And your communication success rate is?
Let’s start with an honest assessment.
What percentage success rate do you have across your sales, your presentations, in building relationships, in being heard? My guess is you’d like it to be better – right? Be honest with yourself, this is no time for modest denial
So why is it, no matter how hard you rehearse each speech or script, how hard you work on your self-esteem and your assertiveness, you still find yourself nervous and not getting the result you want?
How come some people just seem to make a connection with everyone and have total credibility? And others have more difficulty in building that trust?
As a franchisor, this connection and credibility is critical for building your franchise group and it can’t be faked.
Extensive research has been applied to this area in recent years, famously by a team led by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist from Harvard, which is outlined very clearly in her book titled simply ‘Presence: Bringing your BOLDEST SELF too your BIGGEST CHALLENGES’
Cuddy’s team analysed a vast number of video interviews and presentations over a number of studies, looking at a group of very savvy, hard-nosed venture capitalists as they made decisions on which entrepreneurial start up to support. Cuddy was exploring why some of these start-up entrepreneurs were successful with their presentations whereas others failed. And when the analysis concluded, the answer was very simple. So simple in fact that the venture capitalists had not been particularly conscious of it themselves!
It didn’t matter how well someone sold themselves or their product. It didn’t matter how beautifully prepared their presentation was. It didn’t matter whether they were full of self-confidence, or if they were incredibly nervous and tongue tied. The answer was a dramatic discovery, beautiful in its simplicity – the entrepreneurs had to believe in and trust their own story and by doing that, they were signalling how much they truly believed in the value and integrity of the idea and their own ability to bring it to fruition.
When we believe in the product and our ability to deliver it, we easily project poised, enthusiastic confidence – what Amy Cuddy defines as Presence.
And Presence breeds trust and with that comes the ability to persuade people to do as you ask.
But, sometimes, when you make a big pitch does your face tend to tighten up? Are your breaths short? Does your throat tighten and your voice sound strained?
Do you feel like a fraud?
It’s a strong term I acknowledge, but here we’re not just talking about the business environment. You might be making a point at your local council meeting, questioning a queue jumper at the bus. It might be asking someone for a dance or attending a job interview.
Imposterism – the elephant in the room.
Let’s put arrogance to the side and be frank here. Understand that one of the fundamental reasons we are challenged in reaching the higher level of trust is because, deep down, we simply don’t believe we have the right to be doing what we are doing, either because we don’t believe in the product or ourselves. We feel a fraud – a strong word as I said, but accurate. In classic terms, we don’t have a feeling of entitlement – we feel like imposters.
The tragedy is this very common attitude has often been carried on our backs since childhood, something that may have had a reality for our parents and grandparents, but certainly not for us. We may not recognise it in those words but we are aware of discomfort in our gut or chest.
Picture if you will, the power-dressed salesperson, chest pumped up with confidence to burn, and arrogance in bucket loads. He has a word-perfect sales pitch and can stand up and talk in any circumstances – “with a mouthful of marbles”. And no-one else gets a word in edgeways. Yet, so often these people are not self-aware, don’t truly enjoy what they do, and have little love and compassion for their fellow colleagues, clients and community – even their family and friends. Look closely and you’ll probably see that they are trying too hard and probably don’t believe in themselves. As a result, they appear cold and clinical. Give it a moment’s thought and you’ll realise that these are symptoms which do not strike well with our instincts, with our gut feel. You can smell the bulldust.
I have witnessed this occasionally with the newly successful franchisor who contracts the deadly ‘hubris virus’ – believing it’s all about them to the exclusion of their committed management team and franchise partners. It can be the end of a great success story and kill the group.
Often people in this mode are suffering what Amy calls Imposterism – the opposite of Presence. It is that feeling that we are just not good enough and should not be there.
Imposterism breeds distrust and alienation. This seems to be a 21st century elephant in the room and a serious problem affecting vast numbers of people around the world.
Today there is an expectation of supreme confidence 24/7, of being strong and assertive, in being able to withstand the hardships, the disappointments and losses with our chin up. We struggle to maintain face at all costs – can’t be seen showing weakness, nor admit to self-doubt. “Just do it man, don’t be a wimp!” is the mantra.
But is this unrealistic?
These attitudes have led to enormous growth in depression and unhappiness. It’s the constant pressure brought by high expectations, the ups and downs of life. You may feel you have to protect the remarks of your peers, attitudes you’re not comfortable with. Perhaps you anticipate being frowned upon.
You are not alone.
Amy’s team found that we all from time to time will battle the feeling of being a fraud, that we are not good enough. Presence and Imposterism are the opposite sides of the same coin and need to be managed as such. Because a vast majority of us, both male and female, rich and poor, fail to achieve our potential because of this underlying mindset issue left unmanaged.
Your body language shapes who you are
So to Amy Cuddy’s pragmatic solution. It’s certainly not a quick fix, and whilst it may be simple, it’s is not easy. It’s something that will be incremental, change will come over time.
First, understand the power of body language on both yourself and others perception of you and consciously use it to change both the way you feel and the way others feel about you. The remarkable thing is our own body language does not just change the dynamic around communication with others, it also changes the chemical balance in our bodies. So appear confident and body chemistry will go along and make you actually feel more confident. The opposite occurs too.
Amy explains with clarity the power of body language in her 2012 TED talk “Your body language shapes who you are”. It’s the second-most watched TED and the 21 minutes you spend watching this will be one of the best investments you make.
Secondly, Amy advises, communicate with empathy. You need to exercise humility and listen sincerely to other people’s stories and show them you understand. Only then will they listen to you and hear and trust what you say.
And finally, fake it. Assume the body language even if you do not feel that way. Professor Cuddy explains how, when you’re on the right path, it takes time to assume the mantle with the confidence that you’re rightly entitled to, and which has eluded you. So, when you’re on the right track you often benefit from “faking it till you make it!” and you’ll find after a while of living the part, you are the part. Thanks to both the response you get from those around you and the change in that body chemistry.
Are you doing what you want to do? Honestly?
At the bottom of all of this is one key thing you need to ensure. Are you are doing what you love doing, owning or working in an organisation you are proud to be associated with and promoting a product you truly believe in.
A ‘yes’ to all of these will give you the confidence that manifests the empowerment we are aspiring to.
It’s evident that when we feel powerful we feel free – in control, and unthreatened. And this is when we are conscious of opportunities, put less weight on the threats, and are overall more positive and optimistic.
However, when we are gripped with fear and anxiety we feel powerless. We are more tuned to threats, will be pessimistic and our behaviour is inhibited. We are constantly weighing up the possible benefits versus possible costs and will become vulnerable if we don’t take assertive action.
We all know the legend surrounding Sir Richard Branson – can you imagine him walking into a room feeling powerless, but you can guarantee there are times when he does have self-doubt and he does “fake it till he makes it.”
It’s the simple truth for us all wherever we are, and is even more critical in franchising.
Ultimately you need self-awareness in the form of mindfulness, you need to focus on impressing yourself not others, and critically you need to exercise humility and listen sincerely to other people’s stories.
The prescription is to follow Amy Cuddy’s formula to acquire ‘Presence’ and bring your boldest self to your biggest challenges.