We interviewed Martin Brooks. Known as the Impactologist, he studies how human beings can create more impact through verbal and nonverbal communication. Martin discusses the traits and habits that makes some of the world's best communicators so impactful, why it's worth your time and attention to hone some of these skills, and even how introverts and people that aren't naturally comfortable speaking or presenting can use verbal and nonverbal cues to be as impactful as their outgoing counterparts.
MAC- Let's talk about the term impactologist, how did you come up with that? What does that mean and how did you arrive there? Was that your, your first title, what happened?
MARTIN- I've been in training and development for many years, set up my training and development business 16 years ago back in 2002. One of the things that I had done a lot of was what's classically called soft skills training, so sales, negotiations, and presentation training. One of the companies that I worked with had lots of contracts within executive education, one of those places was one of the top business schools on the face of the planet, London Business School. On their C-Suite executive training programs, they had this module called personal impact, and it was what we would now call personal branding now.
The course broke down essential elements of what personal impact was, what did you look like, how did you stand, how did you move, how did you gesture, what did you sound like. The tonality of your voice, the emotionality in your voice, the level of flow in how your sentences went together and were you able to get across the appropriate emotion. Because emotion, the transfer of emotion is the precursor to logical decisions.
Could you sell the relevant emotion in your voice that will get people to make the decision that you wanted them to make? It brought together elements of things that I had been fascinated by for years alongside those key sales, negotiation, presentation techniques to look at the total package, the persons you know, bundle that all together in one word. That word is impact. Particularly in competitive situations like people going in for an interview for a job or looking to get investment in their new business. So they say you did well, you get down to the last two, but we gave the job to the other person, they gave the investment to the other company, or we’ve awarded the contract to another supplier. It's that moment of realization that you're within sniffing distance of winning, but something that you did wasn't as good as the other individual, they made a better impact.
In business, you often get many training analogies between business and sport and the line between success and failure is very often small and that's true. The big difference between business and sport is that business has no prize for coming second. You either get the job or the investment, or you don't. I realized this is a critical thing that can add value to people and because of my experience in all of the topics I can be very good at this very quickly. I wanted to differentiate myself from all the other people there who would do elements of what I do. I need something unique, and if I'm going to focus on people's impact, then impactologist seems to be the best way forward. So that's where the name came from.
MAC- What's the difference between being impactful and being persuasive or confident? What is it about that that creates a lasting impact?
MARTIN- It's an interesting distinction and of course you could say that persuasion is a big part of impact. If you look at what persuasion is it's that you have a position, somebody else has a slightly different view, and through your interactions, they shift. They may go, well I wasn't sure that was the way of doing things, but now you've convinced me, or I was going to invest my money over here, but you've brought me around. So I would say persuasion is definitely something that would be evidence of having that impact. Because if the overall package of impact wasn't there then you wouldn't be able to persuade.
We've all had those moments in our lives where we've been interacting with somebody and that the left brain, the logic goes, yeah, this kind of makes sense, but the right brain, the emotional side, the gut, the heart, goes something is just not quite right here. On paper it looks good but there's something off. It's that offness which is the impact and that's what I look at. What would be the thing that maybe will put somebody off or not warm to you, not trust you, even though the evidence would suggest that this is a good position. I heard quoted research from Gardner something along the lines of 85% of business executives will still make decisions based on their gut even if the evidence in front of them will tell them something else.
MAC- Using examples that we can see in the world, who are some of the most impactful public figures that you've studied and what can we learn from their styles and techniques to create more impact in our career?
MARTIN- For me, a real pivotal moment was the election of Barack Obama to be president of the United States. It is a classic example of what is possible when you can have fantastic impact skills. Put politics aside for one second whether you liked what he stood for, but regarding the facts, he got elected by a landslide when on paper he never should have. Why would I say that? Well, three key reasons.
Number one, his age. I think only two presidents in the last 100 years have been under 50 at the time of their election and he was the third, so age experience. Political inexperience, he was only a one-term senator, he had only been at the highest level for just that one term, he didn't have a depth of experience in politics at the higher level. Also, his ethnicity, that's let's call that as it was, America had never had an African-American vice president, never mind president. He was going to be the first.
Despite all of those natural disadvantages you might say that because he communicated so well, he connected the people so well and he came across so confidently that people gave him their vote, they gave him the opportunity. When it came to the second term of his election a lot of people or pundits were saying no president's ever got a second term with unemployment here or this is here, but again, he got in on the second term on an overwhelming majority.
When I sat down to watch his inauguration speech at the first time, I wanted to know how was this done. I didn't just see any 10-minute speech of 2509 words; I was looking at the tools and the techniques specifically that he was using. I saw 24 uses of what we call the contrast technique, so we can't be afraid of doing this, we must do that. 17 applications of what we call the triple technique, so saying things in threes. There are three reasons as to why we should do this, A, B, and C. And 94 uses of the hand gesture made famous by Bill Clinton, what's known as the thumb of power, that assertion gesture, this is what we're going to do, this is how this is, is going to look.
Analyzing his communication tools and techniques understanding that there isn't a magic ingredient to what he's doing, there's no pixie dust. There's nothing in theory, rather it’s measurable behavioral things that can be noticed. Then in my work I take business executives and show them they can use these tools and techniques. I teach them how to use them and coach them on how to use the methods effectively. Barack Obama was a real pivot moment for me where I felt that he was a crystal example of how impactful these impactful techniques could be in creating a result that on paper should not have happened.
MAC- Can you use these techniques with simple things like a sales presentation? Can you do it with other topics around jobs? What are some examples of ways you can create more impact?
MARTIN- Impact is not something that's just a preserve of the privileged few, it's something that ordinary people can use. In fact, I've used a technique in that sentence called alliteration, and it was also a triple, there were three words that I used that started with P. Now I didn't know you were going to ask me that question, but I was able to weave that into an answer to demonstrate what I'm talking about. It’s easy to take these tools and techniques that top communicators in the world use and integrate them into your style of communication once you know how. You will be able to convince, influence, motivate other people. Which is another technique called the triple, I used three describing words, convince, influence, and motivate. Once you understand the tools and techniques, you find everyday ways of being able to, to pop them into place, to utilize them and then take the results that come from them.
MAC- How can you be impactful without coming across too aggressive, particularly if your role is not naturally a leadership role where you're looked to, to create that impact. How can you still be impactful and take advantage of these skills and tools, but not ruffle feathers?
MARTIN- The other option is not aggression, but assertion. That is where you have something that can potentially add to the situation, and it's more about your kind of influence techniques. Well, how do you join a conversation? One, for example, is a technique called bridging. Let's say my boss is named Susan. I could say, well Susan I understand the position that you've taken on that, and there may be another way of looking at that. That's known as bridging, and it's not arguing with somebody, it's bridging from something that Susan said to something that, that you wanted to say and caveating that as a perspective. It's not about right or wrong; it's two people looking at the same numeral depending on their view of point it can look like a six or a nine. Offering different perspective can be one way of asserting a point of view without having to be aggressive. That's just one way of doing it, but what's behind that for me very often in these scenarios is the confidence and the self-belief. You may have the knowledge, but nobody would know that unless you raise your hand in the meeting or maybe even to challenge a conventional view and go, I understand why we used to think that, but here's why I think we should think differently. That's an emotional state, that's the state of being confident, to be able to carry those tools and techniques out. Because without the confidence we can know what to do but and have that in our heads but not have the courage to step up and say it. I work with people in high-performance situations or high-stress situations, how to access a more confident state of mind to be able to do precisely that and contribute to the best of your ability.
MAC- Which nonverbal cues can you study or learn that will help someone who's not comfortable speaking up still create impact naturally?
MARTIN- I'm doing a keynote to a couple of 100 people where I say I am naturally a shy introvert, and it cue lots of people laughing and going you've got to be kidding. However, it is true, you know, people who know me well know that I'm, I'm quiet and somewhat shy. I realized very early on in my career that that was just a way not to have your potential recognized because if you can't be seen, you need to have something to say. We all have our natural personalities, but behavior is something that can be learned. That's why understanding the techniques of communicating with more significant impact is essential. Because there are lots of people who won't naturally use these tools, it's not part of their default setting. However, they can learn once they know how with somebody who can support them with the psychological side concerning being able to be in a more confident state of mind.
The number one piece of advice would be when you're looking to convince, influence, or motivate somebody, of course, consider what you're going to say, but also consider how you're going to say it, and how you're going to look whilst you're saying it. That impact piece of your behavior is every bit as important as your content.