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How to 'Lift' Your Audience & Improve Your Communication Skills w/Richard Newman, CEO Ep#144

By Anthony Taylor - January 19, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.

Untitled design - 2021-12-27T131748.040  Anthony: How you doing, folks? Ladies, gentlemen, and people, my name is Anthony Taylor. This is the Strategy & Leadership Podcast sponsored by SME Strategy. We facilitate strategic planning sessions and help leaders accomplish their full potential. And I'm super excited to welcome my guest today, Richard Newman, who is the founder and CEO of UK Body Talk. Richard, how's it going today?

Untitled design - 2022-01-18T085315.495  Richard: Yeah, very good. Thank you so much for having me.

Anthony: It's my pleasure. In the context of helping leaders get to their next level, I'm really interested in hearing about your perspectives on not only communication, but why it's so important for leaders to be able to do it effectively. So maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, and how you got to where you are right now.

Richard: Sure. So as you mentioned, I'm the founder of UK Body Talk, I've been running this brilliant team of people now for about 22 years. And the place that we get involved with working with managers and leaders, is very typically, as you and I were just discussing, that people get to a certain stage of their career where perhaps they are a brilliant engineer. Or they're a brilliant financial analyst. And then they get to a point of being promoted to being the manager or the leader in that part of their organization. And suddenly, they need a whole range of communication skills they've never needed before. They need to present to larger audiences, they need to resolve conflict and negotiate with people. That requires a level of executive presence, as people often put it, that they never needed to have before. And so we come in to help them make sure they can get things done. We want to make sure they can inspire their team, motivate people, take complex ideas and turn it into concise and meaningful messages, so that they turn their ideas into actions and get the results they deserve.

Anthony: Cool. And so what is the most common pain that you see people have can conceptually? If you got to that level of leadership, you must have some degree of competent communication. And it's like, incrementally better. So is it that they're trying to get - incrementally better? Or is there something that really hurts that is holding them back from getting to that next level in your experience?

Richard: Yeah, well, to give you a real example, there was a guy that we trained once where he'd been turned over for promotion to senior leadership a couple of times, and someone said, 'Hey, go and get some coaching with the Body Talk guys'. So he brought us in, and he said the feedback he'd been given was, "you're all sausage and no sizzle". Meaning that you've got all the qualifications you need, there's just no spark. You don't come to life, nobody's really engaging when you talk. And so that's what I love to do with people is to take people who are bright, they're very knowledgeable, and make sure that they can take that knowledge and bring it to life, put things into action.

And so often, the pain point that people have at that time, too, is they think if I've got this far through my life with this level of communication skills, can I really get any better? Is that possible? There's a big misconception of people saying some people are born to communicate, and other people aren't. And I'm always telling people, that is just not the case. If you see people who are appearing to be naturally great communicators, it could be very simply that early on, they were encouraged to be more communicative, they had more opportunities to express themselves, they may have done more parts in plays when they were a child, got involved more with show and tell, they may have had more opportunities just at weekly meetings to do updates with people. And it's a skill that you gradually can build up. And if you haven't needed that, because you've been with your head down in books, or going through spreadsheets, and you've never needed to put your head up, you just haven't developed that skill. And what I love to do is just to allow people to expand their potential to see there's all this potential there waiting for them, because human beings are phenomenal at communication.

So if you think about it, we're not that that good at anything else. We can't outrun a squirrel, you know, we're not that strong compared to other species, but we're very good at communication. And so all you have to do is really understand exactly what's required of you to connect with people and to bring them on a journey with you to succeed then in leadership.

Anthony: Yeah, I get that. I mean, what I'm seeing from working in strategy development and working with the leadership teams, is that a lot of people are technically good, but have never been brought up to that level of of leadership. That and the capacities required including but not limited to communication, which is obviously to weigh both speaking and hearing. One of the things I thought was really interesting which I've never heard the expression, "all sausage, no sizzle". You can communicate information really well, but if it's not inspiring people, like bringing them to life, which is literally like breathe life into then it doesn't make a difference. And I don't know if you've seen 'Don't Look Up', the new Netflix movie where he's like, Hey, don't just give numbers because it doesn't actually move people in that. And it's not inspiring, like hype, but it's actually making sure not only giving the information but the information is acted on. Is that kind of how you guys are approaching it?

Richard: Yeah, I think 'Don't Look Up', it's a great place to talk about too. So if anyone who hasn't seen it, Leonardo DiCaprio knows that in six months, we're all finished unless we can get rid of this great big rock that's hurtling towards Earth. And then he goes to speak to the President. And nobody's listening to him, because he's got all the knowledge and he's talking in very technical terms, and nobody's coming with him. And so sometimes you could be in that real state in a company where you may have spotted that, essentially, your company is like the Titanic heading towards an iceberg. And you try and explain it to people, and you give them all the logic and wonder why isn't that working?

So here's the key concept, I think, to put across on this. We talk to our clients about the subject of lift. Lift. Now lift means that when people are listening to you, you need to elevate their state. So they need to go from a negative or a neutral state to a positive or more positive state, by the end of that interaction. We're always talking to people about saying, you know, think about what you want people to know, that's great. What do you want them to do? That's important. But overall, how do you need them to feel at the end of this meeting such that something actually happens? Because you can go into a meeting, give them all the numbers, all the data, all the statistics, and then come out feeling utterly frustrated, wondering why nobody has done anything. And it could be because they just simply weren't moved.

So if you've got to move people into action, I encourage you to go into a meeting thinking, how am I going to lift them? What feeling do they need to have, by the end of this meeting, such that something will happen on this project, something will happen on this data? So go in not just with a logic, but concerned with how you want them to feel.

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Anthony: I love that and I've never actually heard about it or thought about it in that way. I want to just take one or two steps back on one of the things that you had said about getting better at it. Because I think there's getting better like I'm a good communicator, but am I effective at communicating? And some of it is how you say it, and I also feel like some of it is how you feel about yourself. I learned to not care so much, through training. And that actually made me an effective communicator. So it's not necessarily what I'm saying. But it's kind of like my doubts, thoughts and feelings about that. So before asking my next question, how does internal state play into the ability to communicate effectively?

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Richard: Yeah, I think that's a great point. Because so many people that we've trained, we trained 100,000 people these last 20 years, and I'd say the majority of them have exactly that sense that they're kind of in their head. And when they're speaking, they're over analyzing themselves or over analyzing the situation. And so they're not connected with the other people. And they leave the room having not achieved the job because of that position. So what I like to give people is two things.

So firstly, before you go into a room, it's key to have internal validation, which is that you're not going into the room to impress people, you're not going in there to get them to like you, you're not going in there concerned with their reaction. You are going in with good values, good principles, with an ethical reason to move something forward. And you'll do everything you need to do based on that. And you don't need validation from other people. By doing this, it settles your mind, it settles your heart rate, it lowers your stress levels. There's great experiments that have been done on this. A classic one in Germany in 2015, showed that if you have internal validation and you go into a job interview, you're more likely to get the job and you'll feel more calm. But the secondary piece to do is going in the other direction - don't focus on you, focus outwards towards lifting them. So by doing that, it gets you totally out of your head, thinking I know I'm a good person, I'm here based on good values, and I'll do everything I can to lift you from where you are towards where we need to be to get this done.

Anthony: Cool. I love that. There's a lady on Tik Tok, who became famous because she talks about Excel, like arguably the most boring thing in the world. But what she does is she does dances when she's talking about spreadsheets and queries and whatever. She was interviewed by Forbes or something like that, and she said the number one thing I need to do is to put myself in a generative state where I am mentally right before I do that, and everything comes out. And so it's when you have the right context, your ability, even with the same message, your communication becomes more effective.

Richard: I got a thought on that, which is when I was back in school, I I was good at science. I was good at math, but I was always bored by physics and we had a teacher who just had apathy towards the subject. And one day, just one day while I was at school, this is like in high school years, he was sick. And so the head of the physics department came in and he blew my mind. He was extraordinary. He was talking about how these protons and electrons was storming down the highway, with like a double decker bus sized object that was hurtling around. And I thought it was amazing. And if he been my physics teacher during high school, I would have gone into physics. But then the next day, the other physics teacher came back, and they were teaching the same subject, but because he put himself in that elevated state, he had us totally transfixed. And as soon as the other teacher came back, we started not paying attention. So it's not necessarily the subject, but it's your intention towards that subject that matters.

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we do strategic planning, there's a lot of people who are subject matter experts and can do really good strategic planning. But the impact of it isn't going to go as far if your people don't understand the concept, don't understand why it's important, or you don't make it engaging. So there's probably people with more experience, but I don't think anybody does it more fun or engaging-ly such that you actually get a result. And like you said, it makes a whole difference. So I actually did have a good segue about that. Because as a facilitator, we come in, and of course, communication is part of it. But our big role is to hear people. So if we think of the flip side of communication, one of the things I was taught was when you listen to people, if you're good, you can listen for their intent. So you can actually hear, are they communicating based on 'I have that lift, I want to move', or not. So how do you train? And how do you develop people to listen for other people such that it guides the reflection of communication? Does that land?

Richard: I mean, yeah, it does. Absolutely. So I, I've always been a really intent listener and a literal listener. So I mean, sometimes people say, hey, I can't get good at communication. And I say to them, when I was young, I was shy, I'm highly introverted, always have been, and I have high functioning autism. If I can do it, you can do it. But the gift, the superpower that I get from the high functioning autism is I've been a very literal thinker, and I listen to every word, I'm concerned with every word.

And what I've noticed, and which we coach clients to do, is don't focus so much on the words in the foreground, focus on the words in the background, because what people tend to do is they'll boldly say, stuff they think is acceptable, and the stuff that's really going on just gradually drifts off at the back of the sentence. And they try not to really say it that much. And if you listen to those words more intently, you think, hang on, there's something behind what they're saying, there's something behind this message that's driving how they feel. That's where I need to dig. And those are the moments that I've been reflecting on years after a meeting sometimes where I think, Ah, I should have listened to that word. It was the end of the sentence where they reduced the power in their voice, they said something, that's where I should have dove in. And so I encourage people to really listen intently to think about what they're saying around what are the logical words? What are the emotional words? And other words getting more negative? Or are they getting more positive? That'll allow you in there. And then when you're asking them questions, because questioning and listening goes so deeply, hand in hand, you've got to think where are we now?

And we talked about three levels of this. So right on the surface, you've got fact, very important to have facts, you've got to gather that information. But some people just stay there, they just want facts. If you go a level down, you need to figure out how do they feel about these facts, what's happening on the emotional side. And then beyond that, if you can get there, is what is their deepest driving motivation that is driving how they feel, and what's happening in the situation? And so as a good listener, you want to listen out for all three of those pieces to see what you can catch in the words. And of course, by observing the body language, the tone of voice that's coming through, and seeing how all those pieces come together. Remembering that sometimes people may logically say yes, I'm with you, but the body language and the tone says I'm really not. So you've got to be hearing people from all sides.

Anthony: Yeah. So what I was hearing.. facts, feeling and motivation. Absolutely. People leave clues for you. And you know, when you sense it, you know something's up. I think most of the time you're a keen listener, and somebody's like, Yeah, I'm totally into that. Your body is giving you tells. And so, really just being aware of that, and I think it's really cool. So taking that into place. So I'll shift gears a little bit. You've been doing this for 20 years, professionally. You've been training your entire life. George St. Pierre once said that you can never perfect anything. It's always an endless search for mastery, and you're never going to get there, unfortunately. So for you 20 years in the game, what is your next level? What are you looking for? What are you challenged with? What are you developing yourself in? Where is that next mountain top for you?

Richard: Yeah, great question. So I mean, I love what I do, I feel so privileged to do it, I've always been mesmerized by learning more about communication and how I could do it and how I could teach it. It's always been my space. And what keeps me going is seeing the reward from people that we teach, seeing how much they change. At the end of two days, they feel lit up to expand their potential. So the places that I'm heading into, that I keep on researching at the moment, is two areas really.

Firstly, what is there that I can do to take a leader and expand their potential further, like what parts of themselves do they need to grow into in this new world that we're all facing. We've got a virtual or hybrid future that we just need to understand is here in one way or another forever now, it's the way of business has completely changed. So what do we need to grow into, and the particular keen area of interest we have there is how to ensure that people feel deeply connected and deeply fulfilled, even if they're not with other humans. Because there's so much more physical separation that's happening now. And it will continue to be that way, the level of human connection, the level of being around other human beings we used to have, I don't think is coming back. You're going to have a lot of people two to three days a week, are just going to remain working from home. So how do you develop further and deeper connections with other people and feel it within yourself such that you feel utterly fulfilled and connected as part of a team still on a mission with each other in the way that we may have been, in years gone by. So that's what we're really looking to do for ourselves and for our clients is that that extra growth area.

Anthony: Cool. And I think when you talk about communication, and you talk about where work is going, it's rooted in communication. Because you and I both know, and our listeners know that you could be physically close to somebody while being far away from them. And you have people that you're far away from, that you feel super close to. And I believe the link is not just communication, but communication that provides that lift that is effective, and actually bridges, that intent there.

Richard: Actually on that thought, communication - two human beings interacting with each other face to face, it takes practice, it's a skill, it's a bit like kicking a soccer ball. If you haven't done it for a couple of years, you're not going to be as good as you used to be. And I'm noticing people even in social interactions are not as good at the moment as they used to be. It's slightly stilted, it can feel less connected than it used to. And so yeah, I agree that you can be in a room full of people and still feel completely alone. And so that's something I'm fascinated with right now, to make sure that when people do come back together, that stilted behavior goes down. So they feel completely at ease and enjoy those moments for the precious interactions that they are.

Anthony: Yeah, I saw something recently. All I do is find metaphors. It says you're not old, you just stopped doing the things that made you athletic, you're not a bad communicator, you might have stopped doing the things that made you a great communicator. And I think that also happens in people where they move into a different level of the organization. They don't have those old systems that supported their objectives, because how could they? They're in a new seat, they need new systems, processes, structures, and they need to develop those.

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So you can't get too busy when you're in your leadership position to forget about the fundamentals, which in this case, is typically communicating with your strategic leader. So, Richard, anything that you want to share about your work, any sort of challenges or invitations to our listeners today, before we finish up?

Richard: Yeah, well, just a couple of final thoughts just to pick up on that piece. Remember to tap into the things that you used to be doing because through this pandemic, people being separated and having a lot of mental health challenges, feeling burned out people working more hours than ever. So to pick up on your thought there Anthony. I'd say, what was it that you used to do that made you feel great, that isn't happening right now? I always talk to people about celebrate more often. You've got to celebrate with your team, celebrate with your family, because we thrive on that and it makes us think, okay, it was worth the effort. It was worth the time that I'm putting into this. And because we can't go out to a bar as easily as we used to depending on what's happening with the virus, because we can't go traveling as much as we used to, then the amount of celebration has gone down.

So I would always say to people, if you're going to make a strong impact in a meeting, you have to raise your state first. Just like the lady you mentioned with Tik Tok. So just think, what did you used to do more often, if you love music, and you can't get to a concert, well maybe learn to play the guitar or just put a fabulous concert on a screen in front of you, and enjoy it as if you're there before you go into that meeting. Do what you need to do to get to the state you need to be in order to go in there and get that result. And you know, if people want to hear more about this, follow up and learn more about the strategies we teach. They're really welcome to get in touch. We're at UKbodytalk.com. Or you can find me on on LinkedIn and on Instagram at Richard Newman speaks.

Anthony: Awesome. I love that. I think one of the things that I'm taking away and you didn't say it explicitly, but I would challenge our listeners too. If you're wanting to elevate that level of communication, a question you could ask your team is saying, hey, what do you do that puts you in a peak state? And then it's a prompt for your people to be like, Okay, well, if I feel my best when I do this, get your people to do that before they have any kind of important work. I think it'll support their communication. I think it'll support their effectiveness. I think it'll support team building. And Richard, what I heard from what you shared, you know, your emotion is really helping people get what they want out of life, then using communication as a tool to do it. So I'm just really grateful for the time today.

Richard: Great, me too. Thanks for having me.

Anthony: It was my pleasure. So folks, my guest today, Richard Newman, who is the CEO and Founder of UK Body Talk. Communication, effective communication and understanding myself have been such a transformative thing. So I can't encourage you enough to reach out to Richard learn more about what he does connect with him. And be sure to get engaged and share it with your team because that's what makes a difference. So, Richard, thanks again for being here today.

Richard: My pleasure. Thanks,

Anthony: This has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor. Thanks so much for watching. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe, share the podcast with your friends, and we'll see you next time.

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