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The REAL International Gold Standard: The Leadership Talk

PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link. Email notice of intent to publish is appreciated but not required: mail to: brent@actionleadership.com

Word count: 2400

The REAL International Gold Standard: The Leadership Talk
by Brent Filson

Working with thousands of leaders during the past 21 years in the global economy, I have found that most of them don't have a clue. They may know to some extent how to do business on a global level. But to exert the right kind of leadership on that level eludes them; so when I first meet them, they're usually getting the wrong results or the right results in the wrong ways.

Of course, there are many successful global companies and leaders, but my experiences teach that they are successful not because of but in spite of their leadership activities. They may do things right; but they are not doing the global leadership things right. If they got that leadership right, they'd be getting a lot more results.

Clearly, the challenges of leading on a global scale are daunting. Differences in time zones, cultures, currency dynamics can be vexing. But one thing is the same. It takes leadership for organizations to succeed – leadership that must drive results, not now and then, not ad hoc, not in patches but consistently in all cultures simultaneously.

First, let's understand what kind of leadership is needed to achieve such success. Then I'll give you a powerful tool to make it happen.

Leaders do nothing more important than have people get results. There are two ways for leaders to get results, order people to go from point A to point B or have the people want to go from A to B. Clearly, the latter is more effective in getting results. Today, with speed, flexibility, and teamwork being driving global competitiveness, the order-leader who tyrannizes and micro manages can't compete against the leader who can build motivated teams to get results.

The days of the order-leader are not just numbered. They're over. Today, leadership is motivational or its stumbling in the dark. Because in terms of achieving more results faster continually, the order is the lowest form of leadership. Here's why: Until recently, ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the order-giving way of leadership has flourished. Order comes from a Latin root meaning "to arrange threads in a woof". In the Revolution's early years, captains of industry dealt with the uneducated country folk in their factories by ordering them where, how and when to work. The most efficient and effective production methods were created when workers were "ordered" or ranked like threads in the woof of production lines.

Refined and empowered by the Victorian culture, with its patriarchal power structure and strong links to Prussian military organization and dictates, the culture of the order-giver reached its zenith in the United States after World War II.

In the following decades, with most of the industrialized world recovering from the war, many U.S. businesses were like ocean liners plowing through relatively calm seas, their leaders, like liner captains and mates, running things by getting orders from superiors, giving orders to subordinates and making sure those orders were carried out.

But with globalization, businesses worldwide are undergoing changes as radical as any since the Industrial Revolution. With competition increasing dramatically, with the volume and velocity of information multiplying, with information becoming accessible to more and more people, with the traditional, pyramidal structures of order-giving flattening, leaders today need skills akin not to ocean liner piloting but white-water canoeing.

Order leadership founders in an environment where lines of authority are dynamic, information widely disseminated, markets rapidly changing, and employees empowered. In such an environment, new leadership, motivational leadership, is needed.

In short, the leader who can "have" others get results. That means global leadership is essentially motivational leadership.

That's the kind of leadership needed to achieve such success. Now, here's the tool to make that leadership happen. That tool is The Leadership Talk. Here's what the Leadership Talk is all about.

When it comes to realizing motivational leadership around the world, there is a hierarchy of verbal persuasion. This hierarchy extends to people everywhere, no matter what their culture, what job they hold, or what ambitions they have.

The lowest levels of the hierarchy are speeches and presentations. They communicate information. The highest level, the most effective level is The Leadership Talk. The Leadership Talk not only communicates information. It does something much more. It establishes deep, human, emotional connections with people.

The question isn't, "Why is this connection necessary in terms of getting organizational results?" (After all, the answer is obvious.), the question is, "Why is the Leadership Talk the gold standard for international leadership?"

For one thing, I've had top leaders in top companies worldwide applying it for more than two decades, and it simply works. It's all about helping leaders get what I call "more results faster, continually." You can get those kinds of results on a global scale without the Leadership Talk.

The Leadership Talk is motivational, action-focused, results oriented anywhere it's used.

That's because its key process, the Three-trigger Motivational Process, is tied to universal human motivators.

I emphasize process -- which is a sequence of specific steps to achieve a particular outcome -- because it's not good enough to motivate people now and then, we must do it consistently. Process promotes consistency and advances the quality, quantity, and dependability of results.

The Leadership Talk process I'm going to show you has been working for many hundreds of leaders for nearly 20 years. It's called The Three-trigger Motivational Process. And it's the basis of all my leadership processes.

Note that the triggers are in the form of questions. 1) DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS? (2) CAN YOU BRING DEEP BELIEF TO WHAT YOU'RE SAYING? (3) CAN YOU HAVE THE AUDIENCE TAKE RIGHT ACTION?

When facing a leadership challenge, if you say "no" to any one of these questions, you can't give 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.

But though you yourself must "want to" when it comes to the challenge you face, your motivation isn't the point. It's simply a given. If you're not motivated, you shouldn't be leading.

Here's the point: Can you TRANSFER your motivation to the people so they become as motivated as you are?

I call it THE MOTIVATIONAL TRANSFER, and it is one of the least understood and most important leadership determinants of all.

There are three ways you can make the transfer happen.

* CONVEY INFORMATION. Often, this is enough to get people motivated. For instance, many people have quit smoking because of information on the harmful effects of the habit

* MAKE SENSE. To be motivated, people must understand the rationality behind your challenge. Re: smoking: People have been motivated to quit because the information connecting the activity with many kinds of diseases is absolutely compelling.

* TRANSMIT EXPERIENCE. This entails having the leader's experience become the people's experience. This can be the most effective method of all, for when the speaker's experience becomes the audience's experience, a deep sharing of emotions and ideas, a communing, can take place.

There are plenty of presentation and speech courses devoted to the first two methods, so I won't talk about those.

Here's a few thoughts on the third method. Generally speaking, humans learn in two ways: by acquiring intellectual understanding and through experience. In our schooling, the former predominates, but it is the latter which is most powerful in terms of inducing a deep sharing of emotions and ideas; for our experiences, which can be life's teachings, often lead us to profound awareness and purposeful action.

Look back at your schooling. Was it your book learning or your experiences, your interactions with teachers and students, that you remember most? In most cases, your experiences made the most telling impressions upon you.

To transfer your motivation to others, use what I call my "defining moment" technique, which I describe fully in my book, DEFINING MOMENT: MOTIVATING PEOPLE TO TAKE ACTION.

In brief, the technique is this: Put into sharp focus a particular experience of yours then communicate that focused experience to the people by describing the physical facts that gave you the emotion.

Now, here's the secret to the defining moment. That experience of yours must provide a lesson and that lesson is a solution to the needs of the people. Otherwise, they'll think you're just talking about yourself.

For the defining moment to work (i.e., for it to transfer your motivation to them), the experience must be about them. The experience happened to you, of course. But that experience becomes their experience when the lesson it communicates is a solution to their needs.

(3) CAN YOU HAVE THE AUDIENCE TAKE RIGHT ACTION?
Results don't happen unless people take action. After all, it's not what you say that's important in your leadership communications, it's what the people do after you have had your say.

Yet the vast majority of leaders don't know what action truly is.

They get people taking the wrong action at the wrong time in the wrong way for the wrong results.

A key reason for this failure is they don't know how to deliver the all-important "leadership talk Call-to-action".

"Call" comes from an Old English word meaning "to shout." A Call-to-Action is a "shout for action." Implicit in the concept is urgency and forcefulness. But most leaders don't deliver the most effective Calls-to-action because they make three errors regarding it.

First, they err by mistaking the Call-to-Action as an order. Within the context of The Leadership Talk, a Call-to-action is not an order. Leave the order for the order leader.

Second, leaders err by mistaking the Call as theirs to give. The best Call-to-action is not the leader's to give. It's the people's to give. It's the people's to give to themselves. A true Call-to-action prompts people to motivate themselves to take action.

The most effective Call-to-action then is not from the leader to the people but from the people to the people themselves!

Third, they error by not priming their Call. There are two parts to the Call-to-Action, the primer and the Call itself. Most leaders omit the all-important primer.

The primer sets up the Call, which is to prompt people to motivate themselves to take action. You yourself control the primer. The people control the Call.

The primer/Call is critical because every leadership communication situation is in essence a problem situation. There is the problem the leader has. And there is the problem the people have. In many cases, they are two different problems. But leaders get into trouble regarding the Call-to-action when they think it's only one problem, mainly theirs.

For instance, a leader might be talking about the organization needing to be more productive. So, the leader talks PRODUCTIVITY.

On the other hand, the people, hearing PRODUCTIVITY, think, YOU'RE GOING TO GIVE ME MORE WORK!

If the leader thinks that productivity is the people's problem and ignores the "more work" aspect, h/she's Call-to-action will probably be a bust, resulting in the people avoiding committed action.

Let's apply the primer/Call dynamic to the productivity case. The leader talks PRODUCTIVITY: but this time uses a PRIMER. The primer's purpose is to establish a "critical confluence" – the union of your problem with the problem of the people.

In this case, the leader creates a critical confluence by couching productivity within the framework of MORE MEANINGFUL WORK.

The primer may be: LET'S GET TOGETHER AND SEE IF YOU CAN COME UP WITH AN ACTION PLAN THAT WILL ENSURE THAT THE PRODUCTIVITY GAINS YOU IDENTIFY AND EXECUTE WILL ENABLE YOU TO WORK AT WHAT'S REALLY MEANINGFUL TO YOU.

Note what we've done: The primer is LET'S GET TOGETHER AND SEE IF YOU CAN COME UP WITH AN ACTION PLAN.
The actual Call is from the people to themselves: LET'S INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY BY WORKING AT WHAT'S MEANINGFUL.

With that Call, the leader moves from just getting average results (YOU MUST BE MORE PRODUCTIVE: i.e., you're going to solve MY problem) to getting great results (YOU COME UP WITH WAYS TO TIE PRODUCTIVITY INTO MEANINGFUL WORK: i.e., you're also going to solve your problem.)

So, here's what the Leadership Talk Call-to-action is truly about: It's not an order; it's best manifested when the people give themselves the Call; and it is always primed by your creating the "critical confluence" -- they'll be solving their problem as well as yours.

The vast majority of leaders I've worked worldwide are hampering their careers for one simple reason: They're giving presentations and speeches -- not leadership talks.

You have a great opportunity to turbo charge your career by recognizing the power of Leadership Talks. Before you give a Leadership Talk, ask three basic questions. Do you know what the people need? Can you bring deep belief to what you're saying? Can you have the people take the right action?

If you say "no" to any one of those questions you cannot give a Leadership Talk. But the questions aren't meant to be stumbling blocks to your leadership but stepping stones. If you answer "no", work on the questions until you can say, "yes". In that way, you'll start getting the right results in the right way on a consistent basis.

The changing global marketplace can force you to confront a world of differences in cultures, time zones, and currencies; but one thing will always remain the same, the need for great leadership to drive great results. When you use the Leadership Talk consistently in your dealings around the world, you'll be putting into circulation the real gold standard that is recognized and valued everywhere.

2006 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


About the Author: The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – and for more than 21 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at http://www.actionleadership.com For more information on the Leadership Talk: http://www.theleadershiptalk.com




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