Since November 2010, I have attended 3 of Tony Robbins’ events as a participant and served on the event crew for his events 10 times. In that time, Tony Robbins has taught me many important lessons. One lesson stands out as perhaps the most important — and it wasn’t even something he said.
In January 2011, I attended Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery event in Las Vegas. Business Mastery is a 5-day event for business leaders and entrepreneurs. Tony teaches parts of Business Mastery, and also brings top experts from a wide range of disciplines to present on a wide range of topics.
When Your Message Doesn’t Land
One of the guest expert sessions was about a process that Tony calls optimize and maximize, a method of creating exponential growth by focusing on small increases in each part of your business process. The man on stage (I forget his name) was clearly knowledgeable and had a lot of valuable information to share, but it wasn’t landing with the audience. Most of us were frustrated and fidgety. Some people walked out in the middle of the session, and those of us who stayed through the end left feeling confused and uncertain.
Apparently, Tony was in the room during the session, watching from the production riser in the back. Tony is a master at reading and feeling the energy in the room. And he could see and feel that we weren’t getting it.
How Tony Responded
The next morning, Tony took the stage and addressed the issue head-on. He acknowledged that the presentation didn’t land the way he wanted or expected it to. The person he had called in to teach this topic didn’t meet his standards.
This wasn’t a judgment about the guest’s expertise. Rather, it reflected a reality of life:
The people who are the best experts in something are not always the best teachers of that thing.
I’ve seen other event hosts throw the guest speaker under the bus in similar situations, placating to the audience by denigrating the speaker. Tony did not do this. Nor did Tony blame the participants for being “slow learners” or “not getting it.”
Instead, Tony Robbins owned this. He did not just own the decision to bring this expert in to teach, he owned the outcome. The outcome was for us to learn this topic. He took that upon himself with an apology and with action.
Tony personally retaught the topic. This strategy is the same one Tony has used in his companies to create massive growth. He broke it down into the smallest of steps, into digestible chunks that we could master. He and his team created two different visual guides to the process to help us understand it. The knowledge and insight from this session alone more than paid for the investment in Business Mastery.
But the optimize and maximize strategy, while valuable, was not the most valuable lesson I learned from Tony Robbins.
Even more valuable was what I learned from watching how Tony handled the situation of the failed presentation.
What I Learned From Tony Robbins
Tony taught me that it’s the job of the coach and leader to speak in a way that others can hear. It’s the leader’s job to communicate the message in a way that empowers others to take action.
Communication Mastery is an Essential Business Skill
Communication skills weren’t an explicit part of the curriculum at Business Mastery, but mastery of communication skills is essential to running a succesful business and living a fulfilling and productive life.
To be an effective teacher, educator, advisor, consultant, or coach — to be an effective leader — requires that you be an expert communicator.
Communication is not just what you say; it’s how other people understand and interpret what you say. This is what makes it a difficult skill to master. In any conversation, you control only your part, not the meaning that the listener gives to your message.
The Benefits of More Effective Communication
More effective communication paves the way to greater trust and openness in relationships. This is true whether your audience is a room of 5,000 people, one person on the other end of a phone call, the people reading an email or an article, or a single person in the room with you,
Effective communication is also a productivity booster — learn how to communicate better and you will save yourself the time and energy of needing to repeat yourself.
When The Listener Doesn’t “Get It”
When someone repeatedly doesn’t seem to “get” what we are saying, we can easily grow frustrated. We may wonder, What’s wrong with you? Why are you not getting this? Sometimes we even say that to the person.
Perhaps you’ve said this to people. Perhaps people have said this to you.
When a student doesn’t understand something, many teachers are quick to blame the student: it must be a learning disability, or the child (or adult) is a “slow learner.” In a coaching relationship, when a client doesn’t take action, we may attribute it to fear or resistance.
Those things may be true. The student may be a slow learner. The client may be caught up in fear.
And it’s also possible that we aren’t communicating the message in a way that the listener can comprehend and digest. We may not be presenting the information in a way that gives the client what she needs to take decisive action.
A Simple Step to Communicate More Effectively
We all can get frustrated when we speak to someone and they don’t seem to get it. I remind myself of this lesson whenever I find myself starting to say — or even thinking — how many times do I have to tell you? or what’s wrong with you?
Instead of making the other person wrong, I turn it around to myself and ask, how I can communicate this in a way that the other person can receive it?
How can you communicate so that your audience can hear you better? How can you present your message in a way that empowers your clients to take action?
I’d love to hear your responses in the comments.