Warren Buffett and the skill that will boost your career value by 50%

By | June 29th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Warren Buffett and Public Speaking

When Warren Buffett spoke to a group of business students in 2009 he made them an offer: $100,000 for 10% of their future earnings. “If you’re interested, see me after class,” he said.

He then mentioned the most important skill that will boost their career values: public speaking. If students worked on this it would add 50% to their career value meaning he would offer them $150,000.

This reminded me of an investment manger I worked with. He was one of the smartest people in his team. His appetite for research and his knowledge of statistics were a formidable combination. The problem was, when it came to explaining this to clients, he lost his audience. They were left bemused by the dizzying statistics he would present to them. Sometimes they felt lost as he disappeared into a technical tangent.

It is not enough to be the smartest person in the room

“Teach me what I need to know then I can get this over with,” was just about the first thing he said to me. Now quite a few of our clients have a similar sentiment at first but no one had been so direct about it. Normally I would ask the person to consider where improved communications skills would help the person achieve their career goals. This case called for a more direct approach.

“I could do that,” I replied. “But if so, I hope you really enjoy your job because it is likely you will be doing it for the next 20 years.” I was a little taken aback at how blunt this sounded as I heard myself saying it. The thing is, this is something I feel really strongly about. We see lots of talented people get frustrated at not being promoted because they think being the smartest person in the room is what counts. If you cannot understand your clients and they cannot understand you, then smartness will not help.

I suggested the person go away and have a think about what he wanted to be doing in 10 years time. Then he should ask whether public speaking, communicating clients or pitching would be an important part of this. We would then meet up the following week and decide if it was worth us working together.

If I had know the story about Warren Buffett at the time I would certainly have mentioned it. Hearing the message about the importance of public speaking a communication skills from someone like Buffett is hard to ignore. As it happens the investment manager did come back. He did work on his skills and while this is still a work in progress it has made a huge difference to his career.

So it’s worth the effort but can I really get better at public speaking?

So if we accept that this is worth working on, the next challenge clients raise is whether they can actually get better at it. People think that it is something we are born with, or without.

Well, Buffett can help us there too. He admits then when he started out he was terrified of public speaking sometimes to the point of being physically sick. The impetus to get better at his came from the desire to woo his now wife Susan. It worked.

So the good news is that it is clear how you can increase your career value. But don’t expect to learn a few off-the-shelf techniques and be ready to go. It is something you will be learning and improving over many years. But if you commit to it, as Buffett shows the rewards can go well beyond the financial.


Pathos: The Missing Emotion in Theresa May’s speeches.

By | June 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|

I got my prediction for last night’s election result badly wrong. My wife and I played a game where we guessed the size of the Conservative majority and my guess was in 3 figures. See what I know.

That said, it does not take hindsight to say the Conservative campaign was poor. Theresa May started as the party’s biggest asset. By the end, she was struggling.

Something missing in Theresa May’s speeches

Looking back at her speeches, today and throughout the campaign, there is a sense that something was missing. People have focused on her “cracking” voice in her acceptance speech in her constituency. Her voice wobbles during her interview with Andrew Neill were clear. But I think the problem was more fundamental.

When talking about persuasion or rhetoric it is not long before you get back to Aristotle. He set out LogosPathos and Ethos as three modes of persuasion. We often encourage clients to use a balance of these three based on the needs of the people you are trying to persuade.

What Aristotle can teach us about persuasion

To keep things simple, let’s think of LogosPathos and Ethos as being Logic, Emotion and Credibility. Looking through Theresa May’s speeches she champions Credibility at every opportunity: strong and stable leadership, safety, security and certainty are her favourite terms.

Logic is light. She tends not to spend a lot of time giving out reasoned arguments but at least it gets some air time.

Emotion is the area that is pretty much completely missing. At no point during her acceptance speech or on the steps of Downing Street does Theresa May acknowledge the disappointment of the night’s results. Whatever your political preferences it is clear it was an awful outcome compared to expectations for her and for her party. By not even mentioning her feelings about this, the speech can seem remote or out of touch.

Sometimes you really do need to show some emotion

Looking back through the campaign, Pathos or emotion was consistently missing. I am not suggesting this is the reason for the result last night. It could be one factor behind the Prime Minister’s falling approval ratings. It is hard to warm to someone who shows no emotion. What I am suggesting is that when people know you must be hurting, failure to acknowledge any emotion makes a speech sound false. This could be what destroys the credibility that has been the basis of so much of her campaign.

MSB Executive Client Satisfaction Survey Results – 2016

By | January 24th, 2017|Blog, Uncategorized|

Happy New Year to all! We hope that 2017 has been successful for you so far. At MSB Executive we have been reviewing our work last year. We are looking to understand what we did well, what we can do better and work on new ideas for 2017.

Thank you to all those who completed our Client Satisfaction Survey. Here are the highlights from the results.

Improving Performance

All our coaching and training work is focused on helping people improve their performance at work. This made the following question perhaps the most important for us. The results were:

  • MSB Executive’s work with me/my team has helped to improve performance at work.
    88% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder Somewhat Agreeing.

We will continue to focus on practical techniques to help people communicate more confidently.


Given what we do this is obviously an important area for us! The main points are:

  • MSB Executive communicates well with me about my progress / progress of the team.
    57% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder  Somewhat Agreeing.
  • 100% of respondents Strongly Agreed that communication is good before and after training courses.

Some really helpful suggestions were received regarding feedback. People felt personal feedback was strong. With group training the request was for more specific feedback on weaker areas of the group as well as the positives. This has been noted.

Understanding our clients

This is another point we target strongly within the team. The results were:

  • MSB Executive understands what I/we do.
    80% of respondents Strongly Agreed and the rest Somewhat Agreed.
  • MSB Executive listens to our/my priorities and focuses its work on the most important areas.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.

Dealing with MSB Executive

These question picked up on what it id like to deal with MSB Executive.

  • MSB Executive is easy to deal with.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.
  • MSB Executive offers good value for money.
    50% of respondents Strongly Agreed and 50% Somewhat Agreed.
  • I feel that my time with MSB Executive is used efficiently.
    88% of respondents Strongly Agree wth the remainder Somewhat Agreeing.
  • The training materials I received (notes, manuals, exercise booklets) were helpful.
    100% of respondents Strongly Agreed.


Thank you to all those who replied for their thoughts, suggestions and insights. We were hugely appreciative of the many positive comments and equally glad to hear of how we could improve further.

Best wishes once again for a hugely successful 2017.

Martyn Barmby and the team.

MSB Executive sponsors Windrush Aquathlon for 2nd year

By | July 26th, 2016|Performance, Uncategorized|

Triathlon is a sport many of our clients enjoy. It is wonderful to take part in an activity that has so much variety and a focus on the great outdoors. The Windrush Aquathlon is great way to get involved in this sport.

Windrush is our local club. It set up a Junior section in 2014 and now has over 45 kids getting focused coaching on their swimming, cycling and running. The Windrush Aquathlon includes a swim in Brockwell’s iconic lido followed by a run round the park itself. After sponsoring the kids’ Aquathlon prizes last year we were delighted to offer our support once again in 2016.

Find out more about how you and your family can get started in triathlon here at British Triathlon’s website.

The Artist – An award-winning movie that shows how much you can say without words

By | February 29th, 2012|Uncategorized|

A trip to the cinema reveals how much you can say without words

One of my favourite ways to spend an evening is at the cinema, getting totally lost in the story via the big screen and mega sound system.


So it was with curiosity that I went last Saturday to see ‘The Artist” at my local multiplex. The Oscars were coming and with the film’s performance at all the preceding award shows I felt this was a film that was a ‘must see’, if only to form an opinion on it. Armed with a bag of Maltesers and a big bottle of water we sauntered into Screen 6 at 5 mins past the advertised show start. This was the first shock, instead of the normal twenty minutes of ads and previews the film has already begun. Unheard of!


The second thing that struck me was that although the place was nearly full, it was close to silent. There was music playing but you could hear every rustle and movement. So we crept into our seats like naughty school kids arriving late for class.


And then the third shock. I’ve never really seen a silent movie before, just snippets here and there. So I had assumed there were always more sub-titles or caption boards that showed you the plot. ‘The Artist’ relied on hardly any. You followed the body language and facial expressions of the actors to read what was going on. How much they were able to convey was quite mind-boggling. At a certain point a few sounds are introduced and they are as shocking to the audience as to the actor in the film. It was at that point that I realized how loud and noisy our normal cinematic experience is. It certainly made me eat my chocolates in a much more delicate manner.


Aside thoroughly enjoying the film (which deserved all its awards) I came away feeling exhilarated. This film may have lots to say about the art-form of the silent movie but it reinforced to me how much people can read from you by the way you stand and how you look, what you say without words. We often begin our workshops with exercises around what you can say without even speaking and this movie is 100% testimony to that. And you don’t need to be Jean Dujardin to do it well.  If you need any convincing about how important your expressions and body language are to what you communicate go to see “The Artist.”


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