The research is pretty overwhelming and so is the wisdom of those who have lead the way before us as successful organizational leaders.
- Eighty-nine percent of business professionals believe that communicating with a solid level of clarity and confidence directly impacts their career and income. Source: 2013 Presentation Impact Survey, Distinction Communication, Inc.
- Leaders who are ‘highly effective’ communicators had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the previous five years. Source: 2011–2012 Change and Communication ROI Study Report, Towers Watson
- Eighty percent of employers wanted colleges to place more emphasis on written and oral communication skills. Source: It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, Association of American Colleges & Universities
The highly successful business tycoon, Warren Buffet, touts a 50 percent increase in personal income over a lifetime for those with good speaking skills. (I suppose he should know.)
I could go on and on. So here’s the $64,000 question (or half-million, according to Buffet). If the evidence is so compellingly clear about this powerful correlation between success and personal communication skills, then why are so few leaders running out and gobbling up the time of every presentation coach between LA and Boston?
The answer is found in a simple story.
When the highly successful NFL head coach Tom Landry from the Dallas Cowboys finally retired from football after 25 years in 1989, he left an amazing legacy as a leader of men.
During his retirement banquet he was asked if he could answer a few questions from the fans and media who were present that night.
As he approached the podium, a hand quickly shot up in the crowd. An enthusiastic reporter asked him, “Coach Landry, to what do you attribute your long, successful career as a head coach?” After thinking for a moment, this Southern gentleman offered up this simple insight:
“I always saw my job as getting men to do what they didn’t want to do so they could achieve what they always wanted to achieve.”
Doing the hard things in life.
He managed to capture the essence of why most leaders today settle for being just average communicators. It takes time they don’t feel they have, a prioritization they don’t feel is necessary or a vulnerability they are unwilling to experience.
Becoming a good communicator — the kind that can challenge, align, motivate and inspire with their delivery — takes intent and practice. It requires some courage to step out of their comfort zone because the stakes are too high not to.
And it takes support teams who are keenly aware that “how” the executive delivers the message will ultimately be a much stronger catalyst for change than simply the raw content of what they had to say.
What strategic partnership will never come to fruition because your executive’s darting eyes made them doubt his believability?
What process of change will never take off because a CEO couldn’t win the trust of their employees?
What major customers will remain indifferent because they can’t buy into your president’s vision of the future?
What is your organization giving up because some of your leaders simply can’t/won’t take the time to sharpen this critical skill set?
This post originally appeared on the Distinction Communication Inc. blog.
Jim Endicott will be presenting The Art of Leadership Communication at the PRSA 2013 International Conference on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 12:30–1:45 p.m. Endicott is also a nationally-recognized executive coach, consultant and keynote speaker. He has been a Jesse H. Neal award-winning columnist for PRESENTATIONS magazine and has contributed presentation-related content to magazines like BusinessWeek and the Portland Business Journal.
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