Communication, leadership and process. Lessons from a great movie.
The King’s Speech is a film relevant to anyone who speaks for a living. (And that’s all of us.) Don’t miss it. It’s an inspiring communication experience, and will probably win several Academy Awards.
But this isn’t a film review here, it’s a communications oriented blog/insight/piece. If you haven’t seen the movie it won’t give anything away, but hopefully get you to go soon. And if you have already seen it, enjoy.
“You must have faith in your voice!”
That’s my favorite line from speech therapist Lionel Logue (brilliantly played by Geoffrey Rush) as he exhorts the soon to be King of England. And that is the single most important principle that any speech coach can tell their client. The fact is we all need to speak – powerfully – if we are to influence and lead. We must have faith in ourselves. And as we learn from the movie, that is particularly important to King George VI if he is to lead in a time of crisis.
The Power of Faith
- Leaders need faith, in their mission and their team. As the movie trailer says, ‘Some men are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them.’ The latter was the case for King George VI (powerfully played by Colin Firth – Academy Award winning performance.) And the King did not have faith in himself, his leadership, or in his team.
- Faith in yourself. From the age of 8, Bertie, the Duke of York was a stammerer. It was probably emotionally based, stemming from his autocratic father King George V, who was fond of yelling “Just get it out!” If Bertie ever had faith in himself he sure lost it when he had to speak. Particularly in saying any word with a “K” sound, like King. His journey in building faith and confidence in himself, with a coach who had faith in him, is the story of the movie.
- Faith in your support team. He always had great faith in half of his support team – his encouraging wife Elizabeth (who was later the Queen Mother of Queen Elizabeth II.) But he didn’t have the TRUST that is critical in a coach, the other half of Bertie’s support team. Lionel Logue took unusual steps to build that trust, and the movie dramatizes the true story of how the King, through courage and hard work, developed that trust through a coach who had trust in him. And then he went on to be great.
The Power of the Coach
- We are flawed. Although some may be born for greatness, no one gets there without a coach. We all have to overcome barriers, blocks and boulders. Any athlete, any executive, any person of greatness. They all have coaches. It is inspiring to watch the deeply handicapped King succeed by allowing Lionel to be the wind under his wings.
- Relationships are critical. In our programs it is essential that the program leaders and coaches establish a relationship with each participant, or with a CEO in the Platinum Program. The coach must be a friend and peer – as well as the expert who can help with specialized skills. That was Lionel Logue. The trust that developed with the King was critical to the process.
- Continuous coaching is essential. Logue and the Duke of York kept at it, for years. They became good friends. The Duke of York/King George VI knew he had to keep his coach engaged, and it wouldn’t have happened without the relationship. It was solely due to this long term relationship that the King could ultimately shout, “Because I have a voice!”
The Power of the Process
- Mechanics and Psychology, Science and Art. I have never seen a film that so brilliantly travels the fine line of logic and emotion in the process of behavior change. It’s not one or the other, but both. It was interesting that Lionel Logue was not ‘academically’ credentialed, but was experientially expert. He studied and applied new methods based on behavioral principles that he found worked for over 30 years.
- The recording – the Duke had to hear himself before he could believe. In those days there was no video, so Lionel used a gramophone (recording) to ‘show’ reality to the Duke. Then, breakthrough! Just as we now use video in our programs as an essential and pervasive learning tool, so people can see how they really are, not how they think they are, Lionel used audio on the Duke. Seeing (and hearing) is believing. It was dramatic in reel life, and it is dramatic in real life.
- The Power of the Pause. The ‘pause’ is a simple mechanical behavioral change that is easy to make, when practiced, and is one of the three major communication differentiators we teach. It paid extra dividends for King George. As a stammerer he could even exaggerate the pause to allow time for his mouth to catch up to his mind.
- Breaking down barriers. Lionel Logue broke down emotional, psychological and social barriers using a variety of processes in his work with the Duke. If he hadn’t, the process wouldn’t have worked. The Duke might not have been King. And the King might not have spoken to inspire England with his leadership as he did. Who knows what the world would have looked like now? Speaking is powerful.
I could go on, and on. But it’s a blog post, not a book. Suffice it to say, see the movie. Have faith in your voice.