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How Becoming A Successful Young Leader At Work Is Not As Hard As You Think

How Becoming A Successful Young Leader At Work Is Not As Hard As You Think

Young leaders often consider their age to be a setback; however, there are some ways in which it is possible to maintain great working relationships with your colleagues while catapulting into success. Following these key ideas will mold you into a greater leader, one who is able to keep both yourself and your team happy.

1. Be prepared.

The first impression you make will be a lasting one. Whichever sector or department you work in, people will talk. This is precisely why you need to be clear with the impact and direction you intend to move in. This is especially true as a young leader, as people may not take you as seriously.

Understanding who plays what role within the company, and how they like to work also helps prevent causing initial friction, and can develop an understanding of company culture. Also, understand what the company expects from you so that you are clear as to what you need to achieve within yourself.

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2. Be a chameleon, not a peacock.

Everyone has met a peacock: a manager (not a leader) set in their ways, unwilling to adapt who flashes their feathers in everyone’s face. Every company has their own culture, and it is important to adapt to the company culture in order to understand how it works, and to determine your suitability. The majority of the workforce may have been working in their style for a long time, and so absorbing and comprehending the current culture is key to understanding how to progress, especially as a young leader.

3. Communication is key.

This means listening is more important than talking. Maintain a strong physical and social presence with your team, as they’ll feel more managed than led if you do not actively spend time with them. This could be by making sure your desk is with them, or just dropping by every now and again to track their progress, but make sure you are consistent. Also, make sure that you are always available to offer your team help. You are their go-to within the company, and if you want your team to deliver, you need to deliver to them as well.

4. Actively seek out opportunity.

This could be for yourself or members of your team, but is vital in being able to progress and develop. You may develop a style you feel would be more successful, be it using a different software package, or someone in a new role. The majority of your team are looking to develop, and as a leader, you should constantly be scouting for talent, and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. In doing this, they will trust and respect you more, irrespective of your age.

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5. Avoid negativity.

Positive reinforcement always works. It may take a little longer, but in the long run it will work out better for you and the team. Your team’s self-efficacy will grow, as will their trust in you. Being a young leader can give off a naive vibe, but you can tailor this to your advantage by forcing your team to actively search for solutions, rather than handing it to them on a plate. Negativity breeds loathing, and members of your team will be quicker to unite against you than to unite with you.

6. Don’t cap progress.

Within your team, there will be some who flourish within their role and aim to achieve more. It is important that, as a young leader, you allow them to progress. You may reach a point where there is nothing more that you can give them, that you may even consider offloading some of your own work to them, giving them an insight into your role and you more time to develop other members of the team. A great leader will have a self-maintaining team. Do not let your own fear of job security prevent you developing your team.

7. Pursue self-actualization.

This is more of a selfish point, but is essential. Let’s not beat around the bush—you want to progress and develop as much as your team does. Make sure your own goals are clear, both personal and professionally, and set yourself targets. Always learn and apply new techniques of leadership in order to see what works for you. The old saying “Knowledge is Power” always resonates truth (if you need a place to start, check out these 15 Best Leadership Books Every Young Leader Needs To Read).

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8. Establish rules, and follow them through.

Spending the majority of your waking hours with your team, you may begin to see them as friends more than colleagues which can cause problems. It is essential you establish some form of boundaries with regard to your professional relationships, as well as what you expect from your team, whether it be office courtesy, productivity, or out-of-office conduct. A leader who has a clear directive as to what they expect and what they wish for their team to achieve is much easier to follow—and to respect—than someone who is unsure as to what they intend to do. Be clear, concise, and informative.

9. Be a fair young leader.

Now you have established your boundaries, it is time to put them into play. However, make sure that you are consistent and fair to the whole team, and that you do not cause an imbalance within the team. The easiest way to do this is to be firm and direct with every member of the team, though as you develop and gain confidence, you will be able to be more creative and personalize your management style; you can see some different leadership styles here (5 Leadership Styles that Help You Build a High Performance Team).

10. Mix business with pleasure.

There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a drink with your team outside of work, and it gives you a great opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level. Just make sure you maintain an element of distance; otherwise, it can be very difficult when having to make tough decisions, especially when you’re younger than a lot of the team. Being a young leader, it might even be assumed that you may still be a recovering alcoholic (A.K.A. a graduate). Now go grab that drink, and get to know your team!

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Featured photo credit: Al Stephenson, Wikimedia via upload.wikimedia.org

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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