Communicate to Inspire: A book review by Bob Morris

Communicate to InspireCommunicate to Inspire: A Guide for Leaders
Kevin Murray
KoganPage (2014)

How and why those with talent and character who aspire to become leaders must also be effective communicators

Long ago, after making several mistakes with the best of intentions, I concluded that people cannot be motivated, except perhaps by terror. However, it is possible to inspire or at least ignite their self-motivation.

Kevin Murray is among the most thoughtful and thought-provoking business thinkers now publishing books and articles when not helping corporate clients to improve their communications and expedite leadership development. The nature and extent of how supervisors inspire their direct reports’ self-motivation will determine how effective the supervisors are as communicators. He suggests:

“To be successful, leaders must inspire others to achieve great results. How ironic then that few leaders are taught the critical communication skills that enable them to be inspiring. The simple truth is this: How well you perform as a leader, will depend on how well as a leader you communicate. You can have the best plan, the best resources and the best people, but if you don’t communicate well, you won’t persuade people to your cause, and you will fail. It is that simple. Yet any leader can easily derive competitive advantage by learning how to be more inspiring. It is much easier than you might think.” How? He wrote this book in response to that question.

That said, I agree with Murray about the importance of clear communication but, as he would be the first to point out, many toxic supervisors do not have a communication problem. On the contrary, their attitude, values, and behavior leave little (if any) doubt that they are unworthy of trust and respect. That comes across loud and clear. They have a credibility problem. That is, in terms of their integrity, they are pathetic at best and contemptible at worst.

What we have in this volume is a wealth of information, insights, and counsel based on Murray’s decades of real-world experience, including in-depth interviews and conversations with hundreds of C-level executives. These are among the dozens of challenges and opportunities that Murray examines in his book:

o How and why strategic conversations drive change and speed is the new currency
o How and why positive emotions drive better performance
o Why leadership is the “greatest intangible asset of them all”
o Why passion, conviction, and authenticity are essential to leadership that inspires
o How to think about purpose, values, and the future
o How to integrate “the outside” with your workforce to unleash “super performance”
o How and why powerful conversations drive culture so that it can achieve its strategic objectives
o How to connect with associates by focusing on their feelings
o When interacting with others, listen with total attention; communicate interest, curiosity, and appreciation

NOTE: This last point is critically important to effective leadership. We have two eyes, two ears, and only one mouth. We should spend 80% of our time observing and listening. Great leaders spend at least 90%.

o How and when to send the right signals
o How stories can help to drive action and shape/nourish culture
o How a “potent” point of view can empower leadership initiatives
o How to win in “the court of public opinion” with proper preparation of your “case”
o During face-to-face interaction, how and why body language and tone of voice determine at least 80% of impact
o Six reasons to be actively involved with social media

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the cope and depth of what Kevin Murray covers in this book. However, I hope I have indicated why I think so highly of it. I also highly recommend his previous published book, The Language of Leaders. Both can be an inspiration to those who now prepare for a career in business or have only recently embarked upon one.

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