In 2020, Harvard University ran a series of thought leadership virtual sessions for friends of Harvard University in Africa, including the alumni and folks who subscribe to HU online resources and or online courses.
As a Harvard Business Review magazine subscriber, I attended most of the sessions. And boy, they were great. The advantage of attending such sessions, you get up close and personal with some of the most contemporary thinkers. How they start their presentations. How they get introduced. You see the kind of PPT slide decks they use. The first words they say when they are invited to speak. And of course, how they make their points so that everyone understands it the way they wanted it to be understood.
As a business transformation expert, that kind of exposure is priceless. You can see the real masters in action on a global platform. You understand the kind of questions that are asked, and how the experts answer them.
When once I got an opportunity to deliver a leadership talk in Asia, during one of my trips, I used many lessons from such exposures on public speaking. The audience wants to learn more about the speaker’s experiences, challenges, and frustrations they have gone through and how they overcame them. That is a unique story on a presenter can tell.
It does not matter how qualified someone in the audience may be, as long as they they can relate with the speakers life’s journey – the frustrations, the antagonists always waiting to pounce when one least expects it, and onlookers who should help, but they just continue taking photos to share on their timelines oblivious of the pain you are going through and of course, the people from nowhere who come in and give a hand to help you overcome the challenges.
Listening to the Harvard University leadership gurus talk about the world during the Coronavirus pandemic, I learned that we are all human. We have a choice to win or lose. It all boils down to attitude.
During the call, lines were opened for questions from the audience. One of the participants asked: if I have 30 seconds with a top leader or my company CEO, what kind of questions are good to ask to be seen as interesting or concerned about the business while projecting a strategic outlook. The Harvard expert said, ask the CEO: “what keeps you up at night?” Of course, he did not tell us the follow-up question or the context when this kind of question is ideal. For example, it is good during business discussions or leisure or both.
A month later, I met a client CEO of mine during a jogging routine. I remembered the question recommended to ask the CEO. I popped it: “What keeps you up at night?”
He stopped running, looked at me and said: “my wife.”
I could not believe my ears, but I kept looking at him directly into his eyes. He said, “yes, you heard right, my young wife. She is always tapping on me and I can hardly sleep. That is why I am doing these road runs.”
I said that is a good strategy. We should be running often, but also eat oranges, coffee, and lots of ginger.
I expected an answer like “poor staff performance or tax compliance issues or cybersecurity breaches…” I never got it.
What he said was very interesting. It gave me the motivation to keep running.
Next time you think about giving up, remember why you started.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr Strategy 2021. All rights reserved.