Michael Phelps and the Olympian Smile

I’m into the Olympics, and there’s not enough time to see it. But the Opening Ceremony on Friday – called the greatest staged event we might see in our lifetime by several observers and I think they are right – opened us all to this opportunity to see unforgettable excellence. And interesting communications insights.

A great example –  did you see those 2008 drummers in the opening number smile! I mean, here are the usually serious Chinese doing an incredibly intricate and difficult task, and smiling – so unexpectedly  No doubt they were trained to do so, and it made such a difference. See the shortened version here, and see smiles where we expect grim concentration…

Speaking of excellence, we’re going to see a lot of Michael Phelps – and I don’t think we’ll tire of him. Two reasons:

  1. He is an amazing swimmer – maybe best of all time. If he wins his eight Olympic Gold Medals, that will be irrefutable. We don’t tire of excellence.
  2. He has a winning smile. He is engaging, with an irrepressible personality – and it’s his smile that takes us in. And his irrepressible exuberance!

Watch him here. And watch him over these next few days and see if you tire of him. I doubt it.

A smile seems like a minor or superficial communication skill – but it is very important to creating a positive communication experience. Michael Phelps is a winner who does exactly that, as does Dara Torres, Mary Lou Retton, and dozens of Olympic champions that come to mind.
(Including our own Bonnie Blair whom we have trained for her public appearances.)

But CEO’s and leaders of companies, and any one who speaks for that matter, are winners too. Or they should appear to be when they are taking the stage and advocating their winning ideas. Yet how many smile – and show their own personality. Most are way too serious, or look grim, which is exactly the opposite of the message they most often want to convey.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”

Smile and the world smiles with you, and will want to listen, and even keep you around.