It looks like this!

One of the challenges with delegating is to be sure that everyone understands the directions and the desired results.  One of the ways to clarify is to use the ‘it looks like this’ phrase when identifying the results or expected outcomes and the steps along the path.    Another way is to use questions in opening the minds of those to whom you assign the tasks.  Questions such as – What will your first step be?  What resources will you need?  Who do you go to for assistance when you are stuck?

Questions are great and identifying the outcome help others see the goal…and both processes are motivational.  Most know the values of questions.  I have addressed them in the past and will go deeper in a future article.  Right now let’s focus on seeing the goal before it becomes reality, and how it motivates us.   I call that vision.  It’s part of the ‘I CAN PLAY’ attitude we need for success.

About ten years ago I had a knee replacement.  The surgery was simple compared to what was next … physical therapy.  One part of the process to get my knee back to normal movement was the stationary bike.  Sounds simple for someone with good knees.   My left knee was not good.  It was swollen and sore from the surgery and I had difficulty moving it.  Back to the bike.  I could not make my left knee bend so that I could make the rotation on the bike.   The goal was to go all the way around but I couldn’t bend my knee to make the complete circle.  Too much pain!

On my fourth visit to the physical therapist Shawn greeted me with “We’re going all the way around today on the bike!”  I looked at him like he was crazy.  I can’t get my knee to bend enough to go all the way around.  Too much pain.  “No way,” I said.  Shawn looked me in the eye.  “We can do it, we’re going all the way around …today!”

I got on the bike but did not have the same expectation that Shawn expressed.  Too much pain!  Shawn noticed that I was doing what I had been doing in previous visits;  go to the point of pain on the bike, then reverse direction.  He yelled across the room, “Gary, we’re going all the way around…today!”

Shawn was good… like a teacher or coach good.  He had gained my respect, built a relationship during previous visits, and now he was setting the bar higher.  Here’s the goal … all the way around.  It was like he was saying …”IT LOOKS LIKE THIS!  All the way around.”

Shawn’s motivation, inspiration, and direction worked.  After a series of reversals, I started trying a little harder, absorbing a little more pain, visualizing what success looks like and …. I DID IT.  I went all the way around!  Once I completed the circle I let go with a loud scream!  Everybody stopped their therapy and stared.  “What’s that all about,?” is what I interpreted their staring to be asking  … so I explained the reason for the yelling.  “I went all the way around,” was my simple explanation.

It happened because Shawn got me to see success.  Without saying the exact words he got me to understand “It looks like this” and then the vision became reality.

What to bring for the presentation!

Shared the I CAN PLAY message with Breckenridge County football team and their boosters Saturday night.  The formula is Vision, Positive Atmosphere and Risk.  Put them together and you get strong in your self-belief and that belief is the first step to success.

Something else happens when you begin to live the I CAN PLAY attitude.  The energy level increases … and then excitement shows up and enthusiasm catches on.

Here’s how it happens, I bet you will agree.  When we bring energy with us it causes us, and others, to get excited.  It just happens.  Bring energy to a meeting, to a family reunion, to a football practice, to a classroom, to a one-on-one conversation, it bring the level of activity up.  That activity promotes excitement.  People begin to think of the possibilities, the opportunities.  That lends itself to creating enthusiasm.  Individuals step up, open up to new ideas.  They share their beliefs, see possibilities, individuals focus on the goal and formulate the path to success.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it!  It is what happens when we bring energy to the conversation, the presentation, the game, the relationship, the new directive.    Every time?  Perhaps.  Give it a try.  Make the energy rise when you show up.  Think YES and say YES.  Positive people see success negative people see obstacles.

I started the Breckenridge County presentation with a story of coaching 7 year olds and teaching them how to hit the ball.  I suggested to the kids parents they create games in the backyard using a broomstick and plastic balls the size of a golf ball.  Create some fun in the back yard while teaching them to hit.  The kids learn  eye hand coordination and the parents are building a relationship!  It also creates energy that helps a coach build a baseball team.  If they can hit a plastic ball the size of a golf ball they can hit a baseball with a bat!

But the energy is the most important creation.  You can build excitment and enthusiasm off the energy … and the three e’s go a long way in building a team, a relationship and a life.

As I told the story at Breck County I was hitting plastic golf balls with a broom stick.  The balls were flying in the air over and into the audience.  It’s all about energy.  The same energy they want to create for the football team and the boosters.

Bring energy to everything you do and all your presentations … in front of an audience of 50 or an audience of one.  Energy creates excitement.  Excitement gets people listening.

Coaching is discovering

After a few years coaching kids in baseball I realized I had it all wrong.  Coaching has little to do with telling or showing.  It is all about discovery … discovering ways for players to get rid of the obstacle, which keeps them from being the best they can be.  It is also true when teaching communication skills, leadership, personal development, or success training.  Great coaches help individuals and teams get past their barriers.

When I coached baseball I learned that many kids were afraid of the ball.  Trying to tell them how to catch a fly ball was useless.  They were focused on not getting hurt.  Catching the fly ball was not a priority.  After I discovered the obstacle I needed an action step to get rid of the fear.

I showed up with tennis balls.  Not just because the ball is softer, it is, but because tennis balls bounce.  So I sent my team to the outfield with the instruction to catch the ball on first bounce.  Here’s what happened.  They were less afraid of getting hit in the head with a bouncing tennis ball so they were able to focus on the instructions, the process of learning how to catch; proper footwork, glove technique, stay in front of the ball.  These are all skills that will lead to catching a fly ball, and the players, the kids, were learning without the fear of getting hit in the head.  Teaching how to catch a fly ball was now simple.

You can read instructions out of a book.  How to be a leader, how to give a presentation, how to find success, or how to catch a fly ball, but telling, showing, or reading will not move you beyond your obstacles.  Perhaps a coach is required, someone who is not concerned about telling or showing, but more concerned about what holds you back, that’s discovery.  Once the obstacle is discovered we can name it, tame it, and move on.

By the way, sometimes, even after the tennis ball process, some kids did take a ball on the head.  Then we brought out the catcher’s mask … and continued the process.

Just be ‘Pops’

While playing with my soon to be three-year-old  granddaughter she heard me talk like Capt. Hook ‘ Walk the plank,” I said in that gravely voice I’ve enjoyed on the big screen.  She didn’t like the new identity.  “Pops, you just be Pops, “ she instructed.

Now isn’t that comforting  – she wants me to be who I am.  No living up to others expectations, no acting out, just Pops, the best Pops I can be. I think I’ll do it all day!  Then I won’t have to guess how I think I should act in different situations.  Just the best Gary I can be, all the time!

That’s the same lesson for the front of the room and presentations skills.  Build yourself to be the best you can be, and then bring it with you …your best knowledge, your best attitude, your best communication skills, and your absolute best self-belief.  Just be you when you speak, not the person you think someone wants you to be.  That’s the path to find our how good you can be … and the nervousness and self-doubt will begin to disappear.


Buy in

A few years ago Notre Dame beat Michigan.  My son is a Notre Dame grad and we are Irish football fans.  The teem had been struggling so victories were valuable.  This particular win was against a sub-par Michigan team.   The Wolverines had a new coach and they were struggling.   Nonetheless, Notre Dame had a victory.

My son called after the win,  “Dad, we’re back!”

“Troy,” I said, “Did you watch the game?  Michigan turned it over three times in the first quarter and Notre Dame couldn’t take advantage.  Notre Dame was kicking field goals when they should have been scoring touchdowns from close range.   Notre Dame  didn’t put on a very good display against a pretty bad opponent.”

“Dad,” came the reply from the phone.  “Don’t be negative, you gotta be a fan.”

That’s what he said.  What he meant was — are you in or are you on the sidelines?  Real fans buy in!

It made me think about commitment.  There are things I am really committed to in life and those commitments show up in everything I think and do.  As I look back at my past I can see where I was truly committed, and I see where I was partly committed, and I can see where I merely went through the motions, when I was on the sidelines.  It made a difference in the results.

Today I know what I believe and that belief guides my commitment in all parts of life;  faith, family and profession.

At a breakfast with a new friend this morning I shared  that self-belief, self-trust, makes life easier.  It becomes easier  because you know what to ‘jump into’ … what to ‘just do’ … what to commit to … and what to buy into.

A path to Communication success

At a recent presentation skills workshop I was asked about speaking impromptu.  The question  is often asked because we are often called on to share ideas at work, during a conference call,  at committee meetings or at friends gatherings.   We are often asked to speak ‘off the cuff.’  It would be much easier if we had a formula, or a path to follow.

Well here’s a path to follow.  Here’s the simple formula to plug in  — past, present, future. Just use that formula and insert the subject matter.

Here’s an example.  Let’s use gasoline price as the subject and put it  into the formula and see what happens.  Here we go.

“In the past, gas was only a dollar a gallon .  I didn’t think about it much and it did not have much of an effect on what kind of car I bought.  Today, (present) gas prices are hovering around four bucks a gallon and the high cost causes me to curtail trips around the city and it has me thinking of what kind of car to buy.  I’m not sure where the prices are going in the future, but I am sure that we will continue to see smaller cars on the road and drivers thinking more economically about the trips they take as the cost of gasoline becomes a bigger share of the budget.”

The formula gives us a path to follow and that is key element of  communication.  We know where we are going!   When we know where we are going during our conversation or presentation we become more comfortable …  and comfort shows to the audience.  That comfort helps us become more relaxed and in control.

Use the formula next time you are at a loss for words …. it will put you on the right path!

The Truth

Here’s the truth!  People want to feel good about themselves.   I know you know that.  But keep it in mind as I continue with some thoughts on how we make presentations and in our general communication. Since we now both know the truth (that people want to feel good about themselves) I am going to operate within that understanding.  My goal when I communicate with others will be to help them feel good about themselves.   Not to give them information, not to tell them how to run their lives, not to tell them what to do.  My goal with everything I say will be to help them feel good about themselves. This may sound very simple to you but many, and I am sure you know some, do not care how others feel. So, what benefit is it to me to help people feel better about themselves?  Well,  if I help them feel better about themselves they will listen to me.  You would wouldn’t you?  And if I help individuals feel better about themselves they might follow my lead, because they like what they hear, and see.  And if they follow my lead, then I may be able to influence them to a certain way of thinking, convince them of an idea or plan of action.  If that happens I have become a leader. In the past, when I stood in front of an audience, I wanted to be the smartest person in the room.  I’ve changed my thinking.  I now want the audience members to become the smartest people in the room, and I want them to get their information from me.  I want them to feel better about themselves because of interaction with me.  I want to influence them to think better of themselves. It’s a different way of thinking about communicating.  Help others want to listen to you.  There are skills and processes to make that happen, but first we need to buy into the idea. I worked with a gentleman, let’s call him Jim, who wanted to improve his communication skills.  Well let me change that.  He wanted to “stick it to his boss!”  Yeah, that’s what he said.  His boss said Jim appeared threatened and awkward whenever they talked.   His boss said that Jim needed to improve how he communicated so Jim wanted to “stick it to him.” I told Jim I couldn’t help him reach his goal of “sticking it to his boss.”  But I did offer that I could help him become a better presenter and communicator if that was his goal.  I suggested his goal was misdirected. Let’s back up for a moment.  If Jim’s goal was to “stick it to his boss”, he would never be able to help his boss feel better about himself, and remember that’s the communication goal I’m trying to sell. So, what I suggested for Jim to do is try and communicate so that his boss would feel better about himself.  Each time they talked, attempt to help his boss reach a goal, convey a point, or try to learn something different about his boss.  What happened is that Jim brought something new to the communication.  A new way of thinking, of influencing , of taking control of the communication.   And a side note, Jim started liking himself more because he was more positive in his communication. So I guess the real truth is, when we bring our best attitude to life in our communication, it will also help others with their attitude in life, and communication.  That’s the TRUTH! I’ll post some of the simple communication processes in the upcoming weeks.

Start in the middle!

In my broadcasting years it was called, bury the lead, and I was guilty of it more than once.  The most important part of the story was written in the second or third paragraph.   Sometime I thought it needed a set up, other time I was concerned it had to be told chronologically.  No matter the reason the most important part of the story was ‘buried,” not intentionally but it happened.

The same happens in speeches.  The presenter, you or me, think we have to start at the beginning.  Eventually we get to the most important part … the part that we came to tell them … later in the speech.

Here’s a different way of speech writing or speech thinking.  Bring the middle to the front, or start in the middle.  Start with the part that is going to WOW the audience, start with the part that always works!  But Gary, you might say,  we have to give them the background.  Right!  Of course you do!  But I bet you can write around that with a simple phrase like…”let me back up to the beginning,” or” let me share how we arrived at that magical moment.”

I recently watched a video of a very influential person giving a presentation.  He has written three best selling books, has a wealth of knowledge and stories  and commands attention when he speaks.  But while I was watching him he was moving nervously, not sure of what he was saying, he looked at the floor, head down and filling space with ums and ahs!  He was horribly uncomfortable.

After about 7 minutes of this he got into the meat of his presentation.  The Ahs and Ums disappeared.  He stopped moving nervously and stood with a strong foundation.  He looked at the audience while telling his powerful stories.  No longer was I thinking this guy is nervous or uncomfortable.  I was listing to the stories he was sharing, no he was re-living!  He was a powerful presenter because he was sharing the part of the presentation where he was comfortable.   I thought out loud while watching “OH YEAH!”  He had buried the lead.

Well, not actually but it’s a similar concept.  As presenters we should start with something that allows us to be most comfortable.  Move your best stuff up to the top.  Start with the stuff you used to put in the middle.  You will start more comfortably and the audience will feed off your lead.  They feel comfortable.

Try it sometime.  either in a formal presentation or a casual conversation.  When telling that story that is funny or feeling, try to start with the most important part or the most important line.  It will get the attention of your audience and they will eagerly listen for more.  Start in the middle!

Presentation Technique

I ask audiences and speech classes I teach ” What is most important, the performance, the audience or the message?”

Hardly anyone answers the performance.  However when they do, they argue that the performance has a great deal of influence on how the audience receives the message.  Hard to argue with that reasoning.

Many, in fact most, will answer the audience.  It’s all about them isn’t it.  The audience is the reason you are presenting.

I think it’s all about the message.

I won’t let the audience or the class answer out loud anymore.  No show of hands to vote which is more important.  I don’t want them to think they shared a wrong answer so I ask them just to think about it.  Don’t respond for now.

If you think the presentation, or performance, is most important you get caught up in yourself and how you are doing in addressing the audience.  Many speakers think different, but it’s not about the speaker.

So how can I suggest the audience is not most important?  We wouldn’t be here if not for the audience.  They need the message, especially if it’s an important lesson or special truth they need to hear or understand.  Right?

I’m going to stick with the message being most important and the focal point of the presentation.  It’s all about the belief in the message being delivered.  If we truly believe in the message it will show with our performance.  We will live the message as much as we do present it.  In fact if we continually live the message, that will be our performance.

And if we believe in that message it will come across to the audience.  They will see the truth we believe.  It will show.  Passion and excitement will be the pathway of the words we share from the front of the room.  There is nothing we can do to better  value our audience than to commit to our message so that it is understood through our actions as well as our words.

When we focus on our message we better value our audience.  They will experience  the passion and excitement of our actions which are naturally created by our beliefs.

However, we can tune up our performance.

I want to continue working.   Message yes, but we can continue practicing how to live it in front of others.

Busy December

It’s been a busy month and not yet half over.  Hope you have your shopping at least started if not yet finished!

I addressed the Principals and Presidents of the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville this week.  They are impressive individuals dedicated to growing young people in faith and education.  When I present to audiences I ofter ask who it was that influenced them to understand they could be a success.  I often hear parents but right behind is a teacher or counselor or principal.  The success stories about teachers would fill volumes and motivate us all.  Teachers (principals and school presidents) are special people who lead individuals to understand “they can be better than they think they can be!”  (there’s probably a teacher in your life that helped you stretch yourself and your dreams.)

Earlier in the month I was in Ft. Worth Texas with Young Farmers & Ranchers and some teenagers who grew up in agriculture.  They are a dedicated group of people.

One young man told me “I’m a farmer’s kid Mr. Montgomery.  I know hard work, values and commitment to a cause.”  He’s on a pretty good path to success with those qualities hanging around his neck.  I often see those qualities when I address Farm Bureau and agriculture audiences.

I am blessed to get to speak to groups that teach me a lot!

And December isn’t over yet!  Merry Christmas if I don’t get back here again for awhile.  I still have some shopping to do!