Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who you know is important, and what they know is even more so!

It is no longer enough to be the most connected person in your field. The data deluge and information overload we all experience has increased the demand for quality. You don't network with a volume intent. This involved getting as many business cards as you could from the room. Now it's as many friends on Facebook (FB) or followers on Twitter (Tw) you can get. The aim was to get as many business cards as you could so you could flog them stuff and hassle them after. I have no idea what the future of FB or Tw is, or even what's around the corner. What I do know is this… a quality network is more valuable than a large one over the long term.

When I created Thought Leaders in 2001, it was driven by a double need. Firstly, the need to improve the quality of my thinking and secondly, to improve the quality of my connections. Henry Ford said that you should surround yourself with people smarter than you and get out of their way. This has certainly been my experience. Indeed the quality of my network is directly proportional to my personal growth. Better thinking leads to better conversations. From there, anything is possible.

Here are some ideas for building a quality network...
  • Meet with people live
  • Present at gatherings
  • Handwrite notes
  • Care a bit about their world
  • Grow and learn
  • Meet and share
  • Discuss ideas not people
  • Be your best value in the relationship
  • Stay in touch
Quality networking is about who you're talking to and more importantly, what you are talking about. Network with intent. Hang out with smart people. Add enormous value to the conversation and their world. It's not just who you know that‘s important anymore, it's also what they know. It's the convergence of networks and knowledge that matter now.


Matt Church

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A small group of dedicated people

I spend a lot of time tracking leadership conversations through blogs, books, speakers and seminars and I notice a heavy emphasis on Personal Leadership in the ‘zeitgeist'*. The current conversation is less about dogma 6.0 or strategy 17 (made up terms) and more about the individual leader.

Just this week I came across the following ideas (none new, just current)...
  • The Leaders Character
  • Collaborative Leadership
  • Authentic Leaders
  • Care Factor Leaders
  • etc etc
Each of these ‘leadership trends' are a lens. Experts are using these lenses to look at the issue of Personal or Self Leadership. These lenses ask the question ‘What difference do you make as a leader?' A friend of mine and brilliant Thought Leader, Suzanne Mercier often says, ‘the hardest person you will ever lead is yourself'. She is an expert in Authentic Leadership and talks about the impostor syndrome.

I love it all.

Leadership is personal. It's about the difference one person can make on the whole. It's about Inspired Leadership. Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist said ‘never underestimate the power of a small group of dedicated people to change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has.'

When I talk or think on this topic I see there is a need to explain the changing role of a leader around what has stayed the same and what needs to change in the 21st century. Here is an incomplete list of some ideas I think are important for the 21st century leader. These may have always been important but in my mind they are the new leadership essential skills.

  1. Unlock: Nurturing talent in yourself and others
  2. Open: Entertain differences of opinion
  3. Elevate: Lift the game, create higher purpose
  4. Adapt : Grow behavioral flexibility and change your approach
  5. Share : Facilitate collaboration between clever people
  6. Know : Create clarity and share perspective
  7. Speak : Present and receive ideas. Yours and others
  8. Spark: Energise others to move into better futures
  9. Create: Deliver results and make things happen
Sitting around all of these are the 3 key roles of a leader to replace fear with confidence, confusion with clarity and to mobilise people in pursuit of a better future. In short, to be an Inspired Leader.

Matt Church

P.S. *"Zeitgeist" refers to the ethos of an identified group of people, that expresses a particular world-view which is prevalent at a particular period of socio-cultural progression. My friend Anders Sorman-Nilsson delivers a fabulous presentation about this exact thing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The patterns of nervous tension

The whole thing about getting nervous when you speak is serious and maybe not something that ever truly goes away. And maybe that's the way it's meant to be. I was at my doctors the other day and she said to me, "Matt you are showing all kinds of stress symptoms in your body'. I thought it was a strange thing to say. Just before I stepped into her rooms, I was thinking how great my life is and how happy and content I am. So I looked at her and said all that and more. She went on to explain how that may be so but my body was exhibiting the stress symptoms of Soldiers who spend time without leave in active duty. So I said ‘NOW seriously Doc, I fly in a plane, step onto a stage, tell people what I think, they clap (often loudly while standing) I go home and that's it, it's nowhere near the same as soldiering and living with life and death decisions.' She went onto say that while that may be true, the effects of what I do are perceived by the body in much the same way. I guess I' ll be drinking more tea and less coffee now and taking time for a little more R&R.

Now as interesting as all this personal health stuff may/may not be, I am making a point. How could I be so out of touch with the simple stress response of my human body? Clearly the nerves have not gone away, so I must have found a way to deal with them. Because I don't feel ‘nervous' per se when I speak. I am energised, I get into a state but I would not have called it nervous. If there are butterflies in my stomach nowadays then now they fly in formation. So, again, how could I be so out of touchwith my body's stress response?

With this question in my mind I started to ask my Keynote Speaking Coaching Clients what they were thinking about when they were nervous. After several dozen of these interviews I saw patterns emerge; Patterns of Nervous Tension.

It's all about what you focus on when you get nervous. I notice that those who do this speaking thing full time or at least a lot have found a way to shift their focus from things that make them nervous and onto things that are useful.

I see five rings of attention. And they exist in an evolutionary spread. It is not that one level is replaced by a higher level, but rather you incorporate all 5 levels of attention when you really start to master this getting nervous thing and replace it with getting energised and ready.

The 5 Rings of Nervous Tension Ring 1: SELF
When you focus on ‘you' when you spea
k, you are bound to get undone. In your head this becomes ‘I' issues - I am not prepared, I am not qualified, I am not wearing clothes that make me comfortable. I like to think that these worries are not some kind of narcissism but rather the natural result of being in front of so many people. First step; get over yourself. At this ring you should quickly coach yourself and replace the negative self talk with a question, ‘what can I offer that might be of service to the room?'


Most advice you get on how to handle nerves comes from this centre of attention. Well meaning advice such as ‘picture your audience naked' and ‘stare at their foreheads' are simply not helpful. It's a simple distraction strategy to overcome nerves. That's OK if you're simply going for the 15 minute once in a lifetime, sit down without embarrassing yourself speech. As a tribe of people committed to being World Class Presenters though, you need a more successful coping strategy than simply survival.


This is the first of the elevating rings. The outer three rings of CONVERSATION, MESSAGE and PROCESS all work together to help you truly manage your internal state and keep an appropriate level of arousal and focus without becoming ‘hamstrung' by sweaty palms. The Conversation state is about getting into dialogue with the audience. It may mean opening with questions, in a smaller audience asking them what they already know or think on your topic. With larger audiences you might send a survey out in advance polling their opinion and asking them what their biggest challenge is regarding your area of expertise. I often use rhetorical questions with very large audiences to start what is a two-way conversation with only me speaking.


You have to have something to say worth listening to. Seems obvious right? It's amazing though with the survival mindset, we are OK saying something obvious, already understood and easily read or reviewed outside of the live experience. When preparing message for the live audience, spend more time on the words, the key ideas and the ways you can use repetitive variety to bring the thoughts from your mind to theirs.


Start to think about how you say what you are saying. Develop a third eye perspective where you begin to watch the science and art of oration. With this ‘student' view you begin to have an out of body experience when you speak. You become detached from the words and start to look at the way. It becomes a Zen like experience as you float metaphorically above yourself speaking and you have an expanded consciousness/awareness of all that is going on around you. You notice little nuances like that guy in the third row who straightened his tie; The CEO nodding in agreement to your message; The CFO on her ‘crack'berry emailing the accounts department to hold off on paying the catering bill. The trick is to stay engaged and connected to what is happening in the room and have a range of techniques you can access to change the direction, energy and feeling in the room.

When you are in control of your internal dialogue of self, aware of the needs of others in the room, engaged in a conversation with the room, delivering a message they value in a way that is compelling there is simply no time to get nervous. So, start from the outer rings and work back, rings 5,4,3 and then 2 and 1 kind of take care of themselves.

Matt Church

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book Covers, Billboards and Movie Trailers

Billboard thinking versus manuscript selling...

How would you describe your idea if it had to be put on a billboard or book cover?

What would you say?

And maybe more importantly, what would you not say?

How would you let me know just enough to be interested but not so much that I am confused?

This kind of thinking forces you to assess ‘What's in it for them?'

Every great idea needs to be positioned first, explained second. Position it in my world by explaining 'How it makes a difference to me. How does it make something better, faster or cheaper (or maybe all three)?'

If you are having trouble selling your ideas it's because you might be saying too much. You might be serving not selling. Don't give me a manuscript when you explain your big idea, give me the front and back cover. If that doesn't get me then more information is not going to make a difference. It's the same with movie's… the trailer makes me go, the movie is what I buy.

First I get into it - then I get it!

Matt Church

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An ancient battle has ended!

This battle has been going on for eons. It was most often fought in the corridors of academia but it's no longer got heat. It's over and to continue the resistance is futile. Small guerilla groups will continue to skirmish in small pockets holding out for the way things were in the bad old days. They are like warmongers, only happy and profiting if the conflict is still alive.

I am talking about the war between Method and Message. Which is more important? Something to say or a better way of saying it? The battle's over, finished, done! You can't have one without the other any more. See Barack Obama or Hans Rosling (www.ted.com)

There are casualties on both sides. On the Message side there are those who believe that what you say is what matters. Great content, rigorous thinking, solid evidence. On the method side, those who package thoughts of others and push them out. Great technique and packaging.

To take sides now is to doom yourself in the sharing of great ideas. You need both. You need your Cicero messages and Caesar charm.

Here's to world peace!

Three previously won battles:
  1. Form versus Function - completed; agreed to share the victory.
  2. The war for talent - talent won.
  3. Gen Y engagement - beware… anyone under 25! (just joking)
My next few Skirmishes:
  • The end of team building based on competition or problem solving.
  • Death to 360 degree feedback.
  • The end of email as we know it.
Phew! This war thing is tough. Be a great thinker and a great communicator. Use message AND method. Spend equal parts coming up with great ideas and broadcasting great ideas.

Matt Church