In this episode, discover what it takes to become a Top 1% Communicator in your industry.
And it’s not as hard as you might think.
Our guest is Brenden Kumarasamy, the Founder of MasterTalk and communication coach to ambitious executives and entrepreneurs.
He has built an incredible set of free tools and resources which is shared with his following of 30+ thousand aspiring communicators on YouTube. Brenden’s goal is providing free access to communication tools for everyone in the world.
He brings the best of the best to you today with 3 simple exercises that you can begin immediately.
So press play and let’s chat… because your future career growth as an engineering leader depends on communication!
Join us in a live webinar for deeper training, career Q&A, and FREE stuff! HAPPY HOUR! Live with Zach
Get access to bonus content and live coaching as growth-minded leaders build careers together. Join our Facebook Group
The Happy Engineer Podcast
WATCH EPISODE 093: HOW TO BECOME A TOP 1% COMMUNICATOR IN YOUR INDUSTRY WITH BRENDEN KUMARASAMY | FOUNDER OF MASTERTALK
LISTEN TO EPISODE 093: HOW TO BECOME A TOP 1% COMMUNICATOR IN YOUR INDUSTRY WITH BRENDEN KUMARASAMY | FOUNDER OF MASTERTALK INTERVIEW WITH ZACH’S DEBRIEF
HOW TO BECOME A TOP 1% COMMUNICATOR IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Pure Gold here from Brenden and I hope you take action.
I mentioned one of my clients in this interview, and I’ll name him Jacob, just to keep it anonymous for this debrief, but this story of Jacob’s progress toward communication mastery is really important for us to dissect and learn from.
I mentioned that Jacob wants to be a successful entrepreneur and he knows that his communication skills is a gap he needs to close to accomplish what he wants to pitch investors and win that capital, to share his product with the world.
All of these pieces are going to require Jacob to get on stage and wow an audience and move them emotionally toward action.
So Jacob came to me, we were doing coaching together on many areas of his career and life, and this was just one of them.
After 90 days of working on all these different buckets of his career development, the communication acumen had very little progress.
These exercises had no reps behind them in our work together. And Jacob continued in coaching with me on some other areas of life, and this was one of our swim lanes.
And after 90 more days, he only had a few reps.
And I look back on that and he has since gone on to invest much more energy and time into this as we unpacked what was blocking him from action.
And I want to share this with you because these three barriers to taking action, not only hold engineering leaders back from communication, excellence and mastery, but from mastery in any area of your career that you might be working on.
So I want you to hear these because it’s really important that we break through these barriers and make it easy to succeed.
Barrier #1: Overthinking
One of the exercises that Jacob had on his to-do list during our coaching was to go live in our private Facebook group and do short videos speaking about any topic that he wanted to, to get those reps.
But rather than grabbing his phone every day and simply hitting record, keeping it very simple, he got into a mode of overthinking.
Well, what topic should I talk about that the people in the group will care enough to listen.
Where should I go for the background of this video to have something interesting that looks nice with good lighting and not enough noise or distraction that it will take away from the video.
Well, how long should the video be? You know, is one minute enough or do I need to prepare content for five minutes now?
Am I ready? Have I practiced in advance and do I know what I wanna say?
All of these questions and overthinking, making something complex when it absolutely needed to be incredibly simple. Just pick up your phone, hit record, pick a topic randomly, and start talking. Doesn’t matter what the outcome is, it’s simply about the rep, not about the result. And that is a really important thing for you to recognize.
That too often we make something more complex than it needs to be through over analysis and overthinking.
So look out for that as you pursue your goals, where you are making something complicated, potentially self-sabotaging your progress and results.
Barrier #2: Too big of expectations
Doing just one repetition of these exercises does not make you a master.
One time through anything is not enough for mastery.
And we often put into our own minds this expectation of what we’re going to get from just a single rep, whether it’s communication skills or anything else.
So let’s separate for a second. Having a long-term vision, a big dream, something that we’re extremely excited about versus what we want to accomplish from today’s action plan.
It’s really powerful to have a big vision that drives our life, a north star that is very difficult to attain and is well beyond what we know how to do today. That is awesome.
That is something we all need and we all want to have to pursue and pull us towards an inspiring strategically sound vision, but today I don’t want to set myself up with an expectation that in just one rep of the random word exercise, I’m going to become much, much better at speaking.
Let’s allow ourselves to separate building blocks from big leaps toward future mastery.
Get clear on action steps and process goals that are simply about getting the reps not about the result today.
It doesn’t need to happen incredibly fast, and the more you release your expectation of speed, the faster you’ll actually go.
So coming at these types of big visions with an open hand rather than clenching and trying to force it to happen quickly.
Barrier #3 Overanalyzing
The third barrier that I saw with Jacob is something that I see with a lot of engineering leaders was overanalyzing small data sets over small time horizons.
Jacob would do one repetition of the exercise creating a live video in our Facebook group and would immediately begin to assess and analyze and critique his performance in that one video and would spend more time critiquing himself than simply putting in future reps.
Now, this is a tough distortion or fallacy that we can fall into as engineers because we understand the importance of reflection, learning, analysis, going back and watching the tape, so to speak.
You’re not gonna see anything major by overanalyzing.
One of my coaches, an amazing public speaker named Rory Vaden… One of the absolute best on the stage in the world.
Rory tells a story about meeting with one of his mentors back before he made it to fame through public speaking.
He was so excited to have this opportunity to mentor with someone who was then the top speaker in the world.
And Rory talks about his first mentorship session, and this gentleman told Rory, “Hey, if you want to be great, I will show you the pathway to being one of the best public speakers in the world. But you have to do exactly what I say. If you want to mentor with me.”
And Rory said, “Oh absolutely, of course. Yeah, whatever you say, I will do it. No problem ”
“Here you go. I’m going to give you step one. Step one to becoming one of the world’s best speakers is to go give 1000 speeches. After you’ve given a thousand speeches, then come back to me and I’ll give you step two. ”
This is one of the best in the world saying that at the end of the day, what it takes is reps.
What it takes is practice. What it takes is getting through these building blocks over and over again. Give a thousand speeches, then come back for step two.
That was the advice from the best in the world. And guess what? Rory did that and he became one of the best in the world. You can do that too.
Now, your goal may not be best in the world, and that’s totally fine. Most engineering leaders don’t need to get to that level, but you do want to progress and if you over analyze this one rep, you’re not going to see the gains.
So take that back a notch. Go do a hundred repetitions of the random word exercise.
Go do 100 live videos on Facebook and then go back into an analysis mode.
Get your coach, look at the video together, and come up with the places that you need to focus for your next 100.
Then do a hundred more, and so on and so forth. So don’t overanalyze small data sets over small time horizons when it comes to personal growth.
These three barriers are holding so many engineering leaders back from meaningful progress, overthinking, having too big of expectations for your first step, and overanalyzing small data sets and small time horizons.
So I really encourage you to stop doing these three things and get into quick, massive action.
And you’re going see incredible acceleration on the goals that you have.
And if you need help with that, I understand that It’s easy for me to sit here and say, just stop doing those things.
As a coach, that’s not the kind of advice that I love giving because I recognize that it’s easy for me to say, and it’s hard for you to do, and that’s what our programs are all about.
To help you with the stop doing list. To give you the start doing list, and the strategies and tools to help you in any area.
Not just communication, but anything else that’s holding you back in your career progression.
So if that’s something you want to be a part of, it’s an open invitation for you.
Don’t overthink it. Click here and let’s connect.
If you know you need to get support on these things or anything else, let’s make it happen.
ABOUT BRENDEN KUMARASAMY
Brenden is the founder of MasterTalk, a coaching business he started to help ambitious executives & business owners become TOP 1% communicators in their industries so that they can accelerate their success in the workplace & companies.
He also hosts a successful YouTube channel by the same name with over 28,500 subscribers.
He has coached many executives from companies like Salesforce, Amazon, IBM, Morgan Stanley, Blue Cross, J. Walter Thompson, Deloitte, Verizon and the list goes on.
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- MasterTalk’s YouTube Channel
- Brenden Kumarasamy on LinkedIn | Instagram
- Do you need help in transforming yourself to a successful career and a balanced life? Book a FREE Career Clarity Call now!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.
[00:00:00] Zach White: All right. Happy engineer. Welcome back. And brenden, so glad you are here. One of the top communicators in the world in the house, set in the stage with the bar real high, but I know you can jump over it. brenden, welcome to the show.
[00:00:15] Brenden Kumarasamy: I’ll try my best Zach. I mean, you’re already a pretty great communicator yourself, so I have a good run for my money today. Great to be here.
Expand to Read Full Transcript
[00:00:20] Zach White: I love. What you’re doing. So Brenden, at Master Talk, your YouTube channel, you know, 30,000 plus subscribers. And a lot of times we spend time in this podcast, digging into people’s stories and your origin. But today, man, there’s just too much meat on the bone around communication.
[00:00:38] We’ve, we gotta get right into it because if there’s one skillset that every single engineering leader I’ve ever. Needs to develop even further. Its communication. There is no end to the need to develop that skill. And it’s probably not just engineers you could say that for, but I’m really excited. So set the stage for us first.
[00:01:02] What is it that created your mastery around this topic? Your passion for this topic? Just to like, let us know where you’re coming from and then we’re gonna dive. .
[00:01:13] Brenden Kumarasamy: Absolutely, Zach. So for me, it all started in college. I went to business school for accounting. Funny enough, that’s why I learned how to do numbers.
[00:01:21] I never
[00:01:21] Zach White: thought Ired spirit with the engineers, man, , .
[00:01:25] Brenden Kumarasamy: So yeah, I, I wasn’t looking to, to do what I’m doing today. I, Zach, a lot of it was an accident. So while I was doing my accounting degree, , I did these things called case competitions. Think of it like hackathons, but for business school. So while other guys my age were like playing sports, like rugby or football or baseball, I did the nerd version of those sports competitions, which was presentations competitively.
[00:01:47] That’s how I learned how to speak. . But then as I got older, I started coaching all the other students on how to communicate ideas effectively. And then I realized Zach, in that moment that, wait a second, everything I’m sharing with them isn’t really available for free on the internet. So I started making YouTube videos on communication, called it Master Talk, and the rest is history.
[00:02:06] Zach White: I love it. It’s interesting. This belief that we have, that everything can be found easily and for free online. And this wasn’t that long ago and you couldn’t find it. Why do you think that is? what is it about communication training? Is it just everybody wants to monetize immediately, they’re not giving it away, or was there something else you found when you were looking for that back in the day?
[00:02:28] Brenden Kumarasamy: what was missing? What was practicality and simplicity? So a lot of the people who were sharing videos, you know, before I used to call them my competitor, they’re friends now.
[00:02:36] They’re great people. There’s nothing wrong with them, but the. The, the mindset though, Zack, is because the people who are creating content are generally in their fifties. Cause it takes a long time to develop expertise in communication usually. because of that, a lot of them are academics. So their PhD is in communication.
[00:02:53] So whenever they share an idea, it’s very theoretical. It’s not, Hey, I have a coaching business. Or I coach people for free and I help them achieve this outcome. So now I’m gonna teach you how to do the same. It’s more, oh, I read this textbook and this is the theory around communication. And that was the challenge is for somebody who’s new to the subject, they go, well, how do I implement this?
[00:03:14] Like, be yourself. What does that look like in the real world? So those are some of the flaws I sell the model.
[00:03:21] Zach White: So let’s pull that thread. You just mentioned that it takes a long time to become a master. Of communicating ideas effectively and speaking and these skills. What’s a realistic belief? If I’m an engineer today, this is Zach White, 10 years ago, before I could be a great podcast host to do the, what should I expect if I’m going down a communications development journey?
[00:03:46] Brenden Kumarasamy: in. In some cases it could take a while, but the way that I’ve restructured it, I think you could see results in as littles as a week or two actually. very quickly. I don’t think you can be a master communicator in like a week. Yeah. In the same way that when we do our engineering degrees, we get that engineering ring.
[00:04:03] We work really hard. Yeah. It’s not an overnight thing, but I definitely do believe with the strategies we’ll be teaching together today, people can get results in as little as seven days.
[00:04:12] Zach White: Yeah. And when you say results, break it down for me. What are the types of measures or outcomes that we would look at in terms of.
[00:04:22] That helped me know I’m becoming a master communicator
[00:04:26] Brenden Kumarasamy: The perfect engineer’s question. So, right. So in in business, right? When you have KPIs, when we’re losing weight, we’re trying to be fit, there’s a lot of specific KPIs we can measure, right? So let’s say we try and get a. A six pack in the gym, it’s body fat percentage.
[00:04:40] If we’re trying to grow our businesses, it’s top line revenue. It’s gross margin. What does that look like in communication, Zack? Because communication is such a vague topic, right? Mm-hmm. . So for me, what it looks like is the following. communication is like juggling 18 balls at the same time. So one of those balls is eye content, one of ’em smiling that you’re doing really well on the podcast.
[00:05:01] Another one’s facial expression, storytelling, body language, but it can get really overwhelming. Yeah. For a lot of us. Right. The analogy I like to use with engineers specifically in the software side, but it, it applies throughout, is when you started coding your first language, the first time, it’s really tough.
[00:05:17] You’re trying to debug the software. You go on GitHub, you try and figure it out, but then as you learn that language, you. Process it takes to be successful. And then you reapply that with the new languages you’re learning, whether it’s Ruby on Rails, s, ql, it doesn’t matter what the language is. So now how do we apply that same rationale to communication?
[00:05:34] What are the three easiest balls we can juggle in the air? Let’s start with the first one, then I’ll throw it back to you. Perfect the random word exercise. Pick a random word like tissue box, like cup, like home, like light bulb, and create random presentations out of thin air. Why is this relevant, especially for engineers?
[00:05:53] Number one is because it helps you deal with uncertainty. Life is filled with this sac. Let’s see. You meet somebody new at a party, at an event, at a networking cocktail. You have no idea how that conversation’s going to go, so you need to. And conversation. The second reason is that if you could make sense out of nonsense, you could make sense out of anything.
[00:06:13] So I encourage you to do that a few times a day.
[00:06:16] Zach White: The random word exercise. Okay, I love this. And just to be clear in how you would do this and practice this, you or someone or maybe I, Russian roulette in a book on the shelf, I grab a single word and then. For some amount of time I riff on it. I’m going to speak, create a presentation that’s, that’s the exercise.
[00:06:38] Is there more to it than that or is it that simple? A hundred
[00:06:40] Brenden Kumarasamy: percent. And then I’ll just add a layer on top of that, which is we don’t get points for doing it well. We get points for doing it a lot. So for example, right, let’s say we got 50 bugs in a software. I try my best to bring this back tension or wherever I can.
[00:06:57] I love it. So, so, so let’s say there’s like 50, 60 bugs in a system. Are you gonna spend 80% of your time on one low risk bug? That you can’t solve for, no. You’re gonna spread out to the others and see what you can fix really quickly. So it’s the same analogy with the random word exercise. Don’t worry about, oh my God, if I got the word drawer, I don’t know how I’d approach if I got the word home.
[00:07:20] Just worried about, are you doing this a lot? because the more time you’re building that muscle, the easier it’s going to be for you to deal with uncertainty, which will be necessary, especially for engineers listening to this who want to get into those leadership roles in their companies. Because at that level, the job isn’t, Hey, you need a code every day.
[00:07:39] You need to do deliverables every day. It’s you actually gotta manage people. And that requires a different skill set that engineering schools unfortunately don’t teach.
[00:07:46] Zach White: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. I love that. So quantity. Get the reps, you get points for doing it. Volume matters, and I’m gonna keep pulling the engineer thread because I am one.
[00:07:56] brenden, I can’t help myself. Please, please, please. So as I imagine the arc of practice on this one ball that’s in the air and we get our reps, would I consider growth to look like. First time, I’m stuttering. I’m overthinking. I can’t come up with cohesive ideas. I’m just blabbing, or out of two minutes. I’m only even talking for 30 seconds because this is so uncomfortable for me.
[00:08:24] Maybe I get to where I can at least speak without lots of pauses and weirdness at some point, but it’s still pretty incoherent. Maybe I get to the point. I create a story that is made up, but at least it’s an interesting story. It might actually grab someone’s attention and at some point, mastery, you know, if I gave you a word, you’re gonna craft something that we thought you prepared before we got here.
[00:08:49] It’s like that Good. Is that kind of a, would you put different. Points in the journey or help us understand what improvement looks like.
[00:08:57] Brenden Kumarasamy: I love the roadmap that you parlay there. It’s actually very well thought out there, Zach, that you just did on the spot. So really, really good. I, I completely agree. So what happens, there’s a couple of things that I’ll point out for engineers specifically.
[00:09:09] One, it’s a win just to get to a hundred. So that just as a baseline, if you’re just measuring the KPI of how many times are you actually doing the random word exercise. And let me be clear with this, you don’t even have to do with other. So for this audience, it’s more you could be alone in your basement.
[00:09:25] Okay. If you shower every day, which I hope most engineers do, you know, you, you just do it alone in the shower, right? Calling us out. brenden . All right. Yeah. Well, if you’re doing, if you, if you, if you gotta have a GoLive going on, I guess you won’t have time to shower much if you’re trying to get the system to go live.
[00:09:40] But anyways, it’s too funny. Right. So that’s one piece, but the, the other game here is thinking, okay, I’ve done this a hundred times, but the other piece is realizing the multiplier effect of what that exercise brings us back in the boardroom. So let me go through a couple of those, Zach. Okay. The first one is often engineers don’t speak up enough in meetings in general.
[00:09:59] And what I love about the random word exercise is that it forces you to do the harder. The harder thing. So if you’re talking about avocados for 30 seconds, what I’ve seen with a lot of engineers in my career is they’ll still struggle after 50 or 75 times, but it doesn’t matter. Cuz when they go back into the boardroom, they go, this is really easy.
[00:10:19] Like I’m doing the same scrub meeting, I’m working on the same product like I do every single week. My team is the same and the expectations are also the same. Sure. They might change with levels in the company. Yeah. But it’s not like your director, your VP is looking at you and saying, Okay, brenden, Zach, can you just talk about avocados for 30 seconds?
[00:10:35] No. It’s something that you’ve worked on for the last two weeks. They have a lot of expertise in, so what happens is when we do the harder thing outside of the boardroom, everything else becomes easier, but the most important KPI is really just to do it a lot.
[00:10:49] Zach White: I love this. What’s the second? of the three most important balls.
[00:10:54] Brenden Kumarasamy: So the second one is called the questions drill. We get asked questions all the time in our life from in a meeting setting where let’s say the the project executive, the delivery executives going, okay, what’s the status on this meeting? That’s an example of a question. Another one is with family.
[00:11:09] When you’re having conversations with family, they ask you questions. Or even on a podcast like what we’re doing now, but most of us, Zach, are reactive to those questions. We’re not. To them. So I’ll give you an example with me when I was guesting on podcasts or even to make this more relatable, when in my past life I was a technology consultant at ibm, I was leading a lot of SAP implementations.
[00:11:32] So a lot of it was technical. So a lot of them would, would ask me a lot of system requirements questions and I wouldn’t know the answer to it cause it was my first time implementing the product. So I didn’t know anything. So what did I do instead? Every single day what I did is I answered one question for five minutes.
[00:11:49] And I did that for a year. But if you do that for a year, Zach, you’ll have answered 365 questions about your stack, about your core technical expertise and what you’re working on within the company or just in general in your life. And you’ll be a lot more proactive about managing those questions, and you can focus more on the delivery of your answers so that you project the confidence and the conviction versus the core technical right answer that you need to deliver for
[00:12:16] Zach White: the.
[00:12:17] Brenda, would you give us a few specific examples of the types of questions you practiced when you, and probably still do, execute this every day?
[00:12:26] Brenden Kumarasamy: Absolutely. So I’ll give one for education. I’ll try my best to add a few engineering ones too. So, so for education, of course, it’s simple, right? So for us, It would be something more like me and you would make a list of all the questions our clients ask us. So let’s say for me it would be, okay, how do I overcome the fear of communication? One that we, I get a lot from this demo is how do I present in a second language, I’m an immigrant from India or China.
[00:12:50] And English is not my forte. How do I communicate to, to the rest of the group? That’s one. Another one is how do I sound confident in a boardroom? So what I’ll do is I’ll have these list of questions and every day I’ll just take one and I’ll answer my to the best of my abilities for five minutes and I’ll do that.
[00:13:09] So for somebody who’s more in the engineering background, you can definitely do this. People who are executive. So I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I was an engineer in corporate. I would go into a scrum meeting, but this time I would pay attention to what the delivery partner or the person I want to be in the company.
[00:13:25] Yes. Is asking other people what questions are they asking other people. But what most engineers don’t do, Is they just are wor, they’re spending most of that time in the meeting worried about their turn versus being a little bit more proactive in going, what is that executive actually asking? And writing those questions down so that when the pressure’s off and the meeting’s over, they go back and say, what if I was that executive?
[00:13:48] What if I was that VP of engineering? How does that person answer those same questions that he just asked or she just asked to everyone else? And how can I answer it like them? And that’s how we build that skillset. And often what that looks like, Zach, to get really detailed, is a lot of engineers don’t tie the deliverable that they’re building with the business outcome of the bi of what they’re trying to build.
[00:14:10] Yes. And that’s the, that’s a good way to improve
[00:14:12] Zach White: it. I love this. So, you know, for me, if I wanna put this into practice right? Sit down with the blank page. I could probably take a couple angles. One, what questions have I been asked in the last week from my clients or in the context of an engineer at work?
[00:14:28] You know, from my boss, from my stakeholders and cross-functional partners that I could probably have delivered better if I had done some practice. So capture those. Yeah. And then I love this idea of the aspirational role. Where do you wanna be next? What’s that dream job? Or maybe it’s a, a truly distant aspiration.
[00:14:47] What kinds of questions are they asking or being asked? Write those down. Start getting the reps. The other thing I’ve found with this, brenden, I want your perspective. When I think about maybe interview practice, this is a context that comes up. People get a list of interview questions and maybe because they want the new job, they’re actually willing to put in the time to practice answering them.
[00:15:08] And one thing I get asked by people a lot is, well, hey, I’ve got my answer for that question. Done. And typical engineers, a lot of times they’ll write it out and script it, you know, say, okay, well let’s back up from that for a moment and then I want you to just answer it in the moment without your script.
[00:15:26] Again, let’s do it a get a another rep and they’ll say something a little bit different than what they wrote down the first time. And I say, perfect, I’m glad it’s different now let’s do it a third time and then let’s do it a fourth time. And we see sort of the convergence of where their energy and their best answer actually lies by doing it multiple times on the same question.
[00:15:45] So would you agree? Do you recommend, like it’s not just a one and out, you’ll take your top five questions. and do them over and over, or how do you approach that?
[00:15:55] Brenden Kumarasamy: First of all, I love your frame, Zack. I think that’s awesome, right? Because that’s the big part. We’d even talk about that. I’m glad you pulled, you pulled up, which is the job interview, the promotional case study.
[00:16:05] How do we actually answer those questions better? So you touched on all the right points. The only thing that I would add on top of that, Is when we’re evaluating the quality of the answer. I would say for most of the engineers I’ve seen in this space, the biggest mistake they often make in those interviews is they focus too much on the specific deliverable they worked on on a project versus the teams that they led on that project.
[00:16:29] so let’s say you’re interviewing Meza, and you’d be like, Why should you become a director in this company or a vp? I’d say, oh, you know, I, I worked on this specific thing and it led to this result in the team. So they’re just focused on the deliverable.
[00:16:41] Whereas what a VP does really well, that I’m sure your teacher clients really well to do is really about saying, No, this is what my team has achieved. I’ve loved a team of X number of people to achieve this result, and this is why we achieved this role to help the business move in this direction. And that’s why I feel I’m best suited to enter this level in this role because I wanna have bigger impact within the organization.
[00:17:01] Yeah, yeah. So the languaging of those answers is very different than. staying really narrow, focused on, this is my project, this is what I need to do, versus to your point, the aspirational piece of who we want to be in talking like those people today.
[00:17:16] Zach White: Hmm. You and I’ll pause to acknowledge for a moment, brenden, as I hear you describe that it reveals why working with a communications coach and someone with your skillset is so important.
[00:17:27] Because here we’re talking about a simple exercise, the question. , but within that you alluded to, it’s like, well, how do I grade the quality of my answer? Work with brenden, get that mirror back to say, okay, nice job. You didn’t stutter, you didn’t load it with filler words. Like some of the table stakes things are under control.
[00:17:48] But now let’s look at the narrative, the story, the content. Is it logical? Does it have energy? All these things. there’s a whole nother set of amazing qualities to, uh, dig into that expertise really, really helps. And if you can have someone share that back with you, it’s awesome. So, shameless plug, you know, go check out brenden’s sh show and work with him.
[00:18:09] Hire him cuz it really, really does matter. what’s number three? So random word, exercise the question, drill. If there’s that third ball you’re gonna get right. .
[00:18:19] Brenden Kumarasamy: Absolutely brother. So, and I appreciate the kind words as well. So ball number three is something that’s gonna scare a lot of engineers. So let me frame this in the right way.
[00:18:27] Okay. It’s so simple. Nobody does it. And if you do this, I promise you, you will be in that top percentile that we’re looking for, right? The gift about being an engineer, Zack, is there’s not a lot of people who are really.
[00:18:41] Both who are strong at both the engineering prowess, the talent, whether they’re a software, whether they’re a mechanical, it doesn’t matter what the type of engineering is. And also someone who’s a great communicator. So if you do the things that most engineers aren’t doing, you will get the results that most engineers will not get.
[00:18:59] Right. So what does that look like for number three? Send video messages to people you really love in your life, okay? Make a list of three to five people. It doesn’t even have to be people at work. It could be a brother, a sister, a client to really love a friend that you went to engineering school with, and just send them a 22nd video message to just show them appreciation.
[00:19:19] This is where I get all of the objections. Well, Brenda, how do I know if it’s perfect? How do I know if I got the right answer? What’s the structure right? That question comes up a lot, and the, what do I say, , what do I say? And the answer. . A frame that I’d love to present, Zach, which is please, let’s say an eight year old.
[00:19:35] Let’s say you have a niece sends you a video message, okay? That just says, Hey, Zack, happy birthday. I’m, I love you and you’re the best. Like, do you sit there and go, wow, this eight year old kid did not structure this video properly. Like the way that she didn’t convey this. You look at and you say, oh my God, did I just receive a video message from an eight year old?
[00:19:56] I really feel seen, heard, and understood. And that’s the core skillset that an engineer needs to learn if they want to get into leadership roles. And that’s what I encourage everyone in your audience to do. Zach one, they actually push VPs to do. But if you’re doing it now, you’re, you’re really positioning yourself for the future is you send a video message to everybody in the engineering.
[00:20:17] Every single person. Yeah, right on WhatsApp, on your phone and just say, Hey, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing, and it, and it creates a level of loyalty and improves your communication skills drastically as well.
[00:20:31] Zach White: There’s so much I wanna say about this, but first I’m curious why this is the one you think people resist or push back on the most.
[00:20:40] Brenden Kumarasamy: I think the reason they resist on this is because it’s so outside of their sphere of competence. So when something is usually out of outside anybody’s sphere of confidence, we don’t wanna do it. When something’s completely bipolar, opposite to that zone of confidence we go, there’s no. That this is related to me getting to the next step.
[00:21:03] Yeah. Right. Versus what I would encourage people to do, which, which is a knock that I’ll jump. I, I actually don’t really get to say this off John podcast, but because it’s so specific, let’s do it. Yeah. Right. It’s, it’s kind of like certifications, right? I have a pet peeve with engineers and certifications.
[00:21:16] I always ask them, why are you getting a certification? And they go, oh, because my other engineering friends are getting that. And I always ask them, Is your goal to be a better engineer, which is fine, or is your goal to be an executive? And a lot of them say, I wanna be an executive. And I ask them, how many executives do you know got an AWS certification this month?
[00:21:35] And they go, uh, not really. Exactly. Right. So it’s the same thing with video messages. A lot of the tips that we’re sharing, like the video message, a lot of people at your level don’t. Right at all. But the people who are four levels, five levels, yep, yep. Not all of them do ’em, but a good percentage of them do.
[00:21:56] And that’s really the key I think.the reason why we don’t do the video message is because it’s not the culture. It’s kind of like communication in general. Engineering schools don’t emphasize it enough.
[00:22:07] Zach White: brenden, you’re gonna love this. So in my coaching program, it’s called the Lifestyle Engineering Blueprint.
[00:22:13] And I probably shouldn’t say this cause I’m gonna be giving away part of what, what happens. But we, we have what are called C4 challenges. C4 is a part of the the culture of Oaco, the oasis of courage. It’s to crush comfort and create courage. And one of the first challenges is to go live and introduce yourself in our private clients only Facebook group.
[00:22:36] I’ve been in. Cohorts and masterminds and training programs with other coaches where they cherish the opportunity to go live and have people actually listen. They love it, right? . But that’s not the case for my clients. For many of them, recording a video message that you could delete if you don’t like it and try again, is scary enough to go live in the group is terrifying.
[00:22:59] Oh yeah. And as soon as they hit that button, the anxiety pops in. The palms are sweating. They don’t know, you know, it’s very scary. . Here’s what I wanna say, and you tell me if you would agree or if you’d add on this. To me. It’s not even about your ability to record a 22nd video message. It’s this recognition that true powerful communication is about an exchange of energy.
[00:23:24] It’s energy before strategy. Do you feel. Seen, heard, understood, appreciated, cared for and am I able to convey something that’s inside of me? Genuine appreciation and send that energy to you through the spoken word, the tone, the smiles, you know, the 18 other balls. And if you can do it with appreciation, which is something we all generally can tap into, it starts to unlock that ability to then convey a deep conviction or to convey a deep, um, sense of direction for the team on a piece of technology.
[00:23:58] And, and people feel that from you. And it’s. . It’s really about that. And that’s why I love this exercise so much. I’ve,I love it. So, so what do you think is that align with your thinking on it and is there more to it? What would you say?
[00:24:11] Brenden Kumarasamy: I’ve respect for you that you’re forcing your clients to, to go live right away. I think that’s awesome. Right? Really getting them out of the comfort zone, which I think is awesome. Brilliant. And then the other piece is more of a frame that I’d love to share, which is more of visual.
[00:24:23] Is, there’s so many architects, right? Engineers who go out to these big engineering conferences, Like let’s say like a dream force. You’re like a solution architect at Salesforce. You sit in the crowd and you watch the CEO come up and he is like giving this big show and he’s crushing it. And you’re sitting there and you’re going, wow, this person’s so cool.
[00:24:41] He’s inspiring, right? Energy, he’s bringing that, or she’s bringing that, or she’s amazing. But we don’t ever think about with as an engineer is why can’t I be that person on stage? Why can’t I be the person who shows energy to the person? Because the person who’s standing on that stage has the answer for us, do what I’m doing.
[00:25:00] But then we go back, we revert back to saying, no, no, no, Zach, I’m not gonna go live. I’m not gonna send these video messages. Yeah, and this is a concept I teach called Wow versus how. . So whenever you look at somebody aspirational that you want to become in your engineering career, don’t just say, wow, this person’s amazing.
[00:25:19] And we hear that all the time with people that are three levels above where we are. Instead, I want you to ask how, mm-hmm. , how did that person get there? What are they actually doing? And. A big piece of it is what you shared, which is the energy is more important than the strategy in the sense of doing the video message is actually more important than doing it.
[00:25:38] Well. That’s why the quote that I always love to share is if you communicate 20% better than your competition, you will stand out a hundred percent of the time.
[00:25:49] Zach White: Ah, love that. And the other reality, and you would think an engineer would get this and. The fear, I think, blocks us from action on this truth. If you’re not able to convey energy, appreciation, inspiration to one person in a video text, where do you think you’re going to magically leap to able to do that to 10,000 people from the big stage?
[00:26:16] And we all need to be willing to go through those phases. sucking at it to get to where I can do it Well with one, if I ever wanna do 1000 or 10,000, and I think it was Ziegler, Zig Ziegler, the, the godfather of all coaches, it’s like . Um, he said, you know, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
[00:26:37] Mm-hmm. Because you don’t just have the gift of being great on day one. Everything that we discover, we, we stumble through those early stages. We crawl before we walk and so I think this is an awesome exercise. , these three things, it’s come up in almost all three in the context, and you and I chatted before we hit record today that if I was gonna pick one barrier that stands out for engineers around communication, it’s, it’s fear that this fear of public speaking, the fear of being seen as not smart or not intelligent, the fear of saying something, I don’t mean to say and being misunderstood or, or, you know, being wrong.
[00:27:16] there’s a lot of different fears that manifest. So as you coach leaders to being true top communicators, when they bump up against these various fears, how do you help them recognize what it will take to break through? What advice would you give? Just be a coach for a minute.
[00:27:35] Brenden Kumarasamy: so there’s two parts to this game.
[00:27:37] One is something that’s very counterintuitive, which is the fear itself shouldn’t be something that we should worry about. Why? Because we need to go back to what made us successful as engineers in the first place. Systematizing processes. So the first time we started learning a code, we started to systemize something.
[00:27:56] We didn’t just sit there and go, you know what Zach, I’m really scared of this. My first time. I don’t know how to do this. And we went home. That’s not what we did. We saw there and we optimized that process. We said, how can we make it better? Whether it’s lean, whether it’s a code base, it doesn’t matter what the, the engineering problem is.
[00:28:13] We didn’t run away from that problem. We just said, this is just unemotionally. Objectively a process that we learned to manage. Mm-hmm. . What if we saw communication as the same? What if communication was just the process that we need to manage? So with that frame in mind, I think this is a good segue for for my own story, which is I have every excuse not to be a great communicator.
[00:28:37] I grew up in Montreal, Canada, where just city you need to know. Speak French in Zach. and it’s a language I didn’t know. So my whole life I was presenting in a language I didn’t even know, which was French, let alone being scared of communication. The second challenge, I got a physical disability on my left arm.
[00:28:53] That’s still crooked to this day cuz I was born that was born upside down. They pulled me out of a vacuum. But the reason I point that out is cuz even today, When I speak, people always look at my arm. They don’t look at my eyes. It’s just hard to catch on a podcast as an example. And then the third thing is you would think that a communication expert, the person who should be checking all the boxes, probably studied in communication, but I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, why did I think I could be a great speaker?
[00:29:18] And that’s what it comes down to, the boxing match analogy, where one side of the ring is the fear, the anxiety, the stress. and the other side of the ring is the message. Why does this matter? And the goal is not for the fear to leave the ring, but rather make sure that when that match begins, that your message wins every single day of the week.
[00:29:40] Last point on this is an acknowledgement that everyone listening to this podcast, I fundamentally believe Zach has achieved something way harder than doing the random word exercise. Prominent example that I think is relevant for most of the people you’ve worked with as well is immigrating to America, immigrating to a first world country.
[00:29:59] There’s so many people who have no money in their pocket, who lived in India, who lived in China or some other country, and they moved to a different one in search of a great opportunity on like an H one B one visa, right to in hopes for a better future for themselves. And they did that and they accomplished that.
[00:30:15] And they can’t do the random word exercise 10 times a day, I don’t think.
[00:30:19] Zach White: I love this. It’s so interesting, And I’m thinking of one of my clients right now, an amazing leader, works in one of the top, big tech organizations on paper, has all the accolades you could ask for, but has a, a dream.
[00:30:36] To start his own business, to be an entrepreneur, to take this idea that’s stirring inside him and bring it to the world. And you know that that is his message that he wants to bring. And he’s come to me and said, Zach, like I must improve in my communication skills because how will I be the inspiring leader and entrepreneur that I need to be to build this organization and create this amazing product and change the world in the way I wanna change the world.
[00:31:05] If I’m not able to get in the front of the room and command their attention and communicate clearly. English is, I think a third language for him, and he’s got a similar set of challenges around immigrating and these things and said, you know what, I, I totally get it. let’s begin. And we actually st if we didn’t use these exact same three exercises, but I will say one of the.
[00:31:27] that I had him do was grab some of his favorite literature cause he likes to read. I said, let’s just start reading that out loud and getting the diction and the practice around the language. And you know, it was the same thing where it’s like, how is that gonna help me become Steve Jobs said, look, let’s not worry about being Steve Jobs yet.
[00:31:46] Let’s just get our first line of Python on the screen with no errors. Right? Let’s just do that. So I think this is so, so powerful. , brenden, for you, when you’re working with somebody who’s, they really want this, they wanna go after being a top communicator, that, top 1%, like it’s worth it. Their message is worth it, they’re willing to put in the reps.
[00:32:07] where do you encourage people to focus when it comes to the whole picture of their, life and career? Like, where do we fit it in? And I guess what I’m thinking about, This idea of the arena, where do we practice, et cetera. So we gave these exercises. Is it all happening on the side? Like you need to get up early and carve out extra time.
[00:32:28] Is it, practice in the context of your life? You know, here’s these key moments. Get more conscious, more intentional. Like can you help us weave it in? How do we make this a habit and a ritual that we’re constantly.
[00:32:41] Brenden Kumarasamy: Fantastic question, Zack. Here. Here’s what I’ve found is the most, the, the most likely to, to succeed.
[00:32:47] Thank. The best one is to integrate it with your family, so, so I’ll give you a few examples. Let’s say you’re somebody who has children, who has family members in your. In your home, what you wanna do is you wanna integrate these three exercises with the family bonding time that you have with them. So I’ll give you a typical example.
[00:33:06] You are a manager of engineering. You’re in your thirties, forties, fifties, and you have kids who are usually between the ages of, let’s say five and 16. So when you’re picking them up to and from school, don’t just put music on, have them give you a random. Have them hold you accountable and then you give them the random word exercise.
[00:33:24] And there’s so many people that tell me this all the time, Zach, and it’s not even about communication anymore. It’s about, wow, you like gave me something to talk about my family when all they do is just watch TV and when I come home, you don’t have that conversa versus like, oh, Zach and brenden told me to do the random word.
[00:33:38] Can you practice with me? And then it becomes more of a family bonding experience so it doesn’t feel like a chore. It feels more like, oh, like this is a part of my day to day. Another piece is, I hope, like we said earlier in this podcast, I hope everyone showers every day. You got 15 minutes in there.
[00:33:54] you’re not taking meetings while you’re in the shower, right? So do that random word exercise there, and then for the question drill, what I encourage you do is it, does it always have to be about work. You can ask the people in your family really open-ended questions. Like, for example, I like to ask this one a lot, and you can ask this to kids and, and to people around you.
[00:34:14] What’s the biggest lesson you learned about yourself? See that is what gets people thinking and it also forces you as the engineer to ask questions that, yes. Or outside of the scope of your technical expertise, cuz you’re going to have to do that as a leader. Cuz when you get promoted in leadership, it’s not just about leading teams, it’s about small talk.
[00:34:33] It’s about talking to the people around you. So it’s open-ended questions will really push you out of the the comfort zone. And finally, the video message can also be integrated with family. All you have to do, yeah. Is get your kids to send video messages to their relatives, like to an auntie and uncle, and that really gets them fired up.
[00:34:51] Say, wow, I got a video message from my eight year old and, and it makes people’s days.
[00:34:56] Zach White: I really like this. And you know, again, the engineer and me, brenden appreciates that you’re giving me the, the specific easy ways to just say, no excuse. I can plan it. I know when to do it, I can make it happen. But the thing that I’ll mirror back that I think is cool about that recommendation is, , when you ask someone else the open-ended question, you might think initially, well, that’s not gonna help me.
[00:35:17] Like, I’m the one who needs to practice answering not them. But when I ask you a question, You’re gonna answer it, but almost every time you’ll mirror the question back to me like, well, what did you learn last year? And you do end up getting the opportunity now to do the question drill with that person without needing to frame it as this awkward exercise that Zach and brenden said to do on the podcast.
[00:35:42] And I think it’s the same thing if you have kids, have the kids send the messages first. You know, your aunt and uncle are gonna really be heart warmed by that. And then you can come behind that and send your own message to them and say, Hey, I know Sally, my daughter sent you a message earlier and I just wanted to send one too, and let you know that I really appreciate you.
[00:36:00] You can get your own rep. It’s like, let them open the door to it and, and break the ice. And nobody ever, he was upset when an eight year old sends the message ice too. It’s too good. So I think that’s b. I love that. last thing for now, I, I wish we had another two hours cuz there’s a hundred things we could talk about and communication is so important, but there is a big push in the world of personal development around the word authenticity, being yourself, being true to who you are, honoring that you know, who is brenden you, do you and this whole kind of.
[00:36:35] one of the segments on your show master talk that I think is super interesting is all about present, like, and you have some of the best presenters and communicators in the world, and I just wanted to get your perspective about why modeling. Somebody else whose world class is the right thing to do to practice.
[00:37:02] When a lot of the world would say, well, you know, screw that guy, or that girl who cares how they do it. You do it in the way that’s authentic to you. You don’t need to sound like anybody. Find your own voice. You’re that kind of a mantra. And so could you explain a little bit about. Practice and model after others, but then also where’s the truth of this whole finding your own voice message.
[00:37:27] Brenden Kumarasamy: I love the nuance question, Zach. I, I think you’ve noticed so far that I’m, I’m game for anything, so I’m glad that you, you went there. so there’s two parts. This, right? The problem with the word authenticity, in my opinion, is that this is an engineer’s nightmare because it’s not something you can optimize.
[00:37:43] Like what does being authentic mean? do you want me to keep being my introverted self? Not asking people open-ended questions, so there’s kind of that problem. And then you have the other way, which is, hey, if I model the world, what if I don’t wanna be the best in the world? So kind of how.
[00:37:56] How do you model both of these real? How do you bridge the gap? So we bridge the gap by understand the following. The first piece is, let’s go back to software engineering just as an cause. I just know that space a little bit better. If there’s somebody else who has a code base that already works, am I really gonna spend five hours recoding that?
[00:38:12] No. I’m just gonna copy paste and say thank you. Yeah. Right. That’s it. Right? If somebody’s already doing a better job, that that is working on the same engineering problem as us, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, right? Lessons learned in project management, we all know this, it’s it’s engineering 1 0 1.
[00:38:28] How do we apply that to speaking? Let’s draw the compromise. So the compromise for us, Zach, today, is write down somebody in your field that you wanna become. So I’ll give you an example. So for, for people in software, let’s say you wanna be Nathan bla Cartick, right? Who is the, who’s the CTO and co-founder of Airbnb.
[00:38:46] The guy’s super good, great communicator and very technical as well. He’s really good at. Both. So he is someone, let’s say you’re somebody sitting in the audience that I wanna be that person or somebody in mechanical engineer who, who entered the C-suite or you wanna be a vp, engineers don’t often do, cuz the modeling still works.
[00:39:02] It’s just different. It’s not, it’s not Tony Robbins anymore. It’s about saying, . Hmm. When was the last time I listened to a VP of engineering being interviewed on a podcast, being interviewed on a panel at let’s say Dreamforce or an SAP conference. Yeah. And a lot of engineers go, I’ve never done that. . I’ve never really sat down for 15 minutes.
[00:39:22] So that’s one piece. You don’t need to model the best model, the best of the person you wanna become. Yeah, because that way when you look at that SVP of engineering and how they’re answering questions, if you imagined yourself in that seat and go, what if they asked me those same set of. Questions, how would I answer them?
[00:39:39] Then you’re modeling in a way that’s leading to the outcomes that you wanna optimize for in your career. So that’s one piece. The other piece is the realization, Zack, that authenticity can only go so far. Meaning if you’re a nine out of 10 technical talent in any field of engineering, but you’re a five out of 10 in communication, it doesn’t matter how great you are.
[00:40:03] Technically, you’ll still get paid well, you’ll still keep your job. Yeah. But people in your company outside of the engineering department, will see you as a seven out of 10, a six out of 10 talent. So that means, in other words, force yourself to get better at communication. To be like on a stage in front of 20,000 people, but to say, let me get rid of my ums and ahs.
[00:40:25] Let me speak a little bit better in my meetings so that it’s a no-brainer for me to get the role and the responsibilities that I deserve and I worked for in this organization to get
[00:40:35] Zach White: pure gold in there. And one thing I’ll add that I tell my clients a lot, brenden Engineers wish and in some core, Lie to ourselves to believe that all the opportunities we want and promotions we want and to, to become that executive we wanna become, or whatever level you aspire to.
[00:40:55] That it will happen on the back of my great results in engineering, being a great engineer. Mm-hmm. and I should be rewarded for doing great work. And it’s like, oh, I, my heart’s with you brothers and sisters. It really is. But unfortunately that is not how it works. You, you do not become that. Executive leader on results alone.
[00:41:18] It’s your whole reputation, which includes your ability to reach people and communicate and build relationships and emotional intelligence and all these other really core pieces. So take this seriously, everything that you know brenden shared today. Happy engineer because this is, this is for real. Um.
[00:41:36] Wow, brenden. We need to know where to go. Tap into master talk, get these exercises, practice more, hire you, all of that. Where can we find you? What’s the next step?
[00:41:47] Brenden Kumarasamy: This is super fun, Zack. Nice for having me on the show. Love the questions. Love the energy. So, two ways to keep in touch. The first one is the YouTube channel.
[00:41:55] Just go to Master Talk in one word, you’ll have asked a hundreds of free videos on how to communicate ideas effectively. And the second way to keep in touch is to attend one of my free communication workshops over Zoom. I do a free one every two weeks. Everyone’s invited. Eight year olds come to this call.
[00:42:11] Big CEOs come to this call. Everyone’s invited to the party. So if you wanna jump in, go to rockstar communicator.com.
[00:42:19] Zach White: Perfect, perfect. And if you’re on your mobile device listening right now, just jump into the show notes on whatever podcast play you’re in. Everything will be linked up right there. Take action now.
[00:42:28] This is tremendous value. I can personally acknowledge. I’ve seen brenden’s videos, I’ve watched dozens of them. They’re tremendous. You will not regret it. brenden, I’m excited to hear your perspective on this ending point. We always finish in the same place and your background in accounting, but your knowledge of engineering and technology, you get it.
[00:42:48] Great engineering, great coaching. It all has in common that the questions lead, the answers follow, and we all want better answers in our life. We wanna get to that next goal. We wanna become top 1% communicators. So for that engineering leader who’s been tuned in with us today, who wants to reach the next level in their communication, but also be a happy engineer, what’s the question that you would lead them with?
[00:43:17] Brenden Kumarasamy: I would say the question for me, Zach, would be, how would my life change if I became an exceptional communicator? Really reflect on that question, how would my life change? And what I’ve seen as a positive note to kind of end this is there’s a lot of engineers. Who do take that initiative, who go, you know what, I’m really scared, but I’m gonna sign up for this DevCon conference.
[00:43:40] You know what? I’m really worried about this panel, but let me just do it cuz nobody else in my department is actually going to do it. So why are these people taking actions? Cuz they’re better than us. No, no, no. It’s because they’re moving with the fear because they can imagine their life being better cuz they say to themselves, You know, well, if nobody else is giving that panel, I’m the one, then I’ll be the only person who actually has a personal brand in this industry and I’ll probably stand out.
[00:44:05] So lemme take that opportunity while I’m scared. So I encourage you to think about that, but not just in your careers. How would my life change if I was an exceptional communicator? Think about the context of your family. If we’re being introverted at work. . That means we’re introverted with our kids, with the people around us, with our friends, and communication helps us lead a more fulfilling life.
[00:44:26] So think about it in all spheres of
[00:44:27] Zach White: life. Brilliant. Brilliant. I love it. brenden, just wanna acknowledge you again for the amazing work you’re doing, the lives you’re impacting with Master Talk and your work. And thank you so much for your generosity to bring truly valuable tips, actionable skills, and content here today.
[00:44:44] It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you so.
[00:44:47] Brenden Kumarasamy: Pleasure was my brother.