People in business, medicine, law and all other industries operate at about 83% of their full potential. This isn’t a big number for Steve Gutzler. He believes that leaders are truly functional when they know how to handle the 17% that remain. This is the area of our performance where our emotions are hijacked by stress. The Seventeen Percent Moments are low rates on function but big numbers on performance. It’s hard enough to get a team going, but when you have people undermining your leadership, then you are in trouble. Dr. Nick Morgan finds it strange why communication is the biggest challenge for big organizations. He explains how communication helps people find clarity in expressing their ideas and emotions.
I have Steve Gutzler and Dr. Nick Morgan on the same show. It’s hard to believe because they’re both so fascinating. Steve is so well-versed in everything leadership. His client list includes more than 2,000 of the top companies that you could list all day. It’s just an impressive who’s who. Dr. Nick Morgan is one of the top communication speakers in America. He’s a passionate teacher. He’s just given unforgettable TED Talks and he’s worked as a fellow at Harvard. Between these two, if you don’t learn it in this show, I don’t know where you’re going to learn it.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Seventeen Percent Moments with Steve Gutzler
I am with Steve Gutzler who’s the president of Leadership Quest, a premier leadership development keynote speaker, author, and authority on emotional intelligence, personal leadership, team building, sales mastery, customer service and change. His client list includes more than 2,000 top companies including Microsoft, Starbucks, and Cisco. He’s authored several books, including his most recent Splash: Ten Remarkable Traits in Life and Leadership. He’s appeared on more than 70 television and radio interviews, and recorded so many things regarding how to improve leadership. I’m excited to have you here, Steve. Welcome.
Thank you, Diane. I’m thrilled. I’m very excited to be with you.
We have a lot of the same background in terms of our interests. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence and I was in sales for decades and all the things you talk about is everything I’m interested in. I was watching some of your talks and different things that you do. I was fascinated by talking about how often we are at our full potential and how we self-regulate to determine our leadership ability. Full potential, how do you even know what that is?
A lot of what I do, whether it be on a one on one coaching or when I work with teams, we talk a lot about the 17% moments. What I’d like to explain is there’s been several studies. Harvard is one that’s very powerful that talks about personal leaders in different sectors, whether they be medicine, business, sales, law, individual, personal leaders who operate at fairly high rates, about 83% of the time. They’re high functioning, they handle tasks, and they handle relationships. Unfortunately, the 83% isn’t the big number.
The big number is 17% when we get emotionally hijacked, when we’re under stress, when we’re faced with a challenging relationship with a team member or a colleague. What I’d like to tell and teach leaders is it’s not the 83% that will determine your true leadership and reputation, it’s how you handled the 17% moments. I like to give leaders a lot of personal tactics and strategies of how to self-regulate and make sure they can keep maintaining those optimum levels and not get sabotaged.
It’s so stressful to be in leadership positions. I often have had people on the show who say leaders are hard on themselves. They think they should know more than they know and they feel like they’re putting up this face of something that people think that they’re something that they’re not. I think a lot of people have that sense that maybe that they should be something better. If you’re self-aware, that’s a big part of emotional intelligence and I noticed you said highest performing leaders are self-aware. How do we become self-aware and realistic, and realize that we can’t know everything?
I think of self-awareness in two areas. One, as you progress in your career, you begin to recognize your strengths and also your weaknesses, areas that you’re not gifted in. Your self-aware leaders first begin there. They recognize to be effective. They need to leverage their strength zone and magnify that. They also will staff around or bring in support around their weaknesses, so that’s a big part of self-awareness. The other thing I like to teach personal leaders in regards to self-awareness is that your mood, your attitude, and your emotional exchange is as important as any informational exchange you give. I would even challenge your audience to think about what’s the primary emotional exchange they provide on a daily basis to the relationships, whether they be personal or professional.
People will come away from you feeling a little bit better about themselves and the situation, or they’ll feel a bit depleted just by being in your presence or even in that email exchange. Getting back to self-awareness, your high performing leaders recognize their emotional impact matters. They can move the needle. They have what’s called the power of persuasion and influence on every single encounter in the course of a day. It’s almost like a dimmer switch. The more you turn that up and recognize your emotional exchange, your mood and your attitudes and how that affects others, the more powerful you are in leveraging it in a positive way.
There are some leaders that are not at the very top. They’re mid-level executives or they have people they have to report to above them and below them. Some people have been known to kiss up and kick down. Would you consider that as self-sabotaging behavior? What is the thought process behind that?
That’s an interesting expression I’ve not heard of but coined in that way, but I get it visually. That’s just an expression of insecurity, a lack of self-concept and confidence of your most powerful personal leaders. When I talk about leaders, let’s make a distinguishing part. There are positional leaders and we need them. We need these senior C level leaders, but some of the strongest leaders often are right in the middle of an organization. I always tell leaders you’re going to lead in four directions. You will lead down to anyone on your team, you’re going to lead side to side to clients and customers and colleagues, and you’ll lead up.
The best way to lead up is to provide value and solution-finding, being optimistic and being supportive of the leaders over you. I don’t know a leader when I say that a high leader that wouldn’t be very attracted to someone that continues to provide value. If someone’s kissing up or kicking down, they’re just sabotaging their influence. We need authentic leaders, we need competent leaders, we need leaders who know who they are and that they can move throughout the course of their day with a sense of personal confidence. That’s one of the top attributes of leadership.
You have said that mood attitude, and emotion are contagious. You talked about staying motivated in one of your talks I was watching and you mentioned three buckets. What are the three buckets?
It’s such a fun part when I did this keynote at the Outlook Leadership Conference in Scottsdale and these were high level executive leaders. One of my key points is if you’re going to be a great leader, you need to be smart. You need to build smart teams that have a strategic vision. Hire the best people you can, have great technology, finances, create clarity. Be smart, but be smart and healthy. A lot of leaders that are smart and are experiencing levels of success, but when you look at their life, they’re not healthy. I encourage them to fill up the four buckets.
Number one, you have a physical bucket and you’ve got to get very strategic about that. We talked about working out, but I like the word train. You have to train like a corporate athlete. You have to begin to take your physical health serious and believe that your number one attribute is your energy, your physical, emotional energy. Be smart physically. Take care of yourself. Get on a good program. Number two, there is the emotional bucket. This is my favorite because we ignore it. Recreation, offline things not having to do with technology, things that bring you enjoyment, I call it recreational activities that fill our emotional bucket.
Lastly, the spiritual bucket, which may be defined differently for you than for me, that is an important bucket that keeps us centered, that keeps a heart of gratitude, that keeps us purpose-driven. Usually when I’m speaking, I bring one of those silver buckets like you serve champagne in. I’m holding that up on stage and saying, “Don’t forget to fill your bucket. Please be smart and be healthy.” What that does, and I’m sure you would relate, there is a in the moment self-regulation of emotions in the moment.
There is also a preventative side of emotional intelligence, and that is as you fill these buckets, you have greater reserves throughout the course of your day and week to respond. When I’m in a halted state, hungry, angry, lonely or tired, I’m going to put myself at risk. I like to hold up my smartphone and say, “We take better care of these than we do ourselves.” It gets down to one bar and I’m almost in a full panic to get my phone plugged in.
It’s something like 96% of executives feel burned out, some high number like that. Do you think that these three buckets are going to make them feel less burned out?
Yes. Harvard Medical did a huge study on executives. They said about 96% weren’t necessarily burned out, but they were fading. They had feelings of burnout. They were experiencing that. I’ve got 30 coaching clients, and I can tell you for a fact the vast majority of the ones I deal with can border on that at any one time we meet just because of the stress load, because of the cortisol and the different issues that we face. Correct pacing and taking care of those buckets can definitely keep you from burnout. Burnout is not a badge of honor. It’s an indicator of being short-sighted, of not having a long-term vision.
I have met a lot of people who think that they’re really productive but they’re just busy. They’re just doing a lot of activities that don’t lead to anything and that’s causing them to burn out. Can’t you be more efficient when they give you more time and then have a chance to do these bucket items? How do you even know that you’re not planning the plan to plan the plan and never doing anything but planning? How do you actually become more productive?
On the production side, that’s the game changer. I always tell leaders, “You have to get an absolute clarity of where you want to go in the next 24 months.”We talk a lot about that when I work one on one with people because people have a pretty good idea, when you’re backing in the corner and say, “No, I want more clarity. Give me more clarity of where you want to go professionally.”Let’s not think small. Let’s take the limits off. Allow yourself to stretch and create something visionary. Once you get a vision of that and say, “I want to accomplish this personally and professionally in the next 24 months,” then you have to set some pretty strong, dynamic goals around that.
I always suggest don’t pick too many. We call it the big five, three professional stretch goals, two personal goals. You don’t need too many that you’re not doing other things. Let’s come up with three. Let’s say it’s publish a book. Maybe it’s increase your keynote speaking, sales or whatever it would be. Come up with some good stretch goals. Maybe get into optimum health for your age is one of them. Then we need to get what I call the three legs of the stool, three action goals that would support that. Here’s the big deal. What time do you like to get up, Diane?
I’m usually up at 5:00. You have some ritual, I suppose? What do you like to do in your first 30 minutes? What are two or three things?
I know what I’m not supposed to do and I still do. I look at my iPad. What did you say, 76% online before breakfast? I’m one of them. I am a person that likes to get up and take a bath first thing. That’s how I relax.
Whatever that ritual is, I’d like to go down. I’d like to brew coffee. I’d like to get around. I’m not suggesting everybody would do this. For probably six years, I’ve been doing the20/20/20 which is twenty minutes of a spiritual focus. It might end up being five, it might be ten, but my goal is fifteen to twenty minutes. Now when the coffee’s brewing, people will say, “Don’t you ever look at your email right away?” I go, “Yes, as the coffee’s brewing, I’ll scroll through it.” I don’t jump into it because nine times out of ten, nothing’s that urgent.
Occasionally, it’s like, “This is really important.” The coffee’s brewing, then I get into spiritual, then about fifteen to twenty minutes of reading. For me, that has been the biggest discipline because it fuels me. It builds the fire within me to give my knowledge base, my motivation, my leadership. Then fifteen to twenty minutes around focusing on what would be the three priorities of that day, not the five. I might have a things-to-do list of ten, but what would be three that I need to hit out of the park? They have to be tied to one of the three big stretch goals that I set professionally.
I always tell people if you can focus your first 90 minutes of your working day, say after your bath you get around, get something to eat, you get around and you’ve done some thinking, and you’re like, “Now I’m going to work.” You did60 to 90 minutes around high-value activities that were based about what your goals were. My business coach talked to me six years ago, he said, “Steve, you could double your income in fourteen to sixteen months if you get focused on higher value work.” Mine is always client referral, a referral follow up. I just came back from a conference and I had probably a half dozen great leads.
What did I do the first 60 to 90 minutes this morning? I crafted emails for each of those individuals we’re going to send a copy of my book. My goal is to convert probably half of that into some form of business partnership. Now, what could’ve I done? There’s scores of emails and different things giving me instant gratification. Anyway, that’s a big performance thing for me. I call it my sacred enclosure, the first 60 to 90 minutes has to be around high value.
I have to do the things like that first thing in the morning because that’s when my brain works the best for me. If I saved the really important things for later in the day when I’m toast, it’s just not going to be as quality. A lot of people tend to do the things they like first, I tend to do the things that are hardest first.
That’s probably the biggest discipline breakthrough for anyone. It’s probably why you’ve had the success you’ve had. It doesn’t make you better than people, but it took me probably close to be in my early 40s before I even saw that was how I was ordering my day.
A lot of people tend to do the things they like first, and the things off. I liked the thought of getting yourself in the right mindset. I couldn’t do an ice bath like Tony Robbins or anything, but I think you’ve got to find the things that work to get you motivated first thing in the morning. Some people just aren’t morning people though, they think better at night. Do you have the same advice for them?
When I talk about my 20/20/20, I always say, “This is an example. Every one of us is custom-designed. Each one of us has a different physical constitution, a mental constitution, a work rhythm. You need to figure out what is your best working rhythm.” One good thing that your audience could do is put together a list of what you would call your preferred best day. If you are more of a late afternoon or an evening person, maybe some of your high-value work is there. I know a lot of people that are very creative, almost off the charts, tend to be late-night people. I’m not. I’m a morning. I’ve got most of my energy early in the day and I tail off as the day goes. Create your preferred best day and create a working rhythm schedule from the time you get up to the time you go to bed and put in where are your MVP moments, your Most Valuable Profitable work.
I’m thinking about all this and how it ties back to the goals you were talking about. There was a Genius Network Event I attended that Tony Robbins where he came to mind and a lot of big name people attended this thing. I happened to go out to dinner with Naveen Jain, because he had been on my show and he’s the guy that’s got the first company that has permission to land on the moon.
We were talking about creating your moon shot, that was the theme of this event. What is the big thing that you can do, talk about stretch goals, landing on the moon is it. Everybody was supposed to think of an idea of what would be their moonshot if they could for their industry. How do you know how much of a stretch to make your stretch goals?
I’d love for my clients to create what’s called their moonshot. It’s got to be that. It’s got to be something I say that vision is a picture of the future which creates passion in the present. When you have that picture of the future of what you can become, it pulls you and it creates daily passion. A stretch goal has to be like a smart goal. It’s got to be specific. It’s got to be measurable. A is the big word. It’s got to be attainable. It’s got to be relevant and time-bound. I’ve been guilty of setting these monster goals and I get four months into my year and I’m depressed because I haven’t even gotten off the launch pad. I don’t even have the astronaut suit on yet.
I do take a lot of time and I ask my clients to give it some thought. It’s also got to be authentic. It’s got to be something that stirs and fires you up. Again, not that you won’t accomplish other things, but maybe there’s three things. This is the perfect timing because we’re coming up on a new year. I’m not against New Year’s resolutions, but I’d rather set a big five. What are going to be my three professional stretch goals for 2018 and what are my two personal? Sometimes I’ll do the three, and then I’ll have a little star because there’s a fourth one that’s so close and I think, “I could probably do that fourth one too.” It’s not like you won’t be focused on it, but it’s got to be something that fires you up. It’s got to be something that pulls you into the future.
There’s so many goals that people, they forget part of the smart. They leave out one of the letters and they just don’t. I know with my students they are bad at making them measurable, they’re just “I’m going to graduate.” It’s very vague. You’ve got to be specific. I’m curious about your book because there are five parts of these goals and all that. What are the ten remarkable traits in life and leadership that you did write about in your book? Can you just list those ten or a few of them? What do you think are some of the most important traits?
I’ll give you just a handful. Number one, my lead with it is calling, shifting your work to calling, whether it be a calling or an assignment. The moment you begin to recognize that your work or your assignment can be a calling, it changes your mindset. A lot of people are working. I used to get a smile when different people have different catch phrases regarding Monday being negative or Friday being such a highlight. I get that. Not every day I’m over the top, but things changed for me when I recognized that I was called to do what I’m doing. It’s powerful when you tie your life to your mission and your purpose. I always tell leaders, take time to figure out what is going to be your center, your true core center. What is the character? What’s your core for? What’s going to be your contribution, your unique contribution to being here? You are here for a purpose. Once a person gets purpose-driven, they can begin to bring more definition to their work and shift it to calling.
Also what I call the code of honor is another remarkable trait. You create a list of ten promises that you would like to make and keep for yourself. It’s like a code. I work with the Seattle Seahawks. They’re one of my great clients. I work with the corporate side of their team, the chief operating officer and all their sales team. When you walk into the headquarters of the Seahawks, up on the wall is their code. They’ve got five promises they’re going to make. Their commitment to excellence, their commitment to the twelfth man which is their fans, their commitment to team, it’s all up there. It may seem very basic but they live by that code. Those are the promises.
The second big trait for me is getting leaders, getting people, to come up with the promises they want to make and keep. You’re only as strong as the promises you keep for yourself. It might be, “I want to create a family legacy. I want to be a corporate athlete and get into optimum health. I want to be a lifelong learner. I want to dream big and achieve. I want to live my faith. I want to learn, try and grow.”That’s some of my code. It becomes that inner wiring in the things that are very important to us when we get off track or feel fuzzy with where our life is going.
What I can see is that this book, Splash: Ten Remarkable Traits in Life and Leadership, everything that you’re talking about is going to help towards engagement at work too, which is like the top thing that everybody’s talking about, whether you develop it as a leader to help people that report to you to become more engaged or just to help yourself become more engaged. We’ve only got a third of the workplace engaged. I can see how what a lot of the stuff in your training probably helps immensely in that area.
I’m fascinated by everything you do, Steve. This has been just so great to talk to you about this. A lot of people want to know how they can learn more about you. You have thousands of top clients that you mentioned, Seattle Seahawks, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Kraft. I was looking at this list and it was just a who’s who of who to have as your client. If people wanted to hire you, buy your book, or find out more about you, how can they find out more?
I’d love connecting with people so probably the best way of course is my website which is my name, SteveGutzler.com. The book on Amazon is now an international bestseller in six countries. We’re excited about that. They’ll like it because it’s not a big thick book, it’s an inspirational based book. It’s a shorter read, but something that when people read it, they’ll go, “I love the stories. I love the action. The coaching questions at the end of each chapter, I’m filling those in.” It’s a real practical handbook of inspiration. On social media site, it’s @SteveGutzler. I’ve got close to 155,000 followers on Twitter and I’m active. I do a weekly blog post. I would love to connect with people. That’s the cool thing about these virtual connections.
I could see you would do well on social media. I saw Huffington Post rated you as one of the number one excellence in social media. It’s so awesome. It was so fun having you on the show, Steve. Thank you again.
Thank you, Diane, and thank you for everything you do.
Team Communication with Dr. Nick Morgan
I am with Dr. Nick Morgan who’s one of America’s top communication speakers, theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas and then delivering them with panache. He’s been commissioned by Fortune 500 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He’s coached people to give congressional testimony to appear on the Today Show and to deliver unforgettable TED Talks. I’m so excited to have him here. Welcome.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be on your show, Diane.
You’ve done everything. You were a former fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government? Do you still teach?
I haven’t taught for a year or two. I teach every now and then at Harvard, but yes, I’ve been a fellow various times. They appoint you a fellow when you come in to teach a course or give a lecture series. I’m not at the moment doing that, but I’ve done it several times in the past.
You’ve done so much and I’ve seen a lot of your talks. I was fascinated. Communication’s such a huge issue with so many people. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, so I’m fascinated on interpersonal skills in general. I loved your talk when you were talking about the Dalai Lama and how he communicated without saying a word. We can learn a lot from stories like that. I’m curious, what do you think is the biggest challenges organizations face in terms of communication, since you’re the communication expert? Is there one major thing or is it a bunch of things?
There are many things but if you had to point to one huge thing, it would be the basic conflict that arises when, say, an executive has to stand up and say something about the organization, especially something forward looking about the organization and he or she knows that that’s perhaps partly true, but maybe not 100% true, or to feign some enthusiasm for program that he or she has to get behind that the executive has private doubts about. It’s rare that we all feel 100% about our organizations all the time.
What happens then when you stand up and speak about it to a team, to a town meeting, or any kind of public speaking arrangement like that, your body language tends to transmit that ambivalence. It may come out as nervousness, it may come out as subtle signals that undercut the message that you’re essentially putting across. Those signals may be very subtle but overall what happens is gradually the audience gets a gut sense that this executive isn’t 100% behind what’s going on.
The real message to them is, “This is not the priority they’re claiming it to be or they don’t believe in this anymore than we do,” or something like that. That cynicism that results is what’s reflected in that often cited Gallup poll that says that three-quarters of employees are unhappy in their organizations in their current work. To me, that’s just a staggering number. What I love about it is to further the follow-up stat is something like a quarter of those people are actively engaged in trying to undercut the organization for which they’re working.
That’s almost comical, but it’s not if you’re in one of those organizations. It’s tough enough in this world of fast changing market conditions, new entrance into the market, digital disruption, and so on and so forth, it’s tough enough to keep an organization going, but if you have people inside who are actively trying to undermine it, then you’ve got to be in trouble. It’s just fascinating to me how you can start with a communications issue like that and then end up realizing just how central it is to the viability of an organization in the long run.
All of those things are topics I talk about too when I speak with organizations. I have a lot of experts on the show who are engagement experts. A lot of it is fascinating to look at in terms of soft skills and what’s being developed in people and what’s not when you were talking about the communication things, just not body language and different things. I had a lot of virtual calls. I need to be on conference calls.
It just brought to mind a guy who obviously had one favorite in his team and another who he didn’t like so well. When he introduced it’s like, “Ken, how was your weekend?”Then he’d get to Bill and he’d go, “Bill, what’s going on?” Do you think being not in person in this virtual kind of thing is making it even more challenging? What challenges do you think that presents?
I got asked it often enough, and still got asked it when I give speeches on body language and communications. Somebody would raise their hand and say, “I manage a team that’s in Dubai, California, and Singapore. I love this stuff on body language. Thanks, Nick. It’s interesting, but how do I manage body language when I never see these people?”It’s a great question. I got asked it often enough that I thought, “Let’s write a book on that.” My next book is coming out is called The Virtual Communicator and it’s all about this topic.
As I jumped into the research and study that topic, what I found to a surprising extent is how disastrous virtual communication is in this very specific sense in that it was set up basically by engineers and early digital mavens to solve a couple of problems, to solve the problem of ease of communication. They wanted to speed up communication, make it easier to exchange information. In the case of email, it was scientific papers between scientists at DARPA and the various universities around the US. They wanted to make it easier to exchange information and they wanted to make it faster. They achieved both those ends beautifully, but they unintentionally had a disastrous side effect, which is first email and then, to a surprising extent, audio conferences and then, to a really surprising extent, video conferences.
All of them tend to strip out the emotional undercurrents that we completely take for granted. The result is what your audience have experienced at one time or another, that idiot friend of yours or colleague of yours who insists on misreading reading an email, which was perfectly obvious to you when you sent it and you knew exactly what you meant. Inexplicably, that other person took offense at it, which clearly wasn’t intended. We’ve all had that experience. The same thing goes on in audio conferences because the compression of voices to make them fit initially over a fairly narrow bandwidth in the way voice is transmitted digitally meant that the under tones of the voice are cut out.
The research shows the undertones of the voice are where emotion is carried in. Audio conferences, to an astounding extent, strip out the emotion and as a result, as we listened to them, we’ve all heard stories of people putting their audio conferences on mute so that they can go do something interesting while they’re pretending to listen to the audio conference. We know people who have done it. What I was going research, I came across this absolute treasure trove of hilarious things people were caught doing when they thought they were on mute and accidentally hit the unmute button, so on and so forth.
The business world is full of embarrassing stories but my favorite one was two teams which were located in the same general region but were separated by about 150 miles. This was in South America, and they were both involved in an earthquake. They kept the audio conference going while they were experiencing an earthquake, because virtually everybody was on mute so none of the astounded exclamations of, “Help! What’s going on?” were heard on this audio conference. Audio conferences are so boring, they’re like the cockroaches that are favorable to survive nuclear war. They can survive even earthquakes and nobody listens to them. In brief, that’s what I found out during the research for my book and part of the book of course then is suggesting ways to make all those dreadful situations better.
I’ve had a Tripp Crosby on my show who’s the guy that did that conference call on real life video that’s been everywhere on the internet, which is so funny. If you haven’t seen that, I highly recommend watching that. It reminds me of when I was in pharmaceuticals years ago. You were talking about making things easier and faster. At one time decided to do their interviews for new applicants, the easiest, fastest way was to send a film crew to different cities and not even have somebody from HR or leadership to interview people.
They just had a script that the camera man had up on the screen of the questions and the people had to just look at the camera and answer these questions. It took away all the spontaneity, all their normal intonation, all the things that would make them be themselves. So many people that would have been great, people they missed, because they’re just talking at a camera. It’s fascinating to me to see the types of things we have to do to communicate well. A lot of people here have to give a lot of speeches. It’s another thing that you’re good at helping people with, I understand. You say the only reason to give a speech is to change the world. Did I see that on one of your slides?
Absolutely. I first ran across that when I was doing research for my first book. I dug around to try to find out who said it. When you can’t find a source for a quote in the US, it typically gets attributed to President Kennedy or Martin Luther King. This one was attributed to President Kennedy, so I dove into Kennedy Archives, studied them for a ridiculously long period of time and discovered it’s very hard to prove a negative. I approved this as satisfactory as I could, but he never said it. We don’t know who said it, but it’s such a great line that I’ve used it ever since.
We’ll attribute it to you then because it’s a good line. I was going through multiple talks that you’ve given different things. I thought it was fascinating you were talking about height and how much that helps you when you’re around other people and how people perceive you. I just saw Tony Robbins speak and I’ve often wondered if he would be as successful as he is if he wasn’t so tall. Do tall people have an advantage when they’re speaking even in a group setting?
The research shows that tall people get an edge. They get higher salaries and they’ve more successful careers. They get promoted more often and they get rated more highly in the public speaking setting, such as you’re describing. That’s not fair. When people ask me about that, especially short people, I’ll say that’s not fair. The follow-up to that is that there is a way that you can minimize the height disadvantage. Many people who don’t feel like they’re tall enough for whatever reason tend to stand in a way because they’re self-conscious about it.
That actually increases the sense that they’re small. What I train people to do is to stand tall whatever their height. It’s fairly simple to do with standing up straight and straighten out your spine and so on and so forth. There are a few little adjustments you need to make, then people never think about the height issue. The most charismatic politician I ever met was the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson. She’s about 4’2” in heels. She’s tiny and yet when walks into a room, she completely takes charge.
I’m actually the shortest in my family and I’m 5’8”. My sister is 6’3”, my brother’s 6’8”. Can you be too tall? Is it problematic if you’re too tall?
It’s funny for all the short people that I’ve worked with who feel like life handed them a bum deal because they were short, then I’ve worked with very tall people who developed this stoop or rounded shoulders because they feel like they’re always domineering over people or looming over people in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. They try to minimize their height and as a result they simply draw attention to it. Tall people, like short people, need to think about the ways in which they stand in order to fully occupy their height but not draw attention to it in a way that’s negative.
There are so many things you have to do to be a good speaker. Whether you’re thinking about how tall you are, what you’re doing with your hands, if you’re walking back and forth on the stage, it can be so challenging. Part of that challenge is just drawing them in right at the beginning. How important are those first few minutes and what kinds of things should you do to make that time count?
They’re all important those first few minutes because if you get audience hooked well at the beginning, they’ll put up with the astonishing amount later on. It’s very important that if you don’t get them at the beginning, they’re gone and it’s very hard to get them back. People make three classic mistakes at the beginning of a speech. I’ve seen this over and over again. They introduce themselves. They give out an agenda and/or they do what we call throat clearing. They’ll look out in the audience and say, “There’s Jim. Didn’t we have a great time at the bar last night?”or, “Anybody here from Indiana? Raise your hand if you’re from Indiana,” that aimless chit chat.
The speakers who do that always defend it by saying, “I’m connecting with the audience, I’m making them feel more at ease.”I say to them, “Liar, liar, pants on fire. You’re doing that to make yourself feel more comfortable. You’re not doing that for the audience.” The audience is perfectly comfortable. They’re just waiting for you to get on with it and instead you’re wasting their time. Don’t do the chit chat, just jump right in. The example I use is, because I love the movies, I draw attention to the way movies start. I’ll say to people, “How does the James Bond movie beginning?”They’ll scratch their heads for a minute and they’ll think about it, “Begins with this great chase scene, explosions, death, or mayhem,” and then you’re hooked and there’s about seven minutes of that, and then you’re hooked. I’ll say, “Then what happens?” They say, “They run the credits.” I say, “Imagine if you flipped that, if you started with that first three or four minutes of credit, how would that be?
They say, “Well, it’d be boring. I’d go get some popcorn or something. I’d wish I’d come in three minutes into the movie because it hadn’t started yet.”I say, “Exactly, and that’s what you are doing as a speaker.” If you introduce yourself or if you do the chit chat. The agenda one is surprising for some people because they say, “Isn’t it just politeness to have an agenda?” I say, “Yes, if you’re doing a day long workshop, people need to know when the bathroom breaks are and when lunch is going to be. For an hour-long speech, they don’t need an agenda. We can live through an hour of surprises. Tell me a great story, keep me engaged.
You don’t need to tell me what’s going to happen every ten minutes. Not if I’m a grownup. Skip the agenda, skip the introduction, nobody cares about who you are, what they care about is what’s in it for them. Skip the chit chat and just get right to it. Think James Bond. Begin with an explosion, the car chase, death and mayhem, something exciting to draw the audience in. Then a few minutes in, if you’re at a speech where you haven’t been introduced, typically with a keynote speech somebody’s going to stand up and introduce you. There’s even less reason to introduce yourself. If that doesn’t happen, if it’s a more informal occasion than a few minutes in, once you’ve hooked the audience then you can give them an introduction if you feel that’s necessary.
A lot of people start with stories. You see TED Talks where they do that. What if you don’t have any good stories? Do you make them up?
My experience in working with people is they often say many great stories. What they hear in the speech is the product of somebody who’s worked for a year to develop that great, powerful opening story. It takes time to find a story to craft it, to eliminate all the unnecessary details, but keep the necessary ones in. Storytelling is not a simple, easy thing to do. It’s not a natural act that we’re all born knowing how to do well. It takes art and it takes science. It takes practice. When people tell me they don’t have stories, I say, “We just haven’t discovered them yet and we haven’t honed them yet. We haven’t made them what they need to be.”
In fact, my favorite story about people who have no stories is a woman I was working with who was speaking at an HR conference. This was a number of years ago. She was coming before Andrew Young, the famous civil rights leader and Mayor of Atlanta, and actor Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor. She said, “I feel so intimidated, sandwiched between these two great men. How can I possibly get the audience’s attention?” I said, “You can do that by telling a powerful story.” She said, “I have no stories.”We were working away the speech and sure enough she had come up no stories. The speech date was getting closer and I was starting to get a little worried, frankly. I didn’t tell her, but I was getting worried.
About a week beforehand when she showed up for her last rehearsal and last working session, she looked depressed and I assumed it was because we hadn’t come up with a killer story. I said, “What’s the matter? What’s up?”She said, “I wasn’t the same thing, but it’s the anniversary of my father’s passing.” I said, “Tell me a little bit more about that.” She said, “You see, I was the first person in my family to go to college. My dad was a janitor. He was my cheering section. There were many times when I felt like I couldn’t do it and he rooted for me. He buttoned me up and he gave me moral support.
He was the proudest man in the universe the day I graduated when he was at the graduation. When I told him I was going on to get a PhD, he was so thrilled. He couldn’t get over it. He said, “The first person to go in our family to go to college is going on to get a PhD, I couldn’t be prouder.” She goes on to get her PhD and she’s three years into it when she gets a call from her dad, who’s still being a greatest cheerleader through because you’ve had a PhD, the tough times that you can experience as a graduate student and that search for the dissertation topic and whatnot.
At a low point, he’s giving her some moral support and speaking to her on the weekend. She notices that he sounds a little down, like his heart isn’t in it. She says, “Dad, what’s going on?” He says, “Nothing.” She pushes him and finally he says, “I didn’t want to tell you this, but I’m ill. In fact, I’ve gotten a cancer diagnosis. They say I’ve got six months to live. I promise you I’m going to be there for your graduation a year from now. I’m going to see you graduate because it will be the proudest day of my life. He was at the graduation and he died a week later.”
I just looked at this woman and I said, “You told me you had no story.”She said, “I didn’t think that one mattered. I didn’t think that one counted.”That’s so often the case. We had these amazing, powerful stories that we’ve lived through an experience and because they’re ours, we think, “That’s not a story anybody would care about.” We turned that story artfully until the opening of the speech. I tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She outranked both Elie Wiesel and Andrew Young in the ratings after this speech was done.
There’s so many things that we don’t think people are going to care or that just isn’t fitting for the event. Do you think that’s it? That we downplay these things?
Sure. That was just her dad. He was only a janitor. She loved him dearly, that came across. What she didn’t see in that story was the universal aspect of the love, the caring, the pride, the family, and all those things that we all resonate with because that was her particular experience. It’s hard for us to see what’s universal in our own stories because we live them so individually. That’s where it begins and it’s a matter of finding out what’s the universal elements in that story that I can tell and that only I can tell, then figuring out how to shape that in a way that is interesting and doesn’t have too much detail and so on and so forth.
What was her overall topic? How did she tie it into that somehow?
I always say to people never tell stories that have no relevance because the audience will pick up on that pretty quick. In this case, amazingly the whole speech, we’ve been working for weeks on a speech about setting difficult goals. I had to hug her, but I was ready to kill her after she told me that story a week beforehand. I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this story before? This is amazing.”
Maybe it was locked in her unconscious mind as you say we need to figure out how to tap into that. Isn’t that what your latest book, Power Cues is about, tapping into your unconscious mind to focus our communication?
Absolutely. The key stat there is that your audience needs to know that the unconscious mind can handle something like 11 million bits of information per second. That conscious mind, the one we’re aware of, the one we’re so proud of, the one that talks to us, can handle about 40 bits of information a second. We have this vast, powerful unconscious mind that actually does most of our communicating for us, and yet we’re only rarely aware of it. The whole point of the book is to get people to become more aware of what’s going on unconsciously in the way they communicate with other people. Then taking charge of that, becoming an intentional communicator so that you don’t leave it to chance, and back to where we started. If you’re an executive and you’re standing up in front of your team, you can come across as sincere and authentic about meaning what you’re saying, rather than undercutting them the corporate message because you don’t believe in it.
Dr. Nick Morgan, the author of Power Cues and quite a few books and a new one coming up, which I’m going to be interested in reading when you write about virtual communicator. How can people find out more about your books and your information?
The best way to find this is to go to my website PublicWords.com. There’s an information form there you can fill out. We get back to you pretty quickly, as quick as we can. There’s a whole lot of free information on there for public speakers, especially who want to up their game as well as of course opportunities to connect with us and buy books and all that good stuff.
Thank you so much. It’s been so much fun to chat. This is all the stuff I’d love to talk about. Thank you for being here, Nick.
It’s my great pleasure. Thank you for having me on your show.
Thank you so much to Steve and Nick. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com/Episodes. We have great guests and they all have such insightful information and today’s show was just amazing, and I look forward to the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Steve Gutzler
Steve Gutzler is the president of Leadership Quest, a premier leadership development keynote speaker, author, and authority of emotional intelligence, personal leadership, team building, sales mastery, customer service, and change. His client list includes more than 2000 top companies including Microsoft, Starbucks, and Cisco. He has authored several books, including his most recent, Splash: Ten Remarkable Traits in Life and Leadership. He has appeared on more than 50 television and radio interviews regarding how to improve leadership.
About Dr. Nick Morgan
Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication speakers, theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to deliver an unforgettable TED talk. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders. And he has himself spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world.