Talk Like a Leader

08.01.2021 |

Episode #3 of the course How to lead in tough times by Frank McKinley


Studies tell us people would rather die than give a speech.

You might think public speaking is standing behind a lectern to give a prepared message. It is, but it’s more. You use the same skills when you have hard conversations. Tough leaders master these skills so they can be ready at any moment to lead people forward.


Basic Public Speaking Skills

Effective speakers master the essentials.

Eye contact: If you don’t look people in the eye, they assume you’re hiding something—an ulterior motive, animosity, or a hidden agenda. You build trust with your eyes, so use them to connect when you talk.

Structure: Even if you don’t know what to say, knowing how to say it helps. The MORe formula is easy, and you can use it anytime:

1. Make your point.

2. Offer 3 reasons or supports.

3. Recap.

Here’s an example:

“I believe we should verify our work. First, it prevents errors on finished orders. Second, it provides a learning opportunity for the handlers to correct themselves. And third, it’s the responsible thing to do. That’s why I believe verification is essential to our success.”

Voice: Make sure you speak loud enough. Enunciate so you don’t have to repeat. Add variety so you don’t sound dull.

Don’t overdo it, either.


How Tough Leaders Talk

There are seven ways tough leaders lead with their words. You can remember them with the acrostic CHARMS.

Credit: Give credit to those who deserve it. Praise lifts people to new heights. Use it to bring out the most in your team. Make it sincere because hollow praise is no better than a plane about to crash into a mountain.

Help: Don’t run from hard things. You may need to take a moment to figure it out first. Your team is depending on you for answers. If you don’t have one at the moment, say so. But keep your promise to follow up. Finishing counts, even if you run slow.

Ask: Don’t assume people understand. Ask them. Recap. Break down the complicated into bite-size chunks. When people understand, they can move. When they’re confused, they do nothing—or worse, the wrong thing.

Ready: Don’t wait. Problems fester when you don’t address them. If you want to keep people on track, adjust as you go. Imperfect movement is better than perfect inaction.

Meet: Talk to the right people. Don’t talk behind their backs. Don’t talk to their coworkers. Talk to the person you need to, face to face. Don’t make it personal. Avoid statements like always and never. Be specific. Your job is to maximize your players, not abuse them.

Sugar-free: Be direct. Don’t sugarcoat or beat around the bush. If it’s harsh, be brief, and get to the point. Then move forward together.


Now It’s Your Turn

What’s the most challenging conversation you’ll have this week?

1. Identify who you need to talk to.

2. Plan what to say beforehand.

3. Consider their responses and plan how you’ll respond.

If it’s unpleasant, keep it brief. Your goal is to move forward, press through difficulty, and put away anything that can derail you later.

Planning ahead will ensure you spend your time wisely.

Next time we’ll get you ready to argue—and win—when you need to. See you then!


Recommended book

Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say–and What You Don’t by David Marquet


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