How Pat Riley Communicated a Message
As leaders, we must understand that the method to communicate our message is as important as the message itself.
Pat Riley was unsure what he would do when his playing days ended.
A former Los Angeles Lakers guard, Riley knew he wanted to be involved in some capacity with the game he loved, so he offered his services to a local university for free.
But there was one problem: The school wasn't interested.
Riley used the "not interested" answer as motivation to ultimately launch a Hall-of-Fame coaching and front office career.
Years later, before speaking in front of a large group of sports and Hollywood talent agents, Riley had a friend call his phone as he walked on stage. With his ringer loud enough for all to hear, Riley answered and engaged in conversation.
When the call ended, he turned to the audience and told them he didn't want to see anyone on their phones from that moment forward and to put them away. Stunned, the audience paid attention and followed his suggestion.
First, Riley demonstrated visually how rude it was for anyone to be on the phone and not to pay attention to his talk. Secondly, he understood his audience; agents love to keep working on their phones, they love to multi-task, and the only way for his message to be heard was to make a significant point before he began.
With one visual story, Riley made the most important point he needed, which made his presentation all the more digestible.
Riley didn't ask for the audience's attention; he gave them a point of reference that highlighted his expectations. Asking and showing are two different forms of communication. Both can work, but their impact is felt only when used in the right setting.
As leaders, we must understand that the method to communicate our message is as important as the message itself. No one will pay attention to the exact same delivery or the exact same style over time.
We must grab their attention with something unique like Riley did to ensure our story doesn't fall on deaf ears. Attendance doesn't ensure buy-in. Attendance doesn't ensure listening or hearing.
Being a unique leader requires being a unique storyteller. It also requires being uniquely aware of our audience.
Riley knows this better than anyone from his time as a player and coach.
Be unique in many ways.