They’re not just debating the issues in the Vermont legislature; they’re debating how to debate. This story describes how a state legislative committee chair was taking real-time cues about facts and issues via his iPad as he was answering questions in open assembly.
Does your business operate in real time? When you meet or present to stakeholders, or large groups of employees, at least some are surfing to check your facts while you speak, or reference past statements of yours, or pull up competitors’ claims. They may even bring you news that’s just hit the wire, and ask for your response.
You don’t to be prepared for every eventuality. But you do need to practice how to make extemporaneous responses. Your presentation style will need to flex between conversational and formal. When you show that you’re comfortable and confident, that’s arguably the largest part of your message.
So: do you know how to feel comfortable and confident?
As a business leader, you build either credibility or lack of trust in the same way: one brick at a time. You show that you grasp the issues, or understand what it’s like to work at the company, each time you speak. Or you sound out of touch, or insensitive, each time you speak. Each act puts a brick in place, and soon you’ve got a wall: your reputation.
Besides your words, your actions also speak: the policies you champion, the events you do or do not attend. You establish, over time, who you really are.
If you don’t like your reputation, you can dismantle it and build a new one — but one brick at a time. Stay consistent in your next three or four messages, and you have the chance to move in a new direction. Planning your communications to establish credibility lets you actively manage your leadership style.
I worked with a group executive whose pattern of communications in his small group was to work the halls, be available, keep it friendly. When his group was reorganized and was suddenly much larger — at multiple sites — he needed to drop his casual communications for more planned and formal messages. He disagreed at first and made large-group presentations with his particular style of humor and informality, but they fell flat. With some coaching, he soon discovered his own way of blending his personality with structured messages. Employees began to say things like “He’s really growing into the role.”
Look at feedback from your last three messages. Is your credibility growing? Or diminishing?