With spring around the corner, I find my mind turning to golf. I love to play golf. I’ve always tried to not take it too seriously and remember that it’s just a game—but I didn’t really love to play until I started to use an approach called NATO golf. In case you haven’t heard of it before, NATO stands for Not Attached To Outcome.

BallWhen you’re attached to outcome, you might be having a good game but then you hit the ball wrong and find yourself focusing on the wrong things—every move you make, every breeze, every bump in the grass. It really tightens you up and you can’t perform as well. You become fearful of your results because you believe that who you are depends on how you score or play that day.

I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to play NATO golf than to grind my teeth over the score. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hitting good shots or scoring well—but I know that I am not my score. I am not each shot. As a result, I’m much more relaxed and able to swing freely at the ball without fear. I play so much better when I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be able to hit that hole or make that putt. I just get up there and let it happen. It’s beautiful.

Golf is always interesting to me, because I believe golf is a lot like life. Think about it. Sometimes you’re playing better than you should, so you learn how to deal with success.  Sometimes you’re playing worse than you should, so you learn how to deal with failure.  Sometimes you get good breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get good breaks you do deserve.  Sometimes you get bad breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get bad breaks you do deserve.  All in four and a half hours!  Ha! And one of the best ways to get to know somebody is to play golf with them and watch how they behave. It says a lot about a person.

In life, as in golf, sometimes we get so focused on outcome that we don’t enjoy the ride.  We’re so uptight about the importance of the outcome that we miss the dance of life, the dance of relationships, the dance of the sales call, or the dance of doing a seminar.

Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” I can’t say that I agree. Golf is a wonderful game as long as you don’t start believing that who you are is dependent on how you score. Don’t get attached to outcome—just be who you are and you will be amazed at how much more you’ll enjoy the game of golf—and the game of life.

My boss acts like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Another big question that I get all the time…

What do you do if you have an unpredictable boss—where you never know who’s going to show up?  One day he’s upbeat and happy and thinks you’re great, and the next day you feel like you’re dealing with an ogre. I suggest two things: The first is to get your resume out there, because you might want to go find another place or another boss. The other thing, which is so important, is to never buy into the idea that your self-worth is a function of your performance plus the opinion of others. If you get hooked into that outlook on life, then your self-worth is up for grabs every day. Why? Because nobody’s performance is great every day. Have you ever noticed how fickle people are? They don’t operate the same way every day, either. So one of the things you need to deal with, if you are dealing with someone with an erratic personality, is that God did not make junk. You are absolutely beautiful. Don’t have your whole day depend on how someone else treats you. Remember that you’re a good person who is loved. Maybe that boss doesn’t quite get it yet. But he or she will.

When Communicating, Inspire—Don’t Inform

I was once asked to give a speech at the regional National Speakers Association meeting in San Diego about my approach for effective communicating.  Specifically, they wanted me to tell them how I give a speech.  My approach is simple.

First, I offer up a concept that could help each person in the audience be a better manager, teacher, coach, or parent.  Next, I give an example or tell a story that relates to that concept.  I get people laughing.  I try to zero in on audience members as human beings and make my point in such a way that it triggers an emotional reaction for each person. Ultimately, I want them to walk out of the room with an idea they can put into action in their lives. Here’s an example of my approach:

Introduce a concept that will enrich the life of each member of the audience.  “Of all the concepts that I have taught over the years, the most important is about catching people doing things right. There is little doubt in my mind that the key to developing people is to catch them doing something right and praise them for their performance.”  The minute I begin talking about catching people doing things right, praising them and letting them know you noticed their good performance, the audience perks up. Everyone can relate to this topic in some way, both at home and at work, because everyone loves praise.

Give an example that relates to the concept. After I talk to the audience about praising in a general sense, I warn people not to wait for exactly the right behavior to praise others—because they could be waiting forever!  “In the beginning, when people are learning something and are not top performers yet, you have to praise progress. For example, imagine that you’re trying to teach a child how to say, ‘Give me a glass of water, please.’ If she has never spoken before, and you wait for that full sentence before you give the child a sip of water, what have you got?  A very dehydrated kid, that’s what!  So what do you do?  You have to praise progress. First, zero in on the word water.  Repeat it over and over again.  Finally, the child will respond with something like ‘loller.’ When that happens, hug and kiss the kid.  Call his grandmother and get the child on the phone so she can say, ‘loller, loller, loller.’ While that’s not water, it’s not bad.  After a while, though, you will only accept water.  Why?  Because you don’t want your child going into a restaurant at 21 years of age and asking for a glass of loller.  So praising progress helps people move toward desired performance.”

Tell a story that shows other applications for the concept. “Is praising important in relationships other than with our children?  You’d better believe it.  Have you ever seen a couple in a restaurant in love?  Margie and I were at a French restaurant not long ago, where we spent three hours enjoying a marvelous meal and elegant atmosphere. On one side of us was a couple in love.  When one of them would talk, the other would smile and listen.  I don’t think they cared if the meal ever came. On the other side was a couple that obviously had been married for a while.  In three hours, I don’t think they said four sentences to each other.  He finally said, ‘How’s your meat?’  ‘Okay,’ was the reply, ‘How’s yours?’  I whispered to Margie, ‘That marriage is dead but nobody buried it.’  How do you get from hanging onto someone’s every word to having nothing to say?  It’s the frequency with which you catch each other doing things right.”

Summarize the presentation with tips the audience can put into action. “The key to keeping personal and professional relationships healthy is to constantly catch people doing things right, and praise them by accenting the positive.  When you accent the positive, you have deposits in your human relationship bank account with that person.  Now, if that person does something wrong, you can point it out without devastating the relationship.”

The example I’ve just presented demonstrates how, when giving a speech, I try to present a concept in human terms and involve the audience in a way that it stirs an emotional reaction in each person.  I try to relate the concept to something that is present in the lives of every audience member so they can feel the power of the concept.  Remember that your job as a communicator and speaker is to inspire and change people’s behavior, not just to share information. If you use this approach when giving a presentation, you will keep your audience interested and give them something they will remember—and be able to use—long after they leave the room.

What it Takes to Give a Speech

I often have people come up to me after I’ve given a speech and say, “Boy, would I love to be able to do that for a living—go around the country and give speeches.”  When I ask them why they don’t, they say, “Oh, I could never do that.”

Did you know that the fear of public speaking is higher on the list of fears than the fear of death? This probably doesn’t surprise any of you who have dreaded having to make a presentation. Some individuals have such an aversion to public speaking that they may even decline career opportunities based on the chance that they will have to speak in front of others. While this may seem startling or sad, the truth of the matter is that public speaking is a learnable skill. People who feel inadequate about themselves in front of a group can learn to become good speakers.

I firmly believe there are three things that can impact your performance in public speaking:  body language, routine, and your belief system.

Body Language. If you want to become a good public speaker, closely watch other public speakers to see what they do and how they carry their body.  For example, I have observed that good public speakers walk with their shoulders back and their heads high and use a lot of hand and arm gestures. If you are nervous, hold your head up and your shoulders back and say, “I am feeling good. I am feeling really good.”  Silly as it may seem, this actually works.  The mind does not know the difference between what it perceives and what you tell it to perceive. Think of a time when you were feeling very confident and productive in some area in your life.  How did you act?  How did you walk?  How did you talk?  What did you do?  It’s pretty hard to feel inadequate if you walk and act like you know what you’re doing.

Routine. What is the routine people use when they make a presentation?  When you see a good bowler, for example, they always start at the same mark, take the same number of steps, and release the ball in the same way.  By getting a routine established, you signal your brain that all is well. If the material I’m speaking on is new to me, I try to practice it several times with others—friends, employees, family—prior to delivering it to a group I don’t know. I get feedback each time, and I try to think of questions audience members are likely to have while I’m speaking.  I also use notes until the information becomes second nature to me.  Before I give a speech, I usually engage in deep breathing and a quick review of what I plan to say, which I may do with someone I’m with just prior to my presentation.  When I get on my feet, the first thing I do is tell some funny story that gets the audience relaxed and gets me relaxed. Then I can get into my speech. Now a lot of people tell me, “But I’m not good at telling jokes.”  Well, this too can be learned. Experiment with what works best for you in breaking the ice with a group.

Belief System. Finally, what are the thoughts and beliefs that you have about public speaking?  The late, great speech coach Dorothy Sarnoff used to suggest repeating these words to yourself before giving a speech: “I’m glad I’m here.  I’m glad you’re here.  I know what I know and I care about you.”  Repeating these thoughts can change your belief system so that you actually become glad you are there and glad the audience is there. You know what you know and you can then stop worrying about not being good enough or perhaps not being able to answer a question that is asked.  When you focus on caring about the people in the audience, it becomes difficult to be fearful of the same group or of the situation. Once you start saying this over and over, it will have a tremendous impact on your level of confidence.

After applying these principles, you need to practice, practice, practice to hone your skill.  Seek opportunities to make presentations or join a Toastmasters International club in your area.  It will then only be a matter of time before you can perform as a professional and experience the joy and excitement of sharing your thoughts and helping others in the process. Good luck!