Bringing Obama-Style Inspiration and Communication to the Workplace
To rally employees shaken by the bad economy, borrow a page from President-elect Barack Obama's public-speaking playbook
By Carmine Gallo | BusinessWeek
As the global financial markets plummet and pink slips fly, workers are facing a crisis of confidence. They crave leaders who command respect and make them feel better about themselves and the world in which they live. Unfortunately, gifted communicators who can do this are scarce. If you are looking for ways to rally your employees through the turmoil we are facing, consider borrowing a page from President-elect Barack Obama’s public-speaking playbook. He’s a good example of a leader who has mastered seven techniques common to inspiring communicators.
Exude passion. Great oratory begins with passion. From the moment he steps on stage, Obama shows enthusiasm for his ideas. If you don’t have passion for your ideas, you’ll never convince anyone else to share your excitement.
Have a clear, concise vision. The most captivating vision is strikingly clear. Whether or not you agreed with it, there was no mistaking Obama’s vision in the general election: Bush got us into this mess. McCain is Bush. I’m not. Now let’s move this country forward together. What is the central theme—or vision—behind your company? Once you determine what it is, make it concise, and repeat it relentlessly.
Sell the benefit. It’s impossible to persuade your listeners on a course of action if they fail to understand how taking the action will benefit them. In his Democratic Presidential nomination acceptance speech Obama said, “Let me spell out exactly what change would mean if I am President…” He then outlined several key issues which he repeated consistently during the campaign: taxes, oil, education, energy, and health care. Your listeners are asking themselves one question: What’s in it for me? Don’t leave them guessing.
Paint pictures. Great speakers tell stories in vivid language. In his Nov. 4 acceptance speech, Obama told the story of 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper, a woman he described as “born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons—because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.” Obama could have easily said: “Mrs. Nixon wasn’t allowed to vote.” Instead, he transports listeners to the time and place he’s describing using specific, visual language.
Invite participation. Inspiring communicators invite their employees and customers to be part of the solution. In his speech, Obama acknowledged the people who “participated” in the historic moment: “But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.”
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Radiate optimism. Inspiring leaders are more optimistic than average leaders. Obama once said that to inspire people, one must “always act confident.”
Encourage potential. You will never be recognized as a true leader until you inspire others to reach beyond their perceived limitations. Obama encouraged his audience in Chicago on Nov. 4 by saying: “Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”
Now substitute Obama with yourself in each of the above examples. By incorporating these seven techniques into your own routine at your company, you’ll start to increase your employees’ confidence. At the same time, you’ll create a workplace environment that is inspiring, motivating, and energizing. Good luck!
Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s leading brands. He is a speaker and author of the new book “Fire Them Up”
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