A very warm welcome to all our viewers today. We are very happy to have with us today Mr. Aditya Maheswaran. Aditya is a speaker, coach and consultant who enables businesses and people, realize and unleash their potentials.
Aditya works in a global management consultancy and specializes in leadership development, executive and team coaching and talent management. He is a TEDx speaker and is an MBA from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. In 2015, he became the first Indian with presenting India to bag the 1st runner up at the World Championship of public speaking held at Las Vegas from over 40,000 public speakers, who competed from across the world. He has coached numerous professional speakers and business leaders and their teams maximize productivity and potential. He constantly writes on his popular page www.facebook.com/adityaspeaks.
Sir, we are very happy to have you with us today and I am sure a lot of our readers and viewers are waiting to learn from your experiences. To begin with, we would like to give you a hearty congratulations for your being runner-up at the International Public Speaking event held at Las Vegas.
Thank you! It’s my pleasure to be with you today as well.
Mr. Aditya is going to speak and advice us about “Public Speaking for Hyper management Career Growth”.
Here goes the first question.Sir, what are some of the leading management profiles where public speaking is a critical skill?
It’s a very interesting question because the popular belief is that public speaking becomes very important when you have a lot of external facing stakeholders. For e.g. I am in a sales role so, it’s imperative; it’s a mandate for me to hold my public speaking skills so that I can be more effective in sales. But more and more as I work with a lot of organizations, lot of business teams and even non-business teams, I realize that wherever there is a need to influence, there is a need of communication. Sometimes, it could come in the channel or forum of public speaking, sometimes it could be inter-personal skills, sometimes it could just be knowing various strategies for negotiation but the principle behind all these is the ability to influence and impact other people and this can be very important even for profiles which are not external facing. This could be even relevant for the HR of an organization, it could be relevant for the IT of an organization. Everybody takes their anger out on the IT department because their computers do not so the IT guys require the ability to influence the stakeholders to ensure that people respect the department. Finance for example, again a support function, they are viewed as close internal functions but the requirement to exhibit influence becomes very important. And, what better way to exhibit influence, if not the ability to speak and influence another person and as you grow up the organization, whether it be in your functional domain or whether it be in your general management space, what becomes very important is – the ability, capability, interest and passion in influencing stakeholders, influencing other people, above you, below you, in your peers and we really find that over lot of surveys and researches that the one competency - a skill that really differentiates managers from extraordinary managers is something called the stakeholder management. The way you are able to manage a stakeholder and one of the key skills that we find that effective stake holder managers have – is the ability to have clarity in what they speak, the ability to think from the other person’s point of view which is empathy and these are principles of public speaking as well. So, there are entire array of management profiles which require public speaking as the key competency and it’s not just restricted to certain external client facing profiles. So, I think it’s a myth that we need to take out of our head and all of us can be more effective in the way that we communicate.
How can public speaking assist in putting a management career in a fast track?
This is one question that everybody keeps asking me. There is a question that’s asked about MBA and about public speaking, about how can I get into the hypotential fast track growth in my organization. Again, if you look at the principle behind this, when you join an organization in your early 20’s, your work, the task that is given to you is heavily task focussed. By that I mean, you are already told what to do. You need to execute it, whether it be writing lines of code in an IT firm or whether it be in the shop floor in a manufacturing unit but you are told what to do and you need to execute it. But as you grow up in an organization, as you get promoted, as you have people reporting to you, the number of stakeholders that you interact with increases manifold. Sometimes, you are no more told what to do. It’s very ambiguous. You need to go to your peer in another department and try to get the data from him and come back here and communicate that with your teams and you do go back to your customers and communicate that again so clarity in thought, clarity in communication, ability to articulate what’s in your mind to another department and which is internally viewed as a competitive department. For e.g. supply chain or manufacturing in quality departments are always viewed as competitive department because in manufacturing, once you get the product out, quality wants to ensure that there are no defects in the product and what happens as you grow in the organization – you are heading quality, you are heading manufacturing or you are heading an account management role (say) even in an IT firm where you have your onsite in/off show team, clients asking for highest level of quality, you go to increase your rates for the next year. So, you have multiple stakeholders and multiple ambiguous complex issues that you are put into and therefore, the people who can survive are not the people that are better at java or not the people who are able to manufacture a product better or not the people who are able to find defects better. The people are able to survive and get a fast-track growth are people who are able to assimilate the entire complexity in their mind which others are not able to and then articulate this ambiguity in a way that everybody understands and by articulation, create a buy-end that everybody agrees to my point of view and this is an art and a science – the science behind it, is ofcourse the techniques of negotiation, the strategies of influence, the finding out what suits you and what doesn’t suit you, your strengths and weakness, the art behind this is the smoothness, the nag in which some people do it. Even in our lives, we observe that when somebody comes and asks us or demand us of something, we immediately say a ‘yes’, though you may agree or not agree with it but when other people do the same, we think 5 times thinking - why the guy is asking, what he has to benefit out of that. So, that’s the art of the stake holder management or communication. As you grow up in your career, irrespective of which company you are from, which industry you are from or what’s your role or profile; what’s very important is the ability to enrol other people into your agenda. If you are head of the quality as I said, how do you make the manufacturing head realize that quality is very important. If you are head of the manufacturing, how do you make the quality head realize that stocking up inventories is not good for the organization. These are things that goes beyond just explaining the PPT or telling them that my department is required. These get into more influencing negotiation, influencing skills, the basis of which again is spoken communication which if done with many people becomes public speaking. And, therefore, if you want fast track in your career, of course the hard part like doing an MBA or doing a quick course in your technical domain, all that is very important but what’s more important is your ability to think in ambiguity, articulate definitely as well as communicate to create a buy-end, persuade all without power and therefore inspire and influence and this entire chain that are mentioned now are the principles of public speaking itself that I teach people.
There is a popular belief that public speaking starts only when you open your mouth and the words come out but that’s probably like an iceberg – what you see in an iceberg is the only 20% that’s on top of water but what’s beneath the water is probably 80% of the iceberg which forms the base, which holds the entire iceberg. Communication is like that. What you hear is probably the refined articulated version of what happens inside. And, this is the process that happens simultaneously – what you think in and what you speak and very effective communicators are those who have practiced so much that what they think is being exactly translated into what they speak and therefore there is no transmission loss so as to speak in terms of clarity in what they want to communicate. Therefore, assimilation of thoughts, articulating definitely what you want to say and with the intent of persuading. What I meant with or without power is - if I am a senior vice-president, I have the power to persuade. If I am probably an assistant systems engineer in TCS, I do not have the power to persuade or irrespective of your position, designation, role in the hierarchy, you persuade with power because of your speaking skills and with the intent of inspiring or influencing an audience.
Moving on, being an executive at an entry level, a team level or at a higher managerial level, does public speaking has a role to play in daily work lives? If yes, then how can it assist employees across different years?
I intermined of an incident many years back. I was part of a speakers club where I used to be the president of the club, where we used to teach people joining that club, help them in honing their speaking skills. One day, a lady walked into that particular forum and we asked them normally to introduce themselves and she said my name is so and so. I am a classical dancer - she was a BharatNatyam dancer and she got a lot of accolades in dancing, she had performed in a lot of stages and I was very curious. I asked you had been on stage all your life; you have danced in front of thousands and thousands of people. Why do you need to learn speaking now? You don’t have the stage fright. She said something which still sticks with me. She said –“You see, when I am dancing on stage, I am oblivious of the audience. I don’t care whether it’s 1000 or 10,000; I know, I can do a great job. I have danced for the last 20 years. But, in between my dances, in between the two numbers, I need to spend 2 minutes with the mike to introduce the next number; saying that the next dance is going to be this theme, this is the song behind it, what it represents and those 2 minutes, Aditya are the scariest part for me on stage and after that for the entire hour, I can dance on stage. That made me really think because a person who is on stage all her life, yet when it comes to holding a mike and speaking in front of the audience is scared to death and she is actually searched in joint speakers forum for that which shows that irrespective of what level we are in, irrespective of what our profession is, whether you been an artist or be an IT engineer or whether you be a CEO or whether you be a lawyer, irrespective of what you are doing, whether you are doing MBA, you don’t want to do your MBA, skills such as public speaking becomes life saviours because when the going is good, you don’t really feel the need to learn a skill like public speaking because its’ not that every day you would be put in front of the audience of 100, 200, 50 or even 10; you may have a rare chance once a year to present in front 50 to 100 people in your company or MCN event or you may be a person who speaks more. You may have your daily status updates with your on-site clients, you may have to present in your MBA classes but not all of you will have the luxury of having an audience everyday and that’s the reason why we don’t hone this skill. We would rather hone something like technical skills or coding skills. That’s the reason you even do your MBA because that’s the skill that you want. But behind all these, when the going is not good, when there is tough times. For e.g. when the leader has to lay off people in the organization, when there is problem in family, when there is problem with your own team and they are not performing well, they are not motivated – they are demotivated but these are tough times and that’s when you see the real good speakers or the real good communicators are also able to be effective leaders because communication is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to be a leader but it’s definitely a necessary condition to be a leader because I know of no great leaders who has not been able to articulate their point of view with clarity and in a way that motivates their people. So, it’s only when the going is tough or going is the sudden crisis or there is a problem in your team that you realize that skills like public speaking becomes of paramount importance. I had teams myself where sometimes the teams have not been motivated. You just cannot increase their reward mechanism of pay them more to get them into because all of us, of course, work for money but money is not all that we work for. You need your motivation, you need to have a sense of purpose to the organization that you belong to or in fact NGOs and non-profit organizations face this much more than the others because volunteers are not paid; they are doing it out of passion and when you have 5 people work in a huge project and they are not even paid, what’s going to make them motivated and stick to your cause. It’s your ability to articulate a clear vision, it’s your ability to motivate them and show them the bigger purpose, it’s your ability to bring meaning into what they do and which again comes through effective communication and articulation& therefore, whether, you be an entry level person, a team leader or a very high managerial level, public speaking as a role in every level, in a different way of course; the cost of error at each level would vary. If a CEO lacks the necessary skills of stage speaking then probably as a huge cost of the organization but if a new entry level guy cannot speak, it’s fine, the cost is much lesser but that’s from the organization point of view. But, from a personal growth’s point of view, it’s very important to be able to articulate well. As human being is the only channel. We have to express ourselves to others- it’s through words and body language, we don’t have any other sensory communication channels yet. I hope it comes and it will solvea lot of problems but as of now, all we have is words and body language and if we are not able to mould that and shape that and hone that, then we are missing out a lot of ease that we can out it into our own lives.
There’s a lot to learn from what you have said. Yes, art & science and how important public speaking is in our daily lives – there’s a much more to explore and may be our readers and audiences would pay attention to honing this skill of public speaking and much more.
Moving on, how can the budding MBAs and management professionals develop their communication skills early in their careers?
That’s a great question! One thing that I have realized through my own experiences on stage and off the stage through public speaking and other wise is that there are certain skills that we have to learn only by doing. It can’t be learn in a book or in a classroom. Like for e.g. you can’t learn swimming through a book; you may read the book 15 times and you may know exactly which angle your hand needs to be and which angle your head needs to turn when you are above water but if I throw you in the swimming pool, you may still drop. So, you need to practice it in water. Very similar is public speaking and communication skills in general. You really cannot attend a training program and master the communication skills. You really cannot read a book what’s 17 ways to be an effective communicator and master those skills. You need a platform, a forum where you can continually practice and practice and hone your skill – a good skill. So, I would suggest the bussing MBAs or people who are actually in their MBA’s now or management professionals, young guys to find forums where it is ok for you to fail. I learn public speaking in a forum called Toast Masters so it’s a forum which completely celebrates when you fail. You go on stage and you forget your speech, you go on the stage and you are nearly frozen because you are scared. People clap and applaud and give you effective feedback, progressive feedback, reflective feedback so that you can go back and you never do the same mistake again. Unfortunately, you can’t make such mistakes in your real life, in your work life because the moment you fail, you are branded, you are labelled, you may miss that US promotion, you are the only thing that is stocked about in your appraisal is that one moment where you didn’t do something well, so you are much more scared to learn openly and that’s why suddenly you already worked for 12 to 15 years but you realize that you never really concentrated on some of these skills that you like but you are afraid of because of the fear of failure. So, find a forum for yourself – a platform where failure is an option and then fail, fail and fail and then one day you will realize what works for you and what doesn’t work for you and then you will embrace your best. Another lesson, I would like to tell people is to embrace their best. Lot of us, especially when it comes to communication skills or public speaking skills have role models, we want to be like another person, we want to be like that one boss that we had, or we want to be like one role model that we have. Infact, when I had won the 1st runner up with the world championship and I came to India, I find a lot of people coming up and telling me in social media and end person –
“Aditya, how can I be like you?”
“How, can I speak like you?”
“How can I be the next you?”
I smiled and infact I was cringing inside because if I had many years ago wanted to be like somebody else, probably, I wouldn’t have become me what I am today now. So, I keep telling these people don’t be the next me or the next somebody else, be the first you so find that unique value-add that you bring on stage or you bring in terms of articulation or communication. For some people, it could just be that smile and empathy, you know you may not be that strong in terms of data but the way they empathize with you, you flowed and they agree with your point of view; some people are very highly analytical, you may not naturally get the empathy with them but the way they keep the data in front of you, put forth data in front of you is so analytical that you are convinced. Some people are not empathetic or analytical but they are highly inspirational. They have a big knowledge base, they quote from various sources they quote testimonials, they have facts, evidences (say) from history, current affairs, from geography, from so many places. So, this is another technique. So, each of them embrace their own strength and when you embrace your own strength, you end up convincing an audience. It is just as simple as that. We focus our energy on areas which we are always weak in. That’s how the education system is designed; that’s how our skill-building is designed. So, when you go to a specialist on building communication on public speaking skills, they would tell you, you are weak in body language so just concentrate on that. Seldom do you hear people saying, you are very strong in your ability to organize the structured speeches so build on that. So, I am proponent of finding out strengths and building on them and parallel is a by product built on the weakness as well. So, that’s what I would advise people. Find out your own unique selling proposition just like you would do for a product or your service and create a brand for yourself and this is not a brand that you need to put on social media. This is a brand that you need to see yourself in your eyes; the way I see myself now is very different from the way I saw myself (say) 5 years ago. As a public speaker where I saw myself 5 years ago is a guy who wanted to win trophies, who wanted to get the clap, standing ovation, the way I see myself now is very different from that the way I see myself now as a person who wants to change lives, who wants to create impact, inspire people to do act differently, feel differently, do things differently or think differently. This is the brand that I have created in my own mind and when you create a brand in your own mind, it reflects almost always in the way you carry yourselves, in the way you speak and the audience realizes it as a by product. You don’t really need to announce it to them and that’s what I would urge everybody to do and when you do that; whether you are doing an MBA or whether you are working in a company or whether you are still applying for an MBA, you will become very genuine as a person and irrespective of what your background is or how blessed you are already with the gift of the gab, I would find you as an effective communicator because you are speaking in a more self-realized manner rather than just trying to be someone else in front of him.
That’s a lot of learning which is not just flowing out of your intelligence or your experiences but we also see a lot of wisdom coming to us from you. When it comes to understanding the importance of public speaking, what are the principles of public speaking and realizing that public speaking is a skill that is important in each and everyone of us in our daily lives, when we face problems within families or at workplace, infact everywhere.
Thank you so much Sir, for guiding us. I am sure our audiences will learn a lot about putting their careers and their lives into fast track.