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This is where we’re going; this is why we’re going there

A common complaint among CEO’s is that they’ve hired talented people – people with great potential – who won’t or don’t step up the company’s greatest challenges. They expect to be told what to do and how to do it.

A common practice in response is to have a one to one conversation intended to encourage the employee to “think strategically” or to be unafraid to make mistakes. This technique usually has little or no lasting impact.

We all have “tells”. Little quirks in how we communicate that betray our emotions or frustrations. Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, puts it this way:

“Loaded messages come in many guises. At times they arrive courtesy of a person who uses sugary sweet words but who seems to have a malevolent undertone. Our radar picks up something else – some hidden agenda perhaps – that leaves us feeling uneasy and reluctant to trust. It wasn’t anything the person actually said, but rather something in the air around the message that didn’t feel good. Our impeccable radar warns us to obey our instincts and be careful.”

So, the reaction we get is the opposite of what we would like. “Just tell me what to do, boss.”

People need to be inspired before they will blaze a trail. Scott suggests that leaders develop a stump speech “—the speech you must be prepared to give anytime, anywhere, to anyone who asks or who looks the least bit confused. Your stump speech must be powerful, clear, and brief.

“This is where we’re going. This is why we’re going there. This is who is going with us. This is how we’re going to get there.”

Now, your agenda isn’t hidden. It’s out in the open.

The stump speech becomes a yardstick against which all decisions can be measured. If you’ve really hired people with talent and potential, they’ll get it after they’ve heard it a few million times.

And, they’ll step up.

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