Public Speaking | BridgeBetween.com

Why Public Speaking Helps to Build Leadership Skills

Public speaking ability is among the most critical, yet also the most feared, skills. But the lack of it can really impact your ability to lead a group effectively.

Public speaking allows you, as a leader, to show your team what you are thinking and what direction you want to take: they will see you as not only an actual leader, but as a thought leader, helping to motivate them to the action that you are seeking from them.

A leader isn’t just someone who states what they want done and waits for people to do it. A leader is someone who motivates positive action, who inspires innovation and growth, who sets a set of goals for a group of people and helps them to find the path to their mutual success.

There’s no question that the only way that any of these ideals get accomplished is through clear communication—both as an active listener and speaker.

But as I said before, while it is critical, public speaking is often the most feared skill that a person acquires in their quest to lead. So what can you do to improve your public speaking skills, and by extension, your leadership skills?

Speak like a leader

A leader of a Fortune 500 company is probably not going to drop an F-bomb every few sentences and for good reason. A conversational tone is perfectly acceptable, particularly when you’re trying to reach a large group of people and still make them feel like you are talking directly to each and every one of them; but conversational doesn’t mean crude or inappropriate.

That can only cause discomfort for some or all of your audience; they will ignore the message and then you will have lost an opportunity.

You need to be focused on your message and on your audience and find ways to connect your message to them in a way that makes sense and is absorbed. Storytelling, anecdotes, examples are far more effective transmitters of the message than just the message by itself.

Focus on Your body language

Just as important as your actual voice is how you present yourself to your audience. Having an open, relaxed stance, and using eye contact where you can, has the same effect as the appropriate tone, mentioned in the previous point. Your body language will offer a lot in terms of engagement, for the audience.

Speak at a level that matches your audience

If you’re a scientist but you are speaking to a group of non-scientific laypersons, match your language to their knowledge and abilities. If they aren’t familiar with the vernacular of the area you are speaking about, including acronyms, you will lose them.

Similarly, if you’re a business leader and you’re talking to a group of CEOs, you don’t need to talk down to them and explain basic concepts of economics. Not matching your speaking level to the audience in question can result in you confusing them and losing the message.

Practice, practice, practice!

If you’re new to public speaking, the best thing you can do is practice.

It’s best if you can deliver your speech without detailed notes and leverage some points from reference cards instead. But this takes some preparation.

Why is it best?

Because you’ll engage more effectively with the audience if you’re not looking down at pages of notes the whole time you’re speaking. Your voice will project better and you’ll be able to read nonverbal cues as to whether or not your words are making a connecting (nodding of heads, open, relaxed faces, etc.)

If you can, record yourself on video. You’ll never hear or see the things you do that are distracting if you don’t literally hear and see yourself. The incessant ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that some people insert into their speaking are distracting for the audience and detract from the overall effect of the words. Similarly, nervous laughter or over excited arm movements and gestures can overwhelm the audience.

Final Thoughts

Speaking well gives a person authority, a quality that is not just handed over simply because you have a title. It’s this authority that is among the more difficult to pinpoint aspects of quality leadership.

That said, when a person has it, the audience knows it and responds accordingly, whether that set of people is a small team or an assembly of four hundred investors. Master public speaking and you’ve mastered a vital skill for leadership.

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The Keys to Strong Leadership

The Keys to Strong Leadership

You can’t just talk the talk.

Talking tough is not leadership. It’s bluff and it usually masks a whole host of insecurities and issues of self-doubt. Being tough: that’s a true foundation of strong leadership. This doesn’t mean being tough in the sense of coming down hard on other people, but an inward strength that helps a leader to navigate whatever waters they’re on.

This internal strength comes from a place of confidence and knowledge. A strong leader has a clear understanding of the world around them and what they are trying to accomplish within it. It’s this understanding that helps them move forward with decisions, big and small.

This inner strength is also what inspires others to action, almost innately. A tough, strong and knowledgeable leader will always be more effective. Are these traits born or can the be learned? Of course they can be learned! It’s a question of practice.

But first, let’s look at a few differences between a strong leader and one who has room to improve.

The Keys to Strong Leadership

A strong leader sees difficulties as opportunities

Instead of viewing every challenge as a major problem, strong leaders will turn that view around and look at the difficulty as an opportunity. For change, for improvement, for growth… whatever. It’s the ultimate version of making lemonade when life hands you lemons!

A strong leader exercises their influence carefully

The strength that inspires people is not about control. It’s not about telling people what to do in order to get things done, making rules or micromanaging staff. It’s about setting the right example so that others are inspired to follow, rather than having people who follow out of fear.

A strong leader is authentic

This is so important: a leader who is more concerned with how things ‘look’ rather than the real impact of actions and decisions is not strong, and people will eventually see through the narcissistic tendencies. Authenticity and true belief in one’s own actions and decisions are vital, regardless of appearances.

A strong leader can admit when they’re wrong

This goes back somewhat to authenticity, but basically, a leader who cannot acknowledge errors or admit a gap in their knowledge isn’t displaying strength. That kind of leader is showing their insecurities instead of dealing with the challenge of growth and change.

Learn how to become a strong(er) leader

It takes commitment to recognize that you might not be as inwardly strong as you think you are. It takes even more commitment to do something about it but once you make that choice, you can move forward and grow as a leader:

  • Give up the bad habits — Giving in to rampant self-doubt and that negative inner voice is vital! Every one of these negative thoughts limits your opportunities to grow. Dump them! Sure, you need to learn from your mistakes to avoid repeating them, but that’s not dwelling: that’s using a negative and turning it into an opportunity for growth.
  • Control your emotions — The leader who is always posturing, blustering or yelling isn’t leading: they’re being controlled by their emotions and they’re projecting that out onto others. You can’t think clearly, let alone lead others effectively, if you’re a mess of angry anxiety or fear.
  • Don’t try and control things that are out of our control — Your emotions? They’re within your control. Other people’s? Not so much. The world economy? Definitely not. Within every problem or challenge, there IS something you can change and control for the better, so find it and work on it! You’re never going to please everyone with every decision, so don’t try.

Like the muscles of your body, your inner strength ‘muscles’ need a regular workout so they can become stronger. Deciding that you want to be a better leader is the first step. After that, it’s all about the effort you put in. Good luck!

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Mentoring | BridgeBetween.com

Why Mentoring Can Be One of the Keys To Success

Within a company, the mentorship process can help foster communication, build bonds and increase the motivation of the mentor and the mentee!

Intra-company mentoring is probably one of the most underutilized processes out there but the benefits of having experienced employees mentor new or less experienced ones are numerous.

Here are four reasons why mentoring can be one of the keys to success:

  1. Increased motivation and morale
  2. Retention levels improved through effective career development
  3. Improved connection to company mission and values
  4. Improved corporate culture

What are the specific benefits for the mentee?

Mentees are typically people who are new to a company, though they could be long-standing employees who have moved up the ranks and are now entering an area that they aren’t particularly familiar with.

A mentee can be more confident in their role more quickly if they have support from a mentor. Mentors can help mentees by:

  • Providing a range of information, drawing from their own experience, that a mentee would never acquire by reading the company handbook or even shadowing another employee.
  • Being a source of objective information and support, something a manager cannot be.
  • Sharing all of the ins and outs of the department and the company as a whole that aren’t obvious from the outside and sharing details about the corporate culture and how things run — thereby helping the mentee to avoid any unnecessary stumbles.

Further, there are always skills that aren’t in the functional job description but that are nonetheless important to get the job done. It’s these more esoteric details that a mentor can provide, in a positive and supportive framework.

What are the specific benefits for the mentor?

There are several benefits for mentors. Here are some examples:

  • Mentors can achieve a superior level of personal growth by helping a colleague and becoming their support network. Helping others is a key factor in obtaining satisfaction, both personally and professionally.
  • A mentor, while more experienced at the company, likely has room to grow themselves—everyone does! So, the mentor experience will help them to increase their own knowledge base. By helping someone learn the ins and outs of the company, they are re-acquainting themselves with many processes and standards. It’s not always easy to admit that there are things one doesn’t know but it’s a healthy situation when teacher and student are both learning.
  • Softer skills that are important in a leadership role are honed by becoming a mentor: active listening, giving feedback, picking up nonverbal cues, and so on.
  • Mentoring a new employee might also help a person who has been with the company for a long time to feel rejuvenated about their role in the company. Being a subject matter expert is a wonderful thing; being able to share that knowledge with others is even better.

Is there an ideal type of company that could use mentoring?

Not at all. That said, companies that operate with strong departmental silos and little in the way of interdepartmental communication could benefit more than any others from implementing a mentoring program.

Breaking down those silos and opening up lines of communication is a major step in creating a functional workflow for any project. Mentors can help make this happen within a project or for the company as a whole.

Are there pitfalls to mentoring?

If it has one flaw, intra-company mentoring doesn’t always lend itself to creating safe spaces for people to share concerns or complaints. It’s important that mentees do not report to their mentor and that the latter have no responsibility to evaluate the mentee or to the person who does conduct those evaluations.

With this off the table, it opens the door for more frank discussion and a productive relationship.

 

Starting a mentoring program is not difficult but sometimes it’s made easier by the participation of a neutral third party with strong experience in building mentoring programs. From the initial consultation to the final implementation, Bridge Between can assist any company to connect potential to performance!

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Productivity Tips for Leaders | BridgeBetween.com

Essential Productivity Tips for Leaders

Working your way toward sustained success.

You were not born productive or with a manual filled with productivity tips for leaders. If anything, most of us spent the better part of our youths being the opposite. Productivity is learned and if it’s a skill that you haven’t quite mastered yet, it’s not a hopeless ideal!

There are some essential things you can do to be more productive in your day to day and as a leader, modeling the kind of attitude and behavior that you’ll no doubt want to see in your team.

After all, the old saying: “Time is money” has a ring of truth to it, doesn’t it? Wasting time ultimately wastes money, along with other resources along the way, so eliminating as much waste as you can is essential.

Have clear goals

This can’t be overstated: if you don’t have a clear vision as to what the end goal is, you will not be able to find a productive path to get there. Once your vision is clear, you can establish the tasks that need to be taken to achieve said goal.

It might seem redundant to say that you need to prioritize your tasks, in addition to knowing your end goal, but it bears repeating. Team members and leaders alike can end up dithering and flailing around in a multi-tasking quagmire, and ultimately not being very productive, if they aren’t sure where to begin.

Don’t forget, too, that short term (weekly/daily) goal planning is just as important: it will help you with prioritizing the tasks at hand.

In line with clear goals is the ability to refuse tasks. You have to say no sometimes. If you are constantly taking on meetings, speaking engagements and in general tasks that aren’t related to the goals you’ve set out, your productivity will get bogged down from going in too many directions at once.
 

L.I.F.E. @ A GLANCE PLANNER: Organize your priorities and invest your time wisely.

 

Productivity isn’t about time in the chair

Most leaders who have understood the principles of effective team management have long gone past the point where they equate time in the chair with productivity, in evaluating their team members.

The same applies to you, as a leader. Being the first into the office and the last to leave does not make you productive and it doesn’t really serve to show your team members an effective method to achieve productivity.

A good way to maximize your time is to block off time where you can’t be reached. Notifiers can become the ultimate distraction. Turn the phone to ‘do not disturb’, block the time on your calendar for everyone else to see… disconnect. As a leader, you can’t get away with it everyday, but once in awhile, it’s a great way to get on top of a runaway list of tasks.

Know yourself

Are you more productive in the early morning? Late at night? Right around noon? Do you think better after a workout? Make sure you block off time in your schedule during those productive times, so that you can get the work done that requires a lot of intensive thinking.

Schedule the more routine tasks—like answering emails—for when you’re at a lower point on your productivity scale. A lot of people find that to be middle of the afternoon but to each their own!

TIP: Many high level executives avoid email first thing in the morning. You can get really bogged down in the details of things that you actually don’t even need to be involved in, losing out on what is a highly productive time for most people.

Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need it: slogging through tasks when you’re overtired and undernourished isn’t going to result in good work. This too is a good behavior to model for your team members: if you feel okay taking a break now and again, they will be too.

Choose the tools—and team—that work for you

Some people swear by their phone calendars or apps designed to remind you about everything. Others like to kick it old school and rely on pen and paper (hint: I’m more the latter!) Use what tools work for you, not what’s ‘in’ or ‘trending’!

Having the right team is a major factor in personal productivity as a leader. It’s not about having people who can run with the job without even talking to you: it’s about trust. If you know they can get something done, you will feel comfortable relinquishing the task to them, instead of micromanaging it and losing out on productivity. It’s a win-win too because a team member who feels nurtured but not hovered over will respond with outstanding effort.

Confront the task you hate the most first

Getting rid of the most daunting task first sets the tone for the rest of your day. You can envision it being smoother and more productive if you get rid of the one thing that’s been bugging you or dragging on for a while. A lot about being productive is about mindset. Free your mind from something that was getting between you and creativity and you will see your productivity levels skyrocket!

 

An essential element to productivity is knowing what’s happening today, tomorrow and in the not so distant future. It’s easier to prioritize if you know what’s coming down the pipeline, and a tool like the L.I.F.E. @ a Glance Planner will help you drive your tasks towards your end goal by “Living In Focus Everyday”.

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team communication

Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Not only listen, but take action, too.

Team communication should be very important to all leaders. Whether speaking to a large group or a small team, there are ways you can engage with your ‘audience’ so that they will not just hear you but actively listen and even take action on what you’re telling them. It’s an art form, really.

Motivating positive reactions versus acting from a place of fear, or worse, disdain. It’s an important skill for leaders to master in order to be effective with their team.

Be genuine and be present

No matter the size of the group, if you speak to all them as if you were speaking to one of them, you’re more likely to get a positive response. It’s not an easy thing to do at first, and will require some practice, but doing it will reap many rewards.

Appearing genuine and human is essential for people to want to take in what you’re saying and, further, act on it. That really only comes if each person in the audience feels as though you are speaking directly to them. Putting on the ‘big shot’ persona isn’t appealing and doesn’t invite others to act on your words. Be real.

Being present is also important: eye contact for smaller groups, body language that is open and receptive, focusing on what is happening in the moment and not fidgeting, fussing or, worst, looking at a phone. The audience needs to feel that, in that moment, you are 100% there for the message and for them.

Listen—actually listen—to the feedback

Feedback isn’t always verbal. Take non-verbal cues from your audience into account when you are speaking with them. You need to be able to adjust what you’re saying on the fly, so that you don’t lose the audience and you remain connected to them.

Someone who feels they need to say everything they had on their agenda, regardless of how it’s received, simply to ‘make their point’, isn’t communicating effectively. If you’re looking for feedback or an actual dialogue on the subject, you’ll know that you’re not reaching your audience when they tune you out or don’t ask any meaningful questions.

Further to the last point, you should always be looking to create that dialogue. Communicating to create action is not a one way street: it’s not command it, and it will happen. People simply don’t respond to that kind of demagogue like speechmaking.

Focus on the WHY, not the WHAT

When you want people to act on what you’re saying, you have to give them the motivation and, to some extent, that feeling is more important than the acts themselves. Look at it like storytelling: if you tell a group WHY you’re passionate about a new process that you want to put in place, and not just THAT you want to put it in place, you will develop buy in from your audience far more quickly and effectively.

If you start with just the fact of a change that you want them to engage in, you’re putting walls and barriers for those who might be reluctant followers before you’ve even begun. If you start with the why, your motivation, your passion… you will get far more people nodding along with you, understanding your thought process and wanting to run with it on your behalf.

The reality is, most people aren’t born communicators. The skills needed to reach an audience and compel them to action are learned. It’s a major effort for most people but it’s worth every moment spent acquiring the skills and practicing them because communication and leadership are synonymous. You really can’t have one without the other.

 

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

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