In a business world increasingly relying on data to make its biggest decisions, including hiring, growth, product development, and sales, international business consultant Rick Snyder calls upon business leaders to develop and follow intuitive intelligence as a powerful tool that should be combined with data analytics for superior decision-making.
What is your definition of intuition? How can we tap into it?
My practical definition of intuition is ‘an embodied knowing that comes from listening to what happens next.’ In other words, it’s a knowing that doesn’t just come from our conscious mind, but from being open to all of our senses. This requires an element of being receptive, where we listen to all of the cues and signals that we are picking up on internally and externally, to help us make the best decisions possible. We can tap into this by using hindsight to learn about how our intuitive language uniquely speaks to us. In other words, when you had an inner sense about something and did or didn’t listen to it, how did the message come to you? Was it a feeling, images, a sound, or something from your dream state, which is where our subconscious mind helps us process and connect the dots from our day? The more we slow down, put down the distractions, tune-in to our inner language and listen, the more we create the space for our intuition to find us.
“The more we slow down, put down the distractions, tune-in to our inner language and listen, the more we create the space for our intuition to find us.” -Rick Snyder
Here is how this often works in an office environment:
First, the person has a firm agenda that precludes listening. She lays out her points with an intent to control the conversation, but sabotages that desire for control by talking over others. Almost immediately, other people shut her out. They want to reach for the smartphone, grab a cookie—basically do anything that gets them away from her noise. Politicians, CEOs, and even managers sabotage themselves all the time this way. They used their vested power to command attention, but never truly control the conversation.
Contrast that with someone who is spectacular at controlling the conversation.
SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell comes into interviews with an engaging conversational tone. As she answers questions, she finds ways to work in messages of vision, safety, quality, and so on that inspire a sense of trust in SpaceX technology—it’s easy to find yourself cheering her, and the company, on to greater heights (pun intended). Part of her success in conveying these messages is that she weaves in timelines, expertise of the team, descriptions of specific events, and a sense of location.
“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.” -Carl Sagan
Leaders today must be quick on their feet, have a ready answer, and operate at net speed.
Your credibility drops with ums and ahs.
Your leadership brand is sullied by blank stares or unclear answers.
No one is perfect, but it’s important to read an audience. It’s often important to improvise.
I know that I often credit my extemporaneous speaking to my early forensics club in high school and college, skills that I depend on every single day as the CEO of a global organization. It’s not something you’re born with, but something you can learn through careful practice and preparation.
Judith Humphrey, in her new book, Impromptu: Leading in the Moment, provides a perfect opportunity for every one of us to up our game and improve our skills. I’m always on a quest to improve my skills in this area, and that’s why I welcomed her book into my self-development arsenal.
I followed up with Judith to talk about her work in this area. Judith Humphrey is founder of The Humphrey Group Inc., a top tier communications firm. For over thirty years, she has been a communications coach and speaker. She’s also a columnist for Fast Company.
The Importance of Extemporaneous Speaking
Why is extemporaneous speaking so important?
Off-the-cuff remarks have become the new normal for business leaders. Organizations have flattened, and knowledge and decision-making are decentralized. Not long ago, messages were delivered from “on high.” Only those in the C-suite seemed to be empowered. Now leaders at all levels are speaking out and communicating in a more open, authentic, and informal manner.
Such everyday communications involve leading in the moment and speaking spontaneously. This is leadership in the organization of the twenty-first century. It takes place in corridors, elevators, meetings, interviews, networking events, and chats. Many small stages have replaced the big stage, and impromptu communication has become far more important than scripted speaking.
“Good impromptu speaking is a matter of words, scripts, and presence.” -Judith Humphrey
Most people think impromptu speaking would be an innate skill; you have it or you don’t. But you point out that it’s a skill you develop. Would you share some historical examples of people who practiced their extemporaneous speaking skills?
History provides many examples of individuals who faced the challenge of impromptu speaking—and discovered how to measure up to that challenge.
Abraham Lincoln told young lawyers that “extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated.” He showed his own gifts as a spontaneous speaker in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Mark Twain talked about needing several hours to prepare an impromptu speech. Winston Churchill also believed in the value of preparing impromptu remarks. In one oft-quoted example, he paused before exiting his car as his driver opened the door for him, saying, “Please wait a moment, I’m still going over my ‘extemporaneous remarks.” Lou Gehrig prepared for his “Farewell to Baseball” speech, but did not read a text–he spoke spontaneously and without notes. And one of the greatest examples of prepared spontaneity is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he improvised the centerpiece of the speech.
Even though we think of impromptu speaking as winging it, we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t prepare. In fact, the word “Impromptu” derives from the Latin in promptu meaning “in readiness.”
“Spontaneous, nonhierarchical dialogue is the new narrative for business leaders.” -Judith Humphrey
The impromptu mindset begins with intention – the willingness to see every situation as a potential leadership opportunity, whether it is an encounter in the corridor, an exchange in the elevator, or a comment interjected in a meeting dialogue. This intentionality is paramount for any leader who wants to make the most of impromptu opportunities.
Beyond that, the impromptu mindset includes the willingness to listen—to be engaged in what others say. Listening is critical if one is to avoid the one-way monologue that defined traditional executive communications.
The impromptu mindset also involves authenticity. Never before have leaders had to be so open with their audiences. Authentic leaders are comfortable in sharing their ideas, values, beliefs, vulnerabilities, and stories.
Finally, the impromptu mindset includes respectfulness and the ability to focus: everyday audiences need to be respected because each encounter involves—and can strengthen—a relationship. And in speaking off-the-cuff it’s critical to focus, because your impromptu audiences expect you to be there, truly present, for them.
“The most successful executives and managers see every encounter as a potential leadership moment.” -Judith Humphrey
Meeting a new business contact can be nerve-wracking. Just like a first date, your first impression is of the utmost importance, as it can determine the trajectory of the arrangement. And while rehearsing what you are going to say and arguments you intend to make can be helpful, a major part of making a good first impression has to do with unspoken qualities such as body language, hygiene, and preparedness. Below you will find a few aspects that should always be at the front of your mind when you schedule a meeting.
1. Research before the meeting
Find out as much as you can about the client and company involved in the meeting. Learn about their goals, values, and interests. Use LinkedIn to get a sense of the person’s background or find common threads. Prepare some questions based on your research, and get ready to make it clear they are important to you.
“He who does not research has nothing to teach.” -Proverb
Your body language is capable of communicating almost as much as your actual words, so it’s important to be intentional with it. Remember to maintain good posture—no slouching! Not only will slouching communicate a lack of confidence and composure, but also it isn’t great for your back. You may have also guessed that a firm handshake is important, too. Make sure that your handshake is indeed firm, but also keep in mind that it isn’t a test of strength and should not be overly firm.
Tip: Your body language communicates as much as your words.
While meetings often take place outside of the office, that’s no excuse to go uber casual on the clothing front. Take some time to consider the right outfit, whether it be a full suit or something business casual. Of course, this will depend on the industry. Silicon Valley is a good example of the shift in attitudes toward dress, as jeans paired with blazers or black turtleneck sweaters grow in popularity, even among people in leadership positions. But when in doubt, dress up.
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” -Tom Ford
Ever experience social anxiety or been nervous about an upcoming meeting or job interview? Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy has outlined some simple practices that can help anyone in stressful situations.
Her research indicates that body language can signal power or weakness:
“Don’t fake it ‘til you make it; fake it ‘til you become it.” -Amy Cuddy
According to Cuddy’s research, the answer is a resounding yes.
Force yourself to smile for five minutes straight and you will begin to feel happy.
Our bodies can change our minds. There are definite physiological differences depending on your body pose. In one study, Curry had a group of people adopt low power poses and the other group high power poses.
Research: Powerful body language can cause hormonal changes in the body.
Afterwards, their saliva was tested and the people with the high power poses had testosterone increase by 20% versus a decrease in testosterone by 10% in the other group. Actual hormonal changes take place in the body.
The group that practiced the positive body pose were much more passionate, authentic and captivating as compared to the negative group. But here’s the kicker, it wasn’t that these individuals were putting on false airs, they were simply comfortable enough to be themselves.