Learning & Development

Want to Be More Influential? Use the Same Performance Techniques World Leaders Use

The role of HR professionals is transforming. Today, managers and executives view HR professionals as strategic partners, employee sponsors and advocates, and change mentors, according to Dave Ulrich, PhD, HR thought leader and professor at the University of Michigan.

To solve today’s pressing talent issues, HR professionals must have strong leadership skills and exceptional communication skills. Consider just a few of the critical competencies provided by the SHRM competency model:

  • Set the vision for HR initiatives and build buy-in from internal and external stakeholders.
  • Lead the organization through adversity with resilience and tenacity.
  • Provide guidance to, effectively exchange information with, and promote consensus among organizational stakeholders when proposing new initiatives.

Want to be more influential? Use the same performance techniques world leaders use.


Source: Lucky Business / Shutterstock

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln performed Shakespeare to help sharpen their oratorical chops. Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Vaclav Havel, and Justin Trudeau were all actors before transitioning to leadership roles.

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Angela Merkel, John F. Kennedy, Suze Orman, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Robbins, and King George VI (The King’s Speech) all studied with acting coaches to improve their presence and delivery.

We’re not suggesting you take acting classes, but you can apply the same techniques actors have used for centuries to appear more confident, credible, and captivating to your audience.

Here are three tips to improve your communication.

1. Analyze Your Audience

Who are you talking with, and what’s your objective? Before delivering a high-visibility presentation, leading a meeting to encourage alignment between organizational HR initiatives and organizational strategy, or providing constructive feedback to address operational concerns, for example, know specifically who you’re talking to; what you want to achieve with them; and how you will deliver your message with your voice, body language, and gestures so you have greater alignment.

Great actors start planning specifically what and how they want to communicate as soon as they receive the script. They start making choices on how they want to influence the other actors in the scene. They know specifically how they will use their body language, voice, and gestures to clearly communicate their intentions to influence the other characters and the audience’s emotions.

2. Choose a Strong Intention

If you are trying to excite your audience to encourage buy-in to the company mission and vision, for example, but your audience cannot sense excitement in your face, body, language, or gestures, they will likely perceive you as apathetic and will become disinterested.

That’s why you need to have a strong intention every time you communicate. Intention is an actor’s secret weapon. Intention is a strong, one-word verb similar to challenge, motivate, persuade, inspire, empower, reassure, excite, etc. When used correctly, a strong intention can activate all aspects of your communication—voice, body language, and gestures.

If you actively use intentions throughout a speech or presentation, the audience should see noticeable changes in your eye contact, facial expressions, and body language, as well as be able to hear changes in your voice. These shifts in intention can add clarity to your communication and help you achieve your objective.

To demonstrate the SHRM competencies above, you may want to excite your stakeholders to secure buy-in for a new benefits package. You may want to reassure stakeholders when leading the organization through change to reduce anxiety and churn. And you may want to persuade when trying to achieve consensus among stakeholders for new policies.

Intention is the glue that binds your verbal and nonverbal communication together. Intention will ensure your message is congruent and will do your communication work for you.

3. Use Concrete Language

Eliminate hedging words. Vague, tentative, or passive words and phrases such as “I think,” “kind of,” and “I mean” soften the message’s impact.

Avoid generalizations. Generalizations can be problematic because they infer there are very few exceptions to a statement. Stereotyping based on age, for example, may cause you to miss out on lessons learned through experience or fresh problem-solving solutions from younger generations.

Generalizations often occur when leaders rush to a conclusion before gathering all the facts or base their opinion on insufficient information or bias.

Limit jargon and acronyms. While some acronyms or industry jargon can be a shorthand way of claiming membership or creating a brand, excessive jargon or acronyms should only be used if you are confident that every audience member knows what they mean.

How HR professionals communicate to their stakeholders can significantly impact the level of inspiration and engagement they experience. Remember that communication is never simply about the information being exchanged; it is also about how it is being communicated. In the end, it is the emotion and motivation behind your message that will compel your audience to take action.

Professional performers communicate to affect the other people on stage and on screen by using a strong intention, and HR professionals can do the same. Change the way you communicate to influence emotion and motivate action.

Riley Mills is Cofounder and COO of Pinnacle Performance Company, a premier global communication skills training provider that trains in more than 45 countries in six languages.

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