Read an Excerpt
How to Inspire People
Excerpted from Ten Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators by Carmine Gallo © 2006
On the night of August 6, 2003, during a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a bombshell hit California politics. Action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he would challenge current governor Gray Davis in a recall election set for October 7.
Having seen Arnold speak to large groups of business professionals, I knew August 6 would go down as the worst night in Davis's political career. Where Davis had all the charisma of a squid, Arnold radiated it. Sixty-two days later, millions of voters swept a sitting governor out of office for only the second time in American history. An unprecedented 135 candidates vied to replace Davis. Arnold got 48 percent of the vote. His closest opponent, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, came in a distant second with 31 percent of the ballots cast. Fitness Publications, Inc.
Immediately after Schwarzenegger's victory speech, an NBC correspondent covering the event in Los Angeles said, "His charisma. His ability to work a crowd. That's a big reason for why he's here tonight." Two years earlier, I sat in an audience of corporate types as Schwarzenegger captivated a crowd of twelve thousand people at the legendary Bakersfield Business Conference. It didn't take me long to realize "The Terminator" had mastered every one of the 10 Simple Secrets of great communicators-he grabbed 'em, hooked 'em, and blew 'em away. Arnold's oversized success in bodybuilding, movies, business, and politics had little to do with twenty-one-inch biceps and everything to do with drive, confidence, and charisma. He inspired people to believe in him and his vision.
He won 'em over!
Schwarzenegger exudes unshakable self-confidence, infectious optimism, self-deprecating humor, and a passion for the initiatives he embraces. Schwarzenegger's confidence convinced him to throw his hat in the ring and his optimism helped him maintain his resolve against a daily barrage of criticism, but it was Schwarzenegger's charisma that inspired voters and won the election.
Never underestimate a great communicator's ability to inspire audiences. Outside of California, and for many people inside the state, the very thought of Governor Schwarzenegger seemed like a joke. Not anymore. Only six months into his role the staid British magazine The Economist praised Schwarzenegger's accomplishments, saying "what a short, strange, surprisingly pleasurable trip it's been...the idea of Governor Schwarzenegger no longer seems so weird." A New York Times editorial on Tuesday, May 4, 2004, acknowledged that "this page was among the vocal doubters...nobody's laughing now."
I've never seen the term "charisma" more closely associated with a leader than in the first six months of the Schwarzenegger administration-with one exception: Ronald Reagan.
"Schwarzenegger's public charisma, private charm and upbeat, nothing-is-impossible demeanor are very Reaganesque," wrote Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee. "And, like Reagan, Schwarzenegger was underestimated," he adds.
Charisma is the key to inspiration. By definition, charisma is a "personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others; an ability to arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm." That's inspiration. Inspiring leaders and business executives have the rare ability to touch their listeners, motivate their audiences, and elicit that "fervent popular devotion."
Arnold's charisma factor intrigued me. If everyday business presenters could capture this magic in a bottle, I thought, imagine how effective they would be in winning over their audiences. Just imagine.
I decided to break down the specific traits that separated Schwarzenegger from most public communicators. Sometimes events really do unfold for a reason. Just as I undertook this research, CBS hired me to cover the Schwarzenegger administration for its affiliates in Los Angeles. This access gave me a unique perspective into Schwarzenegger's character and his communication secrets.
The Seven Habits of Highly Charismatic Leaders
Stephen Covey may have introduced us to the seven habits of highly effective people, but I chose to identify the secrets behind the world's most highly "charismatic" corporate speakers. The first thing I did was to conduct an analysis of media coverage with the help of my associates at Gallo Communications Group. During the sixty-two-day campaign, a staggering total of 17,509 articles were written about the recall election. "Charismatic" was the most common adjective used to describe Schwarzenegger, showing up in more than three hundred articles in just two months. Most of those articles compared Schwarzenegger's charisma to Davis's lack of it. Let's take a closer look at the specific words used to describe Arnold and Gray Davis.
Where Arnold was seen as warm, passionate, and electrifying, Davis was viewed as cold, unemotional, and colorless. It probably didn't help that Davis's first name was Gray, but with a name like that, he should have worked harder to add color to his presentations. Even more detrimental to Davis's image: Arnold was described by supporters and opponents alike as having a "commanding presence" while Davis was labeled as "stiff " and "wooden." Davis's entire persona could be summed up by his words and actions during his concession speech. Davis kept his emotions in check, which I think reflects his failure to build rapport. San Jose Mercury reporter Scott Herhold wrote, "There were no tears, no recrimination, no evident bitterness...and maybe that's one reason people rejected him. The guy didn't seem human."
Leader 1: Arnold
• Commanding Presence
Leader 2: Gray
If you want to join the ranks of the world's greatest contemporary business communicators, then seem human. Twenty-first-century audiences want to see what you see. They want to feel what you feel. If you can get them to care about your message, you can get them to take any action you want. That's inspiration. Humans, by nature, want to improve their lives, the lives of their children, the lives of others. It makes no difference if you're facing the boss or the board, senior managers or employees, existing clients or potential customers-your audience is made up of human beings who want to be inspired. Charisma alone doesn't win over audiences, but it gets' em to care about the speaker and the message-it builds rapport.
"Charisma...is now regarded as essential for career success," according to the Times of London (January 30, 2003). "Jack Welch at GE, Steve Jobs at Apple Computer, and Virgin's Sir Richard Branson are all examples of charismatic business leaders. They radiate a personal magnetism that attracts employees and customers alike."
Paint a Picture
The words journalists use to describe Schwarzenegger reflect his charisma. Charisma opens doors. Charisma inspires. But let's be more specific. What is at the heart of inspiration? What exactly is the Simple Secret to motivating everyone in your personal and professional life? The secret behind this powerful ability is striking in its simplicity: inspiring business speakers are artists. They paint a picture of a world made better by their service, product, company, or cause.
JetBlue CEO David Neeleman turned an upstart discount into a major carrier with $1 billion in revenue in just four years. Passengers all get leather seats and access to satellite TV. Unlike their experience on many other airlines, JetBlue passengers are greeted by courteous, knowledgeable, and attentive staff. Yes, charging low fares helps, but if it weren't for JetBlue's impeccable service it would be another struggling discount airline instead of winning awards for offering the best quality of an U.S. airline. It starts at the top with a CEO who treats his employees with dignity and who inspires them to higher levels of achievement. Neeleman has said, "Tell your employees, 'let me paint you a picture of what we're trying to accomplish,' and then people will walk through walls for you." Would people walk through walls for you? Paint them a picture first. Stick to it, and they just might.
Think about it. Cisco's John Chambers doesn't pitch Internet routers and switches, the hardware his company manufacturers. He promotes a world in which the Internet changes "the way we live, work, play, and learn." The fact that his company's hardware makes it possible provides the subtext to his presentations, but first and foremost he sells a dream-a dream of a better life. Howard Schultz makes his money off coffee beans-whole, ground, or otherwise-but what he's really selling is a blend of coffee and romance. Schultz has succeeded in painting a picture of comfort and community-a "third place" we can enjoy between work and home. In the same way that Chambers and Schultz pitched their respective companies to investors, Schwarzenegger pitched his vision to his audiences-painting a picture of a better California for voters, their families, and future generations.
Like all great communicators, Schwarzenegger is a master at promoting his vision. Like all great communicators in politics or business, he wins over his audiences by painting a picture so bright that people can't help but follow. "I came to America with nothing and California gave me everything," he would say. His message was simple and his vision was clear: California had lost its luster. By working together, we could return the state to the "golden dream by the sea" with plenty of jobs, lower taxes, and a healthy business environment.
During an interview with Marshall Loeb for Fortune magazine, former GE CEO Jack Welch was asked what qualities he looks for in men and women he promotes in the company. Welch answered, "You clearly want somebody who can articulate a vision. They have to have enormous energy and the incredible ability to energize others. If you can't energize others, you can't be a leader." Welch has also been quoted as saying, "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." Create the vision and articulate the vision passionately-that's the secret to inspiring and motivating your listeners.
It's no coincidence that Schwarzenegger and Reagan are often compared. Reagan knew the key to inspiring people was to get them to buy into his vision. Reagan painted a vivid, simple, and inspiring picture of where he wanted to take his audience-taxes had to be cut, government had to shrink, and communism had to be defeated. Regardless of whether you agreed with his vision or not, it was simple, direct, understandable, passionate, and consistent. It's what he believed and it struck a chord with a majority of Americans at the time. In Reagan on Leadership, James Strock writes, "If the vision is understandable, credible, shared, and compelling, the people will join the leader and move forward together.... Reagan always understood the single most important role of a leader is to craft a compelling vision."
In an interview with Esquire magazine in July 2003, Schwarzenegger said, "When people walk away with a vision, it changes the whole picture, it shows them what we can accomplish. That's what Kennedy did; he provided a vision. If you show people what's coming and how to get there, it changes everything. You have to have a vision." Every success in Arnold's life started with a vision. At fifteen, he had a "vision" of himself as Mr. Universe. He achieved that dream five years later. Same thing with coming to America, becoming a movie star, and owning businesses-it all started with a vision. It's why he looked remarkably unconcerned about negative stories during the campaign. In his own mind, he had already won the election.
Shortly after the Schwarzenegger election, I interviewed Martin Gagen, the executive director of 3i, one of the world's largest venture capital firms. According to Gagen, "Arnold's big belief is that 'politics as usual' has ruined the state. So I'm going to make this a 'people state' again. When you listen to him, for a moment, you think it's just political rhetoric. But when he starts talking about how he arrived to this country as an immigrant and his desire to give something back to his adopted country-his beliefs come through. He telegraphs his core beliefs."
Gagen says the best presenters in his business-those who have the best chance of getting venture capitalists interested in their ideas-paint a picture of how their products, ideas, or companies will make the world a better place. "If you believe you're going to transform the world, you need to tell people the mission you're on. I really like listening to someone who has a view of the world slightly different than everyone else. If they have a strongly held belief, a passion, they can convince you to look at the world as they do."