Anyone in any kind of leadership position needs to master the skill of adept thought and speech in stressful high-pressure circumstances. In my work as an executive leadership coach with clients that include top leaders around the world, it’s an area I’m asked about often.
Repeat what you just heard. One of the hardest parts of contributing to a conversation is answering a direct question, especially when you can’t honestly give the expected answer. Allow yourself to pause and think; don’t feel that you need to fill the space with words right away. A tentative or uncertain reply won’t help your case. To calm your nerves and buy yourself a little time, simply repeat the question that was asked. As an added benefit, you can double-check your understanding of the question.
Always be thoroughly prepared. Plenty of highly intelligent people aren’t good at speaking spontaneously, but with enough preparation you can still be brilliant. Learn every fact and figure, every prominent person in your field and their perspective, the background of the issue. A prepared mind is a smart mind.
Learn to organize your thoughts. Constantly ask yourself the following questions: What do I not understand which could be better clarified? What question could I ask that would advance the discussion? What perspective or insight do I have that’s shareable? Don’t worry about being the smartest—sometimes it’s best to be the most organized and effective.
Ask for clarification. Asking for clarity will compel those who are speaking to be more specific. Don’t give cause for your query to be interpreted as a challenge, but keep it neutral: “When you say X, can you please clarify. . . .”
Project confidence. Adept thinking in the moment boils down to self-confidence. Speak in a strong voice, make lots of eye contact, and keep your tone and body language positive. Remind yourself how much you know about your job, your organization and your industry, and how many people you work with successfully.
Summarize and stop. Wrap up lengthy responses with a quick summary statement. After that, resist adding anything more. Be silent. Pause and allow people to fill the silent spaces. They’re absorbing the information you just presented, and speaking during that time can cause confusion.
Lead from within: When you have to think on your feet and you want to sound smart, make use of the tips to help alleviate the pressure.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: iStockPhotos
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.