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Monday, August 21, 2017

ACT Before You Think!?

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra (HBR Press, 2015), reviewed by Steve Gladis


Overview:  Act before you think!  Not exactly the advice we might give our kids, but sage advice that the author, Herminia Ibarra, offers her readers based on her myth-shattering research about career transition. Leaders need to act—experiment their way into leadership—and not overthink it. Social science research shows us that people change their minds only after changing their
behavior. We think of ourselves as writers, runners, lovers only after we’ve acted—written, run and loved. And becoming a leader from the outside in helps generate the author’s slogan: Outsight comes from action—by redefining your job, your network, yourself. Regarding leadership, we act like a leader when we offer new ideas, network with new people to reach goals, and make contributions beyond our expertise. To become a better lder, we must stretch. And, when we’re in transition, reflection should always follow action, not the other way around. By contrast, too much insight reflects on internal knowledge, past experience and thought—too much of which can get you stuck in the past. Rather, advancing your leadership emerges from your acts first, then your thoughts and reflections.
1.      The “Outsight Principle.” A rapidly changing world calls for an adaptive, do-it-yourself (DIY) transition. Not waiting for your organization to step up, but taking charge of your own leadership development makes sense. Called the “outsight principle,” the author’s revelation says that we need to act against habit and follow a three-pronged strategy: 1. Work on your job—try new ways at work; 2. Work on your network—meet new people; and, 3. Work on yourself--connect and engage with people in new ways.
2.      Redefine Your Job. We tend to stick with what we’re good at because it feels good—and we’re also lazy! Nearly 60% of leaders spend time in meetings—getting bogged down. Shifting from driving day-to-day results to becoming more strategic is how leaders advance.  But that shift isn’t easy, and we like easy—staying with who and what we know. Getting off the “dance floor” and onto the “balcony” forces managers to see their job in a more strategic way. To evolve, leaders must act as bridges between diverse groups, envision new ideas, engage with people and embody/become the change they want to see. To do these things, leaders need to get more involved in outside projects, carve out more time for strategic work, and communicate their purpose—their “why.”
3.      Network Across and Out. Getting strategic things done demands that leaders become better networked with stakeholders (both lateral and vertical) to sell ideas, identify trends, and compete for resources. To develop, leaders also need to know how to do new things (get new tasks done), which often requires help—coaching, mentoring, encouragement. Thus, expanding networks to more strategic levels and well beyond their current tactical levels makes sense.  In one study, managers rated external training (outside networking) as far more valuable than their boss in developing them as a leader—reinforcing the do-it-yourself (DIY) model of transition. Leaders need three kinds of networks: Personal (to develop yourself); operational (to get things done); and strategic (to get to the next level). And, leveraging between networks leads to synergy. Critical components of a good network are breadth (diverse), connectivity (links between groups), and dynamic (evolving).  But we tend to network with people who are like ourselves—an evolutionary instinct. In fact, at the beginning of any job interview, finding something in common with the interviewer dramatically increases the chances of getting to the next level. Thus, the more diverse, dynamic and wide a network, the better.
4.      Be More Playful with Your Self. Talk to any successful person and they’ve either felt or are feeling like a fraud. So common is this phenomenon that it’s been called “the imposter syndrome.” Often, we get trapped into this situation because when you step up to leadership, the position feels new, weird. Experimenting with new behaviors helps us role play as we adapt to new identities—which can feel less authentic. However, who we were in the past is not who we might become. Three ways to play/experiment:  draw from other leaders, focus on learning, and rewrite your story.
5.      Stepping Up. Evolving into the next-level leader is not a single event but a process over time.  Transition is never a linear, straightforward process—more a bunch of false starts and readjustments. It’s a lot like going to buy a pair of running shoes. You try them on, test drive them on a treadmill or around the store first. Who you are as a leader isn’t preconceived but conceived of testing, failing and trying again. According to Daniel Levinson, we go through transition (3 years) and stability periods (7 years). We tend to incrementally change in stability periods and make bigger changes in our transition phases. There are five stages when stepping into transition as a leader: 1. Disconfirmation—a gap between where you are and want to be; 2. Simple Addition—adding and testing out new roles and behaviors; 3. Complication—setbacks that happen along the transition; 4. Course Correction—reflection on new endeavors and impact; 5. Internalization—confirming your new identity and sticking with changes. Bottom Line: To become a leader, act first, then think and reflect on it. Change how you work, who you hang around with and how you express yourself. In his commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” So, stepping out and trying/acting into leadership may not immediately make perfect sense, but one day it will form a coherent narrative if we stay true to our quest to become a better leader.
6.      More Good Stuff Inside: Check out these nuggets: The Outsight Graphic (p. 11); Is Your Work Environment Telling You It’s Time to Change (p.19); A Network Audit (p. 73); What’s Wrong with Your Network (p.102); The Big Questions (p. 102); Are you in a Career-Building Period or in a Career-Transitioning Period? (p. 179).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Talk Like TED--How to improve your public speaking

Overview: Using a host of TED Talks, Carmine Gallo offers a powerful
argument for how to deliver public presentations. Having taught speech for over 20 years and being a former speechwriter, I can highly recommend this book. Gallo suggests speaking with emotion and passion; telling compelling, relevant stories; having a conversation with the audience; teaching something new; inserting show-stopping elements; using situational and personal humor; and, delivering information in short 10-minute segments punctuated by soft breaks—stories, pictures, videos.

1.  Unleash the Master Within: Find a unique passion in your material to supercharge your presentation. You have to inspire yourself first, then others will follow. Passion and inspiration spread like a good virus. The author translates passion into a question: What makes your heart sing? And then, how do you incorporate that into your profession and your presentations. Passionate business leaders are more creative, set higher goals, show more persistence and have better performance than their peers. In fact, the more you speak on a topic you’re passionate about, the more your brain develops. Charisma and passion are related. Charismatic people smile more and generate more energy than others. In short, charisma and passion lead to positive emotions in self and eventually to mood contagion in others.

2.  Master the Art of Storytelling: Using stories to engage your audience is the way to break down audience resistance and to connect them to your central theme, making it both comprehensible and memorable. Using Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk about social justice, Gallo demonstrates how personal stories woven into the narrative engage the audience. Good presenters use a blend of facts and analysis combined with artful storytelling. Three types of stories: relevant personal stories, relevant stories of others, and success or failures of brands—especially ones that have an unexpected result or lesson learned. To get quoted in the media, tell a story of vulnerability in your speech.

3.  Have a Conversation: “It takes practice to appear natural,” explains this chapter. Deep practice with an eye toward looking as if you’re having a personal conversation with the audience —as you might with a friend—takes rehearsal. Such comfort only comes with practice and emotional rapport with the audience. “Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally.” One way is to get early feedback. Practice with less intimidating audiences, offer presentations for a reduced fee or even free—just to get the practice.

4.  Teach Me Something New—Be Novel: We’re hard wired to learn something new. Our brains are always on the lookout for new information—mainly to figure out whether it’s threatening or not. So, reveal “new” and helpful information to attract people to your speech. Advancing to the next level of a video game or learning new information triggers the chemical dopamine—the brain’s “save” button. “New” excites the brain which wants to learn how to survive, and dopamine flips that switch on—and it’s addictive. Just watch any kid playing a video game. If you can explain your BIG new idea in a tweet, you probably really understand it and can teach it to others. What is the one thing you want people to remember after you talk?

5.  Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments: Emotional experiences of fear get seared into our lasting memory. You can do this in your speech. Emotions cause the amygdala to access the visual cortex to collect detailed info and then secrete dopamine that enhances memory—it’s like a post-it note to the brain to remember this whole experience. September 11 is a difficult but perfect example. People remember where they were when they heard about it because that day is seared into their memory. Use very concrete examples, charged with emotions, if you want people to remember them. We persuade when we grab a person’s head and heart—logic and emotion.

6.  Lighten Up: Humor breaks down defenses, makes you seem more human and more trustworthy. The brain loves humor because it provides a twist—novelty. Higher ranking people in a group are more likely to use humor. It’s also an “ingratiation tactic” that allows acceptance into a group. Humorous people are regarded as considerate, intelligent and emotionally stable—among other positive traits. In business, humor deflects criticism, relieves tension, and can communicate tough messages. But, avoid telling jokes—a difficult task. Raise humor through personal anecdotal stories that get a smile or chuckle from the group.

7.  Stick to the 18-Minute TED Talk Rule: People can only absorb so much. That’s why TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. Longer talks require soft breaks (stories, videos, demos) about every 10 minutes—otherwise audiences get “cognitive backlog” which can make them overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, even angry. Also, willpower is a limited commodity, which gets drained with too many decisions. The lack of glucose—caused by the brain doing too much thinking—causes a drop in willpower. Brain cells are energy hogs—requiring twice as much energy (and glucose) as other parts of the body.
8.  Paint a Mental Picture: The brain craves stimulation and loves and learns from multisensory stimulation—auditory, visual and kinesthetic. People remember more when they see, hear and experience information.  These connections are a lot stronger than each independently. And this is especially true with people with no or low prior knowledge—clients, students, and the general public—to whom you are explaining a new concept. Vision trumps all the senses, so focus on the visual. The author uses Al Gore’s now famous speech on climate change as a perfect example of how to integrate visual, audio and other breaks to help the audience understand the complex nature of the subject.

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Speakers by Carmine Gallo (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) reviewed by Steve Gladis, September 2016.

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