Great leaders inspire, empower and create change within their organisations. A leader that mumbles through a 90-slide PowerPoint presentation does not inspire. A leader that cannot articulate a clear purpose fails to empower. A leader who struggles to explain will never realise their vision. In short, communication is at the heart of leadership.
Having worked with many leaders, from the founders of small start-ups to the heads of large multinationals, I have noticed a number of recurring shortcomings that can undermine a leader’s ability to communicate. The good news is small changes can make a big difference. So, here I will set out the top three things you can do to improve your communication skills.
Take the time to choose the single point you want to communicate. As the old saying goes, ‘throw me a ball and I’ll catch it, throw me three balls at the same time and I’ll drop them all’. Good communication relies on the same principle; it is always about making a single point. As with a single ball, a single point is memorable, understandable and shareable. It may be true that what you need to communicate will be complex, but expressing that complexity too soon can cause confusion. So keep it simple, always start by working out the single principle you want the audience to understand and stick with that point.
Studies in psychology show that stories influence our attitudes, beliefs and the decisions we make. With that being the case you would expect all leaders to spend time honing their storytelling skills. But as we know, most leaders don’t make good storytellers. When researching my book ‘Why You Need A Business Story And How To Create It’ I interviewed many business leaders. Most claimed they did not use stories for a variety of reasons. Many cited the following three reasons: ‘I didn’t deem it suitable for the modern world of spreadsheet P&L’, ‘Stories are for children’, and ‘The word story has connotations of lies, tales and untruths.’
However, those same leaders could all recall a business story that had influenced them.
So, the most useful piece of information I can share with you here is a simple three-act story structure that will provide you with a process to create an authentic story.
Act 1: The objective of Act 1 is to gain the interest of your audience. To do this you must set out a challenge. By introducing a challenge you will set in motion a natural curiosity in your audience to want to hear how you overcame it.
Act 2: Stories come to life when there is a conflict or struggle. For example, a technological challenge that seemed impossible to solve. The conflict or struggle provides the resistance for the leader to push back against thus creating tension, and nothing holds an audience’s attention quite like tension. If they were keen to hear what would happen next during act one, now with the added conflict you should have their undivided attention as they fully engage in your story, curious to hear the resolve.
Act 3: The resolve closes the story after you have overcome the struggle that took place in Act 2. It’s the moment where the tension ends and you demonstrate to your audience what you learned as a result of overcoming the struggle. The resolve can also be used to highlight the additional value you can now offer thanks to the unique journey you have experienced.
Want to know more about creating your story? Here’s my TEDx talk on the subject. You can also read my book ‘Why You Need A Business Story And How To Create It’ through Amazon
What differentiates average leaders from great leaders? Their ability to communicate without the need for slides to keep them on track. Sure, you may need to show a chart or diagram to explain something visually, but do you really need the rest of those slides? If you have been single-minded in your thinking then the journey from A to B can be shared with a clear narrative, told by you, with your voice and your expressions. A deck is not human and has no expression or body language. So go on, ditch the deck and own your presentation.
We love the challenge of unpacking your business story and helping you communicate it professionally. Like all solutions, it starts with a conversation. So let’s talk.