How to Win Over Your Audience: Lessons from the Pianist With the Real-Life Rocky Story

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Remember that scene in Rocky IV, where Rocky battles Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Moscow, and the Russian crowd begins to cheer for the American? When I first saw the movie in 1985, right before Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, I thought, “No way. This could never happen.” But, in fact, it had – only in the concert hall rather than the boxing ring. Back in 1958, the Soviet Union announced the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, just months after they had … Read More

The Proper Perspective for Powerful Presentations

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There I was, presenting to a group of young managers. I had the data, the experience, and the forum to make my points about customer satisfaction. And as I looked out at my audience, I noticed … Well, mostly I saw that they were bored. Some looked upset that I was wasting their time. When they walked out afterwards I got a few mumbled “thank you’s” and nothing else. Almost no one made eye contact with me. Sure enough, the evals were brutal. I’d tanked. Big … Read More

I Want to Be Like Ike: Leadership Lessons from Dwight Eisenhower

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He was an ambitious leader. Dedicated, bright respected – but his career was stalled in middle management. During World War I, he watched as colleagues grabbed the coveted assignments. While other officers led troops in combat, he remained in the States to run a training camp. After the war, he was stuck at the rank of major for 16 years. He didn’t become a full colonel until he was nearly 51. Not cut out for an executive position? Not quite, because over the next 12 … Read More

Mining for Diamonds: How Powerful Listening Brings Out the Best in Others

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I’ve been working in the diamond mines. Well, OK, not literally – and, uh, I’ve got the biceps to prove it. But in a sense I have been, because when you coach someone, you’re helping them mine for the diamonds within themselves – big ideas, best practices, solutions to problems, paths forward, ways out of difficulties. You could write books on coaching techniques, but it all begins with listening. As my friend Fred Harburg puts it, “Coaching is powerful listening.” Powerful Listening Helps … Read More

Four Challenges for New Leaders

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“Don’t be a super claims rep.” Back when I was on the leadership development team at Farmers Insurance, we gave this advice to new supervisors. As I’ve moved on in my career, I’m amazed at how this rings true in other professions. I now tell my associates, “Don’t be a super salesperson.” Or “Don’t be a super account manager.” However you fill in the blanks, the point’s the same. When you step into a leadership position, your job changes. And … Read More

Optimizing Your Optimism: Lessons from the Man Who Inspired Churchill

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I once thought Winston Churchill was the most inspiring politician of the 20th Century. No longer. Nothing against Churchill. He was a leader for the ages. It’s just that I learned Churchill had his own “go to” guy for inspiration – a man so optimistic that Churchill was energized just by being around him. The man, of course, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And he has my vote for most inspiring politician of the 20th Century.   President Franklin Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill at … Read More

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