I recently had the blessing of listening to mentor and friend offer a keynote speech. Those of us in the fire service have probably heard many of these motivating speeches given by passionate fire service leaders but this one impacted me quite differently. What was the difference in this one versus all of the other powerful, motivating, and encouraging speeches I had heard before? The difference was this:
Let me explain, I witnessed my friend over the course of several days humbly and quietly interact with many people at this event. I witnessed him listen intently, have conversations with many different individuals from almost all of the parts of this event. If you are wondering why this speech struck me differently than all of the others I have heard, the reason is this: the speaker had no notes and to the untrained observer had not prepared for his speech, but that was far from the truth.
I learned something very valuable this day that can be applied to our lives. What the speaker did was something we should all be doing as leaders. He was a student of his audience. He carefully, intently, and compassionately was writing his speech over the course of the event leading up to this motivational keynote. During this speech, this is what made it so much more impactful: Rather than sharing a message with several points or key stories, he shared a message that was shared over the course of this event and he pointed to the individuals (the 1%’er’s) who are making a difference. He called them by name, he remembered and quoted key conversations that emphasized not just his message but the very message that was being shared throughout this event.
Thus, the lesson that was taught to me and that I share with you today is this: What great Keynote Speech are we preparing to give today?
* Are we listening intently to all of those around us? The greatest gift we can give those in our care is the gift of our full attention. Many of us (myself included) only listen with the intent to reply not with the intent to understand (as Dr. Steven Covey prescribes). If we would care enough to listen empathically, we may gain such wisdom and be able to share such powerful words of encouragement to others at those Key moments when they need it the most. For they will then listen to our words and hear their own words echoed back. They will realize that what they did and what they are doing truly matters because we cared enough to notice.
* The power of petition is truly based upon the depth of one’s relationship. One who stands in front of many to offer words of encouragement may hold their attention for a moment but one who looks upon their face and calls their name holds their respect for a lifetime. A leader who cares enough not to merely remember their speech but remember those that they are speaking to has found the way to impact the audience more than mere inspiration. A leader who cares enough to quote a moment of valued learning that occurred, share it with the audience, and connect it to the message they share has also connected everyone in the room. They have elevated the message and not the messenger.
* As we journey through life, we will be given many opportunities to speak but we should be careful to ensure our words are worthy of being heard. We must be analyzing our world and preparing our responses in our hearts long before they are placed upon a page or heard from a microphone. We can build others up in mere shallow words hat lack the depth of our devotion because they are mere slogans that are repeated by many -or- we can quote the very powerful moments of their lives and touch them with the message of encouragement that lives within them all. We can point out to them the very “Keynote” speeches that they have written for us to share with others. They have written our speech for us, it is our responsibility as leaders to share it.
Therefore, I ask of each of us: When the opportunity to give our “Keynote” arrives will we be ready? Will we have cared enough to listen? Will we have cared enough to understand? And will we know their greatest need not by a leadership book but by seeing their passion and connecting their hearts with their greatest need that only comes from caring enough to truly know them. Proverbs tells us that Wisdom comes in two ways: It is a God given gift and also the result of an energetic search. May we prepare our hearts today and know that the greatest inspiration we can receive comes from God and those He has placed in our care. He has given us the very words we need to speak by placing them in upon the hearts of those in our care.
May we all “build one another up daily” by caring enough to read the greatest words ever written: The stories that God has written upon our hearts.
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries