Effective communication with your own staff, with potential and existing customers is not just vaguely necessary….it is imperative! And it is imperative that you communicate confidently and effectively. These are the essential traits of a great leader!
Your appearance, your eye contact and your verbal communication are all aspects of ‘you’ as an entrepreneur, a business owner, that go a long way to contributing to your very success in your chosen field! Your appearance, how you dress, and how you carry yourself is a powerful advertisement to both your staff and your customers or clients.
That’s your first line in ‘walking your talk’, dressing both appropriately and professionally, silently conveys to your staff, and the people to whom you supply your products and services, that you take yourself and your business seriously! So, now that you have the recipe for ‘silent’ communication down to a fine art, let’s take a look at the skill necessary to impart your message verbally to all those you deal with, both in-house, and ‘out there’, in your chosen trade.
Stand up and speak
Standing up and speaking in front of an audience is a vital part of being both a leader and running a business. You need to communicate effectively, powerfully and with the confidence expected from somebody in charge, somebody who knows where he or she is going, and somebody who knows where they are taking their business.
There are many skills required in the various aspects to speaking or delivering presentations, and developing these skills will give you the edge to carry out your tasks and empower you with effective tools to market your business!
To start off with, once you have gathered or researched all the information (content) for your speech or presentation, you will need to plan some time aside to prepare the order in which you will communicate the information to your audience.
- Your talk needs an opening, a body, and a close, in other words, you need to firstly give your audience an idea of what you are going to speak about, then in the body of the speech, give them all the interesting details, and then, in the close, sum up what you have told them.
- If you are going to speak with notes, write them out on relatively small hand size cards that you can refer to when necessary. Write your words out neatly and clearly, so that you can see them at a glance, and highlight any words or sentences that you regard as important or that may need emphasis
- You must practice only referring to the cards when necessary. Familiarise yourself with the handling of the cards, read your speech through several times, or as many times as is necessary until you are comfortable with the layout of your information, and practice manoeuvring the cards from the front to the back as you speak.
The difference between an average presentation and a great one is in the delivery. prepare, prepare, prepare. And then practice, practice, practice!
As with most tasks, when talking to a few or more people, you need to be adequately prepared! Know your subject, and know that you know your subject; this will provide you with a necessary bit of confidence! While preparing the content of your talk, make sure that your facts are accurate, and that you have some interesting input that your audience will be interested to hear, something that they can remember, learn from, and take away with them!
Once you have your material ready in front of you, now you can really start to practice your talk. Now you have your material, you now need to work on your delivery, (this is the how of what you are going to say).
Take some time out, lock yourself away, and practice your speech out loud at least a dozen times over. The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain, and the better you will feel. The more effort you put into your preparation, the more impressive the result, so be sure to invest some time and effort here.
Once you have practiced your speech out loud, you need to add a bit of your own style to the talk… Add in a few pauses at appropriate places for effect, for example, after you have stated an interesting fact, simply pause for a few seconds to let your audience digest what you have just said… add in a bit of humour… humour breaks the ice, both for you (the speaker), and for your listeners… keep it clean, and appropriate to both the occasion, and your audience.
Setting the stage
Eye contact is hugely powerful, and a very effective way to connect with your audience. This takes a lot of practice; however, once you get it right, this skill will serve you enormously. Having eye contact with your listeners will convey both your confidence and your sincerity to them!
When members of a multitude of audiences were asked what the one most important quality of a speaker was, the answer was enthusiasm. Be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic while talking, be interesting and show some passion for your subject!
No matter how well prepared you are for your presentation it is perfectly natural to suffer from a bout of nerves! However, don’t think negative thoughts such as ‘I’m so nervous’. Remember that our bodies respond to our thoughts, so rather ‘up’ your positive self talk by saying to yourself, ‘I’m ready and confident to do this!’
If necessary, try some deep breathing exercises to calm you down, this always works for me. Inhale deeply through your nose, make a slow count to ten in your mind, and then exhale slowly and completely through your mouth. Do this exercise three or four times and you’ll feel yourself settling down a bit. Just before you get up to speak, have a few sips of water to remove dryness in your mouth.
Have a glass of water handy should you need it. Remember, when presenting to an audience, it is not about you, it’s about the audience. If you have done a great job of preparing and practicing your talk, and you are giving them great information, (some interesting stuff from which they are going to benefit), then you have succeeded in doing your bit!
Practice makes perfect
Remember how challenging it was the first time you attempted to drive a car? It does get easier with practice, and the more you practice and apply some effort, the more adept you will become at speaking in front of an audience. Put in the time, put in the effort, and know that in time, you will stand out amongst your peers with what will be regarded as a highly admirable skill!
What A Grade 1 Sticker Business Taught Me About Business
It’s the very fundamentals that are frequently overlooked amid ambition and “blue sky thinking” – yet, these remain the most crucial element of any business.
When I was a kid, my father believed that instead of getting pocket money, my brothers and I should learn how to make money. Stickers were the school craze when I was in Grade 1, and we wanted a collection for ourselves, so Dad said if we wanted to buy the stickers, we needed to make the money. So, logically, we started a sticker trading business. Dad gave us the start-up money and took us through the basics of business.
We had a cash float for purchases, and learnt about cost price, mark-up and selling price – very basic accounting. We kept recycling that money, making extra and using it to buy more stickers. Then we worked out that if we increased the mark-up, we’d make a bigger profit – so why not make the mark-up as big as possible? The obvious happened. Our prices were too high, and we lost customers.
Valuable business lesson learnt, we came back down to a mark-up that other kids were willing to pay for.
More lessons to learn
Then people came to us and asked if they could take a sticker today and pay us tomorrow. We saw no reason not to trust them. Guess what? They didn’t pay us back. We had bad debt on our hands. When we sold out of stickers, we had cash-flow issues and couldn’t buy more stock. Dad was there to help us out, though, so we received another capital injection to get back off the ground. And this time, if we did extend credit, we loaded it for the privilege of “buy now, pay later” – another lesson learnt.
We ran a proper ledger for the business, tracking our inventory, sales and profit. Even if our “bank” account was a piggy bank, we had a clear record of what was going on. When I look back on it, none of what I learnt was irrelevant.
Today, I run a leading financial services company with billions of rand running through our bank accounts. Even though the finances of the business are run on a much larger scale, the principles of business – those basic principles that we learnt trading stickers – still power our company. And when I see entrepreneurial ventures failing, or when friends come to me for advice because their business is struggling, it’s almost always because they haven’t got these basics right.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that if you don’t fully understand how the money is being made, walk away. Whether you are dealing with stickers or financial services, the business principles should be straightforward: money coming in, money going out, and profitability.
Every day, I look at an Excel statement of my company’s forty bank accounts. Every day, I look at the cashflow, and unusual big-ticket items get a note so I know what’s going on. It’s just like that Grade 1 business, only on a bigger scale.
Once the other kids saw the success of our sticker business, they started to want to get in on the action, so they came to market with their own competing products. At first, we were able to innovate as the competition squeezed our margins and started to impact on our profits. Eventually, the whole situation got completely out of hand and the school banned sticker trading for profit.
While I didn’t become a sticker magnate, the lessons I learnt in Grade 1 remain central to every business I am involved with – get the basics right.
How To Handle A Director Who Always Says No
Diverse opinions on a board is a good thing — but is it boosting your business, or hindering growth and decisions?
Do you have that director on your board who always says ‘no’? Regardless of what the issue is, regardless of the context, who raises it or whether or not it is indeed a good idea, their response is either a simple ‘no’ or an elongated perspective on why they disagree? It can even feel at times that they are actively working against the company and against the board. Although they obviously do not see it that way.
Experienced directors will have multiple war stories related to this subject. Aspiring directors should be aware of how to approach these situations when they arise and how to avoid becoming the subject of such stories.
Develop a culture of trust, candour and professionalism
A board’s conduct must be characterised by trust, respect, candour, professionalism, accountability, diligence and commitment. It is the board’s collective responsibility to build this culture and to engage with one another in a productive and effective way.
Dissent should be welcomed when it is constructive and engaging. The idea of being the ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sake of it however, is not the best way to approach this. Dissent should be based on a real belief that the issue has not been fully debated or creates a real challenge for the company going forward.
If you have a director who genuinely believes a different path is right for the company, hear them out and engage in the discussion. In my experience, this often opens up an issue or changes a detail that when taken as part of the whole, improves the decision-making outcome for the board and the company.
Related: Contributing In The Boardroom
Remove the politics from the boardroom
At the heart of this issue is often politics. Politics between directors, who are also shareholders or executives. Politics between the ‘new guard’ and the ‘old.’ Regardless of the genesis, politics really do not have a place in the boardroom and directors who engage in it should be called out by the chairman or another senior director.
In local government I have heard stories of councillors who always vote ‘no,’ so that whenever something goes wrong, they can say “I told you so,” and show the public why they should be re-elected. But that is indeed politics. The boardroom is a very different space. It is private and discussions should be confidential.
Board rotation, a simple solution
While the removal of an errant director should never just be left to resolve itself, there is a simple solution that can support the easy removal of the most difficult directors. The challenge is that it requires forward planning prior to the appointment of any new director.
Directors should only ever be appointed for a predefined term, with automatic rotation at the end of that term. This does not stop you from reappointing a director for a further period. It is, however, always easier to ask someone to consider a further term than it is to tell them that their time has come and they should resign from the board.
Having a predefined term for a director essentially ensures an automatic resignation period. A simple rotation policy for directors is not just good governance, it is a practical step you can take to provide a way out of a sticky relationship.
Ultimately the board as a whole must address issues that detract from the board fulfilling its function as and when they arise. A rotation policy might provide an effective backstop. A high-performance board is one that will tackle the issue head-on.
Read next: How Diversity Drives Board Performance
The Power Pose: Using Body Language To Lead
Use the way you move and stand and interact with others to become a better entrepreneur and leader.
In 2012, the power pose became a global sensation. A Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy hit a staggering 46 million views and became the second most popular Ted Talk in history. The premise was simple – hold a powerful pose and it will not only affect the way you behave but it will even change your body chemistry. Since the talk, the power pose has met with heavy criticism and been labelled as nothing more than pseudoscience. Fortunately for believers, they were proven right. Amy Cuddy released further research this year and it fundamentally proves that this bold stance works exactly how she said it did back in 2012.
The power pose isn’t something that you’d adopt in a meeting or around the office but the science behind it shows how important it is to pay attention to your body language as it can fundamentally change how you are perceived.
Notice how you are noticed
People spend a lot of time reading one another’s body language and the way a person stands or holds their hands or moves can influence how others see them. It’s very natural to judge someone else’s posture, but what about the way they are judging yours? Few people look at how their body language is affecting the way people engage with them.
So, what are you supposed to do?
Fake it until you make it
Want to know how can you adapt to become a better leader? You can fake it.
The power pose isn’t the only way to change your mood. Research has shown that whether you laugh naturally or put on a smile and make yourself laugh, your body still releases the same levels of serotonin.
Whether you are really laughing or just pretending to laugh doesn’t matter – they both have the same impact on your demeanour.
Change how others see you
Think about the pose that every athlete adopts when they win a race or achieve something that’s been physically taxing. They hold their hands outstretched in the air. Even blind athletes hold the same pose. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s a physical manifestation of success.
Now consider the defensive pose. The tight hunched shoulders or inward curve of the spine. These poses immediately make a person look nervous, afraid and lacking in confidence. Like the porcupine curling in on itself for protection.
The same ideas apply to daily business life. While the power pose and the athlete pose are not necessarily a team activity, ensuring that you hold your body upright and with confidence means that you’re conveying an attitude of strength. You come across as confident and capable and positive. You are ready to take on anything and overcome the odds.
By contrast, if you are hunched and withdrawn, you come across as nervous and lacking in confidence and these are not the qualities you want associated with you as an entrepreneur and a leader.
Body language for entrepreneurs
- Shake hands like a hero. The way you shake hands with someone is very significant in terms of establishing equality. Be even, be firm but don’t pull people towards you or turn their hands under your own. This makes them feel like you are trying to establish dominance.
- Create an atmosphere of openness. Maintain eye contact, say hello to people with warmth while holding a strong posture. A warm and open greeting is essential to establishing trust.
- Do the power pose for two minutes before any meeting or interview. This will get those chemicals stirring and make you feel confident and in charge.
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