A Review of Power CuesNovember 03, 2014 | By Wayne O'Neill
When a book catches my attention, I highlight the heck out of it on my Kindle and I re-read it. Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others and Maximizing Your Personal Impact by Nick Morgan is one of those books.
What I like about this book is that it’s not heavy handed. It doesn’t talk about how you “control other people,” but rather it focuses on the counter-intuitive nature of what really goes on in human interaction.
Take Control and Tell a Story
What the author talks about right off the bat is using power cues to take control of information before someone else does. He asks you: When you walk into a room, how do you create presence of command? This is something that doesn’t get talked about a lot – but as a coach I notice it. When I don’t walk into a room with the mindset of a coach – somebody who can guide the activity and thought and what we have to tackle – I’m likely to get run over.
This is true for any type of coach or leader. A professional football coach is a good example. When you are dealing with people who are really good at what they do, you need to establish that you are good at what they are not – that is, what you are about to teach them.
Professional athletes can be particularly hard to connect with because they often feel they are above your point. Especially if they have been on multiple teams. A coach can connect with them by sharing real stories.
The second thing that I loved about Power Cues is that it connects into what makes a good presenter. What really resonated with me is the whole issue of body motion and how gesturing in an authentic way really makes a big difference.
When you spread your arms out or focus on different areas of the room, this authentic gesturing connects you to the audience because they are not listening to you as much as they are looking at you. Authentic gesturing is a source of power.
Use Your Voice
The book also talks about how tone of voice makes a big difference. This really resonated with me. My voice is, by nature, deeper and slower, and I can change pitch like someone in communications media on TV. This makes me an effective speaker, and it’s something others can learn how to do.
Keep Calm and Lead
What really struck me is that none of this advice – creating presence of command, gesturing authentically, using the right tone of voice – works unless your unconscious mind is in balance. I’m not as effective in a coaching session if I’m worried about fifteen other things and I don’t have that under control. Not that life has to be calm all the time, but you have to be aware that those things that are bothering you are going to affect the way you interact with people.
One of the opening stories in Power Cues talked about how you can almost predict whether a pitch to a venture capitalist was going to work, not by what was on the slide decks but by the way the presenter gestured, his tone and all the subconscious cues that you could see. Presentation is really a performance art. What makes a good entertainer? Someone who connects with the audience.
Here’s the Bottom Line
Storytelling is not really about telling a story. It’s about connection with the audience. Jesus did it. Good preachers do it. All great religious figures did it. Connecting with the audience comes from making consistent points, being authentic and then wrapping it up into a narrative.