Workplace Stress: A Talking King or a Silent Mouse?

Last week, I went to see the widely acclaimed movie, ‘the Kings Speech’, and as a professional speaker, from England, it was particularly poignant for me.

The film portrays the problems of Prince Albert, the future King George VI, who suffered from a serious stutter since early childhood, and his efforts to cure this speech impediment after he became king upon the abdication of his elder brother, Edward VIII, who gave up his throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.  

Prince Albert, as the younger brother, had never expected to become king, and it was not a position that he ever desired.   Because of his impediment, he did not wish to become a high profile figure and thought he could keep out of the public eye.  However, due to exceptional circumstances, this was not to be his future.

His inability to properly communicate could have damaged his position as king but instead he developed a close relationship with an Australian-born, speech therapist that eventually allowed him to speak adequately to his people, particularly over the radio during the second world war, and changed both his life and inspired the lives, and raised the hopes, of many British people.  The film outlined that very special relationship that changed the face of the British monarchy.

As I watched the story unfold, it reminded me of many of my clients who book to see me because they experience workplace stress and they need to be able to deliver a speech that has impact and is also memorable, but they lack self-confidence and the ability to stand up in public.  Some of these clients are Members of Parliament or CEO’s, and there are times when it is necessary for them to deliver messages, on platform, that are both inspiring and motivating.

Fear of speaking in public

To speak in public can certainly cause workplace stress and can be a daunting prospect whether one is a king or a commoner, and stress and panic are, unfortunately, all too usual, in these instances – and that is why I receive so many urgent calls for support and presentation skills coaching.

Not everyone needs to necessarily make public speeches or to speak at a seminar but managers need to motivate and inspire their teams, and that requires  engagement and good communication skills. And good communication is not only about talking, but also knowing how to listen. 

Just as King George VI had to inspire and motivate the British people during the dark days of WW2 when the German Luftwaffe were bombing London, so also do the Boards of Directors of companies need to inspire and motivate their workforces in order to increase productivity, achieve realistic targets and increase competitive advantage.  The Board need to get its teams to buy-in to the corporate vision.

So what can YOU do?

First of all, recognise when you have a challenge that needs to be overcome and decide to take action.  Never assume that you need only wait and the problem might resolve itself. It won’t!  However, it is very likely to get worse if it is not addressed.

Secondly, as did George Vl of England, find an expert who can guide you in the direction you wish to go.  This needs to be someone who not only has the skills to take you forward and unlock your hidden potential but also someone you can trust.

Finally, ensure that you a good communicator – whether you are making a speech or talking at a Board meeting. Remember, whilst your words are important, so is your body language and the way you deliver your presentation.  You need to exude confidence without being arrogant and you need to be able to sell your message. All of this needs practice.  

And my suggestion is that you should start now.  Not wait until you are asked by the CEO to give ‘that presentation’ and then start to panic.  Start now to find the right person who will take you outside of your comfort zone and help you achieve far more than you ever thought you could do – because we are all amazing creatures and we are all capable of doing amazing things.  It just needs the will and the determination to succeed.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

Workplace stress – King or Commoner

  • Good communication can help win wars and win contracts!
  • To be able to inspire and motivate are essential skills
  • The power of the human mind is extraordinary.

 [Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

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