Vol. 2 Number 4 - April 2004.
Publisher: The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.

IN THIS ISSUE: The Defining Moment: The Straw That Stirs The Drink Of Motivation.

SECTION 1: Brent Filson's Weekly Tips to Lead By

Week 1: The Defining Moment: The Straw That Stirs The Drink of Motivation

Week 2: Developing Defining Moments

Week 3: Defining Moments Trigger Action

Week 4: Defining Moments Get Results

SECTION 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

SECTION 3: Guest Report: E-Learning: Your Partner For Results.

By Emiliano DiLaurentiis

SECTION 3: Points of Light

SECTION 4: Message from Brent Filson: The Ultimate Secret Of Motivation: Remember Maria!


SECTION 1: Brent Filson's Tips To Lead By
(Apply these week by week throughout the month.)

Week 1 - The Defining Moment: The Straw That Stirs The Drink Of Motivation

Leadership that is not about motivation (See the November issue, Vol.1.5) is leadership that's stumbling in the dark. Sure, leaders can order people to accomplish tasks, and in some cases ordering is the only way to success; but in most cases, best results accrue when people are motivated to do the tasks.

Yet, few leaders I've encountered understand the fundamental mechanisms of motivation and how to employ them consistently. That's one of the reasons why such leaders get only a fraction of the results they're capable of.

This issue will be devoted to a critical motivational mechanism, the defining moment. Master the defining moment and you'll have a motivation generator to serve you for the rest of your career.

To understand the defining moment and use it consistently, let's first understand the Hierarchy of Verbal Persuasion. In ascending order of effectiveness:

First, there is a presentation, which COMMUNICATES information.

Next, there's the speech, which connects the speaker with the audience in order to persuade, compel, or promote. Often, there's an emotional component to this connection that is conveyed through stories, anecdotes, and the like.

Finally, there's the Leadership Talk, which brings about a communion, an intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions, between speaker and audience so that the audience will be motivated to be the speaker's cause leaders.



My experience teaches that a key reason why the vast majority of leaders get a fraction of the results they're capable of is that they use the first two methods and neglect the third and most important.

This is, of course, partly due to few leaders knowing what a Leadership Talk is, and fewer still knowing how to put one together and deliver it effectively. After all, the addition of The Leadership Talk to the presentation/speech sequence — making it the Hierarchy — are all my doing. The buck stops here!

To get the most out of this issue, I suggest that you get an overview of The Leadership Talk, which can be viewed in the December issue, Vol. 1.6, or get my latest book, The Leadership Talk: The Greatest Leadership Tool, which will be available for purchase next month at www.actionleadership.com.

This month, however, it's not crucial to read up on The Leadership Talk. Just understanding the defining moment in and of itself will greatly boost your ability to move from communicating and connecting with your audience to actually communing with them.

I get many calls from meeting planners who want me to give a motivational speech to members of their organizations. I always say, "You've got the wrong guy. I'm not a motivational speaker. I do something else. I think it's much more important. I help leaders motivate the people they lead." The key issue in leadership is not the motivation of the leaders themselves. If they aren't motivated, they shouldn't be leading. The issue is, how can leaders transfer their motivation to other people? The "how" is what I call the MOTIVATIONAL TRANSFER.

One of the best ways to engender communion between you and your audience is through the motivational transfer. Here're three ways to make it happen. The defining moment can play a role in all three, though the third is the most important.

1. CONVEY INFORMATION. Often, this is enough to get people motivated. For instance, many people have quit smoking because of information on the harmful effects of the habit

2. MAKE SENSE. To be motivated, people must understand the reasoning behind your challenge. Re smoking, people have been motivated to quit because the information makes sense.

3. TRANSMIT EXPERIENCE. This means having the leader's experience become the people's experience. It can be the most effective method of all, because when the speaker's experience becomes the audience's experience, a deep sharing of emotions and ideas, a communing, can take place.

There are plenty of presentation and speech courses devoted to the first two methods, so I won't discuss those. In this e-zine, we'll work on the third method by showing you how the defining moment can facilitate the motivational transfer.

Look at it this way: people learn in two ways — by acquiring intellectual understanding and through experience. In our school system, the former predominates, but it's the latter that is most powerful in terms of inducing a deep sharing of emotions and ideas, because our experiences, which can be life's teachings, often lead us to profound awareness and purposeful action.

Look back at your schooling. Which do you remember most, your book learning or your experiences, your interactions with teachers and students? In most cases, people say their experiences made the strongest impressions on them; they remembered them long after book knowledge had faded.

This is where the defining moment comes in. Its function is simple: to have a communion of experience, so the people you lead will be as motivated as you are to meet the challenges you face.

The process is simple, too: put a particular experience of yours into sharp focus, and then transmit that focused experience into the hearts of the audience so they will be motivated to take action for results. It's easy, and it's a game changer.

If you don't get it right, however, it can backfire. In fact, you could wind up having people motivated against you. So follow carefully as I show you the precise steps in developing and transmitting defining moments.

This week, take the first step in mastering the defining moment. Review experiences from your past. Don't try to figure out how to use them or how they relate to developing and communicating a defining moment.

They needn't be wrenching, shattering experiences; everyday experiences will do. They don't need to have taken place recently; you might want to look back upon experiences from your youth. Finally, they don't need to have taken place in an organizational context. Look at every aspect of your life. Any of your experiences, at any time, anywhere, can make a good defining moment.

Make sure, however, that it is your experience (I'll say more about this later) and be aware of the difference between personal and private experiences. Usually, our personal experiences are those we can share with others, and our private experiences are those we want to keep to ourselves. The dividing line between personal and private is embarrassment. If you would in any way be embarrassed talking about the experience with others — don't use it.

This week, write down three to five of your EXPERIENCES that made a strong impression on you. Describe each in a few sentences or paragraphs. That's it. Do no more. You need to deliberately walk through the sequence of defining-moment development. It's easy to get off track, but once you take the trouble to go through the process, you'll have it for life.

For instance, an experience that defines much of what I do in leadership happened when my father lay on his deathbed. He and I had struggled for years over conflicting views of my career path, but when he got cancer, the terrible disease led to a healing in our relationship, and for the first time in years, we were able to talk with affection and no recriminations. During a long discussion one afternoon a few weeks before he died, he told me how he had come to accept his impending death, and I told him that I felt I had run out of opportunities in my life.

His thin hand, which had been so broad until he became ill (he came from a family of hulking carpenters) closed around mine, and he said, "Brent, how can you say that? Everyone has opportunities all the time. Look at me. Even me, here, on this bed — even I have opportunities!"

I didn't think much about what he said until after he died, and then his words kept coming back to me. They had a tremendous impact on me, like motivational time-release capsules. I understood what he meant, what he really meant. And I took that understanding into my life and work. Since then, I have never lacked for opportunities — simply because my father had me see that opportunities are never lacking — nor have I allowed the leaders I've worked with to lack opportunities.

"Even I have opportunities" is a defining moment, an experience, one that led to profound awareness and purposeful action — not for my sake, but for the sake of the leaders I'm consulting with. As you'll see later this month, the defining moment's purpose is not to illuminate what I can do, but what you can do.

Week 2 - Developing Defining Moments

Now that you've written down some defining experiences, you can begin to change them into defining moments. The experience is the raw material; the defining moment is the instrument, shaped from the raw experience, that enables you to reach into the hearts of the people you speak to and motivate them to take action to get results. This week:

1. Select an audience to speak to. It can be one person or many. It can be someone at work, in your family, or in your social circle. This should be an important interaction. You don't simply want to communicate but to "commune" with the audience.

Don't expect the defining moment to automatically generate that communion. Often, it simply marks a small step you're taking in that direction. But that step is the very core of the right beginning.

2. Identify the needs of the audience. This is absolutely crucial to using the defining moment. The defining moment is all about human relationships, and you cannot have a rich relationship with someone unless and until you understand their needs.

A quick way to understand their needs is to ask the Eight Questions* tied to the Leadership Talk. (Read Week 2 of the December 2003 e-zine, Vol. 1. 6.)

* What is changing for your audience?

* Whom would they rather have speaking to them than you?

* What action does the audience want to take?

* What do they feel?

* What do they fear?

* What is their major problem?

* What makes them angry?

* What do they dream?

3. Once you've chosen an audience and identified their needs, go back and select one of the EXPERIENCES you wrote about.

At this point, don't try to connect that experience to what you are going to say to your audience. We'll make that connection later. Many speakers try prematurely to make the connection. In doing so, they short-circuit the power of the defining moment. Hold off on making the connection until we've gone through a few more steps.

4. Take each experience and identify the physical facts that gave you the emotion. In my father's case, it was his hand squeezing mine and his smile and gentle words, "... even I have opportunities."

5. Have the experience be a solution to the needs of your audience. That solution lies in the lesson the defining moment teaches.

Here is the secret: The defining moment exists not for you to point out what you did, but for you to point out what the audience can do. In other words, your defining moment must become their defining moment. If it doesn't become their defining moment, it doesn't work.

Take, for example, my defining moment with my father. All the leaders I've worked with need to get more results than they're presently getting. In fact, the leader who is satisfied with the results he or she is getting doesn't need my help. My methods are not for the satisfied leader. To an audience that needs to get more results, I talk about opportunity, the opportunity to get results. Results are limitless! (Read October 2003 e-zine, Vol. 1. 4.) When I talk to audiences about such opportunities, I use that defining moment. I say, "What I'm about to tell you isn't so much about me as it is about you and the unlimited opportunities to get results." That introduction is vital. It confirms that our interaction is about them and not about me. When my father's words resonate with their deepest needs, the defining moment works. Otherwise, it's a waste of their time.

6. Speak to your audience this week about your defining moment. Make sure it holds a solution to their needs. Don't have your defining moment stick out awkwardly in your interaction. Have it be a spontaneous, seamless communication said in a natural, relaxed way.

Week 3 - Defining Moments Trigger Action

Understand what a defining moment really is. It is not a metaphor or analogy. It is not a story. It's not a way of simply getting on good terms with your audience, or giving that audience insight into you, or even just motivating the audience. It's a special form of speech that has one purpose: to get your audience to take action for results.

This week we'll work on the action part of the motivational transfer. Understanding how this alchemy of experience-turning-into-action takes place is central to what leadership is all about, having people get results; the best way to have people get results is by getting them to take action triggered by free choice, not fiat.

Since the defining moment only works when it provides a solution to the audience's needs, it is vital that you come to an agreement with them as to what their needs (and the problems arising from those needs) are, and precisely what actions will provide the best solutions.

The best way to do this is not to dictate solutions to them, but to have them come up with their own solutions. (Often, their average solutions for solving their problems will be far more effective than your great solutions, simply because they tend to be more committed to carrying out their own ideas.) Freedom of choice and freedom of action is the name of the game.

This doesn't mean that they can choose to act however they see fit. We can't have freedom without boundaries; and with the defining moment, you define the boundaries. The action they take, impelled by your defining moment, should not hurt others or embarrass you. As you'll see when you put the defining moment into action, its power is in its resonance. Just as both tines of a tuning fork are needed for resonance, both parties involved in a defining moment, you and your audience, must agree on the action in order for it to resonate pervasively and persuasively. (I'll talk more about this in the fourth week.)

Re my defining moment: I'll sometimes use it as a springboard to get my audience to think about and describe opportunities that may not be apparent to them. After all, my father's words helped define my life. Afterward, urged by that moment by his bedside, I looked upon the world as an embarrassment of riches of opportunities and have since then never lacked for them. We just need to open our eyes to them. So, I say to my audiences, "Even though you think you may have run out of opportunities, I know you haven't. You can do it, because I've done it. My father taught me, and I went out and did it, so let's you and I work on seeing overlooked opportunities."

One thing has continually surprised me when teaching the defining moment: when people look at their leadership challenge through the lens of their defining moment, they see opportunities they hadn't thought of before. I'll bet you will, too.

This week, select another audience and another defining moment and go through the six-step process, using the defining moment as a trigger for action.

Week 4 - Defining Moments Get Results

Without results, the defining moment is a feeble parlor trick. After all, the defining moment is a leadership tool; and since the purpose of leadership is to get results, the tool must serve that end or be a waste of time.

Now I'll show you how to get results with the defining moment. The word "results" comes from a Latin root meaning "spring back." Results have recoil. We not only get results but results get us. There's a strong connection between what we achieve and who we are.

In the previous week, I talked about resonance and the defining moment. That's because the motivational transfer triggered by the defining moment is neither a one-way street nor a recoil. It's a loop. It returns to you and goes out again. Moreover, it resonates, both "tines" of the relationship responding to one another.

The defining moment is vital to leaders achieving not just average results but more results, faster results, continually. It is the sine qua non of the Leadership Talk (see last December's e-zine, Vol. 1. 6), the most powerful leadership tool of all. The defining moment creates a resonance of thoughts and feelings, a communion, between the leader and the people that in the best cases goes on and on. In fact, it often takes on a life of its own and can't be stopped. It is in Napoleon's dictum, "No army is big enough to stop an idea whose time has come."

Clearly, there are other ways besides the defining moment to create this resonance. History is replete with them. People have been motivated by historical and political events, by acts of nature, by hangings, by births, by jokes, by door latches, by newspaper headlines, by medical procedures, by winks and nods, by any number of things. Still, the most frequent way is through human-to-human interactions. And the defining moment is simply a way of focusing and triggering that interaction.

Get results this way. Tie the solution to your audience's problem to the results you want to get. To do this, be clear about three things, their needs, the solutions to those needs, and your results. Confusing any one of these will prevent the alchemy from occurring.

Back to my defining moment: In my seminars, there are several kinds of results I want: for people to learn the material, for people to teach others the materials, for people to be excited by the materials, for people to use the material successfully back on their jobs. One of the most important results, however, is that I want people to be the cause leaders for my processes. I not only want them to get better results but to motivate others to get better results through the processes. And when they look for opportunities to get results and be cause leaders I often want them to think of my defining moment, my father's words helping them become continually better leaders. Resonance is action.

This week, clearly identify the results you want, see how having the people get those results also solves their problems, then use a defining moment, naturally, honestly, conversationally, to challenge them to be cause leaders for achieving those results.

You may ask, what if the actions they take to get results do not offer solutions to their problems? Then you don't have cause leaders; and you must work at aligning their solutions with your results.

The defining moment will help you do just that.

SECTION TWO: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good
At the battle of Sempach in 1397, the Swiss faced a formidable Austrian foe, ranks of close-packed soldiers bristling with lances and pikes. A Swiss soldier, Arnold von Winkelried, told his comrades, "Friends, I'm going to sacrifice myself for our cause. All I ask is that you take care of my wife and family. Follow me!"

He arranged a spear-shaped formation of Swiss infantrymen, placed himself at the head, and had the soldiers march toward the Austrians. He then fell upon the enemy's spears and pikes and forced them to one side. The Swiss charged into the narrow breach and broke the Austrian lines, gaining a great victory.

Von Winkelried's sacrifice was a defining moment in Swiss history. His valor and self-sacrifice have motivated countless generations of his countrymen. Defining moments can be powerful calls to action long after the moment has passed.

The Bad
Work was so exhausting in Louisiana's sugar cane fields that slaves who could work them fetched inordinate prices. When the price of such slaves became too high, one planter hired Irish and German workers. The plan failed when the workers struck for double wages during the height of the season. Fearful that the fiasco might inspire field hands, the planters kept the incident hushed up for decades.

Defining moments can threaten even the strongest status quo.

The Ugly
Seeing abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison dragged with a rope down a Boston Street, Wendell Phillips became so outraged that he joined the abolitionist movement and became one of its most effective activists.

A defining moment can change the very life of an individual, and through that individual history itself.


E-Learning: Your Partner For Results.

By Emiliano DiLaurentiis

CEO Knowledge Environments



The multi-billion dollar field of e-learning has been undergoing explosive growth during the past decade, allowing organizations to educate employees in remote locations, promote multi-media education, reduce travel time and expenses, increase the frequency and duration of training, and bring people together simultaneously from far flung locations.

However, I submit that e-learning is in its infancy. It hasn't even scratched the surface of its potential.

Here's one example: leadership. Leadership is all about having people get results. So, why can't e-learning be more than a knowledge tool, why can't it be a leadership tool as well?

Wouldn't e-learning be far more valuable to an organization if it were both increasing the knowledge and skills of its people AND helping them get far more results than they would otherwise achieve? In other words, couldn't e-learning be a "results-partner" for an organization?

The answer is YES. To do so, however, the established e-learning model must be changed. It is now primarily a classroom model teachers/students. It needs to be changed to a far more powerful learning model, that of master/pupil. Bringing a master into the learning equation represents a paradigm shift in e-learning.

Like a teacher, a master imparts information and knowledge to a student; but the master goes further. The master actually helps fundamentally change the student. The student takes on the master's view of the world and makes that view h/her own. In doing so, the student then becomes a master.

For the past 22 years, working with some of the masters in the field of expert systems and artificial intelligence at Oxford, Columbia, McGill, I have developed an e-slearning model that reproduces the many, complex interactions between masters and pupils. It's called "Knowledge Avatar."

"Avatar comes from Sanskrit meaning "to pass down." In the Hindu religion, an avatar is a deity who descends to earth in an incarnate form of an abstract concept. (Hence the avatar Krishna came down from heaven as the teacher of Arjuna.)

An avatar model replicates the learning dynamic between master and pupil. As an example, I'd like to use Brent Filson's Action Leadership.

The Action Leadership Knowledge Avatar can help leaders get increases in results in three areas. Speed, Productivity, and Adaptability.

In the next e-zines I want to show how an Avatar can get more results in each of those areas.

SECTION FOUR: Points of Light

"To know the hallowed aim of your leadership and to live by what you know is to go a long way in winning the hearts of the people you lead." –Brent Filson

"Men freely believe that which they desire." — Julius Caesar

"The dumbest leaders I've know are those who think they're the smartest." — Brent Filson

"We are born believing. A person bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Face what you think you believe and you will be surprised." — William Hale White

"The one thing that is really difficult is the prove what one believes." — Paul Cezanne

"It is always one of the tragedies of any relationship, even between people sensitive to each other's moods, that the moments of emotion so rarely coincide." — Nan Fairbrother

"Have the people believe that working for you (and with you) is their greatest career move, and you'll gain loyalty and devotion money can't buy nor position dictate." — Brent Filson

"Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory can't make it acceptable." — Cicero

"Originality is a byproduct of sincerity." — Marianne Moore

(SECTION FIVE: Message From Brent Filson

The Ultimate Secret of Motivation: Remember Maria!

One of the most significant figures in education has been Maria Montessori, who a century ago developed the Montessori method for young people. Her ideas have potent implications for the motivational aspects of your everyday leadership.

Like many important intellects, what she proposed was startlingly simple, yet it has altered the way we view human learning. She declared that the child's brain is hardwired for learning, that it has a tremendous need and ability to learn, and what prevents this learning is individual, cultural, and social impediments.

I believe that the Montessori method is directly related to Action Leadership. Just as Montessori emphasizes that children are best educated when they educate themselves, so the people you lead are best at achieving results when they thrive in an environment that fosters and supports their self-directed actions.

Of course, this insight is in line with the "self-directed" workforce concepts that have been fashionable in organizations during the past two decades. What is new, however, is the role of the leader. And this gets back to Maria.

She writes, "The pedagogical method has for its base the liberty of the child, and activity is liberty. Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which is difficult for followers of common-school methods to understand. How is one to obtain discipline in a class of free children? Certainly, in our system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that commonly accepted. If discipline is founded on liberty, the discipline itself must be active. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.

"We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself and can therefore regulate his own conduct when it shall be necessary to follow some rule of life. We must therefore check in the child whatever offends or annoys others, or whatever tends towards rough or ill-bred acts. But all the rest — every manifestation having a useful scope — whatever it may be and under what form it expresses itself, must not only be permitted, it must be observed by the teacher. She must become a passive, much more than active, influence; and her passivity shall be composed of anxious scientific curiosity and absolute respect for the phenomena which she wishes to observe."

Of course, Action Leadership is not about teaching children, but leading adults to achieve a higher order of results. I call this higher order "more results, faster results, continually." The method for achieving these results derives from, to paraphrase Maria, the liberty of the people as manifested by their actions. Like the teacher's role in the Montessori method, the leader's role in Action Leadership is less as an active leader and more as an enlightened, supportive observer. This passiveness of an observer is, however, far more effective in getting results than the "activeness" of the traditional leader.

This doesn't mean that anybody can lead by observing and thus achieve a higher order of results. Just as a Montessori teacher must be highly skilled and disciplined to carry out the role of an observer/teacher, so an Action Leader must have the rigorously acquired knowledge and skills to be an effective observer/leader. Action Leadership is easy to learn, but takes many years of constant application to master.

The next time you need to motivate others, remember Maria!


In mid-April, Brent Filson will be teaching Action Leadership to 35 governors and legislators from Nigeria. Action Leadership is not only spreading among companies worldwide but nations as well!

QuickSpeech is up and running! If you have a speech to give, go to the Quick Speech button at ww.actionleadership.com and download the template. Fill in the blanks and you'll have a powerful speech. QuickSpeech is the highly popular companion supplement to Brent's book, Executive Speeches, 51 Ceos Tell You How To Do Yours. Quick Speech has sold thousands of copies, but is now available to you free. Remember: the speech is not an end in and of itself, but the gateway to The Leadership Talk. Learn to give speeches Brent Filson's way and you'll be better grounded to give Leadership Talks later on.

Brent's latest book, The Leadership Talk: The Greatest Leadership Tool, has just been printed. A major library distributor has picked up the book. It is due for release in spring 2004. Prepublication copies are available now for bulk purchase.

Brent has scheduled a number of radio interviews this spring and summer, bringing the methods of Action Leadership to ever-widening audiences. If you're interested in having him on your show or at your meeting, go to the Action Leadership website and click on either the "meeting planner" button or the "press room" button.

The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. is putting together a CD collection of interviews with leaders, called the “Leaders Speak” Series.  It will begin this month and can be found on the Action Leadership website.  Click on “Leaders Speak CD Series.”   Brent says, “I want to interview leaders from a broad spectrum of human endeavor to be represented.  Don’t be surprised to find landscape contractors, gang leaders, horse trainers, sports coaches, as well as business and political leaders.  Leadership is practiced by practically everyone, and we will bring it to you on the CDs in all the richness of human relationships.”  For more information, call the F.L.G. headquarters, 413-458-4403 or contact Brent.

(413) 458-4403

(c) Copyright 2003 The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.

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