The Energy to Direct Change

We are looking forward to October 11th when Julia will be at the IoD giving a Keynote talk. The Institute of Directors was founded in 1903 and incorporated by royal charter in 1906. One of the aims of this royal charter has been to encourage and foster a climate favourable to entrepreneurial activity and wealth creation.

We have found over the years that many entrepreneurs, directors and creators of wealth complain of the fact that their workforce has a different attitude or work ethic to their own. In order to create a climate favourable to entrepreneurial activity within an organisation, however, a workforce must take ownership of the processes whereby it will be achieved. So is it possible for entrepreneurs and wealth creators to communicate to their workforce in such a way that a wholesale shift in mindset occurs? If they can’t there is always a danger of falling into a lower level management role, maintaining existing paradigms and processes and being forced to work round their inefficiencies.

So the holy grail is to not only be able to convey information and communicate vision effectively, but to communicate ones own passion and inculcate a sense of ownership of the desired modus operandi throughout the entire team.

As an entrepreneur, how do you create that same spirit within your team? Is it possible? Is it reasonable to expect others to acquire the same passion that you have? The answer is yes. What you are trying to create are known as intrapreneurs. An intrapreneur is a person who takes on the responsibility to innovate new ideas, products and processes or any new invention within the organization. An intrapreneur is the individual who thinks out of the box and possesses the leadership skills and does not fear from risk. (Wikipedia) Thus, intrapreneurship is a practice of creating the entrepreneurial environment within the organization, thereby enabling the employees to apply their entrepreneurial skills in the job roles they are assigned to. They may one day transition to becoming entrepreneurs themselves. So.. how is it done?

Well, there are several things that really help such as giving people autonomy, time for research and development and the opportunity to discuss their dreams and desires and see how you might facilitate them. You can also get people to articulate their vision for their department every year and empower them to duplicate themselves in others. But in the first instance, how do you begin to communicate your passion?

Have you ever, after communicating what you wanted, had people still go away and do the opposite to what you said? The behavioural change you were looking for did not take place. Your expectation was that your audience would learn, retain and then act on the information you conveyed. Only they didn’t.

The problem is, we need to connect with our people on more than an intellectual level; it’s all about speaking to hearts and souls.  Nobody will feel compelled to go out and act on what you have said if you have not really connected with them.

Communication that moves us and changes others can only come from someone whose head, heart and body are harmoniously engaged in the process.  Albert Mehrabian’s study highlighted the importance of congruence between the verbal, vocal and visual components of how we communicate. Any imbalance between these will impact on how our message ‘lands’.  If there’s a mismatch between words and facial expression, for example, we tend to believe the expression rather than the words.  So if we say “I’m really excited about going on my Summer holiday” in a flat monotone that comes out of a long face, it’s unlikely we’ll be believed!  (Our listener will become  distracted and their concentration will be deflected into working out what’s wrong; or they won’t bother to listen at all.)

So, to recap, good verbal communication requires our intellect, feelings and physicality to be working congruously together and reinforcing each other. As it would be with an actor on the stage. What is needed is performance energy (which is used by professional actors in the theatre). Anyone who has experienced performance energy in themselves or others will know how potent it is as an agent for change.  What it lends is a level of intensity of emotion and thought finding expression through a perfect balance between our voice, face and body resulting in ‘whole person’ communication.

On a recent assignment Personal Presentation undertook with a South African mining company the general manager of one of the miners said the following (paraphrased):

 “What I’ve learned is that I should use the whole of me.  I should use my body, use my hands. I learned I need to use the whole of me to communicate a strong message to actually connect with the people I’m talking to. I’ve discovered how speaking with energy puts me in touch with how I feel and that sharing the emotion I feel helps me connect… I become natural and relaxed because I know I’m telling something I’m convinced of and I believe in.”

As an agent for change, performance energy has built-in durability.  For a very simple reason: once people have experienced it and felt and seen what it’s like to communicate using it, they never want to go back!

Developing communication skills can be one of the most potent experiential learning opportunities that exists. But only if sensitively and expertly done, with a profound understanding of the science, psychology, discipline and techniques that drive great performance and release a leaders’ full potential and a gamut of instant benefits.

Performance energy (and the whole person communication that is both its source and its product) is not the sine qua non of behavioural and cultural change in organisations.  Defining clear objectives, re-aligning incentives and rewards, and process adjustment and re-design can all be hugely important.  But unless these are adopted and supported with a determined and consistent energy at all levels, they can all too easily remain just words on a vision statement hanging on a wall.

This understanding has been central to our successful coaching methodology for the past 30 years.