E10. Helping Others Find Their Voice with Oliver Kanders
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Francisco Mahfuz 0:00
Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.
Welcome to the story powers podcast, a show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Oliver Candice. Oliver is a man who defies easy classification. But I'll try anyway. He's the chief client officer at Geotab. A customer intelligence platform that helps brands understand customers and predict behaviour is a TEDx and corporate speaker coach and loves to help individuals become extraordinary through systematic coaching and ancient techniques such as Dynamic Meditation, and Holotropic breathwork. Oliver's experience gives a whole new meaning to the expression finding your voice. If that makes no sense to you. Just stick around for a while. If you like the show, please leave us an iTunes review. subscribe and tell your friends if you just like Oliver helped me out anyway. And I promise I'll introduce you to him, because I'm nice like that. Ladies and gentlemen, Oliver Cambus. Oliver, welcome to the show.
Oliver Kanders 2:02
Thank you so much for having me.
Francisco Mahfuz 2:04
Oliver, can you explain why some of your clients now call you Batman?
Oliver Kanders 2:12
Right, right in there. Yeah. Well, that's, that's, I guess that's a longer story. So I'll start it in in a very short, short way. So let's put it like this for most of my life, as long as I can remember, I've been very, very driven to perform. I've been driven by, you know, by excellence, if you will. And accordingly I've been stressed for most of my life. Now, what started happening last year is that I realised how important breathing is in order to regulate stress in order to regulate your body regulate your reaction to something to a stressor. So are you going into fight or flight mode? Or can you stay relaxed, even in the face of extreme adversity. And that brought me eventually to a retreat that I did earlier this year. And long story short, in this retreat, we were doing meditations breathwork, for for an entire week. And what happened as a result was that I came back from the countryside, I came back to Berlin where I'm living since 2014. And I arrived at the main station. And it was so loud suddenly around me. I realised, oh my god, I have to scream here in order to be heard. And that's when I realised that my voice had changed entirely over the course of that week. And it had become much deeper. And for a while, I was asking myself like, is this really just because my vocal cords are so strained? Or is this maybe because this breath work and the meditation techniques have done something to me? And I didn't yet find a doctor who can confirm it. But yeah, I my, my voice is God sustainably deeper. So when I came back to my colleagues, who hadn't seen me for what, two and a half weeks, them and my partners or clients at Geotab started calling me Batman and Ronnie
Francisco Mahfuz 4:19
as nicknames go, there are plenty of wars nicknames.
Oliver Kanders 4:25
I agree. And you know, after all, Francisco and you might know this one. No one has seen Batman at me in the same room yet.
Francisco Mahfuz 4:37
I mean, they finally decided who the new Batman is. I think there was a time you know, they were talking about Ben Affleck doing a solo movie, I think now is Robert Pattinson. But if they do a new Batman cartoon, I think you should definitely put yourself forward at least for the German dubbing of that cartoon. You'll be a shoo in.
Oliver Kanders 4:56
Sounds good. I'm not quite sure yet. If that was a compliment. or not, but I'll go for the comic version.
Francisco Mahfuz 5:06
Well, all I implied is that I'm not to share your acting talents are the equivalent of your voice.
Oliver Kanders 5:14
No, Robert Patrick can keep the pretty face.
Francisco Mahfuz 5:20
And I also understand, because I know you and we've talked before, that you have started putting that new voice to some interesting and unconventional uses, haven't you?
Oliver Kanders 5:32
Oh, wow, this is? Yeah, this is quickly becoming interesting. Yeah,
Francisco Mahfuz 5:36
this is this is the benefit of having recorded this once lost all the recordings. And then again, without boring the two of us to tears by having the exact same conversation now I'm actually more informed.
Oliver Kanders 5:50
That's a that's a very, very good point. Yeah. So this topic with my voice has been around for quite a while. And over the over the years, I've learned to listen to the people around me. So, you know, initially, I was very fully convinced that I should decide what my own life should look like. And I should decide what I want to do in my job, and so on. And that whole image this rigid, if you will, German, the image, you know, of self discipline, and you are the decider of your faith, right? This really became much softer over time, and I learned to listen to the people around me. So last year, it just so happened that the topic of my voice kind of came up a lot. So a lot of my friends or people around me or even people in a shop that I would enter would tell me, Oh, you have a nice voice, you know. And then a few people who are a little bit closer to me, started saying over the course of two months or so, especially women, they started saying, oh, you know, I can I could imagine your voice on something that, you know, that would be quite sexy, you know? And then I was like, okay, like, What do you mean, and then, you know, we started talking about these new apps that have evolved. So apparently, there's now a whole bunch of apps with subscription models that are being subscribed to by women who are listening to erotic short stories. And, as I do, almost every year, over the course of the years, when the years change, 2019 became 2020, I typically always decide, you know, the the few things that I really want to add in a particularly into my life. And then I made the first recording and sent that off. And now apparently, women for the moment all over Germany are listening to my voice and giving feedback on how they like it.
Francisco Mahfuz 7:49
That feedback must be one of the most interesting types of feedback you or anyone will have ever received. You know, because it's great when if you were a speaker, as we are, and people say, Oh, I love that speech, it's great. You know, I, I can relate to that. I don't think that's the type of feedback that you're gonna get on this thing. And the positive feedback is likely to be very interesting.
Oliver Kanders 8:16
You're quite right, yes. And I think there's a good reason why this platform does never publish someone's voice under that person's real name. So there's only a first name, and they invent one. So basically, I might be on that platform now being called Philippe or something like that, you know? So, it's a shame, you know, I wish for all of these women to be able to reach out to me and give me the feedback. But I guess I'm just gonna receive an aggregated version from the company, you know,
Francisco Mahfuz 8:49
you're just gonna have to believe that the value you're bringing to their lives is,
Oliver Kanders 8:56
oh, trust me, trust me. Well, you know, once it's published, I will share this with my friends and I will get some proper feedback. Yeah. All your voice is fine. But the stories could be a bit more intelligent.
Francisco Mahfuz 9:14
Let's move from something that is less sexy, but perhaps as exciting, which is all the speaking the speaking work you do. And one of the things that a lot of people have as a challenge when they talk about speaking in public, particularly if you're talking about the corporate world, which I know you do help people in that in that arena, is this idea of what's acceptable, or what's professional. Now, I know that your ideas of what's acceptable or professional on stage might not be everyone's idea. So do you want to talk about that for a second?
Oliver Kanders 9:51
That's a good point. Yeah. I mean, on the one hand side, one of the most important initial questions to clarify With anyone that I'm coaching in the speaker arena, is, what is your goal? And secondly, what is your audience? Now, obviously, the TED audience or TEDx audience, where my speaker coaching basically started on a on a professional level is a very varied audience, right? There's all sorts of people within the TED audience students, to very old people, you know, physicists, rocket scientists, to philosophers, and, yeah, you know, like just, you know, everyday people who are really just interested to get inspired. And I think it's important to pay attention to that. On the other hand side, I strongly and firmly believe, and I've seen it again, and again, when I've visited conferences for the company that we've built in the last years, that people typically get excited about all the same things. What do we get excited about? You know, we want to hear a great story, we want to see someone act authentic. Right. And maybe that's the most important part, I would say that as long as someone is being authentic, and feels good on stage, right, then also the people in the audience can enjoy someone who's going absolutely nuts, who of us doesn't enjoy a good concert, you know, with with the artist dancing like crazy. And, you know, these, these worlds are now merging more than ever, right? I mean, the last months, we've all been working from home, our private life and work life has been merging. There is a very consistent trend also in the software industry, where people are expecting the same standards of gamification and an element of fun in their working worlds, as they do in their private lives, right? They want to be entertained, right? They don't understand why they should have to click 10 times in order to get to a certain screen, right? Why should that be necessary, just because it's a working tool, because they're used to such great technologies in their private life. And the same holds true for storytelling. Why give people a total bore, right and have them fall asleep for an entire day or several days in a conference, right? When you can give them a real adventure, when you can give them the thrills excitement, when you can send them out of that conference and have given them the feeling that they want to change something about themselves about the world around them. I think that's that's what first drew me to doing this after all right, it's helping people to get their message across. Because typically what stands behind it is a really strong sense of purpose. Like these, these TEDx speakers that I've been coaching, most of them have spent a significant part of their life dealing or handling a very specific topic, right? And they've gone all in on that. And even if on the surface on the CV, it might just be the last few years. Typically, when you ask for the story and how they got to this topic, it turns out that it dates back as far as their childhood, you know, or even spans several generations.
Francisco Mahfuz 13:05
One of the things that I find is a myth, and it's something I've been talking about recently, a lot. And perhaps it's because, as you say, our personal and private lives have a personal professional lives have merged to a great extent is this myth, as I think of it, of professionalism, that there is such a thing as Okay, well, this is appropriate for work, and this is not appropriate. And yes, sure. Nobody necessarily wants to have a meeting, where one of the people is in their pyjamas, right. But I don't think you would also have your friends over and be in your pyjamas. So at the same time, and when you're speaking, this idea that you need to be serious, and you need to be formal, and you couldn't go a bit crazy, and you couldn't, you know, make jokes. You couldn't use more humour. You couldn't wear funny costumes. I don't think that that's, that's true. I think it's only true. If you don't pull it off. No one minds with humour. This is very true. No one minds that our speech is too funny. I mean, there's no such thing as a speech that is too funny. Oh, great presentation. I love the content, but I left too much. Yeah, that's why I wasn't I wasn't very good. You just have to pull it off. If you want to do something crazy on stage, or if you just want to do something in your meetings, that is a lot. That shows your personality a lot more. You need to deliver. Because otherwise it just becomes a bad presentation. Not because you were personal. But because you weren't good enough.
Oliver Kanders 14:39
Yeah, I would agree. Yes. I think it's it's a lot about being brave. Right. It's about being brave going beyond boundaries. Because after all speaking in public, right, I think this is still one of the biggest, if not the biggest social fear that people have being fully transplant being looked at by hundreds or 1000s, or even millions of people and asking yourself, what are they thinking of me right now. And I think it's that's what it's that's what Speaker coaching is about, at least for 50%, you know, the one side is coaching on the content, how to structure the speech, how to create a dynamic flow, and cliffhangers, you know, like a good Netflix series, you know, a speech that really, that you can't let go every now and then you get a little break. But then action starts again. On the other hand side next to being brave. I also think there are quite a few formal reasons why the professionalism that you mentioned, that has been required in our society and practice for such a long time, is not required to such an extent anymore. And one of the reasons that I can think about is that our society has certainly become much more free, and much more creative, right? We have so much more, so many more cushions around us, you know, it's much harder to fall in these days, especially in the Western countries. And it's an interesting one, I'm aware to discuss this during times of Corona, but we can, in general, we can feel more safe. And we can allow ourselves to be a bit more daring out there. I think the second thing is the topic of self discipline, and my old ability to switch between different roles. And I think this is where it comes from, right. putting on a tie for work is I mean, you're basically putting something around your throat, right, you're basically choking yourself in soft little ways, you know,
Francisco Mahfuz 16:48
it's a, it's a very, it's a very appropriate image. And for anyone that has had to wear a tie for business for a long time, it's remarkably suitable. Because that is what you're doing to a great extent. I mean, I also like it, but
Oliver Kanders 17:05
absolutely. And see, what I believe we've been doing by wearing a tie is that on a metaphorical level, we have restricted our self expression, and replaced it with expressing the interests of a larger construct, which is the company that is what it basically manifests for me on a metaphorical and to a certain degree, physical level.
Francisco Mahfuz 17:29
One thing you mentioned a few times in different ways is about authenticity, and people being themselves. So I made that, that joke in the introduction about finding your voice, which in your particular case, means something completely different. But this is one thing that that I think is interesting to talk about when it comes to coaching anyone on speaking and this, this, I think, is perhaps the most challenging part, for a lot of speaker coaches. Where is you get someone particularly something like TEDx where you get someone, they have a great idea, they want to communicate their idea, but let's say they have little or no experience with speaking. So their contribution to the speech is their idea is their stories, their passion, but perhaps they're not necessarily the most exciting of people, perhaps, you know, at least communicating themselves, perhaps they have not, Not a bone of humour in their body. And it's just not natural to them to get that content out. What we don't want to do is have the founder of or the CEO of change.org, in Germany sound like Oliver, Candace, offices, GMO foods, because that's also not going to work. What do you find that works? To get them to take all those boxes, they need to take with structure with interesting content without ending up? You know, writing most of that speech for them essentially?
Oliver Kanders 18:58
Very, very good question. And there's a lot in that, I want to start with what's probably the most important. There's two topics that are really, really important. And they go alongside one, one another. And it's the topic of being able to listen to somebody because there's no single human being in the world, who deeply within themselves, doesn't express doesn't want to express who they are, what they believe, what they care about. And that is why I believe one of the most important things a speaker coach can do because in any social interaction, what we do is we mirror each other, right? This happens on a on a neuro neuronal level, right with the mirror neurons. So you know, if you're going to smile, chances are Hi, I'm gonna smile. If you're going to yawn chances are higher. Hi, I'm going to yawn with you even 40% of the of the dogs in this world yawn with their own us. So we mirror each other. We see ourselves In the other person, and that process can happen best when you become an incredible listener. And the way that I do it apart from really just being naturally curious about people, is also that there is an innate and unshakable belief within me that every single human being is incredibly exciting. Because it's the whole variety of humans around us that, you know, that creates this world, right, some of the shyest people have created some of the most incredible things, right. And I've just recently had a coaching with a software developer and before that coached a company that explicitly wanted me to coach eight data scientists and product operation managers with deeply technical fields of expertise. And for them, it's really just, you know, they might sit there and they might start to talk. And they might do it a little unwillingly, because maybe someone in their company has put them into this training, you know, and they did want it as well, but they got the feeling are, you know, like, in this company, typically, people don't really listen to me, because I'm an IT person. But if you then sit there, and you just stay with it, it's totally fine for the other person to think whatever they're thinking, but if you just sit there with your unshakable belief, and you just keep asking questions, then after a certain while, they will realise, oh, wow, this person is actually interested in what I'm doing here. And it's one of the most incredible feelings when then suddenly, they just break out of their inner world and they start sharing it with you.
Francisco Mahfuz 21:41
It's something just to interrupt for a second there. It's probably an experience that a lot of people just haven't had. Because the truth, and this is no, no secret is that most people listen, preparing what they'll say next. And to a lot of people, particularly if they're not very assertive, that experience of whoa, hold on, they're not actually giving me their opinion, they're not actually just biding their time to speak. It's it's a very strange experience. And Shy people probably have not had that, perhaps ever
Oliver Kanders 22:18
could be possible. Yeah. Or they just share it with very selected people, right, with the close people around themselves. So what I typically even find is that with people who seem more shy, usually have a much more intense and controversial dialogue within themselves. So quite frequently, I make the experience that those people will actually have a much stronger opinion about something, if I try to push them in a certain direction, which is not the the common instrument of choice here, the common instrument is really just asking questions, like, I'll just go with my interest. And I'll ask in two directions that I find exciting, because, you know, like, I believe every human being has a similar sense for what an exciting story is, right? Yes, there are different tastes and so on. But we all know when we're on to something great. So that that's basically the the one part of it that, you know, like that you basically, yeah, that people who tend to be more shy on the surface actually have a much stronger opinion built. And then with more extrovert people, it's sometimes happened that I actually start to question them, because they might often go into too much agreement with you, because they've learned to provide or create a sense of harmony. Let's, let's say, for instance, sales people or people in, let's say, external roles of a company, right, they need to be diplomatic. So they will have a tendency to tell you that you're right. But it's, you know, to build a client relationship, that's typically a good thing, right? Because you need to build a certain sense of proximity. And the client, honestly speaking, is right. Because if the client decides he wants something else, then he wants something else or she but in a speaker setting, it can then be much more interesting with such an extra person to really challenge them on their views of the world, right was a shy person might already be more differentiated in their way of expressing themselves.
Francisco Mahfuz 24:24
So my curiosity here, because I've seen a lot of shy people get into places like Toastmasters. And then you see them slowly but surely start to become less shy, but that's a very ongoing, continuous process. What I'm curious about is, if you've worked with someone for a TEDx talk or something along those lines, and you've helped them find their voice and express it and find value in what they have to say, Do you have any idea if any of that stays with them after the you're born? with them, and after the talks been delivered, if they take that into their lives?
Oliver Kanders 25:04
Yeah, good point. First of all, if someone starts out really, really shy, right and has the will to present something on a TEDx stage, then typically the kind of willpower that is behind that will allow them to even, you know, to to really initiate a kind of paradigm shift, right with the right coach, even in that short process, because typically a TEDx coaching, you know, it runs over the course of like two months or so. But the actual time spent with the coach is not more than a day in total, let's say or maybe up to two days. So yes, it can have a transformative effect. And that's being confirmed all the time. Right. And if that happens five years later, you know, I've had speakers like Sara Gruen from Munich, she is a very well known social entrepreneur in Germany by now, you know, Forbes 30, under 30 list and and won a lot of different awards, Ashoka Fellow, and so on. And basically one roughly one year after she had given her TED speech, and she's not introvert, you could clearly say that, but you know, she hadn't given a lot of speeches before that. She calls me up and says, Oh, Ali, I'm about to give, you know, one more speech, and I have an outline here, you know, Can you can you have a listen and tell me what you think. And I told her, Listen, this is this is really great. You know, like, I would change this little thing, maybe and here, maybe you put a certain emphasis, right? And she's like, thanks so much, you know, because next week, I'm going to go on stage right in front of Barack Obama. So you know, a year after this first TED Conference, which happened in front of maybe 1000, people are so all over Europe, because it was a virtual European wide conference around the refugee situation back then. Yeah, she was presenting right before Barack Obama in Munich, at Oktoberfest in front of 3000. People. Yeah. And to just, you know, continue to express her gratefulness, we've become really good friends since then, you know, yeah.
Francisco Mahfuz 27:13
It's incredible how you find that, once people get the speaking bug, as some of us call it. It's just that you've now found a vehicle for expressing yourself to a lot more people than perhaps you ever had the opportunity to before. And you find that there's a lot of validation that, you know, it's, you can get this through other means you can get this from being a writer, you can get this to some extent in social media, but but it's very empowering to say, Okay, well, this is this thing I think about and it's dear to me, and, and I think that my opinion is important to share, and then you put it out there, and there's hundreds, if not 1000s of people saying yes, yes, exactly. It's, you have an interesting thing to say about this, your passion matters in as you know, a lot of times you do these things, and people will come to you and say, Wow, I mean, I've been thinking about this for all my life, I could never articulate it. And now I've heard that, now you're going to think about or do something completely different about it. as shy as someone might be, and I don't think either of us have been in those shoes, really, I don't think, you know, we're by nature, very shy people, but to know that you can have the type of impact on people's lives. If all if you can just conquer that fear and get on the stage and speak is I mean, I don't know many more empowering things
Oliver Kanders 28:45
Francisco Mahfuz 31:36
yeah, I fully agree with, with the impact that that a lot of shy people, or a lot of more technically oriented people have had, I think that's undeniable, what I do wander about is, if you are the person who has made this monumental change to the way everybody interacts with with technology, that on a daily basis, but you are still the person and not someone with a name that we know of, I don't know how much that feeling of competence translates into interaction into the type of validation that we feel when you have 100 300 people immediately agreeing with you, and sometimes coming up to you. I mean, I don't remember the last time, I don't think I ever came up to a tech person and said, Oh, this change you made to the social media that I normally use, I really love that, thank you very much. And that's perhaps what I find that when I've met people who are shyer, even if the work they do is very meaningful, sometimes there is that need to let the world know about it, and not just experience it as a feature of our everydays. But I think it's, it's a very interesting topic. But if any of these people are more able to get their ideas out there, not just through their work, then you will end up getting a much better balance of the whole introvert extrovert thing, because now it's, it's clearly driven by extroverts, not always to, to the best to the best final outcome, I don't think,
Oliver Kanders 33:21
I think I think that change is already happening. And again, on a on a macro economic level, I would say, you know, let's say China and India for a very, very long time, they were so happily, the factories of the Western world, really just, you know, like, we're just, we're just running the service here for you, you know, we do it at a fifth of the price as it would cost in the US, or as it would cost in Europe. And now look at the world today. Microsoft has an Indian CEO, Google has an Indian CEO, these are primarily people who have grown up in villages, according to very old value systems, right? Within a societal system that is not yet based on abstract insurances where you can be fully self dependent, but they were kind of still forced to grow up in a world that is more interdependent in a way. And that is why I believe things are shifting. Now we've seen this at our company right now through Corona, because we were looking at cost saving measures because nobody knew. And still nobody knows how exactly, it's going to go forward. And it was very clear from the beginning, that these cost savings cannot happen in India, where our entire product and engineering team is based. Because if the servers are down as a big data or customer intelligence company, like you rightly said, then the company doesn't exist anymore. And that's a realisation that you then you know, like as someone working with clients, that sometimes you might tend to think, oh, you know, we're so nice here, you know, we're having these nice dinners together with these clients, and we're the ones bringing the revenue on board and closing these fancy contracts. Right? And then in a situation like Corona, you suddenly realise, Oh, wow. Or Indian colleagues, they are the ones who are actually important. You know, I might, I might practice a little humility here, or within our society, the the nurses in the hospitals, the people baking the bread, the police officers, they are the ones who keep the country together in situations like this.
Francisco Mahfuz 35:33
It's interesting. You just mentioned nurses and doctors. Just this morning, I put something on on social media. And a lot of the storytelling I do and talk about, I tend to bring back to superheroes because I'm a nerd. And then what I what I did is I said, I put a picture of my daughter who's three and a half, and she's dressed as some strange mix between nurse and doctor. And I said, when I was a kid, I love dressing up as Batman and Spider Man. It turns out my daughter's My daughter loves superheroes as well.
Oliver Kanders 36:08
Love it. Absolutely love it. Yeah, talking about
Francisco Mahfuz 36:11
my daughter, I hear angry mutterings behind the door of her room, which is which is recording this. As I kind of call it, the fortress of people's
home requires some measures that will perhaps be needed in the world, you know, BC, you know, before Corona, when a different level of professionalism was expected of us. Telephone if anyone wants to find you, other than in erotic apps around the world? Where Where can they find you?
Oliver Kanders 36:50
So apparently, you through you be right, because you kindly offered to connect them?
Francisco Mahfuz 36:55
I will pay him for that voice. Yes, yeah. on a
Oliver Kanders 36:59
on a professional level I invest reached on LinkedIn. And otherwise, you can also find me on Facebook, you can write me an email address. So Francisco, feel free to reach out to me and just ask, you know, if you if you can make a connection. And I'll happily say yes to most requests.
Francisco Mahfuz 37:21
I think we'll leave that by that. I could rather have it, but I'll just leave it. Thank you very much for your time. And thanks for doing this again. It's it's been an absolute pleasure.
Oliver Kanders 37:33
Thanks for you. I must say that, you know, the way that you've asked the questions this time, it felt to me like an entirely new interview. And I really enjoyed it. I feel like our conversation has gotten a lot more depth. And I really appreciate it given that we, you know, have gotten to know each other just recently during this interesting time of Corona in a speaking game by our common friend Florian. Rick, like you said a
Francisco Mahfuz 37:58
long, long way the friendship continue.
Oliver Kanders 38:01
I absolutely agree. Have a fantastic evening over there.
Francisco Mahfuz 38:04
Alright, everybody. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time