What holds you back?

Is it fear? You might be afraid to embrace new technology, because you’re set in the old ways. Or maybe it’s uncertainty; uncertainty that you can handle the challenges ahead, or that the direction you’re heading is the right one.

I understand that. 

Arianna Huffington puts it well:

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

In my presentations, I emphasize to audiences that all change will be preceded by a mindset shift. Consider that all the results you are getting now are because of your current thinking. If you want to improve outcomes and get the results you deserve, you have to begin with a mindset shift. 

First, before we tackle how to overcome fear, we should park for a second to define it. Fear is one of those words we toss around flippantly, but what does it really mean?

Fear is a reaction to a threat. Now, of course, if you see a bear in your yard one night and it starts sprinting toward you, we understand that sort of primal, fight or flight fear; “I need to run if I want to see tomorrow.” Another way to look at fear is in a more abstract way. Do you fear the unknown? It’s not that you know there is a bear in your yard, but what if you saw a story about it on the news one morning, and then had to go outside while it’s still dark? You may be afraid because you perceive a threat, even if one isn’t there. 

So, sometimes, when we think about starting new things, or embracing new technology, fear can set in. We’re not afraid of laptops or smartphones, but rather we are (or were) uncomfortable with the unknown. It’s not a defect, it’s human nature.

Does this mean we just live with fear, and have no recourse in overcoming it? No!

There are plenty of solutions to overcome fear. 

The first step is really just understanding it. What is it that leaves you uneasy? Uncertainty plays a big role in fear, just because we do not know the outcome of something we’ve yet to try. But taking time to consider the path you’ve chosen, the tools you’re using and how they differ from what you have now is important. In all things, it is better to analyze and consider the environment and how best to proceed. You don’t get any points for being the first one in, and in the last section we discussed how only a small number of the population are innovators. Taking time to survey the landscape will pay dividends before you invest everything in a risky idea.

Here’s another idea: Learn from others. While other people try new technology, pay attention to the results. Ask your peers and others in the same space as you what they’re using, and how they are seeing either success or difficulties with adapting to new technology.

One example of this is the cloud. At first, it may have seemed daunting to consider having all of your important files online and off your hard drive. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive make it easy for us to clean up the icons from our desktop, but it can still cause concern when you don’t see important documents right in front of you and safely stored in your folders. 

But here is a chance for us to implement another tip: Practice. Just the other day, I gave a presentation and workshop to an association of nurses. Right as I was set to begin my slideshow, the file didn’t work. I panicked, for a moment, but then remembered that I had prepared for this exact problem. When I present, I always have a copy of the presentation on Google Drive, my laptop and on a flash drive. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. 

There, too, is another way to embrace change. Just because you are adapting to new technology, it doesn’t mean you have to discard all of the old ways. In fact, it’s better to ease into new things while you still have firm footing in the processes that make you comfortable. You can learn new, exciting ways to lead through technological innovations without betting the farm on a new process that isn’t tried and true.

As a leader, you may encourage the adoption of new material, but you might not be the one using it every day. It is important to listen to those who work around you to ensure they are making progress with new tech, and that their concerns are heard and addressed. It isn’t enough to buy new software and tell your team to figure it out; leaders are available to their teams and willing to lend an ear to correct course if needed.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

We understand what fear is now, and that there are a few things to keep in mind when moving forward with new technology. But how exactly can we conquer fear?Psychology Today has a great list of four steps to build confidence and conquer your fears, written by Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.:

1 – Let the Movie Play Out

In this tip, Hendriksen suggests that we consider the implications of an action. What happens if you do x or y? Our mind tends to fixate on the worst possible outcome, and that’s natural. But if you continue “watching the movie,” what is the end? If you can look past the immediate obstacles, and play it out in your mind, you will often find that the results really aren’t as bad as you thought. It’s all about getting over the hump of doubt.

2 – Find the Will

This is all about mindset, which I cover at length in my last book, Unleashing Your Superpower. If you see yourself overcoming a challenge or fear, and know you can do it, half the battle is already won.

3 – Write it Down, then Prove it Wrong

Write what you’re afraid of, rebut the fear, consider all the options. You’ll see you’re stronger than the fear holding you back.

4 – Break Your Fear into Snack-Sized Pieces

As I said in #2, it’s about mindset. A lot of issues arise just because a topic seems too big to tackle, but breaking it down into smaller sizes makes even the largest burden manageable. With these in mind, take a quick analysis of yourself and the problem you face:

  1. What’s the best that could happen?
  2. What’s the worst that could happen?
  3. Could you live with the worst that could happen with the possibility of the best that could happen?

If the answer to number three is yes, then it’s time to move. Your mind is holding you back.

So, now that we have the tools needed to move things forward, fear and uncertainty won’t hold you back.

This is the first post in a series this month covering the use of technological innovation in persuasion and leadership.

Perhaps no president is as well-known in popular culture as John F. Kennedy. Though he is remembered, perhaps primarily, because of his untimely death at the hand of an assassin, his rise to the highest office is a fascinating look into the evolution of communication in the 20thcentury.

Kennedy was the son of Joseph Kennedy, a well-to-do member of the political elite. Joe Kennedy served the FDR Administration in various roles; his extensive connections along with successful business ventures laid the groundwork for a political dynasty spearheaded by his son John, the future president.

JFK served the nation in World War II before returning to Massachusetts, seeking election to the House of Representatives. After serving in the House, JFK moved to the upper house and secured election to the United States Senate. He served one full term, winning re-election to a second term. But the second term was interrupted by the 1960 presidential race.

Richard Nixon served as Vice President to Dwight Eisenhower for eight years. In 1960, he was ready to move into the Oval Office. As the Republican nominee for the presidency, Nixon was matched against a relatively young candidate from the Democrats: John F. Kennedy. Throughout the course of the campaign, polls had the two in a dead heat. 

In 1960, about 90% of households in the United States had a television. Though the large units were practically ubiquitous, never before had the two major party candidates debated live on television. Since the Nixon-Kennedy election, multiple television debates, including within party primaries, are the norm and a matter of course. The 1960 election marked an inflection point in the use of technology that is perhaps only paralleled by the internet in recent years.

Both Kennedy and Nixon were adept debaters in their own rights; the key difference, though, was Kennedy’s acumen for television. While Nixon was classically skilled, and a force in traditional debates, television as a medium required a different approach. While Kennedy looked directly into the cameras, and thus the viewers, Nixon would vary his gaze, looking at reporters in the studio and away from the cameras. In person, Nixon’s approach made sense, but over television he came across as shifty and uncomfortable.

And maybe he was. Nixon had suffered an injury weeks before that led to infection, and he was rather ill during the filming of the debate. Moreover, he had an uncommonly prominent five o’clock shadow that his team attempted to hide through makeup, but that only caused Nixon to sweat and appear discomfited. Ironically, Kennedy was also ill; plagued by various ailments his entire life, JFK was medicated to deal with Addison’s Disease. While he appeared tan and relaxed on screen, some speculate that the disease actually gave him the bronze hue. Regardless of the causes, the two men could not have looked more different on screen.

The import of the televised debates for Kennedy was clear: while radio listeners split, or even leaned toward Nixon, those who viewed the debates on television went overwhelmingly for Kennedy. In an election polling within the margin of error, every vote would matter. Prior to the first debate, Nixon led the polls by a single point, 47-46. After the fourth and final debate, Kennedy had pulled ahead by 3 points, 49-46. Kennedy would go on to win the election in November, with the popular vote decided 49.7-49.5; many historians attribute Kennedy’s narrow victory to the debates. 

Of approximately 4 million undecided voters, more than 3 million ultimately voted for Kennedy. What’s more, half of all voters polled nationwide said they were influenced by the debates, and 6% of those polled claimed the debates alone were the deciding factor. 

Reacting to Nixon’s appearance in the first debate, Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley reportedly said, “My God, they’ve embalmed he even died.” Other Chicago institutions were equally stunned. The Chicago Daily News ran a headline reading “Was Nixon Sabotaged by TV Makeup Artists?” It was that bad.

On the other hand, the young JFK was able to project cool confidence on the screen. By knowing the medium well and understanding the implications of a live debate on television, he was able to capture the moment away from Nixon and propel his candidacy forward. It also marked the turning point for presidential elections, with JFK leading the way for every major presidential aspirant since to appear in televised debates. The precedent has been followed since 1960, and many a candidate has soared and sunk because of their debate performance.

In this series, we’ll look at how important technology is for leaders trying to persuade. The next few posts will cover Who Adopts Early and Who Doesn’t, Fear and Uncertainty, and The Value of Technology.

In seeking to persuade others, it’s important to make a plan before you jump write in. If you’ve ever needed to deliver a speech off the cuff, I’m sure you’ve run into trouble. Without forethought, we often fail to package our speeches in the best possible way, and that’s ok. But when we know we will be speaking ahead of time, and can prepare, it makes all the difference. Keep reading below to find a few helpful tips on public speaking.

One of the best places to start is Monroe’s motivated sequence. Crafted by Alan H. Monroe, this sequence is one of the most popular ways to build out your argument in a thoughtful and compelling way. Briefly, here are the five steps. We’ll unpack these afterwards.

  • Attention — Getting their attention. “I want to listen to the speaker.”
  • Need — Describing the problem. “Something needs to be done about the problem.”
  • Satisfaction — Presenting the solution. “In order to fix the problem, this is what I need to do.”
  • Visualization — Visualizing the results. “I can see myself enjoying the benefits of taking action.”
  • Action — Requesting action from the audience. “I will act in a specific way.”

First, you want to grab the audience’s attention. Nowadays, our attention spans are extremely short, even shorter than they were just a decade ago. So you have to be quick and compelling if you expect the audience to listen to what you’re saying.

With that in mind, you’ll want to craft a solid introduction. If you can’t capture their attention from the beginning, nothing else matters. 

One way to ensure your introduction stands out is to start with a hook that ropes them in. Often, this looks like a compelling quote, or a fascinating statistic that may surprise the audience. Be sure that you use true facts and figures — you don’t want to hurt your own credibility, and it’s just as easy to find reliable information online. If you make a statement that is too outlandish, chances are the audience will fact-check you in real time, and have no interest in keeping onboard.

You also want to introduce your thesis statement early on; that is, why are you going to speak today, and what topic are you covering? It should clearly explain what the issue is and how you plan to address it in your speech.

You also want to remember a few things about the speech as you build it out past the introduction. While you may hit a number of these head-on in the introduction, they bear repeating throughout for emphasis. 

One is to ensure the focus is on the audience. The people in attendance likely came because they are interested in what you have to say, but not necessarily just to hear you speak. You want to focus on the audience and how to move them; you already know what you’re saying, and if the focus moves away from the audience, they’ll lose interest. This involves the need mentioned above. There has to be a problem to solve, and that’s what engages the audience.

Another way to keep the audience engaged is through numerous examples. A lot of times, we find ourselves describing complex issues and falling into the trap of industry jargon. If you didn’t know the terms you’re using before becoming an industry expert, or an insider, chances are the audience won’t know them either. So be cognizant of the fact that you need to speak at their level, not your own.

Something else to consider is the satisfaction step, where you actually outline how the problem presented can be resolved. The speech is rendered useless if there are no concrete steps to move forward. 

Speaking of satisfaction and concrete steps, the fourth step is visualization. This takes the audience past the identification and asks them to visualize what the future looks like, and how they can play an active role in achieving that future. You can have them visualize a positive future, where they have taken and implemented your advice, or a negative one, where they have not pursued the solutions you suggest.

After you’ve built up the argument across the middle part of your speech, the most important thing to remember is a call to action at the end. I always advocate that you put some sort of call to action at the end of everything you do: Click Here, Share Now, Sign Today. Whatever it looks like that you’re trying to accomplish, no persuasion is complete unless you ask the folks there to do something. 

With this outline, you’re ready to approach a persuasive argument and master public speaking. Be sure to practice your speech aloud to know how things sound together, and you will be changing hearts and minds in no time.

This is the second of a series this month that examines persuasive leadership through public speaking. The president representing this trait is Abraham Lincoln, which can be viewed here. The previous article can be found here.

In the last blog, we delved into the Five Canons of Rhetoric, considering how each plays an important role in public speaking and persuading people through that medium. Today, we’ll dig a little deeper.

Inventio is a Latin word that means “invention” or “discovery.” It’s one of the Five Canons of Rhetoric, and is central to building a persuasive argument. Understanding what it is you seek to do and the means by which to achieve that goal are essential as you begin to craft a compelling argument. There are a few considerations to make when beginning your persuasive journey.

First, the target audience. For whom are you making this argument? What are your goals? Or, more directly, what should the result of the speech be? Knowing the audience will have an impact on how you approach this. Depending on the group or individual to whom you speak, the delivery method could change drastically.

Second, consider the information to be shared. It’s best practice to have an assortment of different ways to prove the arguments you’re making, and to anticipate how skeptics may try to refute your assertions.

Third, timing. Consider when, where and for how long you should speak. Certain circumstances call for longer forms of oration, and others require brevity. Would you give the same length of speech at a dinner toast as you would in a State of the Union address? The situations couldn’t be further apart from one another, so factor that into your preparation.

Think back to Abraham Lincoln. His speech in Gettysburg is one of the most well-known speeches in history. Lost in that history is the fact that the 16th president was not the first speaker. Edward Everett, a renowned orator, spoke first for two hours. Following Everett, Lincoln spoke for no more than five minutes, but the content within his speech was gripping and captured the moment perfectly.

Consider also the three methods of convincing people that Aristotle outlined: Ethos, Pathos and Logos.

Ethos is based on trust and the integrity of the speaker. Again, back to Abraham Lincoln, there is innate trust the president to give speeches of national importance. But it doesn’t need to be someone in a prominent role; ethos plays a part in any speech. Speakers who leverage ethos have to be considered an authority on the subject somehow. Otherwise, why would anyone listen to what they have to say?

Pathos is focused on the emotions of the audience. One way to do this is by focusing on the values of your audience; what do they care about? What excites them? Scares them? Pathos does not always come in a positive form. Speakers may take advantage of a frightened audience in times of national distress, for example. There are positive and negative ways to leverage every tool in rhetoric.

Finally, Logos, which shares an etymological root with the word “logic.” Logos draws its strength from the use of rational argument, fact-based and demonstrable. Scientific evidence, for example, is a great way to levy logos in your speaking. Another is statistics and data, though many can misconstrue and bend quantitative information to say what they want.

So there you have it. From this bedrock of knowledge, you’re well on your way to persuading others through public speaking. Check back next week for another look at how history teaches us ways to persuade.

This is the first of a three-part series this month that examines persuasive leadership through public speaking. The president representing this trait is Abraham Lincoln, which can be viewed here.

One of my favorite graduate school classes was on rhetorical theory. I found comfort in a basic structure for persuading. 

Though, it’s about more than just the structure. While having a proven formula for presenting creates a solid foundation, it’s the presenter’s creativity, perspective, voice, and personal attributes that makes the presentation come alive and distinguishes the presentation from all others.

The Greeks and Romans were interested in argument and rhetoric. In De Inventione, the Roman philosopher Cicero explains that there are five canons, or tenets, of rhetoric:

1 Invention (Latin, inventio; Greek, heuresis)

Cicero, in his c. 84 B.C. treatise De Inventione, defined invention as the “discovery of valid or seemingly valid arguments to render one’s cause probable.” Basically, invention is finding the ways to persuade.

Interestingly enough, over 2,500 years ago Aristotle demonstrated that for invention to be productive, it must also include an understanding of one’s audience — their background, interests and needs.

If you’ve read my previous book, Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication Is The Only Force You Will Ever Need, I devoted an entire chapter to how important it is to focus on the needs of your audience. You will never persuade without understanding your audience.

2 Arrangement (Latin, dispositio; Greek, taxis)

As its name suggests, arrangement refers to how the different parts of the speech are put together. Although not everyone agreed on these parts, Cicero and Quintilian identified six:

The Exordium (introduction)

The Narrative

The Partition (division)

The Confirmation

The Refutation

The Peroration (conclusion)

However, current models have reduced the arrangement to the well-recognized three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion (and this is demonstrated in the modern five-paragraph theme).

Arrangement gives the basic format for how these pieces become the whole and together they are the structure for a coherent argument.

3 Style (Latin, elocutio; Greek, lexis)

Like speakers throughout the ages, modern speakers are often identified by their style of presenting. Think of the ever-enthusiastic Gary Vaynerchuk with his boundless, energetic presentation style.

Style embodies elements of how something is spoken, written or performed. It’s the way a speaker presents the argument to stir the emotions. While a narrow understanding of style refers to word choice, sentence structures and figures of speech, an expanded understanding includes the manifestation of the speaker.

Roman rhetorician Quintilian (c. 35 – c. 96 AD) spoke of three levels of style:

Plain style for instructing an audience

Middle style for moving an audience

Grand style for pleasing an audience

4 Memory (Latin, memoria; Greek, mneme)

As its name suggests, memory includes all the methods and tools available to help a presenter commit concepts to memory.

5 Delivery (Latin, pronuntiato; Greek, hypocrisis)

In De Oratore, Cicero said that delivery “has the sole and supreme power in oratory; without it, a speaker of the highest mental capacity can be held in no esteem; while one of moderate abilities, with this qualification, may surpass even those of the highest talent.”

Of the five canons listed above, pay particular attention to Style, as it relates to Abraham Lincoln. His oratory was known to be logical and built upon outstanding premises. Lincoln’s arguments were lauded by various contemporary sources:

The address was one of the clearest, most logical, argumentative and convincing discourses on the Nebraska question to which we have listened.
–Quincy (Illinois) Whig, November 3, 1854

Every point he touched upon was elucidated by the clearness of his logic, and with his keen blade of satire he laid bare the revolting features of policy of the pseudo-Democracy.
–Peoria (Illinois) Weekly Republican, July 25, 1856

His manner is neither fanciful nor rhetorical, but logical. His thoughts are strong thoughts, and are strongly joined together. He is a close reasoner, and has the faculty of making himself clearly understood.
–Galena (Illnois) North-Western Gazette, July 1856

Keep in mind that these five canons represent a basic structure, but it’s the speaker and her learned skills that bring these canons to life and determine the success (or not) of the speaker’s ability to persuade through presentations.

This is the second in a series of posts that will outline the persuasive tactics of ten presidents, focusing on a specific trait for each respective leader. The first, Lyndon B. Johnson, can be found here.

In this month of persuasive leadership, we’ll be taking a look at the rhetorical skill of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, of course, rose to prominence and led the nation decades before radio or television. His persuasive skills were sharpened in an era where public oratory was cherished and celebrated, and for that reason his public speaking acumen is the focus of this month.

Perhaps because photographs were a new technology, and the written word was required to bear more weight than it might today, there is a trove of descriptions about the 16th president. The words did not paint a generous picture of his appearance:

Mr. Lincoln’s person was ungainly. He was six feet four inches in height; a little stooped in the shoulders; his legs and arms were long; his feet and hands large; his forehead was high. His head was over the average size. His eyes were gray. His face and forehead were wrinkled even in his youth. They deepened with age, ‘as streams their channels deeper wear.’ Generally he was a very sad man, and his countenance indicated it. But when he warmed up all sadness vanished, his face was radiant and glowing, and almost gave expression to his thoughts before his tongue would utter them.
–Joshua Speed in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln

To mention his appearance is not to disparage the man; in fact, it plays an important role in describing how he excelled in public speaking. His appearance matched his rhetoric: slow, deliberate and, often, sad.

With public speaking as the primary means of debate and political conversation, to be eloquent in the 19th century was essential. Abraham Lincoln rose to the occasion.

The watershed moment for Lincoln came in 1858, during his bid to be the US Senator from Illinois. Before it, he was not well-known beyond certain pockets of his state.

The Great Debates of 1858 were conducted over seven different occasions, with the issue of slavery as the focus. Lincoln, as you might guess, spoke against slavery, while Douglas took the opposing viewpoint.

One of the most famous quotes delivered by Abraham Lincoln was the kickoff to the 1858 campaign:

A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Abraham Lincoln, 1858

His speeches were known to be colored by a logical progression, methodical in style:

Every point he touched upon was elucidated by the clearness of his logic, and with his keen blade of satire he laid bare the revolting features of policy of the pseudo-Democracy.

–Peoria (Illinois) Weekly Republican, July 25, 1856

And he had a talent to persuade, too:

It would be doing injustice to his speech to endeavor to give a sketch of it. It was replete with good sense, sound reasoning, and irresistible argument, and spoken with that perfect command of manner and matter which so eminently distinguishes the Western orators.

–Lowell (Massachusetts) Daily Journal, Sept. 18, 1848

Clearly, even before the presidency, Lincoln had a commanding presence and knew how to craft a compelling message. The speeches delivered over the course of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates were later compiled and edited into books that propelled Lincoln to the national stage.

This is the last of a three-part series this month that focuses on leadership in persuasive communication through one-on-one interactions. The first article is hereThe second article is here.

In talking with human resource officers, COOs, CEOs and other corporate leaders about areas needing improvement within their organizations, communication almost always bubbles up.

This need is supported in a 2018 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. study, where about 60 percent of companies say they don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy. Strikingly, though, about half said they wanted to make improving leadership communication a priority.

So organizations see the need, yet often fail to act. And then there are those leaders that don’t value effective communication who will refer to it as a waste of time, an effort to put a focus on “feelings” instead of productivity and ultimately profits. Or they may refer to communication as a soft skill unimportant to a company’s bottom line. 

Poor communication with your team members can lead to attrition and difficulty attracting top talent. And given that replacing a worker can cost a company 33 percent of that worker’s annual salary, it will cost you a lot (both in finance and company morale) for unhappy team members to walk away.

However, as the team leader you can change all of this. And it’s not just good for the people on your team; it’s also good for business. 

You have the power to change the direction of your organization through effective 1:1 communication. You just need the tools to get you there. 

For all the complexities of communication with others, all communication falls into one of four buckets: 

  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication (including but not limited to eye contact, facial expressions and gestures, posture, body orientation, body language
    • Proximity (space and distance)
    • Para-linguistic (accent, pitch, volume, speech rate, modulation, and fluency.
    • Touch
    • Silence
    • Personal appearance
  • Written communication
  • Visual communication

That’s it. You have these four buckets of communication mediums to communicate 1:1 with your team members. 

We’re going to focus on one: verbal communication. 

In the 1952 publication of Effective Public Relations, Scott Cutlip and Allen Center first introduced the 7 Cs of effective communication. Since its publication, these 7 Cs have become the gold standard for effective, persuasive communication with those around you. 

Here are the 7 Cs:

  1. Clarity
  2. Completeness
  3. Correctness
  4. Conciseness
  5. Concreteness
  6. Coherence
  7. Courtesy

Now, with these 7 Cs in focus, there are practical ways you can create space for 1:1 communication that will help you persuade those with whom you work.  Let’s look at a list of those ways: 

  • Preparing before the conversation
  • Being open
  • Showing respect
  • Exhibiting compassion and empathy
  • Actively listening (including not thinking of your next question instead of being in that moment)
  • Having a solution mindset
  • Prioritizing subject and topic over emotion
  • Always seeking common ground, mutual goals, shared purpose
  • Ensuring both sides have equal respect, ability to share thoughts and feelings, and equal opportunities to be heard
  • Avoiding distractions

Having first focused on communication enablers, I do think it important to your success to also talk through items that block communication. Take a look at this list:

  • Accusing
  • Judging
  • Insulting
  • Using sarcasm
  • Globalizing (using words like “always” and “never”)
  • Threatening or ordering
  • Interrupting 

In addition there are physical barriers like time, environment, comfort, and noise. There are emotional barriers like fear, distrust, and uncertainty.  

Finally, with communication enablers in place and a willingness to avoid communication blockers, there’s a path to persuasion: 

  • Relate 
  • Move from relating to solving 
  • When solving offer very specific direction
  • Within this direction, use concrete language 
  • Provide space for your listener to process and ask questions
  • Empower that listener to take actions need to help you accomplish your vision as their own

Once again, we revisit President Johnson. LBJ was attuned to the language that others used. However, collaborative efforts were less of his wheelhouse. In fact, LBJ more often steamrolled those around him during discussions, pressing them to defend their ideas and suggesting they were infantile. The very next day, he would sometimes take their position as his own. In grilling them, he wanted to find who firmly believed what they said and who was flaky in their beliefs. LBJ’s methods in this department will not translate well into the corporate world, but in the throes of Vietnam it made decision-making easier for the president.

If you’re not getting the support of your team you need, don’t have great team camaraderie, or just not hitting your targets, examine your ability to persuade your team through 1:1 communication with you—their leader. I’ve given you the tools to get there. 


This is the second of a three-part series this month that focuses on leadership in persuasive communication through one-on-one interactions. The first article is here.

We talk about “building relationships” so often that it has become trite. It’s a catchy phrase that’s overused and misunderstood. Having said that, it’s still extremely valuable as you lead through persuasive communication in 1:1 interactions.

Consider President Johnson, once again. In shepherding landmark legislation through the Congress, he relied on his personal relationships with members of both the House and Senate. He knew their wives, and their kids, and what was important to them in their respective districts. By knowing the people he needed to work with intimately, Johnson leveraged these relationships to achieve his goals with remarkable speed.

We often think of relationships as a means to an end. It is not the goal. Here’s a hard question for you to ponder: Do you really value those you lead? This question requires a bit of soul searching. So often, we are focused on our goal and the things we need to accomplish, that people around us are seen as a means to an end. But here’s the thing: If that’s your thinking, those around you know it. They will feel expendable, and it won’t work.

How do you view the people around you? Do you acknowledge they are a person, not just a position? Do you seek their success and value it?

This is probably a good place to confess that I have viewed people around me as tools to my goals. It has taken time and failure for me to adjust what I value. It takes a brave leader to pause while reading this and take an honest, hard look inwards. Yet, I know you can and will. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t aspire to be the best leader you can be.

You likely need to have successful people around you for you to succeed. I’m willing to be that they are cheering for you and want to be part of your success. So how do you get there? Here are three ways:

1: Understand Your Audience

Anyone who has read my work or listened to me on stage knows that I believe everything is about your audience. Always. This is not about you — it’s about them. This same principle applies as you lead through communication and specifically persuade in 1:1 meetings. The sooner you shift that mindset, the sooner you will find success.

Try this exercise. Think of one person critical in your orbit. Say his or her name out loud. Recall memories. Now, answer these questions:

  • What’s the biggest struggle in this person’s life right now? What is keeping them awake at night?
  • What do they value in life above everything else?
  • What is their love language?
  • What’s this person’s greatest dream for his or her professional career?

2: Give Them Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Time

We are all busy. I get it. And I’m starting to believe that it’s more of an excuse than a reason. I’m also starting to wonder “why” we’re so busy. Perhaps it makes us feel important? How often have you asked someone how they’re doing to hear them reply: “Busy!”?

Wouldn’t it be nice to jump off the hamster wheel of busyness and instead lead a meaningful and mindful life?

Giving these key people in your life time will change everything in your relationship with them and their willingness to be a part of your vision and dreams.

Again, let’s reflect on that same person that you brought to mind in question number one. With that specific person in mind, ask the following:

  • Do you have a regular, established time to meet 1:1?
  • When was the last time you had a spontaneous time together just to catch up with what’s happening in his or her life? Or just to offer praise and appreciation with no other agenda?
  • When was the last time you planned a special time away with just this person? Perhaps that looks like leaving the office early one afternoon and hitting a craft brewery with no objective other than to be together.
  • When was the last time you made a positive response to something they posted online?

3: Open Communication That’s Easy, Comfortable, Free Flowing

Can you recall a time that you met with someone with high hopes of a productive conversation only to find that the encounter was stiff and lacked a meaningful connection?

As the person leading the organization, it’s your responsibility to create the atmosphere and conditions for conversations that bring value.

Again, let’s recall the person you named in question number one. Perhaps say his or her name again just to make this person fresh in your thoughts. And then ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time you asked for feedback AND then implemented the ideas you feel fit well into your organization? And did you give this person the credit?
  • When was the last time that you talked and demonstrated that you were listening by taking notes?
  • Have you ever become defensive in talking with this person?
  • When addressing a situation that didn’t go well, did you blame this person or accept responsibility yourself?

As you work to accomplish your goals and dreams, I hope you realize those close you are one of your strongest assets. They are not a tool for your success. They are a treasure. And if you concretely believe that and your actions demonstrate it, they will believe you. That makes accomplishing your dreams just got that much easier.


This is the first of a three-part series this month that focuses on leadership in persuasive communication through one-on-one relationships.

Often, we mistakenly think that 1:1 persuasion is all about sharing our vision and taking whatever steps are necessary to get people on board, and moving along with us.

The foundation for leading through 1:1 persuasive communication isn’t all about where you’re trying to take people. Instead, it’s about trust.

Trusting you is my decision. Proving me right is your choice.


As a leader, you can have the most exciting vision and profound insights to get you there. On the surface these may appear to inspire anyone to action. You may be thinking: Anyone should be able to buy into this great vision that I have for our organization or business. But if your audience doesn’t trust you, you won’t lead.

President Johnson, for example, had to rally the nation after the death of JFK. As Johnson ascended to the presidency, he was filling a void left by the man voters had duly elected to the role. With the nation in mourning for its young, aspirational president’s death, LBJ had to bring the country together. How does a president do this? Trust.

LBJ had to win over the trust of the nation to advance his agenda. In the wake of Kennedy’s death, Johnson leveraged the vision that won Kennedy the presidency to corral a coalition of support. He then relied on personal relationships with key members of Congress to usher through legislation that defined the era. Without person-to-person conversations, Johnson would have found it nearly impossible to forever alter the course of American society.

Perhaps this is a good place to pause and take a self-inventory. Ask yourself: Do people around you trust you? Moreover, ask someone close to you that you personally trust the same question.

In this self-evaluation below, I have taken 11 aspects of trust for you to consider. These are from my previous book, Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication Is The Only Force You Will Ever Need.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Am I consistent with everyone around me?
  • Do I deliver as promised?
  • Am I open and authentic?
  • Do I show confidence?
  • Am I truthful?
  • Do I make people feel safe?
  • Am I willing to say “no” sometimes?
  • Am I open to feedback?
  • Do I make time for those around me?
  • Am I reliable?

If any aspect of this list is missing in your leadership, people around you are less likely to trust you. You see, when people begin to wonder whether or not they trust you, they already do not. And if they don’t trust you, you cannot lead. At least, you won’t without brute force or manipulation.

Early in my career, I worked with a CEO that had amazing vision. He had boundless energy, grit, charisma, determination and drive.

And for a while, that worked. The organization grew. Actually, the organization exploded with growth. I had never seen organizational growth like what I experienced during this phase of my career.

I remember thinking that the vision was unstoppable. And while I was already part of the largest teams of my career, while surpassing all professional dreams, I believed we were on the early side of the trajectory with no end in sight.

I was captivated. Personally performing at optimal levels, I could not even comprehend where we were heading; it was the ride of my life.

Everything seemed perfect. Until it wasn’t.

Cracks in trust within the ranks of the organization began to appear. The leader had, slowly and over time, lost trust with team members. In fact, looking back, I think the leader broke every one of the reflection questions I posed earlier.

And once it began to crumble, it collapsed at record speed. Within twelve months, it was over. The leader was removed from the organization.

I was devastated, and so was everyone around me.

If you want to lead by persuading those around you with 1:1 conversations, and I believe that you do, it must begin with a foundation of trust. Otherwise, you’re building a house of cards. And it will always crumble in time.


This is the first in a series of posts that will outline the persuasive tactics of ten presidents, focusing on a specific trait for each respective leader.

Perhaps no former president exemplifies the power of one-on-one conversations than Lyndon Baines Johnson. Born in Stonewall, Texas in 1908, LBJ went from an impoverished and troubled childhood to the highest office in the land. Often, he did so through sheer force of will.

“If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson

Upon his entry into politics, Johnson was not an immediate powerbroker. He first served as a congressman for a Texas district, finding it difficult to pay his bills and live in DC. In no small part, his lack of financial security informed the way he interacted with others to accomplish his goals. Without the means to persuade through wealth or power – yet – it was his personality filling the void. In no small part, his lack of education and feelings of inferiority when surrounded by Ivy Leaguers in Washington led to his strategy of leveraging his physical size and temper to effect the change he thought necessary.

His internal drive also pushed him to accomplish aspirational goals. Without a plan, one has no reason to persuade. There is no common goal toward which to lead others. But Johnson developed his vision and went about cajoling and corralling others to play their role in it.

“What convinces is conviction. Believe in the argument you’re advancing. If you don’t you’re as good as dead. The other person will sense that something isn’t there, and no chain of reasoning, no matter how logical or elegant or brilliant, will win your case for you.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson

Vision alone cannot convince, and Johnson was keenly aware of this. The landmark projects LBJ set into motion were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and more broadly, the Great Society. Neither of these goals were simply accomplished, and it took the entirety of Johnson’s power and persuasive prowess to bring them to completion.

The 36th president’s persuasive tactic was so well-known that it earned a name of its own, The Johnson Treatment, pictured below in action.

President Johnson cajoling Senator Theodore Green of Rhode Island
(Photo from George Tames, New York Times 1957)

Context is everything: Johnson ascended to his most powerful prior to the presidency near the end of the 1950’s. He is remembered as perhaps the most powerful Senate Majority Leader, whipping his caucus together to pass legislation that would not otherwise succeed absent a strong-willed leader.

When a significant portion of your caucus is made up of Southern Democrats averse and downright hostile to Civil Rights, it takes a big personality to bring together the votes needed.

“Dick, I love you and I owe you. But…I’m going to run over you if you challenge me on this civil-rights bill.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson

The Johnson Treatment was key to LBJ’s success. At 6’4”, he towered over many of his peers, jamming his finger in their direction and sticking his face right into theirs. His ability to persuade others by occupying their personal space and forcing their hand went unmatched.