Archive for February, 2010

Imagine yourself leading

February 20, 2010

The world is in crisis and turmoil looms. People all around the world are either  losing their jobs, are victims of senseless conflicts or terrible natural disasters. Never more so than today would strong leadership seem more necessary. And yet, never more so than today do so many people seem to have lost faith in leadership. Indeed, many of the problems today seem to be the result of bad leadership.

History shows us that humanity has gone through many crises and driven itself to the brink many times. And each time, single individuals have stood up and shown the way forward through strong and positive leadership.

So what about now and the current crisis? Do we have the leadership to take us forward in a positive manner?

Many of us are not perhaps engaged in actions which impact the greater scheme of things or which can change History with a capital H. And yet, many ordinary individuals can and do change things for the better.

Great leaders from the past can indeed show us the way: FDR, JFK, Churchill, Gandhi, etc. But even more importantly, we can all ask ourselves how we can develop our personal leadership to help turn things around at our own level, wherever we are in the world, whatever our station in life or job.

As Mother Theresa says “we can’t do great things, we can only do small things with great love“.

Leadership shapes our lives for the better or the worse. It brings peace or generates war. Leadership give us direction and purpose for better or worse. It bonds us together or drives us apart. We all can ask ourselves how we want to lead and help to change the course of events.

Rather than relying on some major figure at a global level to turn things round, now is the time to think how we can all individually contribute to changing things for the better by developing our own personal leadership. Leadership is not the domain of the great and the powerful. Everyone can exercise leadership. For what is leadership if not standing up for what one thinks is right and challenging the status quo despite the cost.

Rather than waiting for a super hero to save us, we must all assume personal leadership and do what we can at our own individual level to make the world a better place. The real lesson from history is that all of those super heroes who saved humanity in the past or who changed things for the better were perhaps ordinary people who stood up when it mattered. How do you imagine yourself leading?  What does leadership mean for you?

Discover the video from the Harvard Business School leadership Initiative.

Imagine yourself leading


 

What helps you perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?

February 14, 2010

Speaking in public is more and more part and parcel of every executive’s job and public speaking is a task that has to be performed by more and more executives at all levels of an organization. This can be a very intimidating prospect for many people and stage fright can impact a great deal on the performance of the person who doesn’t enjoy the exercise. Here are some ideas on how to perform this exercise more effectively:

  1. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned: some people enjoy speaking in public and don’t seem to fear speaking in public. If you don’t belong to this category, don’t worry because public speaking is a skill you can learn. The first thing to do is to admit that you don’t enjoy the experience and then ask yourself why. This will help you define a simple action plan to manage the reasons why you are ill at ease when you speak in public. You may never attain greatness but you will gradually become more effective and above all less apprehensive.
  2. Prepare your speech in advance: it helps to prepare your speech in advance, especially if you don’t like the exercise. Write down what you want to say.
  3. Follow your plan and keep it simple: Of course, the more you say, the more you may find it difficult. Keep it simple. As you have planned your speech in advance, follow your plan. Tell your audience what you are going to say, say it and then when you conclude, remind your audience what you told them.
  4. Practice makes perfect: Of course, practice beforehand and if possible, learn your text off by heart.  It helps to rehearse, just like actors do before a play.
  5. Share your ideas in advance with some colleagues. If you know in advance that what will say is aligned with what your colleagues expect, you will be more comfortable with your presentation.
  6. Don’t read your slides, summarize them. If you have a powerpoint presentation to support your speech, don’t read your slides as this will possibly bore your audience. Try to summarize each slide in terms of key ideas. This will help your audience remember the key points of your speech.
  7. Find friends in the audience. When presenting and especially if you are speaking to a large audience, find friends in the audience and speak as if you are presenting to them. This will make your presentation more personal and make the context less forbidding. Don’t hesitate to smile when you address a friend in the audience.
  8. Dress comfortably: it helps if you dress comfortably in clothes you prefer. The more you are at ease with your appearance, the more confident you will feel.
  9. Imagine yourself making the speech successfully: just like sportsmen who imagine themselves performing the action successfully in advance (the golfer imagines himself making the putt, the soccer player taking the penalty, etc.). By making the speech in your mind, you are actually doing the action before you actually do it!
  10. Show conviction: people don’t always remember the words or the facts you may present but they always remember how you make them feel. Remember to engage your audience­­­. Don’t hide behind your slides but speak to your audience directly. Prepare a joke and use it at the appropriate moment. Always finish on a positive note.  If you make a mistake or forget a point, keep going. Nobody will probably notice.

Some quotes from famous speakers to help:

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all(Winston Churchill).

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech(Mark Twain).

In making a speech one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third the proper arrangement of the various parts of the speech(Aristotle).

What helps you to perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?

Curbing email rage at the office: some golden rules

February 6, 2010

Email is an important communication tool today in all organizations. However, abuse and misuse can contribute to poor performance and poor team spirit. Organizations often neglect to set simple rules and guidelines to help managers and employees communicate more effectively through emails. Managers and team members often fail to understand the negative impact bad practice can have on colleagues and subordinates in this important area. Here are some golden rules I would always promote and include in an email-users charter for all organizations:

  • Always remain calm and cool-headed. Expressing anger and frustration in writing only makes things worse and aggravates the problem (supposing there is one in the first place). Talk to the person directly if there seems to be an issue. Don’t react to an email that seems to offend because it’s only stoking the flames.
  • Always remain polite. Using insulting or derogatory terms serves no purpose. Think twice before reacting and again, putting something in writing only makes things worse and only devalues the author of the comments.
  • Always be positive. Don’t berate or criticize ideas expressed by someone in a previous mail. Again, comments made in writing have much more impact and are more enduring than anything said in haste. Be hard on the problem and not on the person. Be direct and frank by all means but do not criticize the person.
  • Keep it simple and use normal police and characters. Never put whole sentences in capital and/or bold letters to ensure your reader gets the point. THIS IS OFTEN EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING AT SOMEONE BY EMAIL. People can read and don’t need to have the important points highlighted. Such practice also sends the message that you don’t trust them to understand the point you feel is critical.
  • Keep it short. Don’t confuse emails with internal memos. Emails should be short and to the point.
  • Don’t write if you can speak directly to the person. If the person is in the next room, note the point down and go and see the person. Direct contact is always best.
  • Limit the number of persons you copy. Putting the world and his wife on copy creates information overload. If you have to copy others, be selective and decide on who really needs to know (think RASCI if necessary for important subjects).
  • Set limits as to when to send emails: if the user has a blackberry or other means of sending mails out of office hours, he or she should wait until a civilized moment to send a mail. There is no point in sending an email at 1 am in the morning if the person won’t open it before 9 am the same day. This doesn’t give the right message to team members and invades the private sphere because it supposes that the team member receiving the message is prepared to do the same. If you have to work late, OK. But save the mail and send it at the appropriate moment. If the message is really urgent, use the phone and apologize for the disturbance.
  • Solve the problem, don’t write about it: If there is a problem, don’t hide behind emails. Step in and address the problem or speak to the person responsible. Don’t hide behind an email because the problem will remain unsolved and only get worse.
  • Use Globish : if you work for an international organization and need to communicate with team members in different countries, use simple English and avoid slang, irony and abbreviations as readers from  different cultures won’t necessarily understand the slang or abbreviations or be able to decode the subtext behind irony or understatement.

What golden rules would you promote?


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