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Talk like Obama and Work Like Jobs – How to Inspire People and Get Results


Anyone who has ever seen Steve Jobs present his Apple products to the public knows the command and influence the man had over his audience, and the way his words gripped the listener. At the same time Jobs was a hardcore worker. He’s known to have been short-tempered at work, always striving for perfection and innovation. Companies and individuals over time have come to respect his work methods and try and incorporate them into their work environments. But what if you could combine the work ethics of one Silicon Valley giant with the penchant for inspiration and dialogue of a White House success story. Yes, Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech influenced millions of American voters to come out and make history, but behind this influential political figure is a carefully constructed method of communication which everybody could use. Here are are some ways to derive the best from the two American dreams:

Begin Problem Solving with the Listeners and Have a Structure Ready: Barack Obama’s speeches reveal something very important, and that is to begin addressing a problem with the audience’s concerns. Over numerous public appearances and talks, Obama has always tried to talk about the listener’s story first. Be it rising taxes, or a rising college fee. It’s essential to grab the audience’s attention by defining their problem, have them nodding in agreement and then elaborating the issues that might come to their mind. Coupled with this, you need to have a structure ready before you begin your address. It could be to a class, or to your boss, the easiest method to capturing your audience after the initial push is to have a road-map ready. An action plan that meets their interests. This is what Jobs did. Over successive presentations, he always had a structure to his ideas, or revealed a list of things he was going to address. And once you have these attention and structure in to and in your work, the desired results are never hard to get.

Use Body Language that displays Confidence and Leadership with Good Timing: These are interchangeable concepts, and neither comes before the other. Rather they go hand in hand. Both Obama and Jobs display an uncanny sense of timing when they talk, or work. Using the “power of three”, Jobs always built up anticipation by announcing not more than three new changes to an Apple product, and the company always came up with them when the customer demanded them. Take the example of the iPhone. The world was looking for a revolutionary new phone that would combine music, with great apps and an internet experience, and Jobs gave it to them. But this is about productivity timing. There is another level of timing which comes out in communication visible in the manner in which Obama and Jobs address the audiences. The first rule is always to keep it simple and recognize the limits to listener’s attention span. Jobs never spoke on one topic for more than 10 minutes. Obama’s speeches display his absolute control over speech and body language. Both tend to use hand gestures when talking, and are never ruffled by questions, keeping calm at all times. Obama’s body language in fact draws in the speaker, when he always leans forward while listening to a questions, and maintains eye contact while answering.

 Use the rhetoric of Hope and be a part of something greater: Your company or business is intimately connected to the people who will use your products or services, and hence it is important to question yourself if what you’re doing is part of something larger. Does it make a difference to lives? Does it make our lives easier? Does it motivate users? These are questions Jobs most considered while heading operations at Apple. With the first Macintosh computer, he got himself involved in something larger than himself, changing the way people interacted with a personal computing device. But think about communicating this very principle to your employees or people you work with by using a communication device found in Barack Obama’s speeches. And that is the rhetoric of hope. Not just him, they’ve been many innovators and leaders and in the world who’ve used hope to connect their ideas to people. Customers and employees deal with work problems and bad news on a daily basis, but as a leader whose got the intention of being a part of something larger, it’s intrinsic for you to be the one holding out hope. People must be ready to believe in you and have no option but to be optimistic about situations.

Anticipate. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: If there’s one thing one can really learn from Obama style of communication with his audience is the power of anticipation. By natural human nature, people tend to always think of the opposite or even obscure aspects of what you say, and to recognize and use this to your advantage is the key. The idea is to anticipate these very contradictory or opposite views that might come up in a listener’s mind and address them then and there, commanding attention and also getting across a mutual understanding with the audience. Thinking both sides of the story will set you apart. However, at all times it’s again essential to remember Jobs’s famous words – “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. He was a firm believer in doing what you love and following your heart. Nothing is ever set out in stone and you need to remain hungry for change to achieve. This hunger for change is exactly what you need to keep delivering to a customer, but anticipating what might be on their mind and making sure you’ve got an all round service to offer.

Recruitment tips from the Boss: When it comes to your business, your method of recruitment can never be compromised on. Steve Jobs’ ‘Top 100’ is a well known group of elite Apple employees who Steve though to be the smartest in the organization. “A player hires A players” was his philosophy, and he wanted the most brilliant minds working in his company. The effect of having the best at the top only helps the excellence reach out to everyone working in the same workspace. And that’s what everyone’s business can use. The right people can change everything. And to get the right people, it’s important to reach out to people and potential employees with angle of inspiration. Your work must inspire people to join you.

The idea is to communicate your ideas the way a certain Barack Obama might, and make a foundation to that exchange of ideas the way Steve Jobs did. But again, nothing is a hard and fast rule. A true leader will always have his own wisdom to offer, the same way almost everyone on the Forbes Most Powerful list does.