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!”
The Boardroom was the U.S. Senate Committee Hearing in 1969 as Chairman John Pastore was investigating whether to pass a $20 million funding bill to PBS. And he was losing his patience as PBS was losing the verbal battle—until Mr. Rogers stepped in. You know him—Fred Rogers, PBS star and now the mild-mannered hero of the excellent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
It’s worth the time to watch the 6’ drama unfold here.
Speakers who got up before Mr. Rogers read scripts and shared what was on a piece of paper. The decision-maker, Senator Pastore, showed his disdain and was sick of hearing written words. Mr. Rogers adapted and spoke from the heart. Incredible impact—his eye communication, his passion, his voice, pauses and his overall authenticity were so powerful. As he ended, Senator Pastore immediately replied, “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goosebumps for the last two days,” he said. “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”
In our coaching and consulting at Decker, we find that so many leaders and executives that we work with are tied to words, reading, teleprompters and scripts. They think, “If I say the words, people will get them.” It doesn’t really work that way. Our challenge as coaches is to encourage them to speak from their ideas and from their hearts, as long as the point comes through. Certain media or investor regulation opportunities make that seem unrealistic, but for the most part, it’s not only doable but more effective.
How often at a conference, a QBR or a team meeting where there are multiple speakers, do you get sick of the formality of the prepared speech? If we were all like Senator Pastore in 1969, I think more of us would call it out and push back to demand a change in how others present to us. The key question is, are you willing to be more like Mr. Rogers and let go of the prepared words and speak from the heart to get the influence you want? People buy on emotion and justify with fact!
You can see many examples of that from this year’s highest grossing biographical documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Quick disclaimer: I’m a child of the 70s and a big fan, so Mr. Rogers was a big part of my childhood. But for everyone, the film is definitely worth seeing—entertaining, dramatic and historical. You will come to know a Fred Rogers you have never seen before.
And we have a hunch that he will move your heart and help you move the hearts of your audiences.
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.
Last week, I shared what not to do on a video conference. Here’s some tips on what TO DO to ensure a great experience, every time.
Remote Presenting: Commit to Connection - YouTube
For most of us, the challenge with video calls is treating them like in-person meetings. It’s important to remind the audience that they matter and how we come across is the tell of that.
Do we think about how we come across in a one-on-one conversation or in-person meeting? The answer is, we do. So we should also think about how we come across in video calls—especially with them becoming a more frequent part of our daily lives.
It’s undeniable that the way your voice sounds has a lot to do with how you come across.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, people who hear recordings of rough, weak, or strained voices tend to label the speakers as negative, weak or tense. While people with strong voices are described as successful, sociable and smart.
Whether you’re speaking one-on-one, in a meeting or presenting on the big stage, here are 3 tips to help boost connection and credibility with your voice:
Vocal Variety: 3 Tips - YouTube
Changing your vocal habits is hard—but the good news is, you can change them!
Whip out your smartphone and use an app like Voice Memos to record your next pitch. Then, self-diagnose. Did you vary the pitch? Do you sound energized? Are you remembering to pause?
Blending connection and credibility through your voice is magnetizing. The more you give, the better others will perceive you as a leader.
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.