I was recently delivering a workshop in Kuala Lumpur and over the course of the three day workshop, a few insights became clearer on how to be a clearer, more influential communicator:
1. How to learn soft skills. “Play it. Don’t tell it. Get inside the character or role. Act it out.”
When it comes to soft skills like communication, leadership and management, the best way to learn is to become an actor and step inside the role and try out the skills in real time. Most people tell you what they would do. They don’t learn the skill. They know the skill but they can’t use it. Take a situation and become the character and play with the scenario. I use improvisational activities to help manager develop these skills. It’s fun and effective.
2. Attitude to learning. “The way you do one-thing, is the way you do everything.”
People are quick with excuses. They justify their actions by saying that if the situation was different, or the audience more high profile or the presentation more important, they would do it differently. In reality, they will do it the say way. One of the challenges in a workshop is a closing presentation or role play. Even after a day or two of trying out skills and learning new tips the majority of people go back to their old habits. My role as a trainer is to intervene so that they shift from old skills to new skills. The people who perform the skills in a workshop are often the ones you will apply them in the workplace.
3. Learning by re-doing. “Step outside your comfort zone by making small adjustments.”
By definition, to learn something, you have to try out something new. This involves stepping outside your comfort zone and feeling uncertainty. This is a not a nice feeling and most people avoid it. The best learners realise that they only have to make small adjustments on a continual basis to really see a big improvement. Don’t look for massive changes. If you are looking for something mind-blowing and totally new, you will probably spent most of your time disappointed. Take action now with the things you do know. Chances are you not implementing all the good tips and techniques you know. Pick a focus area and target small – and ongoing – changes.
4. Expertise is not enough. “It’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it.”
I have talked before about the trap of technical experts. They know too much, so they say too much. Another trap with subject matter experts is that they believe the content is all they need to shine. Unfortunately, it’s not. You are not unique in the world. There are many other people doing exactly the same thing you are doing somewhere else in the world. And that’s fine. The world can accommodate this. So what this means is that you need to inject your own personality into your communicating and influencing. Be yourself, and always look for ways to better connect and relate to your audience.
5. Influence is precise. “Use precision tools, not blunt objects when communicating”
Being precise and specific while communicating and influencing is tremendously difficult for technical people. They are great when it comes to being precise about numbers, statistics, processes and standards. To achieve mastery in soft skills needs taking this precision and transferring it to the field of human behaviour. You need to be an excellent listener and observer to see what impact and change your presentation or speech is having on the audience. Learn how to test their level of engagements. Is that person bored because they are looking at their watch or do they just want to check the time? Drill down. Being “confident” is a destination not a process. What does a confident person project? How is their posture, they voice and gestures. You can learn these micro-behaviours and add them to your arsenal to becoming a more proficient influencer.
Warwick John Fahy runs workshops around Asia which help managers and senior managers from technical backgrounds to become more influential in business situations.
Warwick is author of The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world. Read Warwick’s blog and download an e-version of The One Minute Presenter at http://www.oneminutepresenter.com/
Warwick is Asia’s leading business presentation coach working with business leaders who need to influence clients, investors, shareholders and team members. His results-driven approach and deep cross cultural understanding make him a sought after business presentation coach throughout Asia. Download a free report “10 Warning Signs Your Leaders Lack Executive Presence” at http://www.warwickjohnfahy.com/