Enough sledging! Can we please see some powerful presenting.

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

There is a state election looming where I live, enormous sigh. That means a sledge fest has begun where each party begins to throw shade at their opposition. Scary voices, dispersion casting, juvenile tit-for-tatting and nothing but what is wrong with the other party and people. It gets old pretty quickly.

What happened to ‘I have a dream?’

When did our leaders stop enrapturing us with what is possible? When did they stop ensnaring us with promises of better and the call to be part of something more? It seems there are no dreams anymore only statements to be read out, controlled deliveries and election by the erosion of the other party. 

I want more from our leaders (in and out of government).

I want to be inspired by their vision, moved by their words and reassured by their behaviour. It doesn’t sound like a hard list and yet it seems like looking for a unicorn. You can’t find one.

We need our leaders to do better and we need to do better as leaders.

Leaders should be able to present

The ability to present isn’t a nice to have as a leader, it is essential. If you don’t want to drag people you need to get them to move willingly. This takes among other things, presentation skills. The skill of sharing with people a way of seeing things that connects with them. After all, it isn’t their job to listen, it is yours to communicate and connect. Ideas, words, personality, gestures, voice control and expression all matter if you want to do this.

Great leaders have always known this, from Churchill to Kennedy, they have used the power of presentation to enrol and drive progress. Too few leaders today are learning this skill. Instead they are learning presenting as an exercise in restraint and objectivity. In essence many are turning off their personalities and humanity. It doesn’t connect, they drone on at us and we tune them out.

We should want to follow

If you are a leader every time you speak in a room or town hall you are asking people to follow and they are asking ‘are you worth following?’. This means you need to show up ready to share every single time. Ready and prepared because you have done the thinking, you have considered their current point of view, you have connected to how you and they feel and you are ready to share (not deliver a speech). 

Slick or controlled isn’t powerful presenting

The most powerful example of presenting powerfully I have seen recently was from New Zealand’s awesome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Raw, emotional and present, not polished or perfect. It wasn’t about her timing or techniques, cleverness with words or emotional control. It was how she showed up that truly mattered. We all saw the moment a true leader waked into the room and it was shared all over the planet. Wow check this out, a real leader! 

You see, presenting isn’t about being perfect or accurate or emotionally in control it’s ultimately about sharing your humanity.Jacinda called the world to rally against hatred and division without sledging. She brought love where there was hate. She makes me want to be a better presenter. She even makes me want to be a Kiwi.

Kieran Flanagan helps executives and leaders (not politicians!) become powerful presenters.

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Why Presentation Skills are thinking skills too.

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

When most people think of Presentation Skills they think of the on-stage stuff. The spotlights, the microphone, the hand gestures and the captivated audience. Sure presentation skills include those things but they are much more than that. For most presentations don’t always happen on a stage to a large audience. More often they happen in meeting rooms, boardrooms, stores, job interviews, pitches and team meetings. They happen every day in more ways than you probably realise.

Being good at presenting is a life and work skill, not just a skill for those who are on stage and the skills it takes to be good at presenting might surprise you. Presenting is voice and emotion, movement, engagement, storytelling and making eye contact but before you get to any of that and crucially presenting takes thinking. 

Presenting is a thinking skill first. 

Thinking about what you want to share and why the audience should care. Why your message is worth listening to and paying attention to (just one of the 16 million text messages, 56 million emails or hundreds of marketing messages are created every minute of every day). And that’s just the first question you need to ask yourself!

Presentation Skills will help you and your teams articulate, simplify and order your thinking so you can share it in a way that can be heard, understood and acted upon. Here are a few tips to get you thinking (before you go near an audience of any size).

Think about what you are really saying.

This sounds obvious but you would be amazed how many people walk into a meeting or room without truly knowing what they are saying. Clarity trumps everything. It trumps cleverness and craft. Be clear first. 

Be able to articulate the point you are making in a single sentence. 

I use a technique I call ‘on a post-it’. This means you must be able to write on a regular sized Post-It note your key thought. If you can’t you haven’t simplified it enough. You are in the game of sharing your message, idea, offering and to do that they must take it away with them. The people you are presenting to must be able to leave the room and remember the point of what you were saying. In addition if someone else asks them what it was about they should be able to clearly share on your behalf. Too many presentations that people walk out of saying were good or even great come unstuck when someone else asks what was the key point. If they don’t know, it’s awkward, they mutter in an attempt to escape the conversation, “I don’t know”, or “it’s hard to explain”, “but it was really good” and the worst one of all, “you had to be there!”

Be both easy to explain and really good!

Think about who is listening.

Presenting isn’t all about you. It’s hardly about you at all really. It’s about who is in the room. Getting ready to present means knowing who you are connecting to. To do this you have to know about them. What they care about, worry about, hope for, are afraid of and wish for. Knowing this allows you to make your message salient and relevant. Not a ‘that was nice but it isn’t relevant to me’ response that too many good presenters get because they failed to anchor their point in the world of those who are listening.

Once you know who is listening you can begin to build a flow and order that will make sense to their view of the world. No one likes being told they are wrong, in fact most people shut down when they are, dig their heels in and do anything they can to prove you wrong. Creating an order of logic and emotion that leads them to reach the conclusion you wanted them to come to, is far easier when you know their current view of the world.

Think about making it actionable.

Why are you taking up people’s precious time and focus? What do you want them to do differently? What do you want them to act upon? What are you trying to change for the better? 

Talking is one thing but moving people to take some sort of action is entirely another. Great presenters provoke, evoke and importantly invoke. They give their audience something to do. If you want to be a great presenter get great at turning ideas and messages into actionable steps and takeaways. 

Kieran Flanagan helps executives and leaders become powerful presenters.

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Stop presenting. Start connecting.

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Something strange seems to happen when the word ‘presentation’ is uttered. Normal, rational, clever people who can hold a conversation, engage a group in a discussion and lead a team or company change. They go on stage at a roadshow, town hall or company gathering and suddenly we don’t know them. It’s a bit like someone standing next to an overly retouched photograph of themselves, it’s terribly awkward because we don’t recognise them. Who are you? 

It seems using the word presentation triggers a peculiar response in many of us, one that isn’t good.

People become someone else and often not a better version. They replace their individuality with their idea of a speaker. It doesn’t work and it leaves us all uncomfortable.

The trick is to be you, amplified.

Be you (on a good day).

Your job when you take the stage is you dialled up a little. Not you playing someone else. Not you trying to follow an eighties formulaic, ‘here’s how to do a speech program’. There are a myriad of speaker types that are effective and powerful. The trick is to know your natural style and amplify its assets.

Perfection is suspicious.

Human beings have exquisite inbuilt BS detectors. Beep, beep, beep! We can tell when someone isn’t being themselves and we unconsciously do not believe them. Robot like renditions of speeches are awkward for everyone. Overly nice, warm, enthusiastic, dramatic or emotional speeches make us mistrust you. It’s ok (and often better) to be charmingly imperfect on stage. 

Own your ‘flaws’.

I was once giving some advice to an amazing woman who was a little concerned about presenting to a corporate audience because she swore a lot, as in every sentence or two! I said to her that you need to let the audience know about it and gain their permission rather than launch into a verbal assault. She was perfect. She stood up and said “Hi, I’m Maz and I have to warn you. I ‘f word’ swear all the f word’ time, but I think it is ok because I have an ‘f word’ posh accent and it sounds rather ‘f word’ ok. The room laughed and loved her immediately. There was not one complaint about her ‘colourful’ language. She owned her ‘flaw’ and shared it with her audience and so should you.

Stick to a structure, not just a script.

The key to a powerful presentation is structure, not necessarily a script. Some people do script things word perfectly and have the time and energy to rehearse enough to learn it that way. But for most people a script is debilitating. They spend too much time and energy trying to be word perfect and it costs them performance and engagement. If your audience can see you thinking and trying to remember you will lose connection. 

It is better to create a good logical structure that allow both you and the audience to follow along easily. Knowing what you are saying, why you are sharing it, why it matters to the audience, how it is going to happen and what you are ultimately asking them to do allows you to plan out your speech and still maintain enough freedom to be in the moment too. Which is ultimately what is important. A presentation is not a one way thing, the audience is part of it and having some room to respond and connect with them is important.

Kieran Flanagan helps leaders become powerful presenters. 

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Why you should forget work life balance and have cocktails instead

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Work life balance makes me vomit in my mouth a little. It’s one of those phrases used constantly but in truth it sets all of us up to fail. I prefer the notion of work life blending. Here’s why.

Work life balance is an oppositional concept. 

On one side we  have life and the other work. ‘In the red corner we have life… love, family, fun stuff and in the blue we have work… hours, money, stress’. Not necessarily the truth, because if we are honest, family can be stressful at times and work can be meaningful and a source of joy. But the game makes it one or the other. It’s a battle that makes the Hunger Games look friendly.

That’s right, the game we have somehow found ourselves playing is to attempt to have them as equals. It is a fantasy state of perfect equilibrium, a nirvana where everyone and everything is in perfect harmony. Then real life happens and we rarely have anything remotely resembling balance and we feel like enormous failures.

Balance is hard to maintain

Balance is something that is ridiculously difficult to maintain. It’s like a seesaw (or teeter totter for my American readers). Easily out of balance. Do you remember as kids trying to get a see saw to maintain equilibrium? You shuffled up and down, you added kids and took them away and it was nearly impossible to do. Sometimes, almost by magic you managed to get the weight to distance ratio correct, for a perfect moment you hung in the air. It was beautiful, but it was fleeting. The slightest shift from one of the kids sent it back out of balance. So too with work life balance. It is precarious and too easy to upset.

What we are balancing is a ridiculously long list

Thirdly we have made the list of things that go towards ‘balance’ stupidly long. To have balance today and be deemed successful apparently we need to: be a rockstar at work, solve problems like a ninja, find an outlet for our creative expression, have a huge social following, be working on our legacy, have a 5 year plan, a life plan and a plan to give something back, we should be crazily in love, make time for date nights and other random romantic gestures, read bedtime stories to our kids, attend every assembly, performance and swimming carnival, share our feelings, get present to what we are grateful for, meditate, light candles, take time for ourselves, have lots of baths, see old friends, make new friends, call our mums every week, have the flexibility of plasticine, breathe regularly, eat whole foods, blend our own smoothies, serve food in cute jars, have a house that belongs in a magazine, throw away things that don’t bring us happiness, know more than one language, travel the world, climb mountains, collect memories, try the karma sutra, try something that frightens us,have a signature dish, a signature move and a surprise move or two so we don’t get predictable. Arghhhhhhhhhh!! I can’t take it, the list never stops.

It is exhausting just reading the list of things we are trying to balance, let alone attempting to balance them. Then we have to review them, get honest with ourselves and sometimes even give ourselves scores in each category. Sigh.

You can see why the very idea of work life balance makes me feel rather nauseous.

I say forget balance, try work life blending.

As technology blends our work lives and our personal lives together so should we. Trying to have them separate is onerous. We need to re-think the model and allow them to co-exist. To take a broader look than simply are they in balance? If the traditional model of balance is like a set of scales where you attempt to balance things by adding and removing things from each side, work life blending is rather like cocktails.

Work life blending is like mixing cocktails.

Everybody likes cocktails! Cocktails are made with a cocktail shaker and a whole lot of ingredients. You chuck in your ingredients, shake it up and voila!

Of course there is a finite volume and you have to be honest about how much you can fit in. You cannot have everything. But you get to choose the ingredients you like, how much of each you want and how they blend together.

I like to make mine a long cool drink, meaning I take a longer view of my mix. Often over an entire year. I ask myself did I have a blend that I loved this year? Did  I get school holidays off to hang with Darcy, did I kick the big work goals I have, have an adventure, learn something that made me better and did my extended family and friends not feel completely abandoned?

My mix won’t be yours and yours won’t be mine. But that’s the great thing about cocktails, there is no one right way.

Just your way.


Reframe time: You don't have all year

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

I am pretty sure  Xmas just happened and somehow it’s April. Hilarious. IT IS APRIL! Just 263 sleeps until Xmas again. Perhaps it's time to "reframe time".

Not that I am a Griswald kind of girl who counts down the days in eager anticipation, (although I am partial to a fairylight or two thousand). But because I think most of us are constantly surprised at how fast time passes. We sport shocked, but trying not to be, expressions, (think Michelle Obama accepting Melania’s gift), and utter inane things like; 'It can'tbe Xmas again already!', 'Didn'tI just have a birthday?’ and'What on earth happened to summer?' 

Unless of course we are kids, then it seems to take for-evvv-errrr for it to be your birthday, holidays or Xmas again.

When you grow up it seems you enter a time warp and time speeds up right?

Scientists have been trying to figure out this phenomena and whilst there are a number of theories from relative experience, to amount of stuff you need to fit in to life, there is no real agreement. We just know that it certainly feels that way.

So until these scientists figure out how to extend time or bend time, we'd do well to learn how to reframe time.

Perhaps because in reality a year isn'tlong at all. It is a meagre 52 weekends. That's not even one and a half lined A4 pages of ideas (I counted 38 lines on mine) of things you want to do or books you want to read or extreme haikus to write, the last one’s just me right? Do you feel my panicpeople?Breathe in... breathe out.

I like to reframe time when I am working with businesses and people.

52 weekends or 4 quarters of thirteen.

52 Mondays to make those calls. 52 weeks to try that experiment, learn that skill or ask for that business. 52 chances.

I like to remember I will only have my daughter Darcy as an eight year old with all her eight year old curiosity, creativity and cleverness for 52 precious weeks (particularly when she is having one of her I am a teenager in a child’s body moments)…  52 weekends for eight year old adventures.

A year isn’tlong. Yet most of us are stuck in our childhood perspectives of time thinking we have all year. Our thinking needs changing.

We need to think differently about time.

You see folks, this year we are a quarter done. This is the first month of the second quarter of 2017. Which means we are almost down to just one A4 page of stuff to achieve if you do just one thing a week.

Not one year… just one page left this year.

(Or 37 Wednesdays until Xmas for you festively minded.)

Make sure the stuff on your list is meaningful.

Future leadership: How do we lead when they no longer work FOR us?

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Ah the good old days when leadership resembled a tidy, symmetrical pyramid of hierarchical control. Leaders at the top with layers of obedient minions, ready to do your bidding... or suffer the inevitable consequences. But what does future leadership look like?

Things were far from equitable but nonetheless the way leadership worked was relatively simple, almost parental, "Just do as you're told!"

Future leadership looks far less geometrical, and far more complicated. And if anything, it is going to become even less orderly and controlled.

Workplace trends like off-shoring, out-sourcing, the rise of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship and the rise of the freelance economy mean that fewer employees work forus and more and more must be encouraged to work withus.

By 2020 it is estimated that 40% of the workforce will be self employed (Source: The Intuit 2020 report).

This means employees, your team, your staff, will no longer work for you.

They will work with other businesses as well as you.

They will work on projects.

But most critically, they will work for themselves.

This will fundamentally shift the kind of leadership we require. Leaders will be required to rely less on positional authority and more on a capacity to rally followers to their cause.

Leaders will have to really stand up for something that inspires others to want to get involved, not just pay lip service to a vision that sounds like it was spat out of a Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.

Tomorrow's leaders will need to understand who people are and just as importantly, who they aspire to be.

This kind of leadership will be defined by those we chooseto follow, not those we a coerced into following.

Don't ignore what is unchanging

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

In a world of relentless change, most leaders and organizations understand the importance of keeping up to date, but often forget the importance of looking to what will endure.

What is unchanging is just as important a consideration when it comes to inventing our futures as what will. The legendary adman Bill Bernbach (one of New York's real Madmen) wisely spoke about unchanging man (of course he would has added "unchanging woman" had the MadMen era not so entirely biased towards the masculine.

He observed, “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

No matter how our business or technology or trends may change the way we deliver value for our customers, Mr Bernbach is of course, correct. Core human drivers will not dissipate.

We will still want to feel important, to matter, to connect to feel like us showing up to work made a difference.

We will buy emotionally, feel fear, worry for our loved ones (and their futures) and want to love.

We will be driven by ego, to prefer to do more of the things we are good at, that make us feel good, that trigger dopamine releases deep into our cerebellums.

None of these things will change because they are core to who people are.

When we understand this we can look to the heart of our businesses and consider how we serve the deepest motivators of humanity. If and when we do we can rest assured that no matter what technological or other changes occur (often beyond our control) what we offer will still be fundamentally relevant.

The howwe deliver might be different but the core of whatwe deliver may not change at all.

Loyalty might just be an old fashioned ideal

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

"Surely not," you say! Well, hear me out.

Staff loyalty was once the ultimate measure of a leader. When a leader was great people stuck around. They progressed through the company. They grew old there. They got a gold watch.

Today staff tenure is in decline. The average length of time millennials stay in a job for  is now sitting at around 3 years. And it's predicted to decrease further.

The paradigm has changed, broad experience now trumps long experience.

People come and people go. They get a lunch, or a cake, a silly leaving card or perhaps an emotionally stunted "all-staff" email with a "thank you - its been great" kind of vibe.

In this world staff turnover measures may not be the right ones to obsess over and in the future, tenure itself may be viewed as an archaic measure. Loyalty, once telling of the type of leader you were, might become irrelevant.

Instead leaders will be judged on their ability to rally people to their vision and cause. How they stand up, what they stand for, who they stand with and what they stand against will matter far more than how well they stand in line.

The workplace of the future will be driven by oneness of purpose. People will unite to drive change, to do something extraordinary and then dissipate as the need does. In this workplace we don't want loyal people we want skilful, knowledgeable, driven people who have bought into what they are here to do.

In short, Workplaces characterized by loyalty and tenure will soon be replaced with cultures of the willing, of the voluntary, of the enthusiastic.

Resilience is no longer enough

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Resilience has become the word of the moment.

How many times have you heard this conversation?

We’re facing a lot of change. We really need our people to be more resilient.

Resilience is so hot right now. (Best read with a Beyoncé flourish and finger snaps)

Yet I wonder if it is enough.

Is it sustainable?

Undoubtedly resilience is handy when you are going through a period of challenge.

Essentially, it means, “Suck it up, hold on and get through the tough time however you can.” Although "be more resilient" is probably a little easier to hear from a leader.

The problem is getting through is not really an option when you consider the amount of change we are about to be hit with. Some experts say we are about to experience more change in the next 10 years than we experienced in the hundred preceding them. i.e. a lot. When it comes to that much change your team can only 'suck it up' for so long until they will, eventually, break!

That is why resilience is not enough.

We need something more. So what are these skills that will future proof our workforce?

Agility and Creativity.

Agility is the ability to change, to bend and alter our points of view and approach. It's about re-thinking, un-thinking and out-thinking.

Creativity is ability to develop new thinking and ideas. Ultimately, it's a capacity to drive change rather than being driven by it.