So why are his plays and many works so enduring, why is he still celebrated today? The bard used fictional characters within great stories, epic tales but he still manages to touch on all aspects of human behaviour. He instinctively understood how to engage his audience and these behaviours remain a constant today, in the 21st century. That means his plays and writings are still relevant and continue to make sense to us.
In fact, if you look at any business corporation, large or small, you’ll see a reflection of his plays in the management teams. The behaviour of C level execs, middle management and beyond are reflected in his stories and also in his lessons interwoven in his writings. Shakespeare raises some very interesting human dilemmas through his fictional characters and we continue to experience similar dilemmas in our own lives, especially in the many challenges of business and especially in business communications.
His views and his stories around leadership can teach an aspiring manager how to be effective and also caution him on the pitfalls ahead. He shows again and again that it is not authority alone that grants one the right to be a leader. We know that if the leader’s integrity is compromised, the whole organization can suffer. This is shown in one of his most famous plays, using Macbeth as just one of many examples. In the Scottish play, the tale is haunting, powerful and a lesson in blind ambition. Macbeth has a huge level of ambition – a “vaulting ambition” and one that ultimately leads him to commit a crime that then sends him plummeting on a downward spiral.
“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other.”
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
He wrote about the different issues that human beings have faced since time immemorial, loyalty, courage, decision-making, power, leadership and communication to name just a few.
What we can learn from Shakespeare – practical applications
Looking at some more practical tips, how can we better our communication? Here are 3 simple steps we know can make a difference by taking Shakespeare’s lead.
- Use story telling – it’s much more enticing than facts and figures and it engages the creative part of the brain. When the audience makes images from your words, they are in the moment with you. Storytelling may be an art form but it’s one we take time to enjoy whether we attend movies, theatres or read books in our off time, it is all made more enticing by being woven into a good story.
- Expand your vocabulary – there are a lot of different ways to say similar things. Did you know that the average person uses on average only 1000 different words in general conversation? Slightly fewer than that 1000 when we revert to writing content and we only recognize about 5000 words in total? By comparison Shakespeare used over 25,000 different words in his writing and that is more than any other prolific writer past or present.
Shakespeare is responsible for inventing so many words and phrases that are still used today. New words enter our language all the time, in mass usage but also in the form of jargon that is industry and business specific. Jargon when relevant shows our expertise, understanding of subject matter and literally talks the same language as the audience. But remember, use it wisely as those “not in the know” can see it as a barrier and that can have the inverse effect and stop effective communication.
- Talk inclusively! Shakespeare had a natural and powerful talent for giving the public what it wanted: lust and love, blood and guts, tragedy and triumph. He wrote about what matters to people – the things they experience and relate to in their own lives. Talking in a way that resonates and engages is going to create an audience that understands you.
The power of verbal communication is exemplified in many of the works of the great writers but seeing them performed and delivered is even more powerful. Looking at another of Shakespeare’s most famous plays we can see that Julius Caesar embodies the power of communication, how it can be used and also misused by leaders.
Mark Antony’s famous funeral speech is a forceful example of the power of the word (The Life & Death Of Julius Caesar, Act III, SCENE II. The Forum.) The character pulls out all the stops and uses all the tricks of the trade in wooing his audience. Modern day managers could learn a great deal from Mark Antony about delivering high impact business presentations. His emotional plea to the crowd is aimed at creating compassion and also stirring guilt, two forceful emotions.
Grab a book of Shakespeare and read it, or if you prefer, watch this beautiful enactment by the legendary Marlon Brando. This is worth 3 minutes of anyone’s time.
At Working Voices, many of our trainers are former actors; they can help with everything from voice coaching, presentations skills and all elements of the very best communication skills training. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you deliver your message and invoke passion and action like a world-class leader or manager.
We offer blended learning solutions to fit in with your time and budget and enable you to master communication skills at a time and pace that suits you or your teams. There has never been a better time to refresh or improve on this critical business skill.