When you speak to audiences large and small, are your channels of communication open for business?
Do you live in the comfort zone of your content, or in the world of your listeners?
Is your purpose to deliver information, or to give something more significant and lasting to your audience?
True leaders understand the differences in these questions and set their compass in the right direction each time. They know that leadership communication means effecting change, not merely peddling content. (Learn the communication secrets you need to motivate and inspire listeners. Download my free cheat sheet "The 5 Essential Speaking Techniques")
It's a way of thinking that bypasses the norm for speeches and presentations, in the U.S. and around the world. And the difference is in orders of magnitude concerning achieving real influence and success.
The Legend of the Two Wolves
Leaders lead people, not companies or organizations. In terms of communication, that means keeping a laser-like focus on the influence you're creating. What will happen as a result of what you say? What actions will people take or avoid?
To think of communication in this way is to understand your true purpose as a speaker. It is part of thinking strategically in your talks, presentations, conference calls, and public appearances, and it clarifies both your tactics and your goals.
In the seminars I lead on speaking for leadership, I sometimes begin with the Cherokee legend of The Two Wolves. A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. "There is a war going on inside you," he tells the boy, "as it is going on inside me, and every human being. The battle is between a Good Wolf and an Evil Wolf. The Good Wolf represents love, kindness, and compassion; the Evil Wolf anger, self-pity, and ego." Naturally the boy asks, "Which wolf wins, grandfather?" The old man smiles and replies: "The one you feed."
I tell the trainees that we have been feeding the wrong wolf in America. We believe our job is to deliver information when we speak--essential, timely, mission-critical, or however else we characterize it. But that's feeding the wrong wolf. We speak to audiences because we want to influence: that's our task and our role. To think in those terms is to reconsider the material we include and the approach we take--and perhaps to reconstitute both entirely. To reach people and make a difference in their lives: that's feeding the right wolf.
The Leadership Equation
Approaching public speaking in these terms--for business communication or in other fields--requires focusing completely on your audience rather than your material. "Content is king" is a well-known saying which has little validity in the real world of listeners and your influence on them.
The good news is that you as a leader have nothing to worry about in this area. You know your content deeply and intimately. Content is your strong suit, stuffing and spilling out of every pocket. As I tell clients: "Spend less time putting together the content of your speech, and more time learning how to listen to and talk to people." That may mean venturing out of your comfort zone. And it certainly means spending more time on your feet, strengthening your presence and interpersonal skills.
Here is the equation you should remember to speak with true influence:
Focus not on information, but on your listeners and their reception of what you say.
Use this simple formula to keep the channels of communication open, for the business of realizing influence and true leadership.
And thanks to Randy Olson and his book Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style as the inspiration for the title of this piece.