Tongue Fu!® How to Lead and Influence with Respect

Thanks to ChosunBiz – South Korea’s largest newspaper – for interviewing me for a cover story. Thought you might enjoy highlights from our interview with these Tongue Fu! tips on how to lead and influence with respect … because everyone wants, needs and deserves to be treated with respect.

1.   What is the core of new elements for 21st Century leadership?

We are no longer in the information age; we are in the connection age. Information is no longer enough to earn people’s attention and respect. If what we’re trying to communicate isn’t connecting, we’re wasting everyone’s time.

This is different from the 20th-century charismatic leadership because that was based on “I am the boss, you have to listen to me. I’m  senior to you, you must pay attention and do what I say.”

Journalist Eleanor Clift says, ‘We’re all in a race to be relevant. ” In today’s short-attention-span world of INFObesity, if we don’t make what we’re saying personally relevant to whoever we’re trying to connect with; they will ignore us and nothing will get done.

2.  How can leaders express their empathy when talking to employees?

First, ask themselves before they say anything, “How would I feel if this was happening to me? How would it feel to be on the receiving end of this message?”

Those four words “How would I feel ” are the quickest way to understand – and empathize with – what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

Second, by prefacing what you say with “.” and then inserting how you anticipate the employee is feeling.

For  example, ” I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to find out we’re going to have to start from scratch after you’ve spent several weeks on this.”

Or “I can only imagine how tired you must be after putting in a 10 hour day yesterday, so please know how much I appreciate you staying late again to get this project finished.”

3. How can CEO’s make other people feel comfortable and empowered when they’re talking?

SIT DOWN. As long as you are standing up and other people are seated, your body language is reinforcing that you are in the superior position and they are in the inferior position. It seems like you’re  towering over them. It diminishes them, makes them feel small and makes them feel you’re the teacher and they’re the students. This perpetuates the “I’m in control, you’re not” leadership style.

When you sit down, you level the playing field. It’s a way of saying, “We are on equal ground, we can see things eye to eye. It encourages people to speak up because they feel you are one of them instead of above them.”

Next, say “In the past …” For example, “in the past, you may have felt your opinion didn’t matter.”

“In the past, employees may have been punished for sharing honest feedback that appeared to be critical.”

Then,  bridge with “and now…”

“And now, we welcome your honest input because we rather know what’s not working so we can fix it.”

“And now, we encourage you to point out what we can do better because we want our company to be more productive and profitable.”

4.   How can senior CEOs overcome the generation gap and connect with younger employees?

First, make young people the expert. Give Millennials an opportunity to showcase and share what they know, what they’re good at.

For example, say “Our organization wants to be even more relevant to millennials. As a 20-something, we welcome your suggestions on how we can describe our products and services in ways that make them more appealing to your friends. What are your recommendations on how we can do that?”

Or, ask for advice on how to leverage social media and new tech devices.

Say, “We know we could do a better job being more current and staying up-to-date with all things digital. What do you think we could be doing to reach more young people with apps,  Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other popular online options?”

5.  How can young CEOs and leaders communicate better with older managers?

First, take notes.

Young people are often quick thinkers who tend to get impatient when older managers start talking about “In the old days…”  or “How we used to do this …”

Carry a notepad with you and jot down what people are saying. Instead of getting distracted, interrupting or cutting them off, it helps you stay focused on what they’re saying.

When they’re finished talking, paraphrase what they said from your notes. This shows respect and that you really heard them.

Then,  move the conversation to what can be done about the situation.

Resist the urge to check a digital device (a laptop, iPad or smartphone) when older people are talking. Put it face down on a nearby surface or turn away from your laptop and LOOK at the person speaking.

Don’t even glance at your smartphone if it pings. Non-digital natives will never believe you’re listening if you’re checking your digital device. They feel disrespected.

6.  What kind of TONGUE FU!® or INTRIGUE skills can be used to earn people’s respect and favorable attention in the following situations?

A) Town hall:

Address the time.   Anxiety is defined in two words – not knowing. If people don’t know how long you’re going to talk, they’re not listening, they’re in a state of resentful anxiety.

For example, say, “I know it’s 7 PM on a weeknight and you’ve already put in a long day and many of you have children waiting for you at home… so we’re going to keep this town hall meeting to 45 minutes so you can all get back to your families at a reasonable hour.”

Or, if this is a controversial issue, address the elephant in the room.

Say, “We know this is a highly charged issue and people have strong feelings. So, to make sure the discussion stays pro-active and everyone has an opportunity to speak, we are going to follow these ground rules.”

B) a meeting with managers when you want the truth.

Be straightforward that you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth – even if it’s not good news.

Say, “I can only imagine you might be reluctant to tell us what’s not working because you wonder if you’ll be blamed for it. Our priority here is not to find fault, it is to find solutions. We ask you to please share your honest assessment of what’s undermining our effectiveness. We can’t fix what’s wrong if we don’t know what’s wrong. Thank you in advance for giving us the truth even if it’s not pretty. We will all be better for it.”

You’re welcome to share these questions/answers with your team at your next staff meeting.  Hope it catalyzes an important conversation about how to earn people’s attention and cooperation by influencing with respect.

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Want to share these Tongue Fu!® and INTRIGUE leadership approaches with your group?  Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to keynote your convention or company meeting. Discover for yourself why her inspiring presentations receive raves from such clients as Boeing, Cisco, Intel, Four Seasons, Capital One and National Geographic,  Also,  check out her TEDx talk on Intrigue and Influence with Respect – and her books Tongue Fu!® POP! and Washington Post Bestseller Got Your Attention?

Down with Elevator Speeches

“Enough about me.  What do you think about me?” – Bette Midler in the movie Beaches

While speaking at an INC 500 event, I introduced a new approach for replacing elevator SPEECHES with elevator CONNECTIONS.

sam tedx image

An entrepreneur named Colleen raised her hand and said, “I can’t figure out how to do this for my business.”

I asked what she normally said when meeting people. She started explaining her job, using technical terms like magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. None of us had any idea what she did.

I asked, “Want to brainstorm a better way to answer the ‘What do you do?’ question.”  She said a heartfelt “YES.”

“Okay, from now on, instead of EXPLAINING what you do (which is kind of like trying to explain electricity), focus on the real-world results of what you do that people can see or may have experienced.  What are those?“

She said, “Hmm.  Well, I run medical facilities that offer MRI’s and CT scans.”

“That’s better already because we can mentally picture what you’re talking about. It’s no longer conceptual or highly technical.  Plus, we probably know someone who has had an MRI or CT scan so now we can relate to it.

But don’t stop there. If you TELL people what you do, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation. We don’t want to CLOSE conversations, we want to OPEN conversations. You can do by asking a three-person question.”

“What’s this about a three-person question?”

“If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever had an MRI?’ and this person hasn’t, the conversation comes to an awkward dead-end. If you ask, ‘‘Have you, a friend, or a family member ever had an MRI?’ you just increased the likelihood they’ll know someone who is familiar with what you and your organization offers.”

“Okay, what next?” 

“You LISTEN.  Imagine the person says, ‘Yeah, my daughter hurt her knee playing soccer. She had an MRI.’ Just link what you do to what they just said. ‘Oh, I run the medical facilities that offer MRI’s … like the one your daughter had when she hurt her knee playing soccer.’

They’ll probably say an intrigued “Aaahh.” which is a lot better than an apathetic “Oh” or a confused “huh?” It means they GET what you do which means they’re more likely to remember you. As a bonus, if they ever need what you do, they’re more likely to contact you because people like to do business with people they know and like.”

She said, “Why is it so important to use the same words they used? I don’t want to parrot them.”

“Good point. I’m not suggesting we repeat what they said word for word. I’m suggesting we use a few of the same words because common language is what connects two strangers who, a moment ago, didn’t know if they had anything in common.”

She thanked me, sighed and said, “I wish someone had taught me this years ago.  I can’t wait to get back to work and share this with my staff.”

How about you?  What do YOU say when people ask, “What do you do?” What do your employees and team members say?

Think about it. Whether we like it or not, wherever we go, the people we meet will ask “What do you do?” And what we say MATTERS.  

That CEO’s inability to answer that question at the INC 500 conference could have meant millions of dollars in lost opportunity costs. She was surrounded by highly successful entrepreneurs, all in a position to partner with her, refer business to her or use her services. But that wasn’t going to happen because they didn’t know what she did – which meant they didn’t value it and wouldn’t remember it. 

Many people tell me they hate this question, for a variety of reasons. They don’t know how to answer it. They feel it pigeon-holes them and they don’t want to be defined by their job. They’re out of work. Or, they don’t have a position or profession people respect. Some tell me they dread “networking” because it means being subjected to a series of long-winded, boring, confusing elevator speeches.

I tell them, it can be helpful to realize that when people ask “What do you do?”, they’re not really trying to find out what you do; they’re trying to connect. They’re trying to identify what you have in common you both care about so they have a hook on which to hang a mutually-interesting conversation.

Which is why it’s so important to stop TELLING people what you do. An elevator speech is a monologue delivered in the presence of witnesses. A scripted, rehearsed-to-death elevator speech borders on being offensive because it’s a one-way lecture.

Elevator Speech

Instead, next time someone asks what you do, you might want to say, “I’d be happy to talk about what I do, and first may I find out more about you?” By giving other people an opportunity to go first, you’ve not only set a precedent that you’re genuinely interested in them and it’s not going to be “me, me, me;”  you’re sure to discover something relevant you can use to customize your opening so it reflects and integrates what you already know about them.  

When it’s your turn, remember, instead of launching into an explanation, ASK a three-person question that gives the other person an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – have experienced or benefitted from what you do.

Truly listen to their response, and then link what you do to what they just said.

Voila.  You’ve just created a two-way conversation (dialogue vs. a monologue) that is a lot more likely to lead to a mutually-meaningful CONNECTION.  Furthermore, you’re also acting as an eloquent ambassador for your profession because the people you meet will have new-found appreciation for the work you do and the positive difference it makes for so many.

Want to see how this is done?  Watch this TEDx talk and share it at your next staff meeting. Be sure to have paper and pen or your laptop ready so you can take notes on how to adapt this approach to upcoming, real-life situations.

The first example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce your idea or organization in a business setting where you’re trying to win buy-in, support, a green light or funding from decision-makers. The difference is,  by ASKING (a dialogue) instead of TELLING or SELLING (a monologue); you’re genuinely engaging people instead of lecturing them with INFObesity.

The second example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce yourself at networking events or conferences when you’re meeting people for the first time.

Hope you find this approach and short video useful, and they help you genuinely enjoy meeting people and create more mutually-rewarding connections that benefit all involved. 

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Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create intriguing respectful, collaborative communications and projects that scale their influence – for good. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu! ConZentrate and Sam Horn’s Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone – has been featured in New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes and on NPR.  Her inspiring, interactive presentations receive raves from Intel, Cisco, NASA, National Geographic and Capital One. Contact Cheri Grimm at 805 528-4351if you’d like to arrange for Sam to speak at your convention or train your team.