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Creating Successful Leaders

positive perception

This past week I attended a seminar given by Melissa DeLay, a communication and business coach, who spoke on the art of persuasive communication. I’ve touched on this topic myself in a past post, but I found her talk especially relevant to my interest in effective leadership.

DeLay stressed the importance of perception, specifically addressing how positive perception allows leaders to be better suited to close deals, increase loyalty and communicate with confidence, even in the most difficult situations.

We often feel pressured to say “yes” or “no”–to commit one way or another, she says, and this ultimately has an adverse effect on our productivity and personal happiness in the long run.  Instead of hastily agreeing to a project,  DeLay suggests we internalize what she calls “magical phrases,” which help accomplish the following:

1. They Buy Time. You’re not forced to decide on the spot when confronted with a proposal. These phrases give you a chance to weigh your options without committing prematurely.

2. They Defuse The Situation. In “sticky” situations that may fall anywhere between personal disagreements or declining on a proposal, magical phrases enable you to neutralize the situation.

3. They Make You Look Good. You aren’t committing to something and then going back on it later. You are in control.

So what are these “magical phrases” Ms. DeLay is talking about?

At their core, these phrases all contain three characteristics: They are authentic, considerate, and objective.

As a way to turn someone down, for instance, she offers this phrase: “I don’t see a match between what you’re focused on and what I’m focused on. I’m going to have to decline your offer.” Saying this shows that you understand and have thought the offer over, thereby demonstrating consideration. It shows that you’ve tried to be as objective as possible, in that you are attempting to distinguish between your focus and the focus of the individual making the offer. And, because it clearly states up front good reasoning for the decline, the statement expresses authenticity. In other words, even though you aren’t being rude, you aren’t sugar coating it either.

Other “magical phrases” DeLay shared during her talk:

“Let me give that some thought. I don’t want to make a hasty decision.”

“I’m deeply concerned about this because…”

“I don’t care to speculate; what I can say is…”

Each of these examples fulfills the core characteristics of the magical phrase: they are each authentic, considerate, and objective.

What struck me is the fact that in positions of leadership, we are often forced to juggle the roles of being mentor, manager, friend, employer, “bad guy,” and the list goes on. It is easy to feel trapped between these roles, not sure which one should be worn at what time. But DeLay’s “magical phrases” embody the basis of strong leadership, in that they are consistent, honest and transparent.


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