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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

29. Rallying the Troops

Up to Bat

When speaking to audiences of your peers and reports, what you have to say should be second nature when you get up to bat. It's what you know and what you do all the time.

One Little League baseball coach whose day job is managing a division at a giant aerospace company had to address his direct reports on a change in direction. The human resources director asked us to coach this division head in sharing the company's new vision with a sense of fun and passion.

In exploring the executive's interests, hobbies, and passions, we learned that Yogi Berra was one of his all-time heroes. He, like many, loves this baseball legend for the plain wisdom of his one-of-a-kind observations. Yogisms are a different language. Funny. Profound. Poignant.

Sports are so analogous to business and for most of us, games we like to watch or pick up on weekends. So, choose your favorite sport and you will find wisdom in it for your own team.

UCLA's winningest basketball coach, John Wooden, motivated his championship teams with, "Be quick but don't hurry." And football great Vince Lombardi said in a 1962 interview that "winning isn't everything but wanting to win is." This was homogenized into the reported battle cry for rallying the troops, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

Our aerospace manager used Yogi's pronouncement that the future ain't what it used to be in one address to new hires. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it" became the theme for a briefing to design engineers. And he quoted the time when Yogi was asked what time it is, Yogi asked, "You mean now?" in a speech titled, "The Time Is Now."

This aerospace guru told me in a follow-up call that he uses Yogisms in his everyday leadership practice as well, "Once when Yogi was asked, 'What makes a good manager?' he said, 'Good players.'"

With a little coaching, our manager (also known as "Coach" to his Little Leaguers) found a similar and unique role in the workplace. Now he is as legendary on his professional playing field for always citing the appropriate wisdom.

Batting Practice

An exercise we often do is to first ask people to stand up and record two minutes about their job or some aspect of it. Then, without sitting down, to do another two minutes on their favorite subject. The subjects vary from their kids to golf to boating to volunteer work to a stamp collection. The list is endless. But the reaction is always the same. Almost without exception, when speaking about the job where they spend the majority of their waking hours, they are wooden, monotone and uninspiring. When they get to passions, they become animated with gestures, eye contact, and a lively, conversational tone. Suddenly, the mission seems to be convincingly clear: to share the music of their lives.

Picasso said, "To draw is to close your eyes and dance." What music are you dancing to? Your job, as a communicator, is merely to transfer the passion and music of your life into the expression of your work or project or subject. It is, after all, your life's work, your contribution to society. Your job, since you've chosen to accept it, probably holds within it your leadership potential and possibility.

As communications coaches, my team and I are merely holding up a mirror to reflect your expressions. By helping you find passion once again for the work you do and express it, your business briefings and speeches will become much more exciting and inspirational. Bottom line, don't seek to inform, seek to motivate and inspire.

Find the Time

An entertainment executive was so jammed at work that he had gotten into a bad habit of keeping his staff waiting until the last minute to write his speeches, nevermind practicing. With only hours until the event, panic prevailed until he walked on stage and read his staff's much too detailed, nuts and bolts account of the new season, without sharing the vision or passion that was making them the leading network. Everyone was disappointed, not the least of which was he.

Finally, his staff coerced him into finding three hours on each of several Sunday afternoons at his house to refine his messaging with his staff. The prospect of his sharing the vision that made him a great leader was worth missing a pro football game or two. Their willingness to give up weekend time impressed him not only with their dedication but that he may have something important to say, after all.

Weeks in advance, we began facilitating the communication between the executive and his staff of: Who the audience is, why this is important to them, what they need and want to know from him and his vision, and how he will get their attention. Once this TV executive grasped the economies of scale that a focused and passionate 20-minute presentation followed by Q&A could ignite the imaginations of hundreds in his audience, he finds the time, every time.

The Medium Is the Message

There's an old saying in the newspaper trade that good news is no news. But Shakespeare more accurately reflected the reality of corporate suites, "Though it be honest, it is never good to bring bad news." Still, news is a fact of business life, and when you must deliver it, choosing the delivery system is as important as crafting what you will say.

The new president of a giant insurance company made that mistake when he sent a cold and stiff "talking head" video of himself to the 10,000 employees in the worldwide branches of his company. Every screening room was silent after the CEO's announcement that his restructuring plans would include more or less significant layoffs. There was little the regional managers could do or say after that bomb was dropped.

A perhaps much more appropriate communications tool was the live 25-city interactive, media tour one CEO used in a similar situation. Our CEO explained compassionately that he would have preferred being with each group in person but that in order to reach all his employees simultaneously with this difficult news, he had chosen this venue. The manager at each location proctored live audience questions for the CEO about the restructuring until every one was answered over the following two hours.

If you do decide to have an interactive, broadcast, make sure that every detail is checked and rechecked. Never is it more true that you only get one chance to make a good first impression than on a live broadcast.

Westside Toastmasters on Meetup

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