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Leadership lessons with Christopher Kai

In the lead-up to AIME 2020, we sit down with communication expert, Christopher Kai, to talk networking and team engagement.

After developing strategic sales presentations for clients on Wall Street, Kai now runs a Beverly Hills-based leadership training firm, where he trains entrepreneurs, executives and professionals on how to master communication and networking skills.

He’s considered one of the world’s leading authorities in story-based leadership and is also a keynote speaker at AIME 2020, set to take place next month in Melbourne.

So, what is story-based leadership?

Story-based leadership is all about communication. It delves deeper into the reasoning behind what you do, and looks at why you do what you do.

In terms of leadership, it means being able to communicate stories clearly with your team, ones that inspire productivity and, more importantly, give a sense of purpose.

An example of this is Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. His business model was created after he travelled to Italy for the first time in 1983. He quickly observed that baristas in espresso bars interacted with their customers in a way he had not yet seen before. There was a clear sense of connection and community between the business and its customers, with the baristas acting as the direct facilitators of these connections.

Eager to replicate the Italian coffee experience in the US, he modelled Starbucks around his Milan encounters, right down to the servers being referred to as baristas. He skillfully used the story of his experiences to build a business model which led to the world-class reputation of Starbucks.

In the current business climate, how important is story-based leadership?

The theme for AIME 2020 is all about the power of human connections and the importance of stripping back to basics. Story-based leadership is incredibly important in the current business climate, as people are increasingly drawn towards careers and industries that resonate a sense of greater purpose.

As the business climate continues to shift and change, it is important that leaders adapt with it. If you are able to communicate your brand story in a way that inspires and encourages your team, their connection with the business will grow.

What are your tips to building a strong network?

Building a strong network of real relationships is largely attributed to being a good listener.

Now, with our smartphones, we are the most distracted generation in human history. We must learn how to listen more.

In the Chinese language, each character is made up of various symbols, which when pieced together form a word. The Chinese character for listen has six symbols which include the ears, eyes, heart, respect, and the numbers one and ten.

So, when you truly listen to someone, you’re listening with your ears, ten eyes, with a sense of respect through one undivided attention – but most importantly with an open heart.

We are all so busy talking about ourselves and we have forgotten that, to build a strong network of real relationships, we must first be better listeners. We need to understand how to better help and serve others.

Based on your experience, what is the secret to successful stakeholder management?

The secret lies within the ability to communicate to your team that their work matters and that their opinion is heard.

The secret to any form of management is that everyone, from the CEO to the janitor, must understand why their work matters, how they can effectively communicate with each other, and what skills they have that can contribute to the overall purpose of the business.

How can we use science to improve our networking skills?

The science of networking comes down to creating networks that are open as opposed to closed. A closed network belongs to those who only know the same people from the same town, industry, religion and demographic.

Business leaders who truly excel in their field have open networks where they connect with different types of people across various disciplines.

Technology is also a powerful tool in helping us connect and engage with one another.

Christopher Kai is a speaker at AIME 2020, Fortune 100 Global Speaker, #1 Global Bestselling Author and Founder & CEO of The Mathem Group leadership training firm. For more info visit: https://christopherkai.com/