This week, I was fortunate enough to see Springsteen on Broadway. On top of enjoying the show, I discovered a great communicator, a unique talent to connect, interact and impact with the audience.
I couldn’t help myself from thinking about all those meetings, conventions, workshops, where professionals are sometimes less trained than The Boss to connect, interact and impact with an audience. I then thought I would share some observations regarding the Boss as a role model, just like I did a few month ago with Zidane as a coach or Nadal as a competitor.
As professional speakers, coaches, trainers, managers, sales persons, what can we take away from The Boss?
- The first 10 seconds: After 10 second, Bruce Springsteen had already achieved an impact and a laugh in the audience. The CONNECTION was therefore immediate. That’s definitely a best practice. We don’t have 2 occasions to make a 1st good impression. I recently observed a manager who started his intervention in front of 10 people just as he was standing up from his chair; he didn’t wait to have his audience in front. He therefore didn’t look at them and breathe before starting his intervention.
- The voice: Bruce Springsteen has obviously a loud and recognizable voice. Yet, he practiced this gift, this talent, this asset and keep practicing and training this voice. The Boss ‘voice is an abdominal, plexus-centered voice. We hear so often voices that do not honor the ideas that their owner has to share ; voices centered in the head. Since second 1, Bruce sends away energy ; Not only when he sings but also when he talks.
- The body language: When Bruce arrives on the stage, in front of the microphone, he anchors his 2 feet on the ground, standing tall – He therefore transmits security, reliability, coherence. His only movements the other night were to go from the microphone where he was singing and playing guitar to the piano area. I have observed managers who walk around looking at a screen and showing their back to their audience ; therefore losing connection.
- Show Business: Bruce has understood he is the “Show business”… and, as once said my admired Bernardo Trujillo, Retail guru in the 60’s: “If you are in business, you are in show business!”. Teachers, managers, speakers… fathers. We are here to show things. The Boss knows that the last thing that should happen for a session would be to be… boring! Recent years have strengthened this point. It’s not only about the “what” but also, and in huge extent, about the “how”. Managers sometimes think they already did the job when they mentioned the objective; but HOW do they transmit? How do they connect, interact and impact with their teams? Only via excel and power point, and potentially poor presentation skills?
- One Man Show: in this occasion, Bruce Springsteen offered a One Man show. He is capable to be alone on a stage and interact with a massive audience. And he has also been a team player, and a team leader, of his “E Street Band”, extinguished after 2 members died some years ago. Some coaches and speakers are only “one man shows” and some managers only “team players”. A great communicator may be able to use both positioning: alone in front of an audience and in group, in band, in community, sharing with other partners.
- Innovation: The Boss who can fill stadium is capable of reinventing himself, of taking risks and, in this case for instance, offer an intimate proposal with this new Broadway approach. During a time, he performed only acoustic concerts. He also dedicated a period to relaunch old folk songs. That’s what I call try new things, innovate, be creative. When a conference works well, the temptation is to just reconduct it and the risk is here to lose audience. A key note speaker, trainer, must reinvent himself regularly… basically to keep alive.
- Purpose: Bruce Springsteen reflects the essence of the American dream, and his success “Born in the USA” in 1984 was definitely an impulse for his career. He connected with the essence, the purpose of a generation. Good communicators know how to place their subject within a broader challenge, a more universal purpose. Managers sometimes avoid to link their speech with the company’s vision. “as our vision for 2020 is to become the first…, then I want to share with you today…”. Employees and audiences ask for “sense” and “purpose”; not that much managers and communicators deliver on this need.
- Enjoy: The Boss obviously enjoys sharing a performance on stage with the public. He is just happy to be here. For this reason also, he can last 3 hours or more. Other artists take this as their job, and would then deliver the minimum during a concert. The Boss takes it as a pleasure, and conveys this pleasure with the audience. The day you find your vocation and make it your job will be your last day as a worker. We sometimes see managers, trainers, journalists, technically ok in their speech, but with low engagement; they don’t really seem to enjoy talking. The audience can feel that.
- Old?: Bruce Springsteen was born in 1949 ; he is 69. He does not seem to consider retirement. He is in full possession of his skills and energy. As Charles Aznavour, who died some months ago at 94, still on stage. A good friend recently got retired by his Teleco company at the age of… 53 ! I was shocked. Yes, it may require to keep updated and definitely value a sense of wisdom in their style, but seniors of 60, 70 and 80 can be great communicators, and still conect, interact and impact on audiences; if they wish so.
- Physical Endurance : Bruce offered us a 3 hours session with no break; not even to go to the toilets. He has got an enviable health and energy. He looks like a young man and I would love to be like him at his age. He obviously trains his legendary endurance. He probably practices sport and I’ve already mentioned this point in my “42P of success in Marathon and Retail” in my last book “Connected salesperson”. Overweight, excesses in all senses (food, drinks, alcohol …), particularly when we travel a lot, definitely affect the energy, the image.
- The Boss: Bruce Springsteen got the nickname “The Boss” from his band, E Street Band, as he was the one recollecting the money and sharing it evenly within the team. He has always assumed this positioning as a boss. He is a tough guy… with tender heart ;-). You can’t go against the image you’ve built over the years. And it can help for a manager or a speaker to understand how is this image, how he/she is perceived as a communicator. Managers, trainers and coaches have all interest, even in written, to understand what is their “public identity”. In my case, I consider it a great gift when after a conference or a training, a participant takes the time to give me feedback.
- Authenticity: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken “, recommended Oscar Wilde. Bruce was born in New Jersey. He mentioned in several occasions during the show how the experiences of his childhood in this US state profoundly impregnated his personality and his history. I recently met 2 managers in a Retail chain in Canada originally from Lebanon and Morocco. I also met the owner of a restaurant in New York who migrated from Albania. This origin gave each of those 3 professionals a plus, a richness, that they can revendicate; and should not dissimulate. Be yourself !
- Story Teller: Bruce is so good at telling stories, bringing details, reminding sensations. He actually started and finished the show with a story. “Once upon a time…” My sons still demand to me their night story (they are teenagers!). We anthropologically love to connect to the inner mystery of life, through stories. In Retail stores for instance, my students are invited to practice their story telling (of their brand, of their product, of themselves) for their individual interaction. When propelled to the collective audience, a good story told with talent is a gift that may transmit more than dozens power point slides.
It seems that this concert in Broadway will be available on Netflix in next months.
So here go 14 lessons from The Boss; hopefully you can also receive good 14 lessons from YOUR boss; but this will be the subject of a future post.
PS: thanks to Alvaro, Charly and Silvano for their feedback on The Boss