I have prepared a series of short videos for my IESE courses this year. This is a 3 minute video describing the 5 aspects of a powerful speaking voice. A powerful voice will transmit authority to your audience and allow them to engage with you as a credible leader.
The five aspects of a powerful speaking voice
The five aspects of a powerful speaking voice are:
This post is inspired by a talk “You and your research” by Richard Hamming.
One life to live
“Now, why is this talk important? I think it is important because, as far as I know, each of you has one life to live. Even if you believe in reincarnation it doesn’t do you any good from one life to the next! Why shouldn’t you do significant things in this one life, however you define significant? I’m not going to define it – you know what I mean.” Richard Hamming speaking to Bellcore, 7 March, 1986.
My summary of Hamming’s lessons for success (as a scientist, but I believe easily applicable to any profession) are:
Hammings 13 Lessons for Success
Work on important problems
Plant acorns to grow oaks
When opportunity appears pursue it fully
Keep your door open sometimes, closed sometimes
Do your job in such a way that others can build on it
Even scientists have to sell (learn to speak well)
Educate your bosses
How you dress matters
Be good to secretaries
Let others fight the system (you can do great work or fight the system, not both)
Always look for positive not negative
Know yourself, your weaknesses, your self-delusions (we all have self-delusions)
All the talent, but don’t deliver
Richard Hamming says about people who have greatness within their grasp but don’t succeed:
they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and
they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck.
How success and fame can ruin you
“When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you.”
How to keep it going for life
“Somewhere around every seven years make a significant, if not complete, shift in your field. Thus, I shifted from numerical analysis, to hardware, to software, and so on, periodically, because you tend to use up your ideas. When you go to a new field, you have to start over as a baby. You are no longer the big mukity muk and you can start back there and you can start planting those acorns which will become the giant oaks.”
“It is better to solve the right problem the wrong way than to solve the wrong problem the right way.”
Thanks to Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator for sharing this talk on his blog. The full text of the talk is here.
What do you think?
Are you planting acorns? Are you fighting the system? or doing great work? Is it true that you cannot do both? (sometimes the system is wrong… what should I do?) Join the discussion here.
Listen. Not just to the words. To the emotions of the other. To the real reasons underlying her position. To the hidden messages in their communication. To yourself. To how you feel. To your unconscious. It is a very very clever beast. It just doesn’t do directness very well.
Years ago, laziness was about shirking from physical labour. Avoiding chores.
The New Laziness
Today’s laziness is more insipid. It doesn’t look like physical laziness. In fact, only the individual self can know that they are being lazy. The new laziness is fear based. It is procrastination. It is self-sabotage. It is avoidance of standing out. It is taking the tested path. It is doing what everyone else does and then being frustrated when you get paid the same as everyone else, of how you will be let go when you are 40 and a 20 year old will do the same work, with more energy, and for less money.
“There are different species of laziness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern style is like the one practiced in India. It consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea, listening to Hindi film music blaring on the radio, and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so there is no time at all to confront the real issues. This form of laziness lies in our failure to choose worthwhile applications for our energy.” Sogyal Rinpiche
Busy-ness on the wrong things is the new laziness.
An entrepreneur friend recently commented to me an early conversation he had with a mentor:
“Alex, you have great potential”.
“Do you know what great potential means?”
“You ain’t done nothing yet”.
What does it take to turn potential into mastery?
Malcolm Gladwell has made famous the concept that 10,000 hours of practice leads to world class performance in his book Outliers. I say this is not true. There are plenty of people who have amassed over 10,000 hours and they are still poor or mediocre at what they do. The truth is that these 10,000 hours need to be “Deliberate Practice” in order to achieve excellence.
What is deliberate practice?
“For starters, it isn’t what most of us do when we’re practicing” Geoff Colvin. The key piece of scientific literature on this subject is “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance” by Anders Ericsson.
There are five things that characterize Deliberate Practice:
It is designed specifically to improve performance
It can be repeated a lot
Feedback on results is continuously available
It is highly demanding mentally
It is not fun
There are three fields of human performance where methods for becoming world class have been developed and honed over hundreds of years.
Musicians, Sportsmen and Chess players have found practice models that lead to world class performance based on the inclusion of the 5 aspects of deliberate practice. We can bring these styles of practice into the world of business and leadership.
The Musician Model
Great musicians become great by repeatedly copying others and comparing their results with the results of previous great musicians. Musicians spend much of their life reading and practicing music that is written on sheets.
How does the Musician Model apply to learning to lead?
Get to know inspiring community leaders. How do they live their lives?
Read biographies and personal accounts (and blogs) of leaders you respect.
Practice reading speeches out loud and get a feel for how great speakers use words and structure
The Chess Model
Excellent chess players play lots, have deep knowledge on openings and expert play, have studied extensively the decisions taken by grandmasters – “what was he seeing that I don’t see?”. It is important that you not only copy, but also reflect on why the master followed this series of moves, what was the underlying strategy?
How does the Chess Model apply to learning to lead?
Review the decisions taken by great leaders. What were they thinking? Why did they take this particular decision? What other options did they consider?
Always ask a question when in a conference or formal presentation.
Formulate your opinions on everything – news, stocks, impact of the iphone on society, most important values for children, role of the MBA, etc
“War games” Practice scenarios, what if? How would I respond to X, Y, Z? Prepare.
The Sports Model
Sports success requires intense physical and mental conditioning – keep your mind and body fit. Sports people repeatedly practice the basic physical skills; but this is not enough. It is vital that performance on the big day of the competition is as high as during the practice. Sports people need to work on their mind so that their performance under the glare of lights and pressure of competition does not reduce.
There are 4 ways to handle anxiety – top sports stars need to use the mature 2 methods: tolerate or enjoy – in order that their performance is not impaired by pressure.
How does the Sports model apply to learning to lead?
Enjoying anxiety or high pressure situations requires a belief system that sees your life as a continual journey of growth as a human being – whether you succeed or fail each pressure moment is an opportunity for growth. Do you treat pressure moments and critical decisions as opportunities for reflection and growth?
Performance under pressure requires that you have practiced the basic moves to a degree to which you can trust yourself to perform – if reading financial statements and making quick judgements is important to your job – practice making these judgements on a daily basis – don’t just wait for your boss or client to ask your opinion.
Keep fit – athletes need to be fit, leaders need all the energy they can get.
Eat well – fruit and veg better than pizza and beer.
Sleep enough – I need 7 hours. I need to read 20 minutes to calm my mind to sleep.
What will your 10,000 hours be?
I take decisions every day, every hour. The decision to play it safe. The decision to be like all the others. The decision to copy how someone else would do it. The decision to work hard at being the same. These are perfectly fine decisions, but they have consequences. The least safe decision in the long term is to seek comfort now. The world will keep changing. Web 2.0, globalization increase the pace at which change is driving through all of our lives. My grandfather’s competition were the other males living in his town. My competition is every Indian, Chinese, Brazilian, Spaniard in the world. There will always be somebody able and willing to do the simple, commodity tasks for less pay. This is inevitable. There is no escape. A sinking ship will eventually sink. I can bail a little. I can pray. I can put up bigger borders. But I cannot stop that the boat will eventually sink. The effort that I put into delaying the sinking is effort that could have gone into making myself not a commodity, into being valuable for me.
What do you want to be doing 20 years from now? In what domain are you going to accumulate 10,000 hours of deliberate practice?
There are three benefits that grow from you “acting” confident:
Attitude follows Behavior: Over time, you become more like you act—self-assured, confident, and convinced of the truth of what you are saying.
Emotional Contagion: Walk down an airport corridor and smile, and watch people smile back; change your facial expression to a frown, and you will be met with frowns. Act confident, people respond with confidence in you.
Self-Reinforcing Emotions: if you smile and then others smile, you are more likely to feel happy and smile. You may have to act confident and knowledgeable at first, but as others “catch” that feeling, it will be reflected back, making you more confident.
On 9th August 2010, Ed Stafford arrived at the sea, having walked the length of the Amazon river. Over 860 days of walking, 20,000 mosquito bites, 5,000 leeches, poisonous spiders and snakes. No boss told him to do it. Nobody paid him for it. Why did he do it? How did he keep going for almost 3 years?
“Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest invention, since it made history possible. Yet it is a skill most writers take for granted. As adults we seldom stop to think about the mental-cum-physical process that turns our thoughts into symbols on a piece of paper.” Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing.
If you want to improve your intelligence, write stuff down. Full stop. Write stuff down, and 6 months from now you have the accumulated intelligence of 6 months of notes, ideas, quotes.
More valuable perhaps than increased intelligence is the power of writing to reduce my feelings of stress or overwhelm when I confront uncertain or challenging decisions.
Reflective writing gives me three benefits
Writing slows down time (Mindfulness)
Writing orders my thought (practice improves clear thinking)
Writing allows perspective (separation of subject and object, separation of reason and emotion)
Habits and Rituals to keep writing as a habit
In order to develop a habit of reflective writing I would suggest you start with 5 to 10 minute sessions where you dedicate full attention. Set a timer and remove all sources of interruption. Close the door, disconnect internet, put mobile on silent.
I use a pen and paper. Others use computer. Whatever you do, the key to getting the benefits is to separate the creative and edit processes. Reflective writing is about capturing the flow of consciousness as you reflect on the decision, on an error, on a problematic relationship, on how to achieve a certain outcome – and not letting your inner editor get into the process until you have a draft of the ideas down on paper.
There are times when I have to tell my brain “I will keep writing until I have 500 words on this page and if I have to write the word ‘the’ 500 times then that is what I will do”. Inspiration comes when I tell my procrastination-oriented lizard brain that I am going to go on writing until I reach my goal.
Action plans – what are you going to do? what series of steps take you closer to your goal? how to engage the people whose support you need?
What other tools, questions, methods do you have for using writing as a tool for reflection? Do you write regularly? Why? or Why not?
I will finish with Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. He was wise. Although I might add that the over-examined life is a poor alternative – best to experience life than to think about experiencing life. Reflection on experience is not a complete replacement for fully living today.
I watched the rescue of the Chilean miners yesterday morning. It was an emotional scene. The miners coming one by one hoisted to the surface in a coffin-like metal cage from their cave through 620m of rock. Each miner arrived to a wave of cheers of “Chi-Chi-Chi… Le-Le-Le… Chile!”. Each miner reacted in his own particular way – some shouting, some hugging family, some praying. The second miner out had brought a bag of rocks to hand out as souvenirs to the rescue team.
Three people stood out for their leadership in this 69 day odyssey.
Sebastian Piñera – Chilean President. Announced from day one that Chile’s objective was the rescue attempt and that this was a priority. He set no dates or deadlines. He gave no false hopes. He set a vision but let others define the map. Second, he ensured that each small win along the way was celebrated – without ever letting the euphoria overtake the hard work still to come. Clarity of purpose and celebration of the little wins.
Luis Urzua – the shift supervisor, the leader of the 33 miners trapped underground. We expect 2 things from our leaders: competence and compassion. Competence to do their job well. Compassion to care for the people they lead. Luis had both. He organised the group. They had defined areas for sleeping, for exercise, for daytime. They had electric lighting simulating 12 hours day, and switched it off for simulated night. He rationed the food and set specific eating times. He brought a small predictability for the miners confronting a massive uncertainty. He was compassionate. He ate last, and ate least. He was the last to leave the mine. When he emerged, President Piñera said to him “You acted like a good boss“. Competence and compassion.
Mario Gomez – the eldest of the trapped miners. He was the leader of the parties, of the fun videos that the miners had made during their ordeal. He took a leading role as spiritual guide to the miners. He ensured that fun and enthusiasm was part of every day. In a situation of such tension, these moments of fun were so important in keeping up hope and maintaining morale. The importance of fun.
When 63 year old Mario Gomez emerged he spoke on camera with the Presidents of Chile and Brazil. He said: “Sometimes you need something to happen to really reflect that you only have one life. I am changed, I am a different man.“
The biggest lesson, my simple reflection… 33 people faced an extreme situation and kept their humanity. They kept hope. Chile dedicated its resources and achieved a big deal. They kept faith. We are capable of much more than we know. Chile showed its best under extreme situations. In this extreme event each leader, each politician, each boss, each person sought to serve others, to do the right thing. It was a moment worthy of celebration.
Lessons of Leadership:
Discipline provides predictability in an uncertain world
Leadership is a team sport
Marathon not sprint
Celebrate small wins
Compassion, Own needs last
Fun makes life worth living
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