Monday, August 31, 2009

Are all professionals at the Senior Manager and above level, good orators?

Are all professionals at the Senior Manager and above level, good orators?
The answer to this is ‘No’.
That brings you to my next question…Is oratory skills imperative for all senior managers? The answer here is ‘Yes’. Let’s try and understand why we label this skill as one of the vital organs of a leader’s anatomy.

As you rise in life, “…your ability to understand the environment and communicate the same effectively to your business unit / the organization / the industry is much higher than your functional expertise. As a business leader, you should be able to drive the conviction and passion of your common goal with the audience; however, today there is certainly an oratory gap in most leaders and this should be addressed at the earliest”, says Supradeep Mukherjee (Global Training Competency Leader – IBM). Oratory is quickly becoming a lost art. Certainly, people talk too much…Public speakers can ramble on and on and worst, some leaders carry pseudo self-realization that they are excellent speakers. Here, no one would dare to bell the cat by showing them the mirror, so what we end up doing is, scoffing at them and silently jeering at them while they speak.

Gone are the days when you spent 20-25 years of your life in the same organization, at the same role, doing the same recurring job in one corner of the office. Today, 98% employees of an organization aspire to become business unit heads / leaders; hence, it is crucial for them to either be born with the ‘gift of gab’ or develop it with time. Bhupesh Joshi (Assistant Vice-President, Kingfisher Airlines) states in this context, “…Oratory skills are essential for all leaders to share their experience and knowledge. It does not matter which stream, vertical or industry you are a part of…Once you reach a certain level, you become the face of the company.” Presenting a vision demands oratorical skills. To achieve this you need to have superior speaking tools which are critical for your success. The ability and knowledge to communicate effectively will permit you to find your voice, express confidence and achieve your professional goals. Once you earn a senior level, oratory can make or break your career. Leaders with polished oratory skills have been able to sway the audience over key issues and build popular support for their side.

It is found in a survey in USA, that Public Speaking is number one Phobia for the masses. “Even today, when I have to address an audience, my hands and legs tremble, my voice shivers, I start falling short of breath and the only thing I need is, a place where I can go and hide my face”, says Latika Sabarwal (name changed), a recently promoted Senior Project Manager in an IT company. The word of advice that I gave her was, “just be clear of what you want to achieve through your speech, and remember, let it be a heart to heart communication. The masses will not connect with your brain. The essence of public speaking is: give your audience something of value. If they walk away feeling better about themselves, feeling better about some job they have to do, they will consider you a success. If they walk away feeling happy or entertained, they will consider their time with you worthwhile”. Though at a snail's pace, yet, Latika (name changed), has started realizing that public speaking is not intrinsically stressful. Today, she uses humility and humor to make her talks impacting and influential. She ensures that her words radiate out to the audience. James Paul Gee (Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University) wrote in his article Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics, "It is not just what you say, but how you say it." To add to this, Himanshu Bhardwaj (Head – Service, Xchanging Technology, India) believes that a leader should possess “…the art to inspire people and the skill to lead and influence them by communicating the right thing at the right time. At a fairly senior level, your focus is completely on 3 parameters - Employee satisfaction, Investor satisfaction and Customer satisfaction…here your communication and oratorical skills are of the essence.”

Going back to History, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation is an all time effective communicator. His five hour’s speech during the Round Table Conference in London says all about his Oratory skills. He always enthralled his audience and did his best to speak from his heart. Wherever he went and whatever he spoke about, he left an indelible mark on his audience. Internationally too there are many good orators like Hitler, Mussolini, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, etc. Their gift for fiery rhetoric had contributed to their coming to power.

Speechifying is an art which can be learned and developed over time. In all, public speaking is a skill for life which needs to be identified and developed at an early stage. Failing this, the world would be starved of future eloquent leaders.


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