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Are You Sabotaging Your Career?

My experience working with thousands of leaders world wide for the past two decades teaches me that most leaders are screwing up their careers. On a daily basis, these leaders are getting the wrong results or the right results in the wrong ways. Interestingly, they themselves are choosing to fail. They're actively sabotaging their own careers. Leaders commit this sabotage for a simple reason: They make the fatal mistake of choosing to communicate with presentations and speeches -- not leadership talks. In terms of boosting one's career, the difference between the two methods of leadership communication is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

Speeches/presentations primarily communicate information. Leadership talks, on the other hand, not only communicate information, they do more: They establish a deep, human emotional connection with the audience. Why is the later connection necessary in leadership? Look at it this way: Leaders do nothing more important than get results. There are generally two ways that leaders get results: They can order people to go from point A to point B; or they can have people WANT TO go from A to B. Clearly, leaders who can instill "want to" in people, who motivate those people, are much more effective than leaders who can't or won't.

And the best way to instill "want to" is not simply to relate to people as if they are information receptacles but to relate to them on a deep, human, emotional way. And you do it with leadership talks. Here are a few examples of leadership talks. When Churchill said, "We will fight on the beaches . " That was a leadership talk. When Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you . " that was a leadership talk. When Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" That was a leadership talk. You can come up with a lot of examples too.

Go back to those moments when the words of a leader inspired people to take ardent action, and you've probably put your finger on an authentic leadership talk. Mind you, I'm not just talking about great leaders of history. I'm also talking about the leaders in your organizations. After all, leaders speak 15 to 20 times a day: everything from formal speeches to informal chats. When those interactions are leadership talks, not just speeches or presentations, the effectiveness of those leaders is dramatically increased. How do we put together leadership talks? It's not easy. Mastering leadership talks takes a rigorous application of many specific processes. As Clement Atlee said of that great master of leadership talks, Winston Churchill, "Winston spent the best years of his life preparing his impromptu talks." Churchill, Kennedy, Reagan and others who were masters at giving leadership talks didn't actually call their communications "leadership talks", but they must have been conscious to some degree of the processes one must employ in putting a leadership talk together. Here's how to start.

If you plan to give a leadership talk, there are three questions you should ask. If you answer "no" to any one of those questions, you can't give one. You may be able to give a speech or presentation, but certainly not a leadership talk. (1) DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS? Winston Churchill said, "We must face the facts or they'll stab us in the back." When you are trying to motivate people, the real facts are THEIR facts, their reality. Their reality is composed of their needs. In many cases, their needs have nothing to do with your needs. Most leaders don't get this. They think that their own needs, their organization's needs, are reality. That's okay if you're into ordering.

As an order leader, you only need work with your reality. You simply have to tell people to get the job done. You don't have to know where they're coming from. But if you want to motivate them, you must work within their reality, not yours. I call it "playing the game in the people's home park". There is no other way to motivate them consistently. If you insist on playing the game in your park, you'll be disappointed in the motivational outcome. (2) CAN YOU BRING DEEP BELIEF TO WHAT YOU'RE SAYING? Nobody wants to follow a leader who doesn't believe the job can get done. If you can't feel it, they won't do it.


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