, I was fascinated by the subject matter they covered—a discussion that had little to do with music at all. Intelligence and insight from two iconic figures. As I watched and listened, I realized how amazing Jay-Z is at speaking, listening and relating in a simple one-on-one conversation—and SO much of that is through his eye communication.
Because of what I do, I might be a little more observant—but I’m confident that everyone can see it and identify with it. It’s why eye communication is THE #1 behavioral skill we focus on. It makes or breaks a connection with an audience, whether we’re speaking one-on-one or to 1000 people. Yet most people don’t know what they do with their eyes. Their habits are to dart their eyes around and not really focus on any one person. Even in one-on-one conversations, we tend to look away while we gather our thoughts, and look at our listener much less.
The goal is to stick with the 5-second rule. When you’re speaking to a group of people, hold your eyes on one person for five seconds, then move to another person. You can go longer during a one-on-one (seven to 10 seconds), but you do need to break it up or else it can come across as too intimate or possibly too intimidating.
The value of great eye communication was confirmed to me last week by a client. She is a finance leader, and she shared a story about giving a speech to a women’s affinity group. Afterward, one of the attendees came up to her and said, “Thank you for that speech, I loved what you had to say and more so you made me realize something. We’ve had our financial advisor for several years, and he doesn’t look at me. He only looks at my husband, and he calls for my husband—and it’s dismissive. You looked me right in the eyes, and I appreciate that. I think we’re going to move our assets over to you.”
Within a week, this woman moved $100 million to my client’s firm. Eye communication may not seem like it’s worth that much to most of us, but the price of connection, in this case, was huge.
Start working on being aware of what you do with your eyes to connect with your audience. Jay-Z’s worth of over $1 billion isn’t due to his eye communication, but it doesn’t hurt either!
Sometimes, we feel compelled to prove how much research we’ve done, how much credibility we have and how thorough we’ve been by sharing every little detail. Problem is, when we do that, people tune out, and we lose the ability to influence.
Leaders are expected to be declarative and direct. So, how do you do that?
Be brief, be bright and be gone.
This tip resonated so well in my one-on-one coaching sessions that I wanted to share it with all of you as you focus on your leadership presence.
Be Brief. Be Bright. Be Gone. | Decker Communications - YouTube
Just today, we launched a brand new program that’s all about leadership presence. It’s called Leadership Presence for Women. We co-created it with several trusted clients and partners to help rising leaders and high potentials stand out with increased confidence and credibility. While the tips, like the one above, are applicable to men, too, the women-only course discusses challenges and biases that are unique to women. After all, as a recent New York Times article pointed out, Fortune 500 companies have more CEOs named James than CEOs who are women.
Join us in empowering women to get there.
Nobody changes the status quo alone. Whether your team, your mentees, or even you are looking to fast-track communication skills and leadership presence, check it out and let us know what you think!
For those of you who know anything about Decker, you know we always push people outside their comfort zones—that’s where change happens!
Last week, the marketing team here at Decker pitched a new idea to me. They were seeking buy-in on something that’s outside the scope of what we’ve done before as a company. They started our meeting by pointing to the poster that hangs inside our office with the Decker mantra, “Safe is a dangerous place to be. Get outside your comfort zone.”
They were reminding me to stay open-minded as I considered this new initiative—calling me out on my own commitment to taking risks. It wasn’t long or drawn-out, but it was effective.
Our goal is to get our audience to ‘feel’ something so that they’ll act on it. That’s influence. That’s good communicating.
This is why we emphasize the importance of using SHARPs – Stories. Humor. Analogies. References and quotes. Pictures and visuals.
A SHARP is that one bit of emotion that pushes our listeners over the edge – it makes them willing to act or be influenced. And it works because it makes them ‘feel’ something.
Most of us are pretty good at adding color in low-risk situations, and we typically choose not to do it for high-stakes presentations because we think of it as fluff. But the high stakes presentation is exactly when we need to use that analogy – that humor – that SHARP.
It goes back to something we have stated for years:
Logic makes you think, emotion makes you act.
If you want to drive action – close the deal, secure your budget, fire-up your team – you need to appeal to their emotions, which is exactly what SHARPs do. They can be quick, easy and powerful.
Today is Wednesday, and chances are that you’ve already been presented to at least once this week. What do you remember?
I’m not big on sports, but a few months ago a friend “forced” me to watch a football game. Heads down, charging forward, the players reminded me of so many office presentations I’ve sat through where the leader was determined to get his or her point across regardless of comments and questions coming from the group. Sometimes it’s imperative to drive action and get to the finish line, but more often than not, slowing down to listen to what others have to contribute will give you a better solution with more buy-in.
If you find your carefully crafted presentation turning into a conversation, use these three tips to switch gears and start listening differently.
Take your foot off the accelerator. When your audience asks a question stop driving towards your point! Sometimes a question or comment can seem like an interruption. That’s when your rapidly nodding head tells everyone that you’re not really listening but impatiently waiting for them to shut up.Instead, take a breath, pause your flow, push your agenda to one side and listen with an ear to learn.
Ditch the rebuttal. When responding to the comments of your audience, watch out for the subtle make-wrong phrases such as, “Do you really think that will work?” (which means, “You’ve got to be kidding!”), or “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it,” (“I totally disagree!”) and the classic, “As I said earlier…” (“If you had been listening…”).Make room for diverse opinions and redundant questions by delivering answers that foster trust rather than dissention. Subtley expressing your disagreement with a preamble such as “Do you really think that will work?” puts people on the defensive. Instead foster collaboration by asking, “ I don’t see it that way, tell me more.”
Negotiate next steps. When a presentation turns into a conversation things change. Keeping with the sports analogy, the goal posts move. So don’t hang on to your original ask or your hoped-for outcome. Instead, acknowledge your common ground. “We all want to find a solution to this situation,” is a great phrase to use here. Then, move into action by asking the group, “What can we do to take the next step forward?”
Remember that conversation can spark innovation. So don’t let your presentation overtake the opportunity.
The weather at the Boston Marathon this year was brutal. Forty degrees, 20mph winds and rain showers. Everyone was freezing and drenched from head to toe. By mile 4, Olympian Des Linden was ready to call it quits. Convinced it wasn’t her day, she offered to help pace and shield the wind for a teammate. It had been 33 years since an American woman had won the race and she wanted to change that, even if it meant sacrificing herself. It was that shift in focus that distracted her from the weather conditions long enough to not only catch the leaders but pass them and win the race!
We’ve all faced adversity in one way or another. And when we do, it’s important to step back so you can shift your focus to the bigger picture. And it’s the same thing when it comes to storytelling.
We love stories. Every single one of us looooooooves a good story. In fact, the next time someone says, “Let me tell you a story,” whether it’s at a bar, around the coffee machine at work, during a meeting or gathering in a public space, just watch how people lean in to listen.
The thing about stories is, you have to know where you are going. A story without a point is just a good story. Sure, that’s great for entertainment value, but you have the opportunity to inspire! Land the point and change the way your listener thinks or acts.
When you are using your story to help influence, it should be leading to a singular end goal and focus. If you’ve taken one of our programs, you know we refer to this as your Point of View. What’s the point of your story?
Bolster the details. Make it concrete. Make the story easy to visualize for your listener. Then, add some emotion. Emotion will help the story come to life.
Your goal is to help your listeners see, then feel, then change. Describe in vivid detail, add emotion, then hit ‘em with your point of view (and of course your actions and benefits). That’s a story that packs a punch!
Kelly Decker, President of Decker Communications joins Stephen Wershing and Julie Littlechild of the Becoming Referable podcast and shares what it means to communicate to influence and how to learn what you can do to become an effective communicator.
We hope they don’t, but when they do, leaders need to know how to react effectively. The problem is, so often public apologies get botched. Every year we hear about them. More than a few (like this, and this, and this) have landed on our Top 10 Worst Communicators list. And in the last two weeks, the CEOs of Starbucks, Allegiant and Facebook have all been in the spotlight and issued an apology or “personal statement.”
When things go south, it’s the job of the CEO or leader to own it, apologize and connect with their audience (customers) to overcome it. First with emotion, then with the facts.
As you’ve heard us say before – people buy on emotion and justify with fact. People respond emotionally whether they believe you or not (or whether they buy it, or not) – and that’s got nothing to do with the facts. That’s what makes communicating with empathy so critical – especially when we’re in apology mode.
So, how do we do that? Here’s the five-step how-to guide for Apology 101:
1. Know your audience. What do they care about? Understand what they need from you, and give it to them! Whether that’s reassurance, an apology or (most likely) both. Consider their Point of View and respond with humility. 2. Be plain-spoken. Ditch the script (if you can). As we’ve shared, before, scripts are the number one killer of authenticity (like we saw with Tiger Woods). Think conversational, concrete words. Simple sentences. And pause between them to let it soak in. This will help you come across authentically and sincerely. 3. Show that you care. What I mean by this is, physically display your empathy. When what you say doesn’t match how you look or sound, there’s an inconsistent message. Even a little emotion goes a long way. Have some variety in your vocal tones to keep you from sounding robotic and maintain strong eye communication so you connect with your listeners. 4. Act quickly. Respond within a day or two, max. If you don’t, too much time has gone by and the damage is (probably) already done. 5. Don’t defend what happened. Apologies are not the time to be smug or defensive. Acknowledge the facts and position what can change moving forward.
These apology pillars also work well for one-on-one apologies, at work or in your personal life. ;)
It’s a tough question. Mostly because you probably don’t even know you’re cursed.
That is, you don’t know what it’s like NOT to know what you know. This has HUGE implications in our communications. We end up communicating to clients, internal team members, and even our kids in a language they can’t comprehend and then wonder why our product doesn’t sell, that project doesn’t move forward and why our kids just won’t patiently wait when we ask them to.
Anytime we’re presenting – whether at a meeting, conference, kick-off or coffee shop – we want to be on the same page as our audience. We need to be sure we are inclusive, which can mean speaking to the lowest-common denominator. This is true even in a room where everyone understands cloud computing (or righty/lefty splits in baseball, or whatever the cursed subject matter may be).
Wait, really? Why not? Well for starters, “dumb it down” sounds like you’re explaining something in the same slow, pause-heavy pace you would use to explain to your four-year-old niece why her goldfish died. It’s usually best to assume intelligence on the part of your audience.
But more importantly, dumbing down your message doesn’t make it stick. As such, the better recommendation is to speak in concrete terms rather than abstract ones.
When you speak in concrete details everyone in your audience benefits, regardless of their degree of cursed-ness.
Say you’re speaking to a room full of tech-savvy folks. You could say “our network is secure.” Everyone in the audience – regardless of how cursed by tech they are – would have some understanding of what you mean. However, saying that also leaves up to the audience to interpret exactly what “secure” means. Let’s try something more concrete instead: “We dared the three biggest hackers in the Bay Area to break into our network. None of them could.”
Boom. Everyone in the audience – from the most cursed person to the least – can pass along that concrete message.
Where can you add concreteness? When has concreteness made a difference in your life? Tell us in the comments!
Jerry Seinfeld once famously said, “If you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than giving the eulogy.” Although meant as a joke, this quote resonates with a lot of us who say we are “terrified” of communicating in front of others. Our fears are not commensurate with a lack of skills, but rather mediated by how we think about ourselves and our audience. As a psychologist, I help my patients identify and restructure irrational and negatively-skewed beliefs. Or in terms I discuss with my kids, I call it Stinkin’ Thinkin’. When we have stinkin’ thinkin’ about our communications, we can end up feeling extremely nervous.
So how can we stop this stinkin’ thinkin’? First, we have to identify the kinds of thoughts that are getting in our way. Here are some of the “usual suspects”:
Contrary to popular belief, human beings are not able to predict the future. And yet, we do this all the time. And all too often, we predict the future in a negative light. Just because a negative outcome is possible, doesn’t mean it is probable. If you are familiar with your content and have worked on improving how you come across to others behaviorally, chances are things will go better than your negative assumptions.
Another superpower we do not possess is the ability to read minds. We have no idea what people are actually thinking of us. But we say things like, “They think I’m terrible, and they know how nervous I am.” In actuality, they are not hyper-focused on every little thing you are doing and feeling. Just like you can’t read their minds, they also can’t read yours. You might be freaking out—racing heart, sweaty palms, the works—and all people see is the behaviors on the outside. So the next time you make assumptions about how others are judging you, remind yourself that you are your worst critic.
When we think in black-or-white or all-or-nothing terms, we see things as binary. Something is either good or it’s bad. It’s perfect or it’s awful. When we apply this way of thinking to our communication in front of a crowd, we say things like, “If I don’t nail this, it’s a complete bust.” Well, there’s a lot of space between “nailed it” and “bombed it” on the spectrum of how well you perform. Just because something isn’t 100% incredible, it doesn’t mean it was a complete waste of time. Remember that your goal isn’t to be perfect.
The next time you communicate with others—whether it’s a high-stakes keynote or a small group meeting—try focusing that internal voice. Fight back your stinkin’ thinkin’ by using rational thoughts. You’ll feel more confident and might even get excited about making presentations—though hopefully not too many eulogies.
Almost Famous is one of my wife’s favorite movies. There’s a part in it when the main character, Russell, travels to Topeka and gets sick of hanging out with his rock and roll band and crew — instead, he just wants to hang out with ‘real people.’ I think craving something real, down-to-earth and relatable is something we all want from other people — turns out, it’s even emerging in design trends, too.
This last weekend, our local newspaper’s real estate section shared a new design trend called “Wabi-sabi.” Wabi-sabi is a Japanese approach that celebrates imperfections and authenticity. In the article, Wabi-sabi is defined as, “all about keeping things real. It’s asymmetrical design and finding flaws to celebrate. Think wrinkled linen sheets, handmade pottery, weathered wood and worn or chipped furniture that make Type-A perfectionists nervous.”
We all need to communicate in this Wabi-sabi way! That means be conversational, flawed, transparent, vulnerable—and celebrate our imperfections and authenticity. It’s these imperfections that make us real and help us connect with people.
Too often we think our communications need to be perfect. That can lead to a robotic version of ourselves, we get too formal, which leads to rigidity and a lack of connection. Of course, we want to avoid creating distractions for our audience, and that’s why we’ve blogged in the past about filler words, gestures and having a point of view. The goal of all these tips is not to make you too precise or robotic. We want you to be more real.
So embrace wrinkled sheets and those little flubs. This Wab-sabi approach can help guide us to a NEW true north, and be more real and authentic in our homes AND our communications.