Becoming a thought leader with impact

On becoming a thought leader with impact

Do you ever read my column and disagree with what I have to say? This could be a good sign: you may be ready to take your place as a business thought leader.

If, even once, you have thrown down the newspaper or closed the browser in disgust, all the better. It means that you care enough to become a thought leader. An emotional reaction is a signal that you strongly believe in a different point of view. Maybe your contrary insight might be worth sharing with a wider audience.

If so, you need not be rich and famous to be the next Marcus Garvey, perhaps Jamaica’s foremost thought leader. Like he did, you can start with little more than a knowledge of how to use the latest technology. In his day, he established newspapers in several countries to share his content. By contrast, you could set up a free Facebook page in a few minutes.

However, that’s not likely to be enough. Garvey didn’t have a goal of being “an influencer” or being famous. His publications were the means to fulfill a much bigger vision. Take yourself to his level by following these steps.

1. Start Provoking

While you may not be prepared to write a book or give speeches to thousands, your smartphone affords you tremendous power to craft messages. What about finding an audience? Maybe they are just sitting in your social network waiting to hear what you have to say.

But what if you aren’t ready to formulate your initial thoughts into the written word, audio recordings or videos? One way to begin is to find and spread articles you agree or disagree with. Share, add your opinion and invite others to comment.

As you do so, consider this to be the start of your research and learning. Continue looking for quality evidence and the underlying academic publications that supports it.

Sometimes, you’ll discover nothing but opinions. Occasionally, you may bump into facts that contradict your pet ideas. Overturn them to fulfill your mission of finding the truths that help you make progress.

These are small steps, but the world won’t change until you start to engage it. Sharing and reacting to existing points of view brings your commitment out into the open, starting immediately.

2. Build Your Structure

Most people mistakenly believe that all you require to be a content creator is the right keyboard, audio recording device or video camera. While those are necessary elements, in today’s world they are simply insufficient to be effective.

Especially in these locked-down times, would-be thought leaders need a way to share their content, promote themselves to new audiences and manage their followers. The details of these three approaches are as follows.

– To deliver consistent messages you must specialize in a particular mode: text, audio or video. Why? It takes time to master a single one well enough to rise above the din and distractions your would-be followers face, even if you have world-class ideas. Fortunately, YouTube has all the education you need to move past the beginner stage of using these three modes.

– Some believe that they shouldn’t have to do very much promotion – “if you build it, they will come.” In other words, if the content is good enough, it should naturally attract people. This hope-for-the-best approach is unlikely to win attention. Instead, you must carefully define a strategy to promote your messages in a multi-channel world, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Experiment with each of the social networks, plus setting up your own website.

– Consider obtaining a Customer Relationship Management software system (like Mailchimp) to efficiently scale and automate your communication with your audience.

Recall a time when a typewriter was an essential piece of equipment. Think of these three elements in the same way: the hallmark of someone who is serious.

3. Focus on Results

As a budding thought leader you are likely to have multiple objectives. Pick an easy one to start with, such as the number of people who respond to your next article on Facebook. As you continue, you’ll define more sophisticated metrics that measure your impact.

As you may agree, being an effective thought leader in these pandemic times involves more than having new, fresh ideas. That’s just the beginning. While quality thoughts are essential, they are lost by themselves.

Today, the sad fact is that the smartest voice will not necessarily be heard above the distractions. Think of your “message delivery” skills as a critical partner to your creativity and you’ll start to confront the gaps in becoming a business thought leader with impact.

Webinar: 3 Hidden Obstacles to Impactful HR Content

Are you having an impact with your HR content?

As an HR Professional, you may agree that building a person brand can make all difference in achieving your goals. Creating content is one strategy to do so that costs little, but can yield a tremendous return.

However, many find it challenging to either get started, find the time or consistently create articles, audios and videos. If you can relate to this gap between what you know you should be doing and are actually doing in creating content, read on. The most consistent content creators have found ways to get past the obstacles that thwart others, and you can learn from them in the upcoming webinar.

3 Hidden Obstacles to Impactful HR Content – Register Here
Thur Nov 26, 2020 at 6pm Ja / 7pm TT
Presenter: Francis Wade

Come to this unique learning event to discover pathways to become an effective creator of HR content in the Caribbean. With podcasts, virtual conferences, vlogs and pop-up events becoming the norm, opportunities are expanding for you to make a difference. This is a special opportunity to hear some ideas and share with others, plus learn from my experience creating HR related content for a wide audience for the past 15 years.

Space is limited on the Remo interactive platform, but you can watch the presentation via our live feed if you arrive late or the space is filled.

Francis

P.S. Reminder:  you can’t use a tablet/iPad or the Firefox browser to access the  webinar. Pro-Tip – Chrome works best on a smartphone or laptop! Remember  to close down other apps and tabs so you get to use full bandwidth and  memory.  Never used Remo before? It’s a step above Zoom – so here’s a quick tutorial and an equipment checklist.

How to Persuade an Audience Productively

Do you have the challenge of persuading an audience in either a speech or the written word? Here’s a useful outline I have adapted for use in the background of my talks and articles, including this one.

Psychologists tell us that when people are being influenced by ideas, it’s just not a random activity. Instead, they follow a rather predictable process, especially in live gatherings. The core notion is that a group being influenced journeys from one psychological space to another, almost like running around the bases in softball, hitting each of them in sequence. Following this theory, here are four major phases to use, inspired by speaker-trainer Pete Vargas.

Hearts

The first phase of persuasive communication is designed to address an emotional need. Usually, at the very beginning, an attendee is preoccupied with a “Why should I listen?” question. While it can be logically explained, the best speakers/writers evoke an emotional response, starting with their very first words.

Some begin with a question designed to spur curiosity. Notice that I used this approach in this article; it happens to be the one I use most often. Others give a startling statistic or quote. A few are brave enough to tell stories.

Unfortunately, too many stammer out irrelevant pleasantries to “break the ice”: thanking various people, introducing themselves, dropping anecdotes. They mistakenly believe that it’s impolite to start with a bang.

Yet, this is the best moment to make a heart-to-heart connection, before phones take away people’s attention. If you can follow your opening by evoking their experience of the problem, and how you have struggled with it, all the better.

Finally, Jamaican listeners and readers yearn to connect with each other. Find a way to bridge the gap between members of your audience, taking away the anxiety of feeling as if they are alone.

This first phase ends when the emotional connection has been made. It could occupy 25% of the time available.

Heads

The next question people ask is related to your Big Idea – the “how”. This is the logic behind your thinking – the new approach you are advocating that they have never heard.

Here, you are building a fresh case. Use research data, historical facts, and stories to share ideas that can pierce their logical minds. Assume that they are usually a bit cynical: quick to dismiss your message to the “same-old-stuff” category.

Try to spend about 40-60% of your speech in this phase – it’s the one people will share with others and use to justify their future course of action. They may not mention how you made them feel, but they will remember data such as the percentages I have quoted in this article.

This phase ends when their heads are nodding with understanding, showing they are ready to move on.

Hands

Arguably, your call to action (which takes place in this phase) is the most practical part of your communication. Here, you appeal to your audience to act to fulfill the promise of your Big Idea.

As such, this is not the time to be subtle or obtuse. Instead, create a picture of their future selves and ask them to make a concrete, visible commitment. It could be an altar call, a book purchase, a website download or something that doesn’t involve you at all, such as a sequence of steps.

Once they have been asked to act, you have set the stage for a powerful ending.

Hearts

The final 10% is a return to emotions. This is where you can continue a personal story or ask them to envision the person they’ll be once they take action. If you are able to create a connection to the feelings evolved at the start, even better.

The point here is to summon the emotional commitment needed to be successful going forward. After all, you are setting them loose to try your Big Idea in the real world full of resistance, resignation and cynicism – even if it’s their own. They’ll need to be strong to avoid the friction and distractions involved with the introduction of anything new.

Consider this to be a serious challenge. At the heart of your need to persuade should be an authentic commitment to make a life-changing difference. As someone who has stepped up, hold yourself accountable and be a contribution.

In other words, don’t commit the error of “just” giving a “small speech” or a “few remarks”. Every time you stand in front of a microphone, or put pen to paper, you have a sacred duty. You are not just a noisemaker.

Instead, honour your wildest dreams in which your words help people transform their lives, even if you’re only delivering a wedding toast. After all, you only need a single person to respond postively to know that it was worth the effort.

Will Your Church or NGO Survive the Pandemic?

Are you concerned that your church or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) may not survive the combined punches of a pandemic and a recession? You should be. But there’s much you can do to intervene and turn things around.

Most of us can appreciate the devastating impact of COVID-19 on industries such as education, entertainment, hotels and restaurants. But there are other effects being felt in two sectors which have traditionally drawn strength from live gatherings of volunteers. Now that large assemblies have been banned, churches and NGO’s are threatened as never before by recent, unstoppable trends.

The Threat to Churches

While your church is primarily seen as a place of worship, let’s assume it’s also an organization subject to the same requirements as others: it needs manpower and funding to maintain its operations.

In particular, the Saturday or Sunday morning service plays not only a spiritual role, but it also serves a commercial activity: fund-raising. Traditionally, this has been driven by donations from live attendees.

In any recession, its elders would expect a dip but this one is different. Their primary channel of creating value has been severely and indefinitely curtailed.

This has led to a dramatic change in behaviour on behalf of would-be congregants, particularly those who are lukewarm – the majority. Now, instead of putting on their Sunday best and sitting on a pew for the better part of the day, they are engaging in alternatives.

Some are watching their home church’s services online. Via Google Search, others have switched to more fulfilling broadcasts in other parts of the world. More than a few are simply distracted by social media, the news, exercise, giving the children extra lessons and other activities.

The fact is, they are all picking up new habits which will become quite hard to disrupt once the ban on assembling is lifted. Consequently, your church’s recent drop in donated income may not be temporary. Neither is the reduction in attendance. And, even when the bans lift, your elders will still have a recession to contend with.

The Threat to NGO’s

The challenge many NGO’s face is a bit different: it includes their leaders. They don’t have the benefit of a permanent pastor and probably elects new executives every year or two.

Traditionally, each incoming leader body learns its function from the one prior, primarily via face-to-face meetings. Its regular activities and fundraising events have also always been in-person. So has its AGM where dues are collected and elections are conducted.

COVID-19 has taken all of these away. Now, the leadership must engage using unfamiliar online tools like Zoom. In many NGO’s, retirees play an important role but they are least likely to use such tools.

Unfortunately, the sum of these shifts threaten the existence of many churches and NGO’s. Some have not responded well, going into hibernation; a wait-and-see approach. Their hope is that things will return to “normal” someday soon.

Hopefully, your organization realizes this urgent, existential threat and plans to devise a new strategy. Here are some steps to take.

1. Craft New Commercial Strategies, Abandon the Old

While your church or NGO may have built its existence on long, stable traditions, consider this a call to re-think everything. A mission of “Continuing our Tradition” might need to be replaced.

Now, you must define a fresh destination, one that will appeal to a highly distractible audience wary of in-person gatherings. This should mean looking 5-10-30 years to the future to craft the details of a vision in which you are unique in meeting your followers’ needs.

Once your end-point has been defined, fill in the steps to be followed over the time period. On the commercial side, use metrics such as members, donations and special event income to show where your growth will come from. Include milestones along the way which describe the path to follow.

2. Draft New Skills

If your board lacks the skills necessary, co-opt younger persons who have them. For example, if none of your leaders have regularly attended a range of virtual services, include someone who has. Ask them for help in defining new ways to add value which appeal to Millennials and successive generations.

Time is of the essence. Don’t delay because of pride. Instead, assume the worse: that Jamaica won’t have a vaccine or achieve herd immunity until after 2021.

To save your organization from extinction in the meantime, forsake any wishful thinking and embrace the fact that there are irreversible trends at play which are moving against you. Rally your members and show them that this isn’t about a temporary convenience but an entirely new way to fulfill your mission.