In September 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered his now-famous “we choose to go to the moon” speech before a large crowd at Rice Stadium in Houston. His speech is often remembered for its stirring, high-minded oratory. But it was also characteristic of his pragmatic approach to governing. He initially proposed the moon landing in 1961, but had to convince Americans that NASA needed a $5.4 billion budget, the equivalent of $42.5 billion today. In July 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered the unforgettable words: “The Eagle has landed.”
In November 1963, Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) all but predicted his first-round knockout of then world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston two months later. Clay’s curious rhyme predicting his unlikely victory seemed silly to many, given that Liston was the hands-down favorite to win. Ali was a brash, upstart Olympic gold medalist, recently turned pro. Liston was a brute so feared that some of the world’s best fighters refused to even go in the ring with him. Ali’s team feared for his safety against Liston, and he needed to convince them – and himself – that he was a worth adversary.
What both Kennedy and Ali did was make powerful declarations about a future they envisioned and the course they were on to achieve it. With these and other pronouncements, they created a legacy of effective communication. We become effective communicators by instilling our ideas and passion into the hearts of other people. This becomes a legacy of effective communication when it inspires people to care more, become better prepared to perform their roles, and act more self-sufficiently and decisively.
Steve Jobs epitomized this method of creating a legacy of Communication. The late Apple CEO spoke with clarity (focusing on one idea at a time) and passion, bringing life to his ideas with stories and demonstrations. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the best ever delivered largely because of his repetition of the phrase “I have a dream.” King departed from his prepared text and ignored the advice of his closest advisers, who warned him against using the dream reference. But he did so eight times in the 17-minute speech, and it became the rallying cry of the civil rights movement.
You don’t need to be a great orator to create a legacy of effective communication within your sales organization. But you do need to make powerful declarations about the future you envision and instill your ideas in the hearts of your team so that they become values and practices that permeate every level of the organization. Keep your messages focused and create refrains that become part of the organization’s everyday jargon.
When you see these ideas being shared and treated as values, you’ll know you have created a lasting legacy of effective communication.