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I recently gave a keynote at The Stretch Leadership Conference on

How to be more assertive in work and life.

My perspective is born from years of experience as a stage actress (and dancer). I had to speak many powerful lines in a myriad of difficult scenes — all in front of fee-paying audiences hungry for entertainment. The pressure was on.

And I did all that whilst battling stage fright, Imposter Syndrome and terrible anxiety.

I also come to my keynotes with years of experience of NOT speaking up.

Throughout my teens and 20s, I felt too crippled to express my mind and prayed to disappear in meetings, in scenes, in life. …

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Anyone can be a leader; however, not every leader is an influential one.

Whether you’re leading a meeting, a team, or a company, your ability to communicate can set you apart as a leader. But, the skill of inspiring others along with you, managing difficult conversations and expressing yourself clearly can take a lifetime to master.

So, if you’re looking to take your leadership skills to the next level, here are 5 of my most effective strategies to increase your efficacy.

  1. Apply Empathy.

Great organisations are built on the back of generosity. When a team feels respected, their efficacy goes up.

However, many leaders forget their team players are people first. When we use a harsh tone, disrespect someone’s time or assign a person too much work, we are forgetting to see things from the other person’s perspective. …

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This is me after walking around San Francisco .. once

Many people I work with are supremely bright, quite introverted and find it hard to step into the spotlight in an environment that constantly demands it.

And they most certainly have an aversion to anything woo-woo.

Imagine my team’s reaction when I described the sorts of things Drama School made me do many moons ago.

In Animal Class — yes, Animal Class — we were told to choose an animal and then… become the animal. The theory behind this is that we explore movements from the animal kingdom and then imbue our human characters with behaviours different to our own. Made sense. Kinda. …

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If you’re sensitive, navigating the business world can be tough. It’s challenging to put your ideas out there without worrying about outcome. It’s even harder to push back, set boundaries and negotiate for what’s fair without feeling overwhelmed or triggered.

But being sensitive is a huge gift. It’s our subtler feelings that inform our decisions, help us read people better and empower us to invent solutions to complex problems. Our sensitivity also keeps us inquisitive, playful and open to exciting new discoveries.

Sadly, most people have been taught to hide their sensitivity beneath a hard-edged mask. Business demands that we act tough, certain and knowledegeable. We’re not supposed to feel lost or a little unsteady on our feet. …

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One question that keeps coming up time and time again in our trainings is how to deal with triggers?

When we feel angry or upset, instead of using that energy to guide us constructively, we often get defensive and shut down. We may even act out our insecurities and, in doing so, loose credibility. We end up pushing away the very results we want because we’re too busy resisting the people we’re dealing with.

When someone says something that triggers you, remind yourself not to react immediately. Easier said than done. …

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to watch Jordan Peterson from the front row of a 5000 strong audience in Melbourne. The atmosphere was electric and Jordan mastered the vastness of space with impressive and consummate skill.

As an actress, I know it takes great artistry, ability and confidence to command such a huge stage with no set or props, and many actors would balk at such a daunting prospect. Yet, Jordan deftly moved from one spontaneous moment to the next, leading us on an exciting journey into the depths of his heart and mind. …

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Trust is paramount in business. Whether you’re speaking to a stranger at a dinner party, pitching in a meeting or designing your brand collateral, if you can’t inspire your audience to believe in you, your business will never grow wings and fly.

However, many of us struggle to know exactly how to create the required level of quality connection. Whilst we may know the value our business brings, (and if we don’t, we have bigger problems than we think!) we often can’t articulate our mission in a way that attracts and inspires.

What we need is weapons grade communication skills to bring our business ideas to life, draw people to our brand and create the loyalty necessary to fuel its success. …

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Your ability to inspire is the single most important factor in determining the success of your pitch. Either you truly excite your investors or plunge them into eternal tedium as you drone on like everyone else.

Statistics show that most venture-backed startups will fail, so the odds are stacked against you. However, you can beat the odds by crafting an attention-grabbing pitch that puts you ahead of the pack and wins the funding you need.

Here are 6 ESSENTIAL TIPS that will give your pitch that crucial edge.

  1. Craft a Compelling Story.

If you focus on delivering hard data at the expense of an exciting story, your audience will switch off because business isn’t only about facts, it’s also about feeling. As much as we like to believe humans are rational, decisions are mostly based on emotion rather than reason. This means you must tell an epic story that triggers positive emotion in your investors. And you do this by detailing how much money your product will make them within the next five years — and which better be enough to make them rich or they’ll move onto someone more ambitious. …

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“There are two wolves,
and they are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair,
the other light and hope.
Which one wins?
The one you feed.”

-Cherokee Legend

I’ve always been obsessed with creativity, imagination and spark. I was a rascal at school, full of curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for adventure. Nothing whatsoever could stop me in my drive to achieve absolutely anything I wanted. I dreamed high-voltage ideas and was permanently poised to ignite them.

Then I “grew up”.

Higher education and beyond were a more solemn affair. Like most, I was pushed to hyper focus on results and being “correct”. Child-like curiosity, daring and discovery were no longer welcome in a world where only test results mattered and fitting-in was now the suffocating norm. I became anxious, hyper-vigilant and afraid of failure as I tried to cut myself to fit the pre-prescribed academic cloth. I tried to please; my parents, teachers, friends. And when I quickly realised this would never get me what I needed — I went AWOL …from school, from dreams, from life.

But not anymore.

Having worked with countless individuals, both privately and in groups, I know now that I’m not alone in this experience. Perhaps most people have not endured suffocation to the same extremes, but I still witness first-hand how many of us have been conditioned out of our authentic voice in favour of conformity. We hold back, mute our expression and firmly sit on our creative responses for fear of disapproval. We may not even be conscious of this terrible self-imposed tyranny. It’s common for us to think the problem is “out there” when all we’ve really done is internalised a harsh judgment system that bullies us into being a certain way rather than becoming who we are. …

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Recently I was asked to facilitate leadership workshops for senior teams in two of London’s largest advertising agencies. These are agencies with a long legacy, an outstanding reputation and massive global reach. To say the pressure on their future leaders is intense is an understatement!

The focus for each workshop was the same: How can each individual sharpen and toughen up their leadership voice as they start to assume more responsibility within their organisation? …


Amy Tez

Pitch Trainer; works with business leaders, entrepreneurs, actors, politicians and all those who want to inspire brilliantly —

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