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Interview with Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson answers questions about leadership, dealing with difficult individuals and speaking engagements. Read on below.

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

As a psychologist, I realize that true, lasting change takes more than one presentation. What drives my preparation for every keynote is a desire to provide practical strategies that leaders and teams can use to turn an optimistic attitude into a force for making strategic change work on and off the job. I have to listen and learn about my client and their objectives; my job is to adjust my message to be a catalyst for the changes that are needed. I’m less concerned with standing ovations and more concerned that people find no more than three personal insights and goals that can direct their change efforts when they leave the event. The greatest compliment to me comes not in receiving great evaluations, though I appreciate them, but in letters from leaders and associates three months after an event that highlight the impact their changes have made.  The message I want people to take away from my presentation is the one they needed to hear and were ready to implement. My message is never as important as their ability to turn their attitudes and actions into winning results.


How are your keynotes unique?

One client called me a “motivational humorist with depth.” I have a strong commitment to provide practical, distilled wisdom that is on target to the strategic needs of those attending an event. With over thirty years of experience in speaking for organizations and associations, I understand the leadership and psychological theories, but I don’t dwell on theory when I speak. My focus is on finding the practical strategies people can use and to present them in a way that is remembered and applied. In every program, I use appropriate humor, engaging stories and best practices, insightful quotes, and targeted content on leadership and positive psychology. If you want your people to laugh, learn and leave with content they can use, I’m a speaker you should use for your next event. My work with international audiences has taught me the value of humility. Speakers from the U.S. must balance their appreciation for the window to leadership and life that they bring while still affirming the strengths of the culture they are speaking to. As a past president of the Global Speakers Federation, I’ve been known as an ambassador of mutual respect in our global economy. That comes across in my respect for the audiences I speak to internationally. I expect to learn from them as they learn from me.


How is optimism important in a leadership role?

One of the critical roles of a leader is to keep hope alive as their organization moves through the uncharted waters of our rapidly changing global economy. Optimism plays a key role in fostering resilience in the tough times and capitalizing on opportunities in the good times. Optimism is often misunderstood. True optimism that works in the business world and in life is earned. It’s earned through a track record of overcoming obstacles. The more obstacles a person or team overcomes, the more they believe that they can overcome the next obstacle they face. Optimists are realists. They want to know the problems and challenges they face, because they believe they can overcome them when they know what they face. A leader who knows how to work the optimism advantage, knows how to build a problem solving culture, how to identify obstacles and strategic opportunities, and how to use the heroic stories from the past and the present of their organization to inspire their team to keep inventing a future they can be proud of. In my presentations, I stress that positive attitudes and actions applied in support of strategic change are always worth cultivating by any effective leader.


What is your best advice for dealing with difficult individuals?

First of all, in my program, I embrace the importance of difference and the leadership tensions that come with any successful organization. Leaders must value change and past best practices, invest in growth and controlling costs, and hold others accountable while majoring in support. Conflict has value when dealt with well. Start by being a problem solver, not a problem evader. The longer you wait to deal with problem, the bigger the problem and the more damage that can be done to the relationship. Instead of avoiding confrontations, care enough to confront quickly with a future focus on change not conviction of who was right. Never silence criticism; instead, learn to disagree without being disagreeable and to accept criticism that is warranted. Finally, most of us avoid difficult people which results in limiting our interaction to conflict and change. Treat your difficult relationship like you would a bank account; don’t expect to make any withdrawals unless you are willing to put in a few positive deposits. Some research suggests that for a relationship to be positive that we need a 4 to 1 positive to negative contact ratio. Confront when necessary but increase your support, your social conversations, your smiles, your compliments and your requests for input and watch your difficult person change their reaction to the conflict that normally occurs in any healthy organization. Don’t expect quick changes. They expect you to “try” being nice, but when they see you adopt it as an ongoing strategy, trust is possible. Be the person you wish they were to you. Even if it doesn’t work with your difficult person, others will see your efforts and respect your attempts to improve the relationship.


What types of audiences benefit from your keynotes?

I love working with audiences who are facing the need to rebound from challenging times, those who are facing a difficult transformation, and those who need a motivational catalyst in support of strategic change.  Although I do not present myself as a humorist, my use of humor makes my programs a needed relief from challenging and difficult times. People like to laugh and learn, and I give them ample opportunity to do both. My programs seem to be very well received by all ages, genders and professional affiliations. Change and optimism are topics that are evergreen!


What is the best experience you have had as a keynote speaker?

My next one! I tell audiences to get out of the rearview mirror and into the front window of opportunity. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, and it always comes down to impacting individual leaders and teams. It’s the letters I get from them about the “Keeper” ideas that have made a difference.  I love speaking and impacting the lives and careers of individuals in my business audiences. I can’t wait to do that for your event! What are you waiting for? Let me see if I can be a fit for your next event.


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