Communicate to Inspire: A Guide for Leaders

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Communicate to Inspire is an essential manual for all aspiring leaders based on lessons from top CEOs, giving you the skills you need to communicate confidently and effectively for success.

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1. The new leader

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The new leader

As the traditional model of leadership changes, the biggest obstacle to leaders is not a lack of expertise, but rather a failure of relationship management. In the new world, talk is work, trust is a strategic asset, and relationships are the engines of success.

Are you in a new leadership role? Or are you a leader with ambitions to achieve even more? Either way, your challenge is to achieve your goals through others.

So, how are those people feeling? Do they know exactly what needs to be done? Do they know enough about what their colleagues are doing to be able to collaborate properly? Do they have the resources they need? Do they have the right incentives to motivate their behaviours, and the right sense of purpose and values to guide their actions? Do they feel valued and respected? Do they know how you would like your customers to feel after every interaction with them? Do they know why what they are doing really matters? Do they truly care?

If you can win the emotional commitment of the people who follow you and inspire them to achieve more than they thought possible, then you really will be a new leader. A new-age leader.

 

2. Leadership: the greatest intangible asset of them all

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Leadership

The greatest intangible asset of them all

In the new economy, value isnt where it used to be. Intangible assets are hidden gold, and leaders who concentrate on them will outperform their competitors. What, really, are they and how do you measure, monitor and manage these intangibles? Why do these soft assets require different, and better, communication skills?

How do you measure the value of employee emotions? Does it even matter how employees feel? Is the culture in your department or your organization collaborative and supportive? Are all the key relationships in and outside the company in good order? Do your customers value your support and services, and do they keep coming back to you? Can you count on the support of your local community if you want to expand your factory? Do people widely recognize and favour the name of your business and regard you as a force for good?

Strange questions, you might say, but increasingly crucial to leaders because of the powerful influence both positive and negative that the answers have on leadership effectiveness.

 

3. The 12 principles of inspiring leadership communication

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The 12 principles of inspiring leadership communication

What did 70 chairs and CEOs of global companies, charities and public sector organizations say were the ingredients of truly inspiring leadership communication? And how do these principles contribute to trust, engagement, relationships and reputation?

How can you improve your performance as an inspiring communicator and make the difference that can change poor performance into exceptional results?

Answer: Study the 12 principles of inspiring leadership communication gleaned from 70 chairs and chief executives of a wide range of global private sector companies, global charities and more than a dozen public sector organizations. I interviewed these people for The Language of Leaders, and then discussed my findings with thousands of other leaders and managers around the world.

These 70 bosses had a combined total of more than 2,000 years of leadership experience. Every interview was taped, and the tapes were transcribed. In the transcripts, there are more than 600,000 words. I read those words many times over, trying to understand what was really being said. What could you use to power and inform the way you communicate as a leader?

 

4. Be yourself better: why passion and conviction are essential to inspiring leaders

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Be yourself better

Why passion and conviction are essential to inspiring leaders

Authenticity in leadership is crucial. It builds trust. Without trust, you cannot be an inspiring leader. But how do you show more of who you are and what you believe in, in a way that engages and motivates? Follow these 10 steps to help you articulate your personal purpose and values, be more authentic and passionate with your followers, and generate more trust.

On the night before the big conference, my CEO rejected his speech.

Not good. Really, really, not good.

My team had spent weeks writing the speech with little input from him, receiving helpful but second-hand guidance from his chief of staff. They had also received advice from an editorial committee drawn together from across the organization. Our CEO had been too busy to give them time. Even with all the help from people who knew him well, the writers had had to intuit what should be in his speech, which was to be delivered at a major conference on customer care. More than 500 people would be in the audience, all of whom had paid to be there, and the event would be filmed for broadcast on the organizers website and reported on by the media.

 

5. The vision thing: how to think about purpose, values and the future

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The vision thing

How to think about purpose, values and the future

Leadership is about achieving great results through others. How do you create a framework that empowers and enables employees to bring their own creativity and commitment to achieving your goals? What makes a good purpose or vision statement, and which ones are rubbish? Here are the seven essential ingredients of a powerful vision framework.

How do you take the imagination of a writer, and turn it into a movie that delivers box office success? Making a movie is risky and imperfect, and can be hugely expensive. What is the magic element great directors bring to moviemaking that enables success? Are there any similarities between the art of directing a movie and leadership in business?

Michael Apted is a prolific British film director, best known for movies such as the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, the fantasy adventure The Chronicles of Narnia: The voyage of the dawn treader and the anti-poaching film Gorillas in the Mist. He is most proud of his film Amazing Grace, the story of English politician William Wilberforce and his battle to end the British transatlantic slave trade.

 

6. Bringing the outside in: when you introduce employees to the people they serve, it unleashes super-performance

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Bringing the outside in

When you introduce employees to the people they serve, it unleashes super-performance

We all have customers. Whether we serve people inside our organization or outside, we all have people who benefit from our actions. Connecting employees to how those people feel will turbo-charge performance more than you can do on your own. Here are eight ways to bring the outside in and boost motivation.

By any measure, Groupon, an online voucher business, was a phenomenal success story. Its name was derived from the words group coupon when the company was founded in 2008. On its website it featured discounted gift certificates usable at local or national companies. In 2008 Groupon had just one market in Chicago. Within two years it served more than 250 markets in North America, Europe, Asia and South America and had 35 million registered users. It was floated on the NASDAQ in 2011.

The founder and CEO of Groupon was Andrew Mason. He was ousted in 2013 after losses that prompted a huge slide in the companys share price and caused fears that business might be unsustainable. On being sacked he wrote to all of his employees. In a searingly candid memo, he told staff why he had just been fired. He wrote:

 

7. Engage through powerful conversations: how to use conversations to drive culture, and why culture delivers goals

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Engage through powerful conversations

How to use conversations to drive culture, and why culture delivers goals

Even in turbulent economic times, organizations with high engagement levels outperform competitors and achieve results far better than the average. Their employees have more positive attitudes and more productive behaviours, and deliver better outcomes. All of these benefits are shaped by the conversations that leaders have with their teams. Here is a guide to more powerful conversations.

My client looked pleased and puzzled at the same time. He was the CEO of an environmental services business, and he had just returned from a road show that had taken him to his 15 offices around the world. I had asked him about what revelations had hit him during his travels around the UK, in Europe, the USA and Singapore. (We had a habit, in our coaching sessions, of finding ways for him to reflect on his business and draw out perspectives that would help him with content for his leadership communication.)

 

8. It’s all about them: how to become more effective by being more focused on people and behaviours

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Its all about them

How to become more effective by being more focused on people and behaviours

If you really want to connect and persuade, and turn ideas into action, you have to understand how people think and feel now, and how that drives their behaviours, and then pay close attention to why they should do what you need them to do in the future. Here are 10 steps to a better communication plan.

It was the nightmare that all leaders fear. A much-dreaded overhaul of the companys IT infrastructure went live and immediately fell over. For a national furniture retail company, selling hundreds of thousands of items every day, this was a catastrophe.

The company not only sold and delivered furniture, but it also manufactured and then assembled furniture on site for its customers.

Customers were purchasing items for every room in their homes, handing over their cash, and expecting in good faith that the furniture would be delivered and fitted within a short space of time. However, as soon as the IT fell over, the company started losing track of stock. Within days it was in chaos and soon that chaos was spreading to customers who were becoming increasingly anxious, and often hugely inconvenienced, by the fact that they were not receiving what they had bought. The company had a massive shortfall in delivering items to customers and it was growing by the day.

 

9. The listening leader: why you need to listen louder

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The listening leader

Why you need to listen louder

Leaders who are great listeners are the ones who are most likely to be perceived as effective leaders. Employees will not care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Those who know you care will work harder and try to exceed your expectations. Here are seven techniques to be a better listener.

Some of the most inspiring leaders I have met are also the most skilled listeners I know.

They look me in the eye. They make me feel like I am the only person that matters to them. They concentrate on my every word. They resist distractions around the room. They make notes and send the signal that what I am saying is noteworthy. They wait for me to finish, and never interrupt unless it is to clarify. They ask powerful questions and dig deep for my ideas and views. They empathize with my views, even if they dont agree. They make me feel understood. They disagree where appropriate, with respect, to stand up for what they believe. They take action based on our conversation, or they explain why they will not act. Either way, they make me feel that they care about me, and that makes me care about meeting or exceeding their expectations.

 

10. Sending signals: how you inspire – or demotivate – without saying a word

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Sending signals

How you inspire or demotivate without saying a word

The gap between your actions and your words is potentially one of the most toxic to your leadership effectiveness. When leaders make sure that there is no gap between their deeds and their words, their inspiration quotient rises dramatically. This chapter gives you a guide to sending more positive signals.

This is one of the shortest chapters in the book, but possibly the most important, because it will almost certainly be the one subject about which you are least aware.

As a leader, everything you do is an example to others, and you are being watched closely all the time. Your body language and your behaviours are being assessed by your followers every moment of every day. Your followers will come to their own conclusions about the right way to behave from the way you behave. They will see patterns in your behaviour and they will take their cues from those patterns, not the words you utter.

The gap between your actions and your words is potentially one of the most toxic to your leadership effectiveness. It is one of the main reasons that people mark down their leaders. When leaders make sure that there is no gap between their deeds and their words, their inspiration quotient rises dramatically.

 

11. Purposeful, persuasive stories: how you can use stories to drive action and shape culture

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Purposeful, persuasive stories

How you can use stories to drive action and shape culture

Stories have an emotional power to persuade that gives them the edge over pure logic. As leaders, we are all about persuasion, so we have no choice but to master the art of storytelling. Not only are stories the superglue of messages, but they also help to animate us and supercharge our passion. Here are the six steps to more persuasive stories.

Youd think I would want to start a chapter on storytelling with a story, but I dont. Instead, I want to talk about the way we listen to stories.

Why? Because stories engage the brain differently from logic, and this is the main reason stories are so important to leaders.

When we listen to a story, we use different parts of the brain from those we normally activate in discussions and talks. During a formal presentation, we use only one part of the brain the language-processing part in our left brain. Listening to a presentation, our inner cynic also engages to challenge what we hear, to filter it through our own perceptions and experiences. By tomorrow, we most likely will have forgotten most of what we heard.

 

12. Use a potent point of view to power your leadership: how to develop a persuasive standpoint to win friends and influence people

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Use a potent point of view to power your leadership

How to develop a persuasive standpoint to win friends and influence people

What you stand for matters more in a transparent world. For this reason, the best leaders always have a potent point of view to influence people and win the day. But how do you choose the right one, and how do you structure it to be compelling? Here are the four essential ingredients of a powerful point of view.

Leadership is persuasion. This is a crucial truth of leadership. Every day we have to persuade people to believe in our cause, to believe in the future we see.

To achieve that future, we have to persuade employees to work smarter and faster and more efficiently in pursuit of our goals. We have to persuade our financiers to give us more money. We have to find ways to persuade customers to buy our products or services. We have to persuade our bosses to give us more resources or allow us to embark on a particular project. We have to persuade colleagues to collaborate. The list is endless.

 

13. Winning in the court of public opinion: why you must always prepare properly for public platforms

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Winning in the court of public opinion

Why you must always prepare properly for public platforms

Representing your organization externally needs a completely different set of communication skills. You should never do so without proper preparation. Understand who youre talking to and what they need to hear, know your objective, train your voice and body to perfection, and always rehearse your answers to the tough questions that will inevitably come your way. Here are seven things to remember before taking to the stage, and 12 ways to make your material more compelling.

As a leader, not only do you have to inspire your followers, but you also have to influence positively the opinions and behaviours of people outside your organization. Why? Put simply, its because a better reputation will help you to achieve better results. You wouldnt be a leader if you werent all about achieving better results.

The more senior you get, the more often you will have to represent your organization externally. The problem is, once you step outside the organization you lead, you need a completely different set of communication skills. The openness and informality that make you a good internal communicator need to be contained and tempered when you are on external platforms.

 

14. When words really matter: why some are simply much more persuasive than others

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When words really matter

Why some are simply much more persuasive than others

Sometimes a subtle change of words can reveal a truth not previously recognized. When you take care to find exactly the right word, the one that conjures up a whole new concept in peoples minds, you can expand horizons and achieve more.

When your followers believe they can achieve the impossible, they often do.

Your job is to persuade them both of the need to achieve, and their ability to do so. You achieve great things because of the way you make your followers feel.

Very often, you can change the way they feel, by changing the words you use.

Words really do matter, and no matter how much you hear about the mythical 55 per cent body language, 38 per cent tone of voice, 7 per cent actual words rule, forget it. Of course how you look and how you say things will influence how the message is received, but what you say really matters.

Having studied communication for more than 40 years, I have seen so many situations where a change of words in a sentence has had a dramatic impact on outcomes. Time after time, for example, I saw experiments in direct marketing achieve huge uplifts in response rates with just a simple change of word.

 

15. Why leaders should embrace social media: the six reasons you should be more engaged

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Why leaders should embrace social media

The six reasons you should be more engaged

Already, 1 billion people use social media. By 2020, it is believed that there will be 5 billion users of social media. And yet, only a small number of top leaders engage. Can you really afford to ignore it?

There are many leaders who will read this chapter and ask themselves why Im bothering to write about something that is now second nature to them. The answer is that if you are one of those people you are in the minority by some margin!

Recent reports have suggested that just 7 per cent of the leaders in the top 350 companies on the London Stock Exchange have a digital presence. While I cannot vouch for that statistic, I do know that many of the leaders I work with either do not actively engage in social media or have a very limited presence. Of those that do, many have other people scripting their words for them.

My own attitude to social media dramatically changed on hearing a story from one of my clients. Until that moment I had very much believed the digital revolution was something every leader needed to understand, in order to ensure that our organizations were engaged with social media to the benefit of the brand, but I also believed that young people were natives to this and I never could be. I saw it as a way of communicating, not as a way of working.

 

16. What is your leadership inspiration quotient? How to make the intangible more tangible

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What is your leadership inspiration quotient?

How to make the intangible more tangible

To join the small community of leaders who understand what it is to be inspiring, you have to ask yourself the right questions the ones that can help you to improve your performance as an inspiring communicator. If you can do that, you will more easily make a difference that changes poor performance into exceptional results. These are the 13 questions you must ask yourself if you want to benchmark and improve.

Leadership and the ability to inspire is the greatest intangible asset of all.

Great leaders make organizations profitable and successful. They help to drive enormous value from all of the other soft assets of an organization culture, knowledge, reputation and relationships. They create great places to work and they enable their followers to grow and develop and perform. They inspire success. The skill of inspiring people is of enormous value.

So how do you begin to make such a valuable intangible more tangible?

 

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