How to be seen as the leader you want to be – and win that promotion

If you’re hoping to win a promotion in 2019, making a plan to get ahead now is a good idea. But a promotion won’t just fall into your lap. If you want to climb the career ladder, you need to showcase your skills and your leadership potential, writes Richard Newman.

By Richard Newman

I was recently asked to coach a client for his promotion interview. He had been rejected the year before and was determined to succeed this time. When I asked what feedback he was given he replied, “Apparently I’m all sausage and no sizzle.”

Potential leaders often fall into this category – they are brilliant at what they do and get gradually promoted based on their skills and experience. Then they hit a ceiling that they can’t seem to get past. They may be a brilliant engineer, analyst or sales person, but in order to reach the next level they need a whole new set of skills. Instead of being a great ‘doer’ they need to become a leader.

At this stage of your career this classic phrase applies: ‘What got you here won’t get you there.’ Rather than being great at doing the job you’ll need to understand how to inspire, motivate and compel other people to do their best. After all, just having the job title ‘leader’ doesn’t mean that anyone will follow you, unless they feel certain of your ability to lead.

So how do you achieve this? How do you make sure that clients and team members feel convinced by you? How do you make sure your team put your ideas into action?

Having worked with 50,000 people around the world, across all kinds of industries, we have found there are three critical areas to focus on, which most people forget. Small changes end up making a huge difference and you can even boost your leadership ratings by 44% with a couple of adjustments in your behavior (as proven by our research, published in the Journal of Psychology).

1) Most people in day to day business focus all of their communication on KNOW and DO. They tell people what they want them to know and what they need to do. This is useful for a logical transfer of information, but it won’t inspire anyone. As Dr. Steve Peters highlighted in ‘The Chimp Paradox’ our emotional minds react to everything we experience first, five times faster than our logical minds. Therefore you must engage with someone’s emotions. To do this you need to stop focusing on what you want people to KNOW and DO and instead start focusing on what you want them to FEEL.

Sometimes people stop me at this point and say, “Richard, this is business, this is no place for feelings!” I’m not talking about fluffy random feelings. Just imagine what would happen if people left your next meeting feeling uncertain, hesitant or disengaged. What if you could ensure they feel confident, reassured and motivated instead?

Think about the next meeting you are going to lead – what do you need everyone to feel by the end of that meeting, in order to ensure they put your ideas into action? Make a decision about this and ensure that everything you do and say is aiming towards that feeling.

2) That’s all very well, saying ‘Just change how people feel!’ but how do you do it? The second step is to ensure you have congruency. This means that your words, tone of voice, body language and slides are all working together to achieve the goal. I have sat through countless meetings and conferences where the leader has said, “I’m really excited about today’s meeting,” while looking like they were at a funeral. People are so focused on looking ‘professional’ that they just end up being impersonal. If you want to inspire and engage human beings then you need to start by being human.

Try this – imagine that nobody in your meeting spoke English. Would they still understand how you want them to feel from your behavior, slides and tone of voice? If not then you lack congruency. Deliver your message with congruent conviction.

3) In 2016 we published an international study, involving over 2000 people, which showed that simple changes in your behavior can radically change how people react to your ideas. By shifting from the most common habits to the most effective communication style you can convince 42% more people and 44% more will believe you are a good leader.

The simplest change you can make is to avoid swaying or leaning on one hip as you speak and instead stand centered so that gravity is working effectively on your body, thereby increasing your ‘gravitas’. Then gesture in a way that emphasizes your key messages.

This is just a sample of the many things you can do to gain the results you deserve, and I certainly hope this will help you. To find out more you can buy the new book ‘You Were Born To Speak’ from  

Richard Newman is an award-winning corporate communications expert whose consultancy, Body Talk, has coached more than 50,000 people from 45 countries worldwide and clients include a Formula One team, celebrities and international business leaders. He won the 2014 Cicero Grand Prize Award for Best International Speechwriter, selected from 500 professionals worldwide, and his groundbreaking research into non-verbal communication, conducted in conjunction with UCL, was published by the Journal of Psychology in 2016. The research showed that professionals can increase the rating of their leadership skills by 44 per cent with a few simple changes in their communication style.

You Were Born To Speak will be published on Friday, December 7th, 2018, priced £14.99, and is available for pre-order now from Amazon UK. If you pre-order You Were Born To Speak from the book launch website – then you can attend the official launch in London on December 11th and get extra bonuses. Profits go to AfriKids, Room to Read, and the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation.  


Business Book Review: You Were Born to Speak by Richard Newman

From the way you stand to your facial expressions and hand gestures, effective communication takes more than just good verbal skills, finds Lucy Bryson.

By Lucy Bryson

We all know that the ability to persuade, inspire and sell an idea is a critical skill in business. Effective verbal communication skills can help you to grow your organisation, advance your career, and kick-start action in the workplace.

But despite its importance, few manage to master public speaking at international conference, boardroom or even dinner party level. I’ve seen some of the coolest professionals crash and burn in the spotlight. And I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing confident and extroverted CEOs in their sixties regress into awkward, embarrassed teenagers on stage.

Richard Newman, whose new book You Were Born To Speak is out this week, was one of them. As a child, he was so shy and introverted that he felt sick at the thought of speaking in a classroom and was routinely dismissed for roles in the school play.

“From the age of five I was introduced as, ‘This is Richard, he’s very shy.’ Every time someone said that about me, I felt more embarrassed,” Newman writes. “I wanted to express myself, but many of my ideas stayed locked inside my head. The fear of being teased and of not being liked, along with my need to fit in made me build up coping mechanisms that shut down my natural ability to speak up and be heard.”

Newman’s experiences led him to pursue a career studying body language – first at drama school and later through a series of widely-published studies. Today, Newman is widely considered one of the world’s leading authorities on body language and a respected public speaker. In You Were Born To Speak, he outlines his own journey and reveals how readers can gain the results, reactions and respect they deserve.

He argues (convincingly) that humans are born with extraordinarily powerful communication skills but that these diminish over time as a result of learned behaviours, paradigms and negative events. Drawing on extensive psychological studies and his own life experiences (which include teaching English to Tibetan monks in a remote monastery), Newman provides readers with the tools and tricks to tap into and exploit that innate ability.

His advice goes way beyond ‘you can do it!’ cheerleading. Newman digs deep into the human psyche to look at how our body language can influence our credibility. He also outlines the ways to quieten our ‘monkey brain’ (anybody who has read the excellent Steve Peers book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ will immediately get the reference, and Newman concisely outlines the key concepts) and find the reserves of calm we need.

The book also discusses physical presence – from how to drink water (sipped from a lidded bottle with ease and without apology), to the ideal stance (“how wide is too wide?”). With a series of physical and mental exercises (and links to further resources online), You Were Born To Speak is a complete toolkit for every personality – including the introverted and shy. It’s an essential guidebook to holding court.

To find out more you can buy the new book ‘You Were Born To Speak’ from  


Exclusive Q&A with Richard Newman

The London Economic speaks with author and award-winning international communications expert Richard Newman to discuss the importance of developing effective communication skills.


The London Economic (TLE): How can effective verbal communication help people advance their careers?

Richard Newman (RN): I often tell people that your CV will get you the interview, but your communication skills will get you the job. The same is true in daily business. The best ideas and products only win if people know about them, care about them and are motivated to act on them. The key to making this happen is to have terrific communication skills.


TLE: What results have you seen from the individuals and corporations that have adopted your training techniques?

RN: An engineering company asked us to help them win large government contracts. They used to win roughly 1 in 4 and were hoping to improve this. Over the course of one year coaching their team they won every contract we coached them for, gaining £1.2billion in new business. Other clients have gained promotions, business investment, or simply the confidence to walk on stage and earn a standing ovation.


TLE: What is the one key piece of advice you would give to somebody who firmly believes that they are simply incapable of ‘speaking up?’

RN: You were born to speak. People are quick to label themselves, such as saying “I’m naturally a quiet person.” No you’re not! When you were born do you think you quietly whispered, “If anyone can hear me I’d like some milk”? No! You made a noise so loud that you shook the building! Over the years we build up habits, through working in open plan offices where people need to mute their expression in order not to disrupt others. Your muscle memory becomes that of a quiet person. You just need to change your habits. Get back to the level of expression you were naturally born with. This takes practise, but you can drop your armour and shed your habits. It all starts with remembering you were born to speak.


TLE: How important is body language in getting your message across effectively?

RN: People often cite the statistics “93% of communication is non-verbal” but these are misleading. Even the creator of that research, Albert Merhabian, has questioned its validity. However, non-verbal communication still has a tremendous impact on how people respond to your ideas. Peace talks happen face to face because the non-verbal connection is critical. Our research study, working with the Head of Psychology at UCL, showed that you can say the same words and yet gain a very different response from people based on small changes in your body language. You can achieve a 42% increase in the number of people who are convinced by your message just by shifting away from common habits towards a more effective communication style.


TLE: We all have to give presentations from time to time, but how can we spruce these up so colleagues or clients don’t switch off?

RN: The key here is to avoid gimmicks. I have seen so many people attempt to spruce things up through using pointless pictures, jokes or wandering around the room to stand behind people who look bored. Instead you need to change your thinking. Focus first on ‘what is keeping these people awake at night? What do they care most about?’ Then think about how your presentation relates to these areas. How will your information help them move away from things they want to avoid and move towards things they care about most? Start by talking to them in this way before you get into the details and they will be compelled to listen. Then speak with conviction, because people will never be more enthused about your idea than you look and sound. If you are half-hearted, so will they be.


TLE: Many of the ‘take action’ exercises in the book could evoke quite painful memories – why is it important to look at past problems with communication in order to improve?

RN: In order to get to your destination you must look clearly at where you are right now and how you got here. Only then can you chart a successful course moving forwards.


TLE: Do you think that effective communication can override subconscious prejudice in terms of age/race/gender or physical appearance?

RN: This was the most surprising result from our international study on influence. We filmed four actors delivering a short speech: a man and woman with light skin, a man and woman with darker skin. We also aged them 30 years using prosthetics. We filmed a range of different videos with each actor and then showed the videos to 2,000 people from across Asia, Europe, North and South America. We had an equal split of men and women, aged from 18-65. We fully expected that we would find big differences based on race, gender and culture. To our surprise we gained the same reactions regardless of the actor in the film or the person viewing them. For example, a young, darker-skinned woman was equally likely to be seen as a good leader as an older, lighter-skinned man. This was true when we showed the video in India or the USA. The only thing that changed how influential people were perceived to be were changes in their body language while speaking, which is great news for men and women. While sub-conscious prejudice may still exist, women can boost their ratings as much as men by shifting from common habits to effective communication behaviours.


TLE: What lessons did stage school teach you that you have managed to apply to a business setting?

RN: Stage school is all about communication. The most critical point I learned is that it didn’t matter how much I was ‘really feeling it’ in my head. If that message wasn’t communicated effectively through my body and words, it didn’t matter. People need to remember this in business. Good communication is not about just ‘transferring information’ or ‘letting ideas speak for themselves’. You need to focus on how you want your audience to feel and use every tool you have to bring those ideas to life in a way that compels people to listen.

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