Great news! You have been asked to participate in a local television show during which the business reporters from all local media interview CEOs. There are tens of thousands of viewers due to syndication and many additional YouTube views, and this could be a huge opportunity to build both individual and corporate brands. The other CEO to be interviewed on the same show heads the largest public company in the region, well known for its growth and innovative strategies. You have always wanted to meet him and to do business with his company. And, you want to hold your own with him in the interviews.
As the day approaches, the excitement level remains high, but the nervousness starts to build. What kind of questions will they ask? How will I look next to Mister Big Shot? Why did they really choose me? How much research did they do into me? What if I blow this?
With only a couple of days left before the show, which is being shown live, you reach out to your closest friends and ask for advice. One says contact a presentation coach to get tips on the best body language, ways to stay calm and ways to use the cameras to best effect. One says to get advice on what to wear; and a third says get plenty of sleep, don’t drink alcohol the night before and don’t tell any of your stupid jokes. This all sounds like good advice but it doesn’t still the feeling in your gut. So you call your original business mentor, who helped you get started twenty years before. She is surprised to hear from you, as you rather abruptly terminated your relationship several years back when you felt there was nothing more you could learn from her.
She is happy to have a conversation, but says it will be a quick one, because she has many current clients keeping her quite busy. She tells you to get out a pencil and paper and write down eight short questions:
· Who are you?
· What gets you up in the morning?
· What keeps you up at night?
· What makes you different from your competitors?
· What would your employees say about working for you?
· What would your customers say about your business?
· Where is your business going to be 5 years down the road? 10?
· What is going to get you there?
You get off the phone quickly, thinking this is of no use to you. None of these questions deal with your status, your brand or how you will appear in the eyes of the cameras. You put the list down and call the presentation coach. During your emergency session she gives many helpful tips. But she says that you must be sincere and you must appear passionate. She asks where your passions lie and what your vision is. A little light bulb lights in your head and you realize these are basically the same questions your ex-mentor has asked in a different way.
You end up spending the night before the show thinking about the answers to the eight questions, actually digging below the surface. As you do, you start to get a bit excited, because you are getting in touch with the real “WHATs and WHYs” in your life. You used to be in closer contact with them, but greater responsibility and more diverse duties have distanced you from them. You look at the clock and it is 3:00 AM and you are exhausted but exhilarated. You fall into bed, knowing you have to be “on set” at 9:00 AM. After only four and one half hours sleep (disregarding advice of friend #3) you grab a suit from your closet and a shirt and tie to match (you think- violating the advice of friend #2) and head for the station. You try to remember the tips from the presentation coach, but your mind is a blank on them (sorry, friend #1). Yet, you do not panic- because you get it. You finally get it.
The interview goes better than expected. The questions asked and the discussion around the answers is rich and vibrant because you are once again in touch with yourself, your motivations and the heart of your business. You come across as sincere and passionate. Your brand, your company culture and your vision are clear to all who listen. And more importantly, you are revitalized, not from your television appearance but from getting back in touch with all that is important.
Lesson Learned: There are lots of tips and tactics that can help a leader present himself and his company in a strong light. They may all be helpful to some degree. But, you cannot sell others on you or your business until you really truly know yourself. The answers are there within each of us. Many choose to spend too little time staying in touch with them. However, it should be remembered that one important measure of success is how true they are to those values and the motivations that drive them.