Never Squander Any Speaking Opportunity

‘Tis the season, and over the next few weeks, you’ll have lots of opportunities to speak with your employees, customers, and others within your sphere of influence. 

Before you even open your mouth to speak, know this:

Every time you speak, you have an opportunity to advance your leadership goals and objectives.
Don’t squander it.
All too often, when we’re asked to assess executive communication, we find the same old thing: a missed opportunity to increase the executive leader’s influence and impact.
I was reminded of this again this week when I reviewed holiday remarks written for an executive by her well-meaning communications team. The intent was to share with staff the many great achievements they’d accomplished together in what’s been a stellar year for the company. Unfortunately, it read more like a grocery list: one accomplishment after another. There was no narrative to tie them together, provide context or significance, or explain how they fit into the big picture. 
Just as at any other time of the year, speaking during the holiday season is a valuable opportunity to connect with those who matter to your leadership. For some, it may be the only time they get to hear you speak all year long. They may not know you personally, nor you them. This could be the only chance they get to know why you do what you do, and why they should do their own part.
So don’t waste the chance to express your leadership. Instead of sounding like everyone else, do this:
  • Tell them why:  Why things happened or didn’t happen this year; why in the coming year things need to be different; why it matters; and most importantly, why they matter in all of this.
  • Tell them what:  what could be, and what should be. Share your vision. And make it compelling enough for them to feel it, to see it, and to aspire to it.
  • Tell them who:  always remember that you’re speaking to sentient beings, people who think and feel. Above all else, people want to be recognized for who they are and what they contribute. Too often, the word “you” is completely missing from a communication. Instead, executives speak of “they” or abstract others. If you interject the pronoun “you” at every opportunity, they will feel that you are speaking directly to them. And they’ll listen.

I have one more piece of executive communication counsel for you. Review your holiday remarks, whether you’ve written them yourself or they’ve been written for you, and ask yourself this: 

Does this reflect my leadership? Is it distinct — what only I can, and should, say? 

If so, you’ll have them at hello. From the first words out of your mouth, they’ll know that you sound different from anybody else. Speak of what matters to your leadership so compellingly that they see why it matters to them too. They’ll then be primed to do their part in helping you fulfill your leadership goals and objectives. 

Happy holidays.