Tatiana Kolovou: How we can exert greater influence through the right communication messages

Tatiana Kolovou is one of the most famous and oriented speakers and presenters. She has more than 28 courses translated into five languages and more than 8 million viewers, listeners and lifelong learners. Fortune Greece Network hosted her and we bring you the highlights of her presentation.

Fortune Greece Network had the pleasure of hosting Tatiana Kolovou, Assistant Professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. In a 45-minute live session she spoke, among others, about the principles of communication, the importance of body language, and how to properly communicate the messages we want to convey to each person individually depending on their character and personality.

Tatiana is a member of the Association for Business Communication and the Association for Talent Development and is certified through the Center of Applied Psychological Testing and The Leadership Circle. She is a licensed mentor for World Works, a program designed to help professionals be successful when managing cross-cultural teams and individuals in a global work environment, which helps high-performing people become high-performing leaders.

On LinkedIn she is one of the most renowned and oriented speakers and presenters. And she has more than 28 courses translated into five languages and more than 8 million viewers, listeners and lifelong learners.

These are some of the key points of her presentation:

Influential communication and how we can get our message across

I was invited to discuss one of my favorite topics, influential communication. This is what I teach to my MBA students. I just submitted grades, so they are probably sending me emails asking for more points so they can change their grades. But I teach undergraduates. I do a lot of work in executive education, and this is a topic that is so widely sought out. How can we be more influential? How can we get our messages across and now, with things changing so much, where so much of our communication is through the camera, how I’m speaking to you now, how can we leverage that or how can we learn to do things better or do things differently?

So as you get started, I want you to think about messages that you send as leaders because your setting the tone in communication is critical in you being able not to just influence the people in your close circle, but people outside, in your broader circle, or setting the tone for communication in your entire company and your company culture.

When you send a message or before you send a message, think about this. As the author of The Secrets Formulas of Wizards, Roy Williams said, “Most business people have fabulous ideas. They simply don’t have the words to carry them skyward”. So what happens is some of the ideas may get lost, because if you think about a communication event, you are looking at two people, a sender and a receiver. And for today, I’m going to focus on the sender you and how you think about how you come across without even saying anything and how your words matter, or how the way that you frame your words matter.

But another thing to think about is how we think of our audience that receives a message or receivers. They also have some preconceived notions about us. Maybe they look at us and they say “she’s over the age of 50. Maybe she doesn’t know everything there is to know about marketing this product through social media”. Or “she is way too young”. Or “he may be just out of College. He may not be seasoned enough to be the one to send this message”. All of these could be thoughts that are going through your mind about the audience that you have.

But today I’m going to ask you as the sender of a message to contemplate and think about four simple questions. The audience that you need to think about is in the middle and you’re analyzing – and this is the audience analysis model. Four questions you need to ask yourself: how much does my audience know about the topic? How and why should they care about the topic? What might be their possible reaction? And what are possibly their mental filters that I need to think about?

Knowing your audience

Is the audience ready to receive the message? Is the audience apathetic or this is important for all of you in a leadership position? Is the audience resistant or hostile in any way? When you’re doing a presentation, especially a persuasive presentation, if you’ve done your work right, the audience is ready. They know you’re pitching an idea. They probably know about the idea, and you are going to just judge and base it around their knowledge level and what’s important for them on the outcome.

If the audience is apathetic, you’re going to have to do a little bit more of what we say “educationment”. You have to tell more of the story. You have to engage them in that way. Finally, if the audience is resistant, I would say that you have to think about what are their push points. What are the resistance points? And don’t start in the same way as you would in a message where the audience is ready, you really need to acknowledge and say “this has been a tough time, and I know you have many concerns. I’m here to address them”. Address the concerns first and show that you’re listening.

Finally, knowing your audience is important. Remember those pink lines that were in people’s heads? Those are mental filters, and I mean mental filters of what they think the perception is of you. And many of you are in leadership positions. I would say sometimes the observations of someone in a higher level position – without you saying a word – is that you’re distant or you’re hard or you’re not approachable or you don’t listen.

I’ve worked with many leaders that listen in this way while they frown and I say to them, you either need botox or you need to just change your face because the perception is that you’re being critical just because of the way your facial expressions are when you listen. What are some of these mental filters? And what do you know that you can actually influence around? So I say here, choose your words wisely. Think about if you’re talking to people who are analytical, who are numbers focused, who are technically focused, that you stick with that kind of vocabulary or manage that accordingly.

You have to win people’s hearts

But to win people’s hearts first, warmth is most important, and it may be as simple as something as how you walk in a room or what is the first thing that you say or what is the brand or what people say about you? And a lot of this is managed nonverbally and actually on the social media information, too. So I will share this quickly, the warmth and competence sketch here that you see. Warmth is on the left hand side on the X axis, and competence is on the Y axis. So if you have someone that is low warmth and low competence, we can’t stand them. We don’t want to be around them, and we don’t want to waste any of our time with them. On the top level, someone that is high warmth – think about if you have young children, you don’t trust them with scissors in their hands – and low competence. This is also not where you want to be, where you’re very likable, but you probably don’t have the gravitas to handle a leadership position.

And my friends, I hate to tell you this in the high-power-distance Greek culture, many leaders think that “in order to be a good leader, I have to be tough. I have to be stern on decisions. I have to not show my true self”. But the reality is that people don’t really love or they don’t see leaders that are high competence and low warmth. There’s respect, but there’s envy, and people may not operate in the same way when you’re not around. Obviously, the star quadrant of where you want to be and where people trust you is where both competence and warmth are high.

But again, the research shows that at first impressions, you’re judged on your warmth. So how you walk into the room and some of this is communicated in your non-verbals, which is really important. And you’ll see that I’ll share about five or four different aspects of that non-verbals for warmth and competence. The reason I say this is research by UCLA psychologist by the name of Albert Mehrabian, says that if I give you a message, 55% of it is communicated through my body language. There is a reason that I’m not this close to the camera and you can’t see my hands.

So then again, how you dress sometimes can communicate confidence again, your posture, your stance, more of the competence comes into your vocalics and your way that you write and how you communicate, if that’s in an email as well, I want to leave you with maybe not Uncle Aristotle that says what’s an influential in communication. But this is who I think the Oracle of Omaha, one of my favorite business entrepreneurs and future thinkers. Warren Buffett. He was in a forum where he and at the time, Bill Gates were asked to communicate and to share.

Warren Buffett and communication skills

And he said something really important. I show this at the beginning of each one of my classes to talk about why and how this is an important skill. Being an influential communicator is critical. So my friends, let’s queue it up here for Mr. Warren Buffett. All right, let’s get to another question. “Mr. Buffett. Mr. Gates, thank you for being here today. My name is Justin Hayman. I’m a second year MBA, and as I get ready to graduate, I was wondering, what’s the one thing that your MBA didn’t prepare you for when you got up to the real world?”.

“Well, it prepared me very well, specific professors prepared me very well for what I wanted to go into. I knew I was interested in investing, like I said, from the time I was six or seven years of age, so I was lucky that I found what turned me on early on. And I had these two marvelous professors here at Columbia. I’d read all the stuff they’d written, and so I was acquiring lots of incremental knowledge. But I was getting inspired and they were terrific to me. It gave me confidence in myself. It just propelled me into a field I already loved with this terrific tailwind from these professors that believed in me. Let me add one point to the MBA situation right now. I would pay $100,000 for 10% of the future earnings of any of you. So anybody wants to see me after this, it’s over. If that’s true, you’re a million dollar asset right now, right? If 10% of these worth $100,000. You could improve the value many of you and I certainly could have when I got out just in terms of learning communication skills. I actually went to a Carnegie course later on in terms of public speaking. But if you improve your value of 50% by having better communication skills, it’s another $500,000 in terms of capital value. See me after the class and I’ll pay you.

Improving your value by improving by 50% when you improve your communication skills. I just demonstrated to you that knowing my audience, knowing you and figuring out a way to use the words of Warren Buffett to tell you that being an influential communicator and continuing to work on being better at this was the way to try to send this message to you. I think he’s incredible, and I hope that you agree with me on that too.

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