I’ve been speaking at several conferences these last few weeks. I’ve noticed a distinct difference in the speakers whose message lands well with the audience, and those whose message falls flat, where the applause is simply a polite conclusion rather than thunderous appreciation.

I’ve also noticed how various CEOs and senior executives are running up against what they call ‘brick walls’, or resistance to their ideas and initiatives. They are frustrated in some cases, disdainful in others.

For both the speakers and the executives I see one element missing in their communication style: the ability to truly connect.

Sounds simple. We’ve been taught the importance of active listening, of eye contact, of smiling.

These are the mechanics of connection, not the spirit of it.

The pivot point is this: who are you focusing on?

As a speaker, are you more concerned how you will appear, will they like you, have you got your message and movements matched properly? Or are you focused on the audience, what they care about, what might be happening in their world, and how your message might uplift or assist.

As an executive, are you more concerned about making your point, winning them over, and getting your way? Or do you consider others’ motivations, concerns, apprehensions and how your agenda might help or hinder them?

My mentors Matt Church and Peter Cook call this attention out (focus on service to others) versus attention in (focus on self and personal concerns).

True connection is a river current – it flows abundantly, and draws creatures to it for sustenance and refreshment. Self focus is like a puddle, choked off from the flow of life.

If we are to create lives and businesses worth our attention, we need to lift our focus and deepen our concern and focus on how we can serve, how we can expand the lives of others, not take from them.


Zoë is on a mission to encourage big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference. She is passionate about showing leaders how to challenge limitations so they can live and lead with boundless energy, confidence, and conviction. With over 30 years experience developing leaders, she has published three books: Composure: How Centered Leaders Make the Biggest Impact, Moments: Leadership when it matters most, and Loyalty: Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and create lifelong advocates. These are available here – http://www.zoerouth.com/book/


  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.