5 Easy Steps to Virtual Influence

5 tips to help you gain more influence in virtual meetings.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the Leadership Coach. It won’t surprise anyone to know that, as for many others, the business model of my organisation has had to change radically in response to the pandemic. It takes up a lot of time!

Everything’s changed

I’m not the only one for whom this has been the most challenging period of their career. The myriad obstacles that we’ve had to respond to, many of which have no precedence have made it a sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating experience.

As we now move away from the original crisis response and shape our businesses for the new and evolving normal, it can often seem like we know nothing. No sooner have we overcome one challenge but another rears its head. 

Much is Still the Same

And yet…throughout this whole process, some things have remained the same even though we are doing them in very different ways. Most importantly we are still having to communicate. The medium might have changed but effectively showing up in front of stakeholders is as important now as it ever was. In fact, given so many businesses are having to fundamentally change their offer, it’s probably more important.

So what is the same, if the way we communicate with people is so different? 

Simply put, it’s the need to influence and persuade. The irony that I’m witnessing is that, despite certain small efforts that we can take to make the experience of meeting us virtually so much more powerful and engaging for stakeholders, many people just don’t do it. The reason for this is that we’ve all been thrust into virtual/digital/remote communications without any real training or awareness of what makes the experience better for people.

I suggest a handful of things below that will immeasurably improve your ability to persuade and influence others, without even thinking about the actual content of your conversation.

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Make Pace, Not War

Leaders Battle with Time

Having spent the last week training with senior leaders in a professional services firm, one of the clearest things they lack is time. Keeping the group focussed on our work while they tend to the needs of their clients and teams can be a frustrating challenge but there simply aren’t enough minutes in the hour for them to do their job. I sympathise with them because after an intensive nine-hour day in the training room, they then have hours of work to catch up on before joining us again the following morning.

It’s an impossible equation. How can leaders make enough time for all of the elements of their life, personal and professional, without feeling like they are failing in one or the other? In my experience, work always wins.

This most recent programme ended with presentations and vision statements for the future. One of the starkest things to emerge from this, though, was when they took more time, the message they were trying to deliver landed more powerfully and more clearly. Further than that, the sense of ownership they had over the message was far more keenly felt by the audience. For many of the group, this was a revelation.

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Every Story Needs a Teller

Eight top tips for storytelling to make sure you keep your audience engaged.

Consuming stories is something we are programmed to do as humans. From the first cave paintings, to the Homeric word of mouth tales, to the written word, to recorded media, we can’t get enough of a good yarn. What are the top tips for storytelling?

As I talked about in my last post, stories help us understand the world around us and are a primary mode of communication. We just love stories.

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The power of story

What are the key components of a good business story? How do you tell the story in a way that connects to your audience?

Stories, stories, stories

It’s almost a becoming a cliché that people need to tell stories at work. In the last five or so years it seems that everyone is asking for storytelling training in the hope that, somehow, it will make everything more interesting and no one need experience death by PowerPoint ever again. But what do we mean by storytelling and are people even asking for the same thing when they use that term?

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The Politics of Space

The way we sit should say ‘I’m ready’. Readiness means we can respond from a confident and assertive place and maximise our personal impact.

If you live in Britain at the moment it’s completely impossible to escape the turmoil of Brexit. It’s become a national obsession and regardless of which side of the camp you sit on, the crisis unfolding is frustrating and embarrassing to witness.

Last week was an extraordinary week of news and yet it’s amazing what manages to capture the national attention. One of the biggest talking points wasn’t a matter of policy, it wasn’t arguments about the proroguing of the UK Parliament, it wasn’t even about whether you support leave or remain: it was about body language. Specifically that the way we sit should say ‘I’m ready‘. Readiness means we can respond from a confident and assertive place and maximise our personal impact.

This is great news for me as it exemplifies the power of non-verbal communication and how aware we need to be of the messages we broadcast.

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How to Communicate

Ten tips to help you communicate with greater effectiveness, confidence and clarity. Use these skills to help you in almost any context.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “how to”-style article and I thought it might be helpful to have a quick look at some tools that can help with one of the most challenging part of anyone’s job. The title is of course tongue in cheek but there are small things we can do that will make a transformative difference. Things no one told Phil Davison in the video above. Don’t be Phil.

It’s funny, as sophisticated communication is the one gift humans have that surges us far beyond all other intelligent life; yet it is the cause of so much confusion and uncertainty in both our professional and personal lives.

As an actor, I love communication. Like anyone, I don’t always get it right but when I was 17, performing in a Shakespeare lead for the first time at school, I discovered that the relationship between me and the audience was one I inherently understood. I felt powerful in that space. I had found where I belonged. My journey to Coach has been a long and winding one (politics degree, actor training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, professional actor, professional theatre director, coach, business leader) and I am passionate about sharing the thrill I felt as that 17 year old with others. I hope I can help them, if not love the dynamic created when speaking to an audience, to at least approach it without fear or trepidation.

So here are 10 perspectives on successful communication. Where I’ve italicised I am referring to a skill or technique to implement.

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Work hard, work harder

The leadership demands on people transitioning into senior roles are considerable. Resilience and stakeholder management are often key to a successful transition.

Moving into Leadership

I’ve been working with a lot of professional services firms recently and have been struck by the leadership demands being made on people transitioning into very senior roles. Particularly those making partner.

The step up to partner is a huge one and the pressure people are under is immense.

Getting to partner means you’ve been a superstar on your way up. When you get there, however, you move from being at the top of the tree, to being back at the bottom. Like the new kid at big school, you are now having to fight for yourself as the buck now quite literally stops with you.

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Strategy is Rehearsal

Strategy as Rehearsal

I coached someone today who has a personally very important speech to deliver and wanted to get it as right as possible.

As I listened to him speak I was struck by the demonstration of leadership that he was embodying in both what he said and how he said it. For me, it also was a brilliant example of how to solve the strategy/execution conundrum that is the source of so much leadership scholarship.

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Your noticing has been served

Physician, heal thyself

I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself, professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable task of being my coach.

Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task. I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing the sensations provoked by the experience.

Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.

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It’s the Story, Stupid

Storytelling is at the heart of learning for many organisations. A story well done will inspire and connect your people.

I work at a world leading drama school and as you would expect, it’s an institution full of stories. Which is lucky, as for some time now, storytelling has been at the forefront of countless organisations’ learning needs.

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