What you don’t know can hurt you: 12 tips for presenting on-camera

You prepare. Practice. Revise. Prepare some more. Practice again. You have a solid presentation ready to go. And yet somehow, it all falls flat when the camera rolls. And you just don’t know why.

When presenting “on camera,” what you don’t know can hurt you. Fortunately, there are a few trade secrets that can make the difference between mayhem and magic. With the help of trusted colleagues Glenn Gautier (executive producer, 2+Communications), and TV host, media trainer Scott Morgan (The Morgan Group) below are 12 tips (plus a bonus!) that will ensure the camera hangs on your every word.



Remember, appearance matters

1. Use caution with color. Be sensitive about the colors you choose to wear: avoid green (if you will be speaking against a green screen), black, white, or bright red. Another no-no: shiny fabrics or busy patterns like houndstooth. Women look good in jewel tones with simple, matte jewelry. Men look better in pastel colored shirts, navy blue blazers, and simple ties. Pro tip: Everyone looks good in powder blue.

2. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions. In addition to color, there are other wardrobe issues that can upstage your performance. Pro tip: Consider the following:

  • How does the fabric move if you shift in your seat or get up and move about? Will it rustle when you move, creating audio problems?
  • How does it drape when you sit? Will you look poised? Paunchy (with fabric clustering at your waist)? Does it drape like a tent?
  • Is there an unobtrusive place for a microphone to be placed? How about a belt or waistband where the battery can be attached?

3. Makeup. Daytime makeup is usually fine for ladies. Gentlemen, you may need a transparent power to reduce shine. Pro tip: Invest is a makeup artist. They are not that expensive and it is money well spent!

Strong platform skills

4. Practice good posture. Sit up straight just like your mother told you. It is so easy to get too comfortable and sit back in the chair. While it may be relaxing, on camera you can look like a sack of potatoes! Pro tip: Gentlemen, if you wear a jacket, sit on the tails so you don’t appear to be hunched over. Ladies, make sure you are wearing something that allows you to both sit and get in and out of the chair like a lady.

5. Use your hands! We think we need to sit on our hands when speaking on-camera, concerned that that we will look nervous and out of control. Pro tip: Gestures are a very powerful aspect of self-expression. Keep your elbows bent around the mid-section of your body. That way your hands will be above your waist and below your shoulders — visible but not in the way.

6. Keep a sparkle in your eyes. When being recorded, there can be lots of retakes, so how do you keep the sparkle when you restart? Pro tip: Close your eyes tilt your head forward taking a deep breath. Calm your mind and focus on the opening statement you want to make. Exhale, pick your head up, open your eyes and start. Guaranteed to look bright and engaged.

7. Remember to blink. It is easy to get mesmerized by the black hole of the camera lens and appear to be staring into space. Pro tip: Remember to blink at the end of each sentence.

8. Talk to the camera. Where are you supposed to look? Directly at the camera? Off camera, as you talk to someone else? Pro tip: Find out where you are supposed to look. If on-camera work is a new skill for you, here’s a warning: Speaking to a camera can be daunting. Create an imaginary audience for yourself and strive to connect with your listeners.

9. The camera loves a smile! The most important tip of all: begin and end with a smile. Morgan’s own special secret just for you blog readers: speak the entire time through a smile. It lifts your face and your enthusiasm (even when discussing serious topics) and helps puts a twinkle in your eye.

Essential voice and delivery skills

10. Breathe. It may be an involuntary reaction, but for some reason when speaking in front of camera speakers “get on a roll” and forget to breathe. Pro tip: The end of each sentence is also a good place to take a breath. Morgan suggests that the best technique is to breathe slow and deep through your nostrils. It is silent and helps moderate your pace.

11. Keep it conversational. Don’t worry about being word-perfect. Pro tip: Speak in a conversational tone. The tendency is to stress too many words in a sentence; to help mimic natural speech, emphasize only one word per sentence.

12. Reboot. Flubbed up! Not to worry, it happens! Pro tip: Take your lead from the pros, pause and pick up again with a complete thought. Remember, no apologies needed, keep a good sense of humor, stay focused and forge ahead.

One more for good measure

13. Hold that smile. Done saying what you have to say? Continue to look directly into the camera lens with that smile as you count to 10 (letting the camera crew get some final footage and wrap up the shot).

As Gautier so aptly puts it: “Remember, your message is not about you, it’s about sharing information with your audience. Take a breath and focus on the people who will be watching you.”

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.

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What you don’t know can hurt you: 12 tips for presenting on-camera originally published by SmartBlogs

Do you want to be a boss or a leader?

I was having a cup of coffee with a former work colleague who lamented over what happened at a meeting with his employer when the CEO said many things that were, shall we say, less than inspiring. The episode really called into question the leadership of the CEO in the eyes of my friend and his colleagues.

I stressed to my friend that, if he wanted to thrive there, he needed to look past this one event and try to find something about the CEO that inspires him and gives him confidence because you cannot work for someone for whom you have no respect. Consider this the worst that this individual can be, and remember that you got through it, and move on.

Contradicting myself, I then laughed and quoted the movie “Starman,” in which Jeff Bridges’ character tells a government alien-life investigator why his kind are interested in our kind — “Humans are a strange species … you are at your very best when things are at their worst.”

My friend quickly said, “Not all humans.”

That is very true. Not all humans, indeed. But, leaders are not “all humans.” More is expected of them. And, in order to be considered a great leader, even more than that.

Great leaders are at their best when things are at their worst. Anyone can be considered a good leader when things are humming along without a hitch. It is easy to align employees and maintain a great vibe in a company when profits are soaring, or you recently moved into really cool new space and bonus checks were distributed.

Try leading when a new competitor just took significant market share away, when your manufacturing partner’s facility is destroyed by fire, or when the FDA delays your new drug approval indefinitely after you have hired and trained a new sales force. Try leading when Wall Street analysts downgrade your stock, when a licensing deal that you were working on for a year falls through, or when the patent for your main product has expired. These are the times when a boss earns the title of “leader” because these are the times when employees are looking for leadership. They are wondering, “What are we going to do?”; “Will everything be all right?”; “Can we make it through this?”; “I’m frightened.” If the boss does not have something to say and a plan to address these fears, he will never be considered a leader.

Keeping with the “Starman” theme, I offer five lessons to bosses out there who want to be great leaders:

  1. Be your best when conditions are at their worst;
  2. Make maps – that is the job that the alien who cloned Scott Hayden’s body tells a stranger that he does for a living. Leaders make the maps because they know where they want to go, and they have the skill to chart the course. Leaders also don’t look in the rear-view mirror;
  3. Exercise focused power for critical path items. The alien had a handful of silver beads with unlimited power, however, he used them for very specific purposes to achieve his objective with minimal to no collateral damage;
  4. Use some power to save a wounded deer. Build up the weak and teach them to do better, rather than pushing them down to make your own standing greater;
  5. Go very fast at yellow lights. Leaders step up to the front, quickly, at the first sign of a threat to the business.

Just like Jenny Hayden, who watched in awe and helped Starman as he did all of these things and more, your employees are constantly watching you, and even more so when the chips are down. Put on a good show at the most critical and even dire moments, and they might help you, and then even consider you a leader.

Most importantly, do not negate years of good performance — dare I say leadership — with one stupid word or action that you did not think through. Just like moviegoers, employees will turn on the hero when he does not act heroically. The reservoir of good will is a lot shallower than you think.

If you want to be great leader, be a hero.

Joseph V. Gulfo, MD, MBA, is the author of “Innovation Breakdown: How the FDA and Wall Street Cripple Medical Advances” and CEO of Breakthrough Medical Innovations, a team of biopharma and medtech consultants. An Inc.com contributor, he also teaches graduate cancer biology and business and entrepreneurship classes and maintains an educational cancer biology blog. Dr. Gulfo received his MD from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and his MBA from Seton Hall University.

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Do you want to be a boss or a leader? originally published by SmartBlogs

All Change is personal – so put the personality back into change management

Anyone in business or part of a large organisation will not have escaped the rise and rise  of change management programs, they are everywhere.  Executives fret over doing it ‘right’ and employees fret over having it ‘done’ to them.  But ask anyone to describe what it is and we often find that there is little consensus of opinion.

It was Heraclitus that said ‘Change is the only Constant’ as we see in the ever changing seasons in nature.  And yet it is the very act of change that seems to be so difficult for organisations, and the larger the organisation, the more difficult that change appears to be.  Yet the view of the ‘status quo’ is only an illusion that we cling to.  For the organisation that you step into today is not the same as the one that you worked at yesterday, even if on the surface everything appears as it was; indefinable changes in people, processes, customers or products have occurred in the intervening hours between one dawn and the next.

We do of course have to use the logical tools of change management (roadmaps, project plans, gap analysis etc.)  to make things happen when we want to effect a change in direction or performance, but only in as much as it is the navigation tools that help us along our journey.  The real change has to happen in the hearts and minds of the individual, there has to be an intention to change for it to be successful.


Change Managment Diagram for blog

The important dialogue that needs to occur is around some fundamental questions such as:

  • What is getting in the way of us making these changes? 
  • What are we holding onto in terms of core beliefs, attitudes or ritualised behaviours that gets in the way of making these changes?
  • Why do our people not feel empowered to make the required changes?


In organisations big and small it can often come down to issues such as:


  1. A parent to child relationship between the employer and the employee –  a ‘we tell you do’ attitude that is pervasive though every level of management
  2. Blame is the default reaction to problems – there is little or no tolerance to good old fashioned human error.  In fact it is preferred that mistakes are glossed over rather than unearthed and learnings taken from them.  It is more important in this type of culture for managers and leaders to ‘save face’ rather than hold open a discussion on potential shortcomings.
  3. A belief that nothing can ever go wrong – this is particularly strong in growing organisations or those that have not yet plateaued.  A feeling of invincibility pervades the culture often resulting in early warning signs being filtered out until the issues start to seriously harm internal performance or customer loyalty.

But if we view change management as an organic process, we can see a more holistic and encompassing approach to managing change; one that is based on clear simple changes at the individual level of leaders, managers and operators.  By focusing on tangible steps, new patterns of working and allowing time for reflection and tolerance for mistakes, it is possible to create the momentum for change and give people the confidence to take the risks, make the decisions and try out new and unchartered paths.  This can be done by:

  • stating the reasons for change, what the journey will look like and why the destination is better than the current position and sharing this honestly with all employees in simple and engaging terms,
  • giving employees every opportunity to get involved and make things happen (and that also means not overcrowding the space with external experts – speaking as one) and taking some chances on the untested talent that comes forward,
  • regularly informing employees of how progress is made, sharing the good, the bad and if necessary the ugly stories, so that they understand and can continue to feel engaged in the process.

What do you think?  Have you examples of change management from your organisations or projects that you would like to share here?

Agents2Change specialises in Change Management, Implementation and Performance Management.  For more information visit us at www.agents2change.com

If someone on your team hates their job, what do you do?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: If someone on your team hates their job, what do you do?

  • Nothing — it’s up to them to find happiness: 7.24%
  • Point out the good things about their role: 27.35%
  • Change their role to make them happy: 7.81%
  • Encourage them to find another role: 57.6%

If you don’t like the job, take action. We’ll frequently have team members who aren’t happy in their roles. Your job as their leader is to help them find their passion for their job. One way to do so is to help them see their work through a different lens and point out the good about their role. The second is to encourage them to find a role that’s better suited to them. Sometimes you have to push them and remind them that if they don’t like their role, they should actively seek out a new one. Don’t just sit there and do nothing – push your people to where they’ll be happiest, even if that requires leaving your team.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS and author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.”

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If someone on your team hates their job, what do you do? originally published by SmartBlogs

Overworked and overwhelmed? Your answer starts with what you can control

9781118910665.pdfThe stress of having too much to do and too little time to get it all done is a wonderfully modern problem. After all, it can mean you wield great authority, are working on big and important problems, and, in many cases at work, you are well-compensated.

But being “Overworked and Overwhelmed,” as Scott Eblin named his latest book, is not just some problem we’d all love to have. Being overworked and overwhelmed means you are risking your health, your relationships and — despite your endless hours of work — your ability to be productive, to lead and to make smart decisions. You’re probably not prioritizing, not setting boundaries. You’re almost certainly rushing from one task and thought to another so quickly and so often that you aren’t listening to or focused on any of it. When’s the last time you took a deep breath (or three, as he recommends)?

What is this problem caused by? Well, probably a mix of things; the smartphone, e-mail, the Great Recession and a certain American trait of loving work over all else are certainly contributors. What is the fix? Well, that’s a trap Eblin won’t fall into: He will tell you steps you can take, questions you can ask yourself, ways to plan out goals and how you can achieve them, but he will not give you a one-size-fits-all solution.

What he does say, however, is that people can be mindful about what their routines and priorities are, and how they approach their lives. The goal isn’t to make work perfect or to get out of it. Rather, as Eblin writes in the introduction:

“This book is a guide to learning to work differently — mindfully — so you are more clear about the results that most merit your time and attention and how you need to show up to offer your highest and best contributions as a professional and as a person.”

I understand this problem — and how it can come from positive events and good intentions. I have daily editing deadlines. That, for my whole professional life until the past few years, was my basic duty and goal. The rest was gravy. Stressful? At times, but I’m good at editing and understand how to get it done on time. But since 2012 (and these are positive developments), I now manage people, am involved on non-deadline projects and tasks that don’t have to do with editing, and I frequently find myself staring at e-mail wondering, “What the hell was I supposed to be doing? What should I be working on? I have a million thoughts and can’t make sense of any of them.”

That distraction, something most of us are familiar with, harms my productivity during what should be my best working hours. That distraction stretches my days, leads me to idling checking my work e-mail and other apps on my phone during what should be my leisure. Because my job involves reading and comprehension, sometimes even reading something vaguely work-related in topic during my off-hours will trigger a response: I’ll suddenly notice how tense I am when all I’m doing, or so I thought, is reading something for fun.

A related issue: I sleep well, generally, but do I sleep enough hours? Do I go to bed with any sort of routine? Or am I catching up on work? Distracting myself from work?

All of these things are part of my life. Not insurmountable. Not terrible. But these are the sorts of things keeping me — and likely most of you — from becoming everything that we could be. “Overworked and Overwhelmed” takes on these topics specifically and in the broadest sense.

So, how will I try to regain some perspective, and be smarter so I can be better? In Eblin’s words:

“[M]indfulness is the intersection of two qualities: awareness and intention. By awareness, I mean awareness of what’s going on both around you and inside of you in any given moment. Being aware enables you to act in the moment with the intention of creating a particular outcome or result.”

I won’t (most likely) be taking up several days a week of yoga like Scott has, and I won’t necessarily follow exactly what the many leaders he interviewed did to be more mindful, less stressed and ultimately better at work and life. But that’s the point — this is a roadmap toward finding your own solution. Here are some things I found particularly insightful:

Living by example

Eblin has been an executive, and he’s been a coach and leadership development expert, among other things. So, he has bona fides. But he has also lived this struggle in a direct way. He describes some of the challenges he faced — and shifts he made — after being diagnosed in 2009 with multiple sclerosis. Not being overworked and overwhelmed is literally key to Eblin’s health, not just catchy alliteration.

Slow and steady

People are drawn to solutions that are quick, easy and relatively painless. Certainly, so many articles and books on leadership and management are titled with the idea that if YOU DO THESE 3 THINGS, YOU WILL WIN THE DAY. Of course, this is rarely the case. Life is a struggle in maintaining habits and routines, or overcoming the negative engrained habits in favor of better, healthier (we hope) routines. There are no quick fixes.

Eblin spends a good deal of time in his book on the importance of finding your best routines, which come in four varieties: “physical, mental, relational, and spiritual.” We do not “create” routines, though; we must assess the ones we already have and decide where to go from there. As he writes:

“When was the last time you stepped back and took a look at the routines you go through most days to ask if each of them is really in service of your showing up at your best? Chances are, it’s been a while. …
What are the routines that I either have in my life already or need to add to my life to enable me to show up at my best more often than not?”

Know what “Peak You” looks like

All this talk of not being at our best leads to the obvious question, the title of Chapter 5, “How are you at your best?” This is a good question, one that undoubtedly is answered by many people in terms of what they accomplished, not how they worked, the mindset they had, the processes they used. The answer, Eblin says, is to take some time to reflect, to breathe deeply. Then, describe what exactly being “at your best” looked like, felt like; find what links those events and feelings — keep taking those breaths. At the end of all this, pat yourself on the back.

There are a lot more work to do after this process, but the idea of actually asking “What is my best?” is simple and effective. And, as a bonus, he asked nearly 20 leaders what they describe themselves as when they are in the zone.


We probably are familiar with the benefits of exercise, but Eblin goes into not only what those benefits are, but also the many ways that the leaders he interviewed get that exercise. The benefits of movement aren’t just about set periods of exercise: As he tells Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak, sitting all day, without breaks or any chance of scenery, leads to well-tested degradation of performance and creativity.

“Movement is really the key to your health and overall well-being, but it’s also key for your mental performance,” Eblin says to Rockwell in the first of two audio segments at that blog post.

It starts with a choice

There are many other areas of the book I could mention, but, as I’ve said, you won’t find a “fix.” “Overworked and Overwhelmed” is a powerfully written yet modest proposal: an attempt to guide overworked, on-the-way-to-burnout people gradually toward the solutions they wish to achieve.

In this sense, the book isn’t just for leaders — many millions of us don’t manage our own schedules, much less other people. Many of these people and others have financial, logistical and familial struggles and little power to change them.

What can each of us do, regardless of our situation? Recognize what we can control and try to improve our lives through those avenues, understanding that not all problems will be solved, or for forever. As William James once wrote, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” “Overworked and Overwhelmed” can help you make that choice.

James daSilva is a senior editor at SmartBrief and manages SmartBlog on Leadership. He edits SmartBrief’s newsletters on leadership and entrepreneurship, among others. Before joining SmartBrief, he was copy desk chief at a daily newspaper in New York. You can find him on Twitter discussing leadership and management issues @SBLeaders.

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Overworked and overwhelmed? Your answer starts with what you can control originally published by SmartBlogs

The fear of slowing down

An article this summer in The New York Times quoted extensively from a research study conducted by Silicon Valley psychologist Stephanie Brown which refers to our collective fear of slowing down. Brown found that people who are alone with their own thoughts for more than a few minutes become agitated and seek any kind of stimulation they can find in order to avoid thinking.

“There’s this widespread belief that thinking and feeling will only slow you down and get in your way, but it’s the opposite,” she said.

Case in point: A study by Benjamin Baird and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that daydreaming and fantasizing unleash fantastic amounts of creativity and allow people to problem-solve because they feel free to look at problems and challenges without deadlines and outside pressures.

Have you had a creative daydream lately? Would you like to? Here’s how to get started.

  • Disconnect
  • Compartmentalize
  • Get fit
  • Have fun
  1. Disconnect. You can’t constantly be connected or you’ll become overwhelmed and overworked. Yes, that means turn off the electronics. Shut down the computer, the iPad, the Smartphone whenever your work day ends and don’t fire them up again until the next workday starts. If the world comes to an end in the meantime, someone will be sure to let you know. You might also experiment with a media-free day. No TV, radio, or video games. If a day (or night) sounds like too much, try it for an hour or two and work your way up to a day.
  2. Compartmentalize. This means separating work time from play time, family time, and your time. Whatever your work culture dictates (9 to 5, 7 to 3), work those hours and only those hours. Don’t take work home at night or on weekends. When you’re working, give it your all. But once you walk out the door, transition immediately into a new mental and physical state. If you have a long commute, use the time to decompress rather than listening to the news or returning work-related phone calls. When you get home, shed your work clothes immediately and get into something that makes you feel casual and relaxed. Shift your focus.
  3. Get fit. Exercise is a great relaxer of both body and mind. For one thing, a lot of it is fairly routine. You don’t have to think about how to run on the treadmill or maneuver the elliptical trainer. Let your mind wander. Better still, if you can run or walk outdoors, you’ll have plenty of visual aids to redirect your busy thoughts. A healthy body supports creative thinking. And fitness is not just about your body. Your mind needs to stay fit as well. The word “meditation” scares a lot of people because they don’t understand how to do it. It’s as simple as sitting quietly and breathing for 10 or 15 minutes a day. Let your mind wander and don’t try to control where your thoughts take you.
  4. Have fun. Remember fun? Maybe you haven’t had any real fun since the fifth grade. But it’s never too late. Write out a bucket list of fun activities. (Hint: taking clients to a baseball game does not count.) Whether it’s whitewater rafting, taking a photography class or learning Italian cooking — get completely out of your comfort zone. Take one day a month off, just for you. Schedule at least one vacation a year, preferably two. And remember No. 1 above — disconnect completely when you’re having fun.

Take action now: Look carefully at the four items above. If you’re already doing one or more of these things, give yourself a pat on the back. Is there one you’re sure you couldn’t possibly do? Start there. Do it for a month, until it becomes a habit you can’t live without. Then move on to the next one. Notice how your mood, your relationships, and your creativity change.

Heed the words of art critic James Huneker: “All men (and women) of action are dreamers.” That could be you.

Joel Garfinkle is available for speaking and training. His most popular program is “Perception, Visibility and Influence: 3 Best Practices to Help Leaders Be More Successful.” He is the author of 300 articles on leadership and seven books, including “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.” More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. Subscribe and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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12 principles of inspiring leadership

This post is an excerpt from “Communicate to Inspire” (February 2014, Kogan Page) by Kevin Murray.

Communicate to Inspire Be yourself better

Authenticity as a leader is crucial. Followers will not commit if they do not trust you and believe that you have integrity. So, even if you are a highly introverted individual, you will have to learn to speak with more passion, talk to your values and stand up more often to speak to your beliefs. Followers must feel your passion and believe that you believe. When you are clear with yourself about the things you really care about, you cannot help but talk to them with passion.

Most leaders have not spent the time articulating those beliefs, yet the ability to draw on and display that passion and commitment, consistently and predictably, counts for more than skills at oratory and communicates more effectively than even the most perfectly crafted words. You have to be true to yourself, but you also have to learn to ‘perform’ yourself better.

Purpose and values

Too often, leaders use financial or numbers-based goals to motivate people. They are more comfortable being rational and objective. Too often, followers say they don’t get out of bed in the morning to achieve financial or other numbers-based objectives. They come to work and want to be inspired by a sense of doing something important, something that makes a difference.

A strong sense of mission can help shape decisions to be made throughout the organization, and is even more empowering when coupled with a set of values that your people know to be true. In this world of radical transparency, values have assumed far greater importance, for many reasons. Values define how people in the organization behave in pursuit of their objectives, and their actions define a business to the outside world. Those intangible values — often dismissed as “soft and fluffy” — translate into actions on the ground, which translate into hard numbers in the books. How the mission and values are expressed is crucial.

Future focus

Every leader I spoke to used the future to drive the present. They knew precisely where they wanted to be in a given timescale, even if they did not know exactly how to get there. They were never satisfied with the status quo, and their restlessness was a tangible force. Every question they asked had to do with how people were progressing to the goals, and they kept those goals under constant review.

They painted a vivid picture of success, often describing the future in both rational terms (the numbers) and emotive terms (how it would feel for all concerned). This bringing together of the rational and the emotional was key to inspiring people. Fusing the future vision (what success will look and feel like) to the purpose (what important thing we are here to do) and to the values (how we do it) was what stirred hearts and minds. This future, though, had to be expressed in benefit terms for all the people with a vested interest in the performance of the organization – customers, shareholders, local communities, suppliers and partners and, most importantly, employees.

Bring the outside in

Leaders have to live outside their organizations, constantly bringing stories of success and failure in external relationships into the organization to keep everyone fixed on what needs to improve. Successful leaders know that relationships are the engines of success; they keep a close eye on the state of all key relationships, and keep their enterprise focused on those relationships as well. You have to set up “quivering antennae,” as one leader described it — a radar system that keeps you in touch with the outside world.

Too often I heard about the “reputation gap” — the difference between the promises the business made and the experience customers or stakeholders actually received. Narrowing that gap, or even managing it away, is the goal if you want to be trusted. And you do want to be trusted. Trust is now the most valuable but most hidden asset on your balance sheet. Leaders are increasingly looking to make trust a strategic goal, measured and managed as preciously as any other key asset.

Engage through conversations

More and more leaders are now measuring levels of employee engagement, and using this measurement as a strategic tool to find the ways to keep people motivated and committed to the cause. Study after study has shown that companies with high levels of engagement among employees outperform their competitors by some margin.

Engagement is achieved through conversations — structured, potent conversations that allow employees to fully understand the big objective and work out with their leaders what they have to do to help achieve the goals. It is in these conversations that the rubber hits the road, where the plan gets traction. Too often, these conversations are neglected, and middle managers are neither trained for nor measured on their ability to hold these critical conversations. Worse, top management doesn’t check on the quality of those conversations, or seek to get feedback from them in a systematic way.


Let us be clear: you have not communicated well if people have not heard you, understood you and felt motivated to think differently and act differently as a result of your words. You may have stood up and talked at them, but communication has only taken place when your words have had an impact. In any enterprise, leadership communication is all about achieving big goals. It is about changing behaviours. People listen from behind their own filters — filters that may be cultural or emotional, or that may be in place because of their unique perceptions or even misunderstandings.

You have to talk to people about their concerns, their issues, before you can be understood on your own. Every leader interviewed for this book, without exception, spoke of the need to be audience-centric in communication, and to recognize that, when it comes to communication, it is all about them. You have to set out to achieve change in how they think, feel and act, but that requires you to know how they think, feel and act now.


Quite often, the people I interviewed treated the subject of listening as if it were somehow distinct from communicating. They rated it an essential skill of leadership, possibly the hardest to perfect. Sometimes the simple act of listening, they said, is an act of inspiration in itself. “You have to give people a damn good listening to.” There is something more fundamental at work here, though, and I call it The Listening Contract — first you have to listen, if you want to be heard.

When you listen and then respond with actions that remove barriers, or pick up on good ideas, you create enormous goodwill and demonstrate you are on their side, particularly when you encourage people to open up and create an environment where people can bring you bad news, express their frustrations and voice their concerns, without fear of repercussions. You have to listen beyond the words into the motives and agendas, into the context, into the performance KPIs and the financial numbers and the mood, and you have to show you understand, even if you don’t agree. You have to ask great questions and learn to unleash your curiosity and interest in people. It really shows.

Point of view

The best leaders have a potent point of view, and it is always the person with the strong point of view who influences the group, who wins the day. As a leader, you are going to have to stand up and give your point of view, time and time again. You will have to take a position on issues, be courageous and stand up for what you believe to be right. Too few leaders think about developing points of view, yet — when well-articulated — they can help you win friends and influence people, and gain a stronger voice in shaping the future.

In a world where people trust the motives, judgement and competence of business leaders less now than just five years ago, shouldn’t we be talking to those issues more often, with more transparency, more conviction and, yes, passion? The ideal point of view should therefore bring together your purpose and your values, highlight your behaviours and draw attention to the benefits of doing things your way. And it should call people to action. Powerful stuff.

Stories and metaphor

Getting people to listen to you is tough enough, but getting them to sit up and take notice, and then remember what you have to say, is a supreme challenge. Every leader uses stories, knowing that we are wired to listen, imaginatively, when we are told stories. Good stories get under the cynical radar and touch hearts. Backed up by facts to cover off the mind, stories have the power to move people.

The best stories tell us about customer experiences, good and bad, or make heroes out of employees delivering the values of the organization, or show up the frustrations of workers unable to do their best because of the system, or vividly portray the future, or reveal aspects of the leader to the audience. They deliberately avoid the tyranny of PowerPoint, and are the more memorable because of it. Some leaders I spoke with were uncomfortable with the word stories and preferred the word anecdotes, saying this was factual rather than fictional as some stories can be. But they all used them, loved hearing them and re-telling them, over and over.


Actions speak louder than words. A cliché, you might say, but nevertheless one of the hardest truths for a leader to grasp. Being a leader means looking, acting, walking and talking like a leader. Countless times, leaders forget that they are in a fishbowl and are being watched all the time. A look of frustration here, a preoccupied walk through an office without speaking to anyone, a frown of frustration when someone is talking — all of these send powerful signals that staff take away and dissect for meaning.

Great leaders communicate positivity and optimism, and they often do it through a smile, or by walking with energy, or by standing straight and tall. Equally, there is nothing more corrosive than the conflict between saying one thing and doing another: for example, saying that bullying is offensive, but then doing nothing about a high-earning bullying manager. That says one thing, and one thing only: money matters more than staff welfare. Leaders who clearly love what they are doing, who show it in everything they do, in every expression, are hugely infectious.

Prepare properly for public platforms

Many leaders have had their reputations dented or even shattered because they have not prepared properly for public speaking. Yet, the more senior leaders get, the more likely it is they will have to appear on highly public platforms. Done well, such appearances can do enormous good and drive up sales or the share price, calm nervous investors or unhappy customers, or persuade talented people to the cause. Proper training or coaching is highly recommended, but is not enough by itself. Practice makes perfect, and rehearsal is the best practice. Never get complacent — it is just not worth the risk.

Learn, rehearse, review, improve

If you strive to be an excellent communicator, you will become a better, more effective leader. This is why all the leaders I spoke with focused on continuous improvement, fuelled by full and frank feedback on each and every performance. Brilliant leadership can be the difference between outstanding performance and disappointing failure. Great leaders steer organizations to success, inspire and motivate followers, and provide a moral compass for employees to set direction. They spearhead change, drive innovation and communicate a compelling vision for the future. The ability to motivate and inspire others is the characteristic most commonly cited as important when recruiting senior leaders. Communication is the tool that enables inspiring leadership. The simple truth is that you have to get better at it.

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12 principles of inspiring leadership originally published by SmartBlogs

Leaders seeking to re-energize don’t need to go it alone

So what do you do when you hit the wall?

Sometimes it is not simply fatigue but symptom of something deeper. You feel that you are lacking in creativity and, as a result, you are not challenging yourself or your team to achieve their best. You need help!

So find a partner — someone you can trust to give you good advice. Here’s how you can make it work. Every leader owes it to him or herself to keep challenged, focused, and energized. A good partner can help.

Click here to view the embedded video.

7 actions that create more effective managers

Leadership, whether good or bad, has a trickle-down effect.

How leaders treat the managers they hire has a direct effect not only on the performance of those managers, but also on the results produced by the employees those managers are trying to nurture.

Handle your managers the right way and they’ll be more effective in their roles, and so will their employees. Neglect them or fail to support them properly, and their performance — and that of their subordinates — will slip.

Here are seven things leaders can do to make sure the managers they hire perform to the best of their abilities:

1. Show your passion

Passion has to flow from the top down. If you don’t display passion for the industry, the company or your job, you can’t expect those working for you to do so either.

Displays of passion can take many forms — e.g., always appearing attentive and energetic during even the most mundane meetings, leading PDAs (public displays of appreciation) for company or co-worker accomplishments, keeping managers in the loop about exciting company developments, etc.

Whatever you do, don’t check your emotions at the door. People need to feed off of your passion.

2. Believe in them

If you don’t believe in members of your management team, they’re in the wrong position. You need to be their No. 1 fan, and let them know it. That doesn’t mean you have to constantly make remarks that inflate their egos. Instead, bestow upon your managers responsibilities that show how much you believe in them.

3. Back up their decisions

Don’t make your managers run every decision by you for approval before revealing it to their teams. If you believe you’ve hired the right people, give them the freedom to make and implement their own decisions. And if you do disagree with something managers do, don’t fight them in front of their staffers. That tells employees their managers aren’t supported and maybe shouldn’t be in a position of power.

4. Have their backs with your boss

Your managers need to know that you’re willing to go to the mat for them. This may mean taking a hit from the CEO when one of them makes a mistake or pushing back on work requests from the top brass when you know they’re overworked.

5. Lighten the mood

Get to know your managers on a personal level. Engage them in the hallways or the lunchroom. Crack jokes and create a more collegial atmosphere.

Establishing a rapport with managers will make life easier for everyone. They’ll feel more comfortable approaching you with problems or concerns, and you’ll have a more effective problem-solving dynamic between yourself and them.

6. Give them a reward budget

You can’t expect your managers to push their staffers to do their best if they’re not empowered to reward top performers. The rewards don’t have to be cash. Let your managers decide what’s best for their employees. But give them something they can use to motivate their teams.

7. Give frequent attaboys/girls

Some leaders think, “The fact that they get to keep their jobs should be enough to let them know they’re doing a good job.”

That doesn’t fly anymore. Today, if managers aren’t told their work is appreciated, they’ll go to a company where they will be. Don’t let a year go by without providing at least some positive feedback to your managers. Shoot to give at least one positive comment per month.

Can’t think of anything positive? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their value to the company.

Bottom line: Management isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it environment — at least not if you want your managers to be effective. To drive your workforce to be its very best, the managers you bring on board need to see and feel support from their organizational leaders.

Christian Schappel is the editor-in-chief of HR Benefits Alert, which is published by Progressive Business Publications to help HR professionals improve the benefits and compensation functions in their organizations. Connect with Schappel on LinkedIn.

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7 actions that create more effective managers originally published by SmartBlogs

Build a culture of economics and inclusion

A Department of Labor report on the glass ceiling noted that “what’s important [in organizations] is comfort, chemistry, and collaboration.”

Chris Argyris, business theorist and professor, says there’s a universal human tendency to organize our lives around remaining in control and winning.

Might these hidden needs be the reason most companies have failed at incorporating diversity as a normal business practice despite all the research that demonstrates its positive impacts on the bottom line?

  • 49% of Fortune 1000 companies have one or no women in their C-suite
  • People of color comprise 36% of the workforce but hold only 4.5% of Fortune 500 CEO positions
  • 46% of people surveyed by Workplace Options believe that diversity makes a company better

Diverse voices and opinions introduce discomfort. Practicing inclusion challenges who is in control. Making diversity a business-as-usual practice requires moving beyond a culture based solely on numbers and economics to creating a workplace where both the bottom line and inclusion are equally valued, measured and rewarded.

Diversity is more than an exercise in numbers. Some companies are statistically diverse yet are not inclusive. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to the leaky pipeline for people of color and women not holding more senior level positions because their presence disrupts comfort, chemistry, and collaboration.

To foster a culture of economics and inclusion:

  • Aim for intentional discomfort. Learn to work with and appreciate the tension alternate points of view bring. Marshall Goldsmith, author and executive coach, advises, “Using tension of diversity as a positive, rather than viewing differences as negative, a well-rounded diverse team will be able to produce valuable brainstorming sessions, imaginative problem-solving and decision making, unique perspectives on strategic planning, and inventive product development ideas.”
  • Make inclusion a participative sport in which all employees play. Move beyond the mindset that diversity is fulfilled by headcount reports. Drop the we’re-all-in-this-together platitudes that aren’t backed up with practice. As Dean Debman, CEO of Workplace Options, points out, “Diversity is an idea that’s often discussed but rarely explained. Business success is dependent on new ideas and alternative ways of thinking. … This fact is precisely why diversity is so valuable, because it brings new perspectives into an organization.”
  • Challenge the organization’s existing culture at every turn, questioning what scientist and author Peter Senge describes as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.”

Effective leaders must toss aside cookie-cutter thinking and practices and be willing to accept tension and disruption as they create workplaces where there’s truly equal opportunity in pursuit of positive business results. “[Diversity} definitely leads to a stronger bottom line,” notes Robin Taub of Robin Taub Financial Consulting. “Return on equity, return on sales, return on capital, share performance, and stock price growth.”

Jane Perdue is a leadership futurist, speaker, writer and founder of Braithwaite Innovation Group. Jane is @thehrgoddess on Twitter and blogs at LeadBIG.

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Build a culture of economics and inclusion originally published by SmartBlogs