For those of you who might be asked to deliver a commencement address, I had this piece published today that outlines six steps for making sure your comments are relevant and remembered…for the right reasons. You can link to it at http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2011/05/12/commencement-addresses-6-steps-for-making-the-grade/
Many thanks to the good folks at www.SmartBrief.com.
“Leadership” continues to be the topic of countless books, articles, seminars and the requisite DVD series. At a time when change has become a constant, the pursuit of leadership by organizations and individuals is perpetual. Ask people to define leadership and you will likely get definitions that run the gamut, witness the countless products noted earlier. Included in many definitions are the descriptors “power” and “influence”. Indeed, both play a role in leadership. However, clear distinctions should be drawn between power and influence as they relate to effective and enduring leadership.
Let’s take a look at those distinctions and characterize them with regard to effective and enduring leadership.
Power is positional. Influence is personal.
It is not unusual for people to ascribe power to positions of leadership. With the position of CEO, for example, comes a certain degree of power. That power has more to do with the position than with the person occupying it. In other words, it is conferred on the position. Influence on the other hand has more to do with the individual holding the position. It is conferred on a person by virtue of who they are, not what merely what they are.
Power is wielded. Influence is granted.
This distinction deals with how leaders use their position. Are they “dictatorial” in their approach, affecting outcomes by fiat? Or do they seek consensus and buy-in, seeking to influence the proper decision or direction from those they lead? Note the distinction: power is wielded by those in position. Influence is granted by those being led. Or put another way, power demands; influence commands.
Power pushes. Influence persuades.
The ability to persuade is a key characteristic of effective leaders. This goes to the whole “vision thing” by which successful leaders define and articulate the overarching mission of an organization and links strategies and tactics to fulfilling that vision. In other words, they make the case for what an organization is doing, why it is doing it, and what the outcome will be. This is part and parcel of bringing people along and persuading them that the course is right, has a purpose and will have a positive outcome for the organization, and by extension, for them.
Power is resented. Influence is respected.
Many years ago, I read where a utility took great pains to refer to their product as “energy” rather than “power.” The thought was the term energy had a more positive connotation than did “power.” It’s an interesting distinction that has stayed with me over time. It is much the same with “power” and “influence.” If one exerts the power of their position, they run the risk of being resented. Conversely, if one earns the respect of those they lead, they will be much better able to influence.
Power expires. Influence endures.
The corporate and cultural landscapes are littered with “leaders” who used their position to wield power until it expired through organizational succession, Father Time or a governing board. Their passing from the scene, if not enthusiastically cheered, is greeted with relief and anxious anticipation of their successor. Soon, they are but a fading memory and lament their loss of power, power held by virtue of their position. On the other hand, there are leaders whose passing from the scene is lamented by those they led. Yet they are leaders who continue to have influence. Why? Because they understood that the mark of true leader is not necessarily what they accomplish in the here and now, but by what those they influence accomplish beyond their term and time.
Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, is credited with having said “You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long.” His is a sentiment applicable to the landscape of geopolitics, and it’s one applicable to building a legacy of leadership.
Your firm has responded to the Request for Proposals and now you’ve learned you are one of the finalists for the business. Next up is an interview with the governing board, committee or decision-making entity. They want to meet your team and learn more about your credentials in a presentation setting. Following the presentations, they will make a decision on which finalist to hire. Great news!
It’s unlikely the ultimate decision will be determined solely on the live presentation. However, it can have a strong bearing on the hiring decision. The reality is that those selected to be finalists more than likely meet the essential requirements for the project: size, stability, scope of experience and expertise, track record, etc. At this point in the selection process, those are mostly givens. The live presentation/interview, then, is where the chemistry, cohesion, responsiveness and engagement of the team can be assessed. It is a time when the client can get a sense of your corporate personality and culture. It’s an opportunity for them to develop a comfort level with those to be entrusted with making their vision a reality.
The final interview, then, can be when business is won, or lost. Thus, it is vitally important that your team’s interview presentation be as effective as possible. Team presentations, however, require careful planning and rehearsal if not to “win” the business, then certainly to not “lose” it. There are some essential factors that go into an effective “team presentation.”
Designate a Quarterback – The quarterback should be a comfortable presenter and engage easily with people. In most cases, the quarterback will be a principal or senior member of your firm. The quarterback should make opening remarks and introduce the members of your team. While the quarterback may have a role in the actual presentation, his or her primary role is to keep the presentation flowing and keep the team on track. The QB is also the one to “toss a lifeline” to a team member who might be struggling in their segment. Let’s face it: making a presentation can fluster the best of us! The quarterback should also deliver any closing remarks your firm wants to make and facilitate the Q&A by directing questions to the most appropriate team member.
Plan and Practice “Transitions” – One of the most neglected (and thus least effective) aspects of team presentations are transitions from one segment to the next. Each team member may have their respective parts down pat, but often times are not prepared for handing off to the next team member. Make sure your team knows how and who to hand-off to. An option is to have the quarterback step in and introduce each segment as the interview progresses. But that can eat up valuable time. The best course is to plan and practice for the transitions. And they can be as simple as “And now I’d like to turn it over to John who will discuss the project schedule.” Simple? Yes. Effective? Definitely.
Watch the Clock – Many, if not most, interview presentations have a time limit. When the limit is reached, you’re done as far as many interviewers are concerned. The last thing you want is have them finish listening before you finish talking! This is where rehearsal comes in and in a big way. The fact is presenters really don’t know how long their presentations are until they have gone through at least one dress rehearsal. My observation from years of working with presenters is that if a presenter does not go through a full dress rehearsal, the presentation they thought was 20 minutes becomes 40 minutes. This is especially true in team presentations. Assign someone the task of keeping your team on schedule. Ideally, they would not have a formal role in the presentation itself. This way they can watch the clock and convey prearranged signals to team members as needed.
Defer to the Quarterback – Team members involved in the presentation should look to the quarterback for signals throughout the presentation. If the presentation gets behind schedule, the QB could make a comment such as “As John briefly discusses…” John will want to take that as a cue to move expeditiously through his segment. Or, if a presenter has omitted a key piece of information, it is up to the quarterback to say something along the lines of “Beth, take moment to talk about our procurement process…”
Avoid Over Answering – As noted previously, let the quarterback direct questions to the most appropriate team member. By all means avoid over answering a question. By that I mean don’t feel compelled to add your two cents worth to a response provided by another team member. The quarterback will determine if additional information and elaboration is necessary, and from whom.
Remember that interviewers are assessing not only the specific credentials of your team, but getting a sense of how well team members seem to relate to one another, the chemistry, engagement and overall “personality” of those that will be managing their project. This is the time to separate yourself from the pack and project yet another positive point of difference…and give them yet another reason to say “You’re hired!”
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