Innovation series: Marieluise Maiwald on the challenge of the new

Leadership-coach-Marieluise-Maiwald.jpg

In the second of our innovation podcasts Kamala speaks to Marieluise Maiwald, who's putting innovation into practice by challenging herself to do something new every week this year. They talk about the appeal of the new, why stepping away from comfort can reap rewards and why constant maximisation can be the enemy of innovation.

Marieluise Maiwald is an internationally experienced leadership development professional and coach with a background in consulting. She currently works as a Project Director for Duke Corporate Education in London and is responsible for designing and delivering learning programmes for executives around the world.

Alongside programme delivery, Marieluise offers coaching and workshops to people wanting to bring real change to their lives. To stay credible and authentic for her clients, Marieluise has decided to delve into a different challenge every week in 2016, from speaking at Speaker’s Corner to swimming in icy waters. She posts her experiences and learning in weekly blogs and videos on Defying Gravity.

And the award goes to...

Us!

In fantastic news, we've just won the Award for Excellence in Professional Training and Development in the AI Business Excellence Awards.

We're passionate about what we do, and it's wonderful to be recognised for the difference we make through our work. It's also a very nice way to start the year (or at least the summer)!

We won't be resting on our laurels, though. We've got some exciting plans up our sleeves which we'll be unleashing on the world in the coming months... Watch this space!

What lies beneath? Get your brain scanned and find out!

'B0005622 Enhanced MRI scan of the head ' by Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images, licenced under CC  BY-NC-ND 2.0

'B0005622 Enhanced MRI scan of the head' by Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images, licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We're hugely excited to be working with neuroscientists at University College London (UCL) and Ashridge Business School to investigate the science behind singing. The UCL pilot will be one of the first in an emerging field that explores why social interaction is so important to health and well-being. And the Ashridge research will valuably contribute to our understanding of both resilience and learning. Both have potentially exciting applications in the workplace, education and health.

We're recruiting potential participants now while we nervously await the outcome of our funding bids. So, if you've ever fancied finding out what's really going on inside, now's your chance! We're looking for participants of all backgrounds, and particularly scientists.

UCL RESEARCH

Using fRMI scanners, we'll look at what happens in the brain when you sing, how it differs from speech, and why many people find that singing together creates social bonds.

We're looking for 30 adults who:

  • consider themselves to be novice singers
  • haven't had any training, including singing in choirs
  • don't consider themselves entirely tone deaf!
  • are aged between 18 and 40 years
  • aren't claustrophobic – scanners are a fairly tight fit!
  • are based in or can easily get to central London

On the day, you'll start off by singing with Kamala face-to-face. You'll then get in the scanner, and sing with her (via headphones) while your brain activity is scanned. It'll take about an hour of your time.

ASHRIDGE RESEARCH

Using heart rate variance monitors, we'll look at what happens in the brain when you sing in public, and whether it enhances personal resilience.

We're looking for 30 adults who:

  • are novice, amateur (e.g. sing in choirs), or semi-pro/professional singers
  • are aged 18+
  • are based in or can easily get to central London

On the day, you'll sing together, led by Kamala. You'll then have an opportunity to lead each other in singing, and sing a solo (yep, a solo!). You'll wear a small heart rate variance monitor throughout all the activities. It'll take about a day of your time.

If you're interested in taking part in either study you'll need to have a quick chat with Kamala over the phone so we can check you're happy to go ahead. Do drop her a line if you'd like to find out more, with no obligation to take part!

 

Innovation series: Nick Parker on creativity and improvisation at work

Writing consultant Nick Parker

In the first of our new podcast series on innovation, Kamala talks to Nick Parker about improvisation and creativity at work. From autobiographical haiku to design thinking, they discuss the freedom in limits and the business case for spontaneity. Oh, and why your creative career probably shouldn't begin with naming your first born.

Nick Parker is a writer who works with brands and businesses. He helps them pin things down, and shake things up. That usually means helping them tell their stories, helping them find their tone of voice, and helping them to use writing to think more clearly and creatively.

He’s a speechwriter for Fortune 10 CEOs, has trained government ministers and radio DJs, and once wrote a paragraph that saved ten million quid. (Or thereabouts.)

Before all that, he was a journalist, magazine editor and author. His collection of short stories, The Exploding Boy, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. (‘Astonishing, proof the short story is still a public good,’ said The Guardian, which was nice of them.) And once upon a time, he was a cartoonist for Viz.

 

Risk series: Melanie Harrold on how we experience risk

Singer songwriter Melanie Harrold performing live

In the last of our podcasts on risk (at least for now), Kamala spoke to the artist Melanie Harrold. They talk about the risks Melanie's taken in her own career, and how she helps other people to remain grounded while reaching forward into the unknown. Melanie also explains the central role your voice, breath and body can play in building your capacity not only for taking conscious risks, but also for managing them resiliently.

You might want to take a breath before reading on, because Melanie is... a singer-songwriter who's performed with artists including Gerry Rafferty and Don McLean, a teacher, choral director, body psychotherapist, Voice Movement Therapist (and professional trainer) and founder of The Singing Body who has worked and performed across the world. Phew, and breathe... Which is appropriate, really, because much of Melanie's work explores how our breath, bodies and movement can help us to take more conscious risks and push the boundaries of what we think we can achieve. Alongside her private practice working with individuals and small groups, Melanie directs several choirs including Trade Winds and Vocal Chords.

 

Learn more about how to embrace risk, innovation and experiments with our free Chirp Guide. Sign up to receive your download.

 

 

Risk series: Julie Noon on working in the world's most dangerous places

Film-maker Julie Noon

Our latest podcast on risk features the acclaimed journalist and film-maker, Julie Noon. A world away from a day at the office, Julie's work has risk at its very heart – personal, professional and physical. In this podcast Julie talks about what draws her to this work, and how she weighs up the risks, both potential and terrifyingly real. She also explains why the person who isn't scared is the biggest risk of all.

Julie Noon is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who specialises in foreign affairs and filming in hostile environments. Her career has spanned live political programming and documentaries in politics, current affairs and news. Julie has worked, lived and travelled in over 60 countries around the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to South Sudan and Afghanistan, where she spent months embedded with British Forces in Helmand over the duration of the campaign.

Julie has produced, directed and series produced on award-winning series and critically acclaimed strands including Channel 4’s Dispatches and Unreported World, and the BBC’s This World. Her work has been nominated and shortlisted for awards including the Rory Peck Award for Impact and Broadcast Award’s Best Current Affairs Documentary. Many of her films have been shown in Parliament and some have prompted policy and legal change. Passionate about developing new talent in foreign affairs, Julie also teaches filmmaking for organisations including One World Media, and on Hostile Environment training courses.

 

Learn more about how to embrace risk, innovation and experiments with our free Chirp Guide. Sign up to receive your download.

 

 

Risk series: Roway Gray on risk and resilience

Business coach Rowan Gray

The second of our podcasts about risk features a conversation between our Director, Kamala, and Rowan Gray, a business coach at Relume. Ahead of their workshop in the Spring, Kamala and Rowan explore definitions of risk, and why understanding your response to it can help you lead and work more effectively. They also talk about the balance between risk and resilience, and why you might be better off not cramming exercise/mindfulness/healthy eating into your routine.

Rowan Gray is a business coach at Relume. He works with leaders who are looking for a different perspective. He challenges and supports them to find new ideas and the breakthrough they need. He uses movement - such as cycling, running and walking - to generate insights, enable more creativity and give people an increased feeling of energy. These are qualities needed to adapt and thrive in organisations that are increasingly complex, uncertain and fast-paced. Rowan brings curiosity, energy and a sense of fun to his work. He keeps himself inspired by exploring new places from the saddle of his bicycle.

 

Learn more about how to embrace risk, innovation and experiments with our free Chirp Guide. Sign up to receive your download.

 

 

Risk series: Helen Walton on gaming and business

Gamevy-founder-Helen-Walton.JPG

In the first of our podcast series about risk, we talk to Helen Walton, Co-founder and Marketing Director at Gamevy. As an entrepreneur who runs a gaming start-up, Helen encounters risk in different guises on an almost daily basis. We talk to her about the human urge to gamble, the importance of knowing your bottom line, and the biggest risks she's taken. We also hear about one of Gamevy's less conventional investment decisions!

Helen Walton is a writer and marketing manager who enjoys solving problems, trying out ideas and making things happen. She started out in Unilever, (back in the glory days when advertising budgets meant long, boozy lunches). Since then her work has included a column in the Daily Mail, naming lipsticks, saving literature (a game that won a NIBBIE) and writing an IT course. Helen is Co-founder and Marketing Director at Gamevy, an award-winning company whose games combine skill, chance and life-changing jackpots for the ultimate in fun.

 

Learn more about how to embrace risk, innovation and experiments with our free Chirp Guide. Sign up to receive your download.

 

 

Adventures in Leadership: how to take risks and be resilient

Kamala Katbamna leadership and communication workshop for Chirp

We're excited to announce a collaborative workshop with Relume in Spring 2015. The hands-on, practical day will help you 'learn by doing' as you explore risk and resilience at work.

This event is an intimate experience for senior and emerging leaders who are looking for new ways to lead in increasingly complex, uncertain and fast paced organisations .

We will use singing and conducting to create an experience of risk-taking, leading and being led through change. You will have the opportunity to experiment and take new risks in a safe environment, and to receive feedback from the group. You will also be able to reflect on your experiences to generate new learning as a basis for change.

Embracing more risk and vulnerability can also invoke emotions in those around you. So we'll also explore what it means to be resilient, and identify personal practices that let you thrive at work.

The day will be fun, inclusive and energising. And, as ever with Chirp, you don't need any musical ability to participate fully. There are just 12 places available – drop us a line to find out more and register your interest.

 

Don't be a hermit – interact with impact with these five tips

Participants in a Chirp leadership and communication workshop run by Kamala Katbamna

Human interaction is at the heart of work. Its impact is everywhere – from process to productivity, outcome and enjoyment. Unless, of course, you’re a hermit.

Despite its centrality, that interaction can often feel unpredictable, ineffective and draining. After all, you can never guarantee someone else’s behaviour. You can, however, ensure your own is more influential, clear and effective.

Below are five tools to help you make the impact you choose in your daily interactions. Yes, they take practice, but they can make a crucial difference – particularly if you’re leading change. Either way, they’ll help you achieve your outcomes without wasting time and energy. No need to become a hermit, then.
 
1. Don’t look down!
Look up, make eye contact, then begin. Taking that moment to connect tells people you're fully present – and that your contribution is worth their attention. This is particularly useful in presentations and when opening meetings. Good eye contact also signals that you’re engaged with their response.

It might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us launch straight in, without first establishing a connection. In so doing we risk throwing away our words on a distracted audience, silently dismissing their contribution, and reducing our impact.

2. Stand your ground
Yep, even if you’re seated. If you’re standing, keep your feet hip-width apart. Feel the ground through your feet. Resist the urge to drop one hip or place your weight on one leg. Again, obvious enough, but not always easy to avoid in the moment. If you’re sitting, feel the ground evenly through both feet. It can be tricky in a skirt, but worth doing whenever possible.

Feeling the ground through your feet does what it says on the tin; it helps you feel more grounded and present. It also stabilises your posture, preventing you either feeling or looking like you’re in 'fight or flight'. And that in turn creates a more powerful presence.

3. Abdominal breathing
Imagine a pair of bellows. As the air goes in, they expand; as it leaves, they contract. The same idea applies to abdominal breathing, ideally through a slightly open mouth. As you breathe into the bottom of the lungs the abdomen expands; as you breathe out it contracts. The most important thing, however, is to breathe out first!

Breathing is critical both to how you feel we’re perceived and how you are perceived – influencing how you behave and others respond. Most people take shallow breaths and/or hold their breath, particularly when nervous or challenged. Abdominal breathing reverses this so you operate more effectively. It also helps you speak more clearly and avoid swallowing words. You’ll feel better, be perceived more positively, and imbue your words with the impact you intend.

4. Take the space
Being aware of the space around you – above, below, in front and behind – can transform the impact of your presence. Unfold into that space. Release your arms from your sides. Broaden your shoulders away from your ears. And keep your feet hip-width apart. Hunched shoulders, crossed arms and a caved chest don’t just restrict breathing and create tension. They also make you physically smaller – impacting on your personal presence and suggesting that you don't want to be there.

So take the space, expand into it, occupy it. Your posture will improve. Your chest will open and you'll breathe more easily. You’ll create a stronger presence. And you'll signal to others that you are ready to be seen and to engage.

5. Channel your inner ventriloquist
Okay, not really – but imagining that the stomach (venter) is powering your speech (loqui) can help you project without straining or shouting.

Most people reach forward with their head and neck when they want to be heard. Bring them back instead so they’re aligned with your spine. Relax the throat – it will tense if you shout – and, when you speak, engage your lower abdominals. Projection can take some practice, and works best in conjunction with the other tools. Once cracked, however, you'll deliver your ideas with impact. It's also brilliant sore throat prevention in noisy pubs!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why inspiring your team is not (quite) enough

We often hear that inspiring others is a leadership essential. And yet, on its own, it’s not enough. The most effective (and inspiring) leaders I’ve come across also enable. They embody what they seek in others, and show how it can be achieved. In doing so, they help colleagues take their inspiration and turn it into action.

A few building blocks can help all of us be both inspiring and enabling leaders – particularly when experimenting or leading change. I’ve shared my top five below.

Spring clean your presenting style

Spring cleaning

It looks like Spring is finally here so, in honour of the season, we're sharing five tips to rejuvenate presentations. A Spring clean, if you will. We hope they help you present with natural charisma and ensure your every word lands.

1. Breathe out

Ignore the advice ringing in your ears to take a deep breath. For most of us that results in either hyperventilation or heavy breathing – neither a good look when you need to impress. Breathing out first should help make your next inhalation deeper and more regular. It will calm you down if you’re nervous, and help you project more effectively either way.

Try it: as you're preparing, just before you start, and as you're changing slides.

 

2. Catch flies

Okay, not literally – but do breathe in and out through an open mouth. (Once referred to by a client as 'catching flies', in case you wondered.) It can be counter-intuitive, but it will make a significant difference. You'll breathe more deeply and with less effort, so you're free to focus on content. It should help to keep your facial and neck muscles relaxed too.

Try it: as you're preparing, just before you start, and a few times during the presentation.

 

3. Pause

Is it easy? No. Does it help? Yes. Will a split-second will feel like an eternity? Well, probably. It won’t be, though, and that brief pause will help you be present in the moment, marshal your thoughts, and ensure your audience is still engaged. It’ll also help them to take in what you’re saying so your messages land.

Try it: just before you start, and then at appropriate moments during the presentation.

 

4. Huh?

The second half of a sentence generally makes the whole meaningful. Not wise, then, to throw it away – whether through nerves or enthusiasm. Yet word swallowing is one of the most common issues we help with. Full, as opposed to shallow, breathing will help; as will simple awareness. It’s amazing how much more effective we are when we speak deliberately.

Try it: five minutes before you start, and then a few times during the presentation.

 

5. Aim for alignment

We are most persuasive, convincing and effective when we show that we mean what we say. So don’t just tell – be. Aligning your delivery with your meaning will imbue your words with the weight they deserve. So don’t undercut difficult messages with a nervous grin; and give grimaces a wide berth when explaining brilliant plans. Sounds obvious – yet it’s so often forgotten in the heat of the presenting moment!

Try it: before, during and after!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why singing is for life, and not just for Christmas

As December settles in, some of you will already have had your fill of seasonal songs. If you work in retail, or have just left the house lately, chances are you’ll have encountered The Christmas Soundtrack.

Loved or loathed, festive refrains are almost inescapable this month – and not only the recorded variety. It’s a funny thing, but this time of year seems to coax even avowed naysayers to burst into song. (The flow of Christmas spirit(s) may help.)

Perhaps these winter warblers grasp instinctively that singing connects and unites, even if they’re not sure why. It’s certainly effective, and at the heart of Chirp.

As we’ve developed our work with leaders and organisations, we’ve examined why singing is so powerful. Below, we share three key reasons to dust down your vocal chords – and not just at Christmas.

 

Risk and exposure

Singing, particularly with colleagues, can be a touch unnerving. It requires us to step away from comfort zones, experience challenge, and feel a bit exposed. That exposure can be valuable, eliciting honest, engaged, and insightful discussion of personal responses and group dynamics.
 

Trust and connection

Singing develops trust, intensified by mutual reliance. Harmony is contingent on each individual fulfilling his or her role, and taking personal as well as collective responsibility for the team’s success. Singing together behoves each person to listen, support, respond and adapt in the moment so that everyone thrives.
 

Change and uncertainty

Singing unfolds in real time. The outcome is uncertain yet exciting, and not entirely within our control. Singing develops our capacity to acknowledge uncertainty while remaining focused and engaged – a critical skill in our rapidly changing world. How we manage that uncertainty in singing is often a useful insight into how we experience challenge, ambiguity and change at work.

 

We hope you enjoy a jolly good seasonal sing – with colleagues, friends and family, or even strangers. Drop us a line if you’d like to learn more about how and why we use singing to create skilled, dynamic colleagues all year round. After all, singing is for life, not just for Christmas!

 

How to communicate with clarity and influence

Autumn leaves

With the bank holiday behind us, and September drawing near, it’s either time for fresh challenges – or a dash to sunnier climes.

For those of us staying put, our challenges might be new projects, new responsibility, perhaps even a new job. It’s a fair bet that, whatever’s involved, you’ll need your communication skills in limber form.

Communicating is at the heart of what we do – even when we’re unaware of it. From brief ‘hellos’ to major presentations, we continuously send out verbal and physical messages. And sometimes those messages just get lost in translation.

Communication with clarity, impact and authenticity can transform encounters from confusing and pointless to motivating and effective. It helps us express what we want in the way that we want. And it helps us hear and understand what others are saying – or not saying – so we can respond relevantly.

We are, of course, all different, with individual forms of expression. Yet we also face many of the same issues when it comes to communicating at work. Below we share a few basic tips to help you greet new challenges with communications gusto.

Match tone with meaning

Think about how you’re saying what you’re saying. Does your tone match your meaning? Don’t undercut your words with an unconvincing delivery. They’ll lose their impact – and so will you.
 

Plan for challenge

Plan in advance for challenging encounters. Work out key points and the most appropriate language to deliver them. Is what you're saying fair? Is it confusingly indirect? It is marked by fact or irritation? And is it constructive – does it help the other person to share your perspective rather than stick doggedly to theirs? A little planning will help you be calm and direct without aggression.
 

Listen and respond

Pause for a moment. Are you aware of your audience? Are you listening and responding to them? Or are you focused solely on pushing out your own messages? Creating moments to tune into verbal and non-verbal signals will help you remain relevant – and help what you say to land.

 

A dual sense of understanding and being understood is fundamental to reducing stress and boosting enjoyment. And, given the amount of time we spend at work, it's worth making the effort to achieve!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why listening to Moaning Minnies is vital for success

Nothing works round here... La la la, I can't hear you...

Well, all right. Maybe not moaning minnies – but a complaint is a gift. And, when delivered to a business (rather than your mum), the lucky recipient can use it to improve products and services.

It seems we’ve got quite a lot to complain about, if last week's UK Customers Satisfaction Index is anything to go by. The annually published index shows that satisfaction has fallen for the second year running. It’s not all gloomy, of course – some companies continue to inspire adoration. Many others, though, just aren’t showing us the love. 

Numerous organisations now describe colleagues in other departments as internal ‘customers’, who also require superb service. Whether internal or external, that service can be improved by actively listening – even when it involves the odd moan. 

A failure to listen – and respond relevantly – is not only irritating, but pointless. Neither party benefits in the long term, and both may leave with raised blood pressure in the short term.

Ryan Block’s recent recording of his cancellation call to Comcast demonstrates this beautifully – and painfully. The Comcast employee clearly feels he must follow the script at all costs. He harangues Block, repeatedly prevents him from speaking, and refuses to acknowledge any answers he does manage to give.

The employee gives the impression that his life depends on Block not cancelling the contract. Perhaps his job does. Either way, it creates a deeply worrying impression of the organisation’s culture.

The conversation is astonishing – but perhaps not unusual. Most of us have had conversations at some point in which our presence has felt superfluous, whether with customer service reps or colleagues. As our opinions, knowledge or experiences fall on deaf ears, we may become disinclined to give the gift of feedback. And, if we can, we may resolve to take our custom – or our CVs – elsewhere.

Creating space for each other to speak, listening to what’s said rather than what we want to be said, and responding relevantly is a much more fruitful approach. Be alert to what’s not said, too. Non-verbal signals are often excellent indicators of whether the other party is actively engaged. Remember to be aware of yours, too – none of us operates in a vacuum.

By actively listening, and responding relevantly in our interactions, we can raise satisfaction among both colleagues and customers. And when a culture of listening extends right through from CEO to intern, and product design to customer, it creates a virtuous circle that both staff and customers will celebrate.

We hope you hear some valuable insights this week. Here at Chirp we run workshops to help colleagues both listen and be heard. If you’d like to find out more – or indeed, have some feedback for us – please do get in touch. We’re all ears!

Is risk the secret to success? We could always ask Prince...

'Prince!'  by  Scott Penner  licenced under  CC-BY-SA 2.0

I’ve been running some workshops lately to help colleagues be bolder, experiment, and take a few risks. And they've neatly coincided with the return of Prince. Or 3rdEyeGirl, or TAFKAP, or TAFKASquiggle. Now there’s a man who’s danced with risk/reward ratios in his time. Of which more later.

At each of these workshops the individuals were lively, capable, and pretty confident. They were good at their jobs and high achievers. Yet even the most assured had something outside their comfort zones. Some task or action perpetually consigned to ‘to do’ list purgatory.

It’s not really about productivity, nor whether you do your job well. And, luckily, these unappealing tasks are rarely the same for everyone – be they ringing clients, making new contacts, or pitching fresh ideas.

Most of us get by surprisingly well without having to do the things that make us nervous. We use e-mail instead of the phone. We network within established spheres. We take a deep breath, get on with it, and avoid a repeat for as long as possible.

Yet, as Prince arguably knows, change is often integral to success. Rather than stick to a reliable formula, he has continued to experiment, change, test, and play throughout his long career. Not simply with music, but with his very identity. Not every risk brought rewards – many did; others didn’t. Nonetheless, those bold decisions have been instrumental in his continued success.

Thoughtful experiments won’t always pay off – though experiments that don’t work can prove equally as valuable. Either way, it’s only by giving it a bash that we find out how much better, more exciting, even easier our work could be. By shaking things up, taking the odd punt on a possibility. (Don’t fiddle the LIBOR rates, though. There are limits.)

So, while no one’s looking, why not fish out that neglected ‘to do’ list? Pitch your barmy-yet-brilliant idea to the CEO. Pick up the phone to new clients. And long forgotten ones, too. If nothing else, you’ll at least be able to tick it off that list. I will if you will!

 

Learn more about how to embrace risk, innovation and experiments with our free Chirp Guide. Sign up to receive your download.

 

 

How to avoid dysfunction at work – tips for the (fictional) BBC

My Wednesday evenings have been brightened recently by the arrival of W1A. Set in a fictionalised New Broadcasting House, the BBC comedy stars Hugh Bonneville as the Beeb’s unfortunate Head of Values. It's a gloriously dysfunctional portrayal of the BBC, as enjoyable as it is excruciating.

First, a disclaimer. I used to work at the BBC – alongside many talented, sparky colleagues wholly unlike those in W1A. Yet there are elements of the show that feel deliciously real. And, I admit, I watch with all the delight of being in on the joke.

But these characters aren’t the preserve of the BBC. In fact I’m sure their recognisability greatly contributes to the show’s success. Most of us have met them at some point in our careers, wherever we work. And, sadly, they’re not nearly as entertaining in real life.

Five tips to help your voice work at work

Five tips to make your voice work at work

I was with a client recently who apologised for sounding so hoarse. She explained she’d been in end-to-end meetings the previous day. It was all very productive, she added, until she lost her voice.

The voice is critical to who we are; it forms so much of our identity. And, unless you’re a Trappist Monk, its effective use is key to successful work.

The impact of both words and actions can be transformed with a little attention to how we use our voices. So here are our five top tips to help you use yours to excellent effect.

 

1. Breathe before you speak. It sounds obvious but, particularly in nerve-wracking situations, most of us launch right in – and swiftly run out of breath. If most of your sentence is lost, you can guarantee its impact will be too. So: pause, then, breathe, and then speak!

 

2. Have a go at speaking as if from the stomach rather than the throat. It’ll help you project your voice – and lend authority – without raising it or straining. And that can be a boon in meetings.

(You’ll still need to open your mouth, of course. We’re not advising ventriloquism – however useful you might find that in meetings.)

 

3. Don’t rush! If you have something worth saying, give it the space to be heard and absorbed. In practice that means pausing and taking sufficient breath in longer sentences.

 

4. Think about how you want your words to be received. Delivery is almost as important as content – get those elements in harmony and your words will be infinitely more effective. If you need to persuade, for example, inject your words with energy – don’t undercut yourself by sounding unconvinced. It might take practice, but it’ll help imbue your words with meaning. And you’ll deliver clearer messages with greater impact as a result.

 

5. Be audible. If you’re feeling tired or nervous it can be hugely tempting to swallow your words. And that leaves colleagues baffled at best, and disengaged or irritated at worst. So make sure what you say can actually be heard. It will smooth communications and working relationships!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

What Sir Tom Jones knows about leadership

What Sir Tom knows about leadership

I have a confession: I’ve finally succumbed to BBC1’s The Voice. I blame the chairs. They’re huge, they light up, and they swivel on demand.

Though clearly thrilled to be picked via a revolving chair, the real draw for the contestants is superstar coaching. The chance for expert leadership from people who’ve been there, done it. And kept doing it.

Fervent aspiration with world-class authority is a compelling mix. The judges clearly know their stuff. But the big question is whether they can empower their teams to achieve the same. Essentially: will they be inspirational leaders?

Each coach has a different style, but it’s Sir Tom Jones that I’ve been watching closely. He knows his experience is an effective selling point. And barely a moment passes without another “starry collaboration” anecdote. (While we all wonder if there’s anyone he hasn’t sung with…)

Last week Sir Tom demonstrated what he's learned about leadership during all those years at the top. That it’s not enough to tell; you must also show. You must lead by example. By doing just that, he transformed his team’s uncertain, lacklustre delivery into a passionate, meaningful performance. Something had suddenly ‘clicked’, within just a few minutes.

One of my criticisms of the show until now has been that we've rarely seen the coaches up on stage. There’s something incredibly powerful about demonstrating excellence in the moment, rather than relying on previous success. Executed consistently, it creates clarity of purpose, avoids misunderstandings, and inspires observers.

Sir Tom seems to know that. Perhaps it's something he learned from all those musicians who inspired him. Either way, leading by example – modelling attitudes, behaviours and practice – is a powerful tool. And that’s the case whether you’re in front of six people or 6.95 million.

 

Want to learn more about how to be a leader who enables as well as inspires? Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide.