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The Defining Moment: The Straw That Stirs The Drink Of Motivational Leadership (Part Two)

In Part One, I described the importance of establishing deep, human connections with people you lead. I said there were three ways to do that, by communicating information, by making sense, and by having your experience become their experiences. By far, the most important and most effective way, is the latter.

Now I'll show you how to make that happen by developing and communicating a defining moment.

Write down three to five of your EXPERIENCES that made a strong impression on you. Describe each in a few sentences or paragraphs. That's it. Do no more. The important thing now is to deliberately walk through the sequence of defining-moment development. It's easy to get off track, but once you take the trouble to go through the process, you'll have it for life.

For instance, an experience that defines much of what I do in leadership happened when my father lay on his deathbed. He and I had struggled for years over conflicting views of my career path, but when he got cancer, the terrible disease led to a healing in our relationship, and for the first time in years, we were able to talk with affection and no recriminations. During a long discussion one afternoon a few weeks before he died, I told him that I felt I had run out of opportunities in my life.

His thin hand, which had been so broad until he became ill (He came from a family of hulking carpenters.) closed around mine, and he said, "Brent, how can you say that? Everyone has opportunities all the time. Look at me. Even me, here, on this bed - even I have opportunities!"

I didn't think much about what he said until after he died, and then his words kept coming back to me. Sort of breaking open in my mind like psychological time-release capsules and releasing bits of understanding. I came to understand what he really meant. And I took that understanding into my life and work.

Since then, I have never lacked for opportunities - simply because my father had me see that opportunities are never lacking - nor have I allowed the leaders I've worked with to lack opportunities.

"Even I have opportunities" is a defining moment, an experience, one that led to profound awareness and purposeful action - not for my sake, but for the sake of the leaders I'm consulting with. For the defining moment's purpose is not to illuminate what you can do, but what they can do.

Now that you've written down some defining experiences, you can begin to change them into defining moments. The experience is the raw material; the defining moment is the instrument, shaped from the raw experience, that enables you to reach into the hearts of the people you speak to and motivate them to take action to get results.

1. Select an audience to speak to. It can be one person or many. It can be someone at work, in your family, or in your social circle. This should be an important interaction. You don't simply want to communicate but to have a communion with the audience.

Don't expect the defining moment to automatically generate that communion. Often, it simply marks a small step you're taking in that direction. But that step is the very core of the right beginning.

2. Identify the needs of the audience. This is absolutely crucial to using the defining moment. The defining moment is all about human relationships, and you cannot have a rich relationship with someone unless and until you understand their needs.

3. Once you've chosen an audience and identified their needs, go back and select one of the EXPERIENCES you wrote about.

At this point, don't try to connect that experience to what you are going to say to your audience. We'll make that connection later. Many speakers try prematurely to make the connection. In doing so, they short-circuit the power of the defining moment. Hold off on making the connection until we've gone through a few more steps.

4. Take each experience and identify the physical facts that gave you the emotion. In my father's case, it was his hand squeezing mine and his smile and gentle words, "... even I have opportunities."

5. Have the experience be a solution to the needs of your audience. That solution lies in the lesson the defining moment teaches.

Here is the secret: The defining moment exists not for you to point out what you did, but for you to point out what the audience can do. In other words, your defining moment must become their defining moment. If it doesn't become their defining moment, it doesn't work.

Take, for example, my defining moment with my father. All the leaders I've worked with need to get more results than they're presently getting. In fact, the leader who is satisfied with the results he or she is getting doesn't need my help. My methods are not for the satisfied leader. To an audience that needs to get more results, I talk about opportunity, the opportunity to get results. Results are limitless!

When I talk to audiences about such opportunities, I use that defining moment. I say, "What I'm about to tell you isn't so much about me as it is about you and the unlimited opportunities to get results." That introduction is vital. It confirms that our interaction is about them and not about me. When my father's words resonate with their deepest needs, the defining moment works. Otherwise, it's a waste of their time.

6. Speak to your audience about your defining moment. Make sure it holds a solution to their needs. Don't have your defining moment stick out awkwardly in your interaction. Have it be a spontaneous, seamless communication said in a natural, relaxed way.

As a leader, you do nothing more important than get results. And the best way for you to get results is not to have people respond to your orders but to motivate them to be your ardent cause leaders. We never know how good we are as leaders unless we are motivating people to be better than they think they are. The defining moment goes a long way in helping make that motivation possible.

2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link. Email notice of intent to publish is appreciated but not required: mail to: brent@actionleadership.com

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. ? and for more than 20 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at http://www.actionleadership.com

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