When my son was in kindergarten, I volunteered to chaperone a class trip to a local museum. While the majority of the day was spent escorting five-year-olds to the bathroom, I was able to make some keen observations about the students (beyond just that little kids have small bladders). The most remarkable was that the boys raised their hands…a lot. Every time the museum docent asked a question about an artifact, about eight boys’ hands flew up in the air—“Me! Me! Me!”–while the girls typically refrained from speaking up.
At first, I was shocked by the disparity in boys’ versus girls’ hand-raising. Then I remembered that this was very consistent with research I had read about gender differences in classroom participation. Studies have shown that boys are much more likely to raise their hands than girls. Unfortunately, this pattern doesn’t seem to change as these children grow into adulthood. Our workplaces often reflect what I saw at the museum. While many men are raising their hands to new opportunities or throwing their proverbial hats in the ring for promotions, many women are more hesitant to do so.
In Decker’s Leadership Presence for Women program, we address the issue of ‘raising your hand’ for new opportunities head-on. We ask participants “What’s getting in the way of your ‘YES’?” Often it’s simply your inner dialogue creating the obstacle. That voice might be saying, “I’ve never done that before” or “I’m not sure where to even begin” or “I don’t want to be in the spotlight” (as one Harvard Business Review study suggests) or “I’m not really an expert on that.” In fact, perceived lack of expertise is a common hindrance for women to stepping forward and saying, “Consider me.” Many women think that they have to check every single requirement in order to move forward in pursuing an opportunity. This puts them at a disadvantage to those who are willing to raise their hands without all of the boxes checked. One important point of clarification: While we often see this behavior in women, there are many men who also feel reluctant to say “yes” unless they are 100% confident in their abilities.
Regardless of your gender, it is essential that you become aware of how your internal narrative (we like to refer to it as stinkin’ thinkin’) might be getting in your way. Doing so will then allow you to challenge that negative mindset. Support and encourage yourself just as you would if you were talking to a good friend. We love this quote by Sheryl Sandberg, “Fortune does favor the bold, and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.” So next time someone presents you with a new opportunity, channel your inner kindergarten boy by raising your hand high. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And enjoy the many benefits of saying “YES!”
I am a huge Latin urban pop fan. I love dancing bachata to Dominican music. I listen online to a Spanish-language radio station.
And I have a celebrity crush on Grammy award-winning global artist Pitbull.
So when Pitbull recently hosted a weekend Caribbean cruise, I was on board. Literally. He performed at night on deck as we sailed under the stars. Sublime.
But what was almost as amazing as the experience he created singing, was the one he created speaking.
Pitbull gave a motivational speech on the last day in the tropical sun that had the crowd laughing and crying. He modeled perfectly the use of SHARPs. That’s the acronym for Stories, Humor, Analogies, References, and Pictures. It’s what we coach our corporate clients to do to make business communication memorable, influential, and even inspirational.
Pitbull talked about the story of his family’s escape from Cuba to Miami. Living in the ghetto, not exactly the American Dream they had all envisioned. The eviction notices, the food stamps. How he turned to drug dealing. And ultimately how music saved his life.
But Pitbull didn’t just rattle off these things. He made them stick. Here are three ways to punch up your message:
1. Be specific. Create a sense of time and place. Use people’s names. More than saying he grew up in Miami, Pitbull told us the exact intersection. The year was 1999. The teacher who spotted his talent and mentored him: Hope Martinez. 2. Be unexpected. Pitbull gave props to his single mother and the lessons she taught him. Then he said, with a well-placed pause, “a woman made me a man.” As an audience, that’s not what we thought he was going to say. He called music “the new dope. You don’t snort it. You listen to it.” Again, the surprise of that was provocative. “You know what‘s in the words can’t, don’t, impossible?” he asked us, with a playful grin. “Can. Do. Possible.” 3. Be passionate. Even the best words won’t be enough alone, though. You have to show the audience your head and heart are in it. Pitbull made us believe that he believed. How? Through behaviors for energy. Push out a strong voice, connect with your eyes, use big gestures for emphasis. Occasionally, slow down your speech so that your pace is as that blockbuster hit song says in Spanish…despacito.
We might not all be able to be pop stars. But with the use of SHARPs, we can make our content pop, like it’s off the charts.
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.