What Really Matters to Your Audience

What’s more powerful as a motivation for changing: recognizing the consequences of our actions on ourselves or the consequences our actions may have on others? Adam Grant, in Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, suggests the latter may be more important.

As you probably know from prior research (e.g., The Checklist Manifesto), hospitals have discovered that they can substantially decrease the incidence of patient’s negative health consequences with one simple action: getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands In a study he and David Hoffman conducted, they wanted to know which of two signs (displayed near soap and gel dispensers), would encourage the health care providers to wash more often:

  • “Hand hygiene presents you from catching diseases”
  • “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.

The first focused on consequences for the provider; the second for the people that the provider serves.

The first sign had no effect. The second increased medical professionals washing 10% and led to 45% more use of soap and gel.  Why?  Understand the logic of the consequences. In the first, the doctor/nurse thinks about their situation:  “I spend a lot of time in the hospital, I don’t always wash and rarely get sick, so they doesn’t affect me.” In other words, we know ourselves, tend to overestimate our invulnerability.  In the second case, the question is what should a person like me do in a situation like this?’ The cost-benefit equation isn’t only about one’s probability of getting sick, but what’s right and wrong: do I have a professional and moral obligation to care for patients, especially those I can’t monitor as often as myself.

What’s the implication for you?  When you’re presenting a message to the audience – whether in an ad or a presentation – you need to think not just about the immediate message but what else your audience cares about how the message may trigger additional considerations. We saw this phenomenon recently in an ad that Pepsi produced starring Kylie Jenner that upset many people and led them to pull it immediately (see).  It’s critical that you go through a two-step process: figure out what you want to say – and be prepared to deliver an authentic message, and then consider the “mental setting” of your audience (be audience-driven) before designing the actual pitch.

Have you gone through similar experiences? Are you concerned about one in the future?  Share with us so we can help you deal with your audience’s sensitives.

Is Your Company a CILO?

What is a CILO? A Continuously Improving Learning Organization. It creates a learning culture that enables each person to grow as they contribute strategically to the overall success of the company.

A little background.  Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with a new organization, now called ETW – Execute To Win, where I learned about a new management operating system. It was started by Lee Benson, a CEO who belongs to Vistage Worldwide in the Midwest. (I chair groups in New York City.) It’s based on the principle that if the work each person does is aligned with the corporate strategy and performed well, it’s a win-win for each employee and the company. At the time, he showed it to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who loved it so much that he became a partner in the project. Over the years, it’s evolved into a system used by large companies focused on launching new strategic efforts and helps everyone on the team focus on doing their part in concert with the whole. I

In the meanwhile, I adapting it (www.eval2win.com) to help CEOs of $5M – $1B companies with whom I work, to focus on achieving personal/corporate strategic goals and forging a culture of continuous improvement. The focus is on the employee-supervisor dyad, not just the employee. Each dyad collaborates to ensure that the employee can achieve the strategic objectives she/he has which lead to the achievement of the company’s strategic goals. (e.g., my actions, lead to sales, which are my contribution to the corporate revenue goal. The system requires that the dyad meet regularly to discuss how the employee is doing and can improve and create a document that:

  • Identifies the major responsibilities of a person with time allocations to each one to account for 100% of the person’s commitment. (E.g., a Controller may have specific financial functions, supervises people, provides Exec Team with advice and data, leads the budgeting section for new business proposals, etc.). Many have 5-8 major areas of responsibility.
  • Defines the key activities within each of these responsibilities. (e.g., collect, publish and analyze monthly financials; identify and guide career paths for each employee).
  • Creates KPI for measuring (e.g., close each month within 3 days and provide a report, highlighting key issues of concern).
  • Identifies areas of improvement for the employee within most of the areas of responsibility (e.g., investigate a few finance courses to take online), schedule the activities themselves and develop KPIs to measure progress (e.g., pick the course, take it, and achieve at least a B).
  • Schedules the next review.

As you can see, in a CILO, continuous improvement is a fundamental job responsibility for the employee and the system to achieve it is collaborative – not imposed on anyone. Moreover, the scheduling of reviews is triggered by the goal of continuous improvement – not just a calendar.

For a new employee with a stable set of job responsibilities, the dyad meets each month for the first three months to help the employee “onboard” and do the job correctly. If all is fine, the next review will be in three months; if there is a problem, monthly meetings continue as long as needed. Once things are fine, the intervals between reviews expand from monthly to quarterly to semi-annually to annually.

However, most people’s jobs change! Imagine you’re a graphic artist or sales person or marketing for retail and been promoted to take on new responsibilities, such as managing the graphic team, providing sales training, supervising social media e-commerce marketing. Since this is new, the cycle of reviews for these new jobs starts over; you get support immediately (e.g., training and direction) to perform the new job correctly. In this way, the Peter Principle is eliminated – people aren’t promoted to a new job where they lack the skills and the problem is only discovered later; problems are identified immediately.

As you can see, this system also encourages people to take on new responsibilities to advance their career by learning what they need to know and getting the support and feedback to do it well.

Is your company a CILO – encouraging continuous improvement through learning, feedback and support (by people and systems)?  If so, share your model. If not, let us know how we can help you become one!

The Complex Role of Leader-Manager

 

As I begin outlining the new Management MBA course I’ll be teaching this summer on Leadership, I realized that the reason there are so many different definitions is that there are many facets to this complex position, and each definition is focusing on a different perspective.

For instance, one approach is to distinguish leaders from managers.  “Leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them.” In other words, the leader is focused on vision (how the world changes because of us) and the relationships between people to achieve it. The manager is focused on executing the tasks involved in achieving the mission, the activities we actually achieve.  Each makes appropriate strategic decisions; the leader choosing between visionary options and the manager choosing between different ways of executing the plan. A successful business person needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board to follow them towards their vision of success and obtain the resources (people, capital, etc.) and engage in the business activities.

A successful leader therefore is someone who  “earns the enthusiastic loyalty and commitment of followers and molds them into a high performance team”. (Tom DeCotiis) He/she inspires people (through words and role-modelled actions) to align their own performance with the organization’s overall strategy (i.e., vision, mission and goals). This involves, painting a compelling vision of the team’s future, pointing the way to successful accomplishment of the vision.  Ultimately, it’s getting someone to do things they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. (Tom Landy)

On the other hand, a successful manager, is focused on optimal execution: recruiting, developing and growing talented team members; obtaining and using resources to most efficiently and effectively achieve the work necessary to give the stakeholders (i.e., employees, customers and investors achievement of its mission.

The leader-manager has to balance the different realms in order to be successful. Where are we going? What’s the best way to get there? What are the implications of each strategic choice? (G. A. Lafley.) As a CEO coach, I know it’s important to address both realms in terms of time allocation, expertise, and training (of self and other team members) to advance their own abilities as leader-managers. My challenge, as a teacher is to enable students to see the differences, and cultivate the perspectives and skills needed to see how they will fulfill these roles as they grow professionally.

What are your biggest challenges?? Share with us.

Paint the Vision

As I prepare for the MBA class on leadership I’ll be teaching this summer, I was thinking about all of critical components. Tom Landy, a great football coach, once said that Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”  The most important element is vision – to inspire people to do what you want them to do.

Unfortunately, many leaders assume people know and are committed to the vision, so instead of focusing on it, they give it short shift and focus on the management issues concerning activities. When the stakes are high, that’s a mistake.

One of the best descriptions of vision was offered last century by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

All too often we get lost in the management details and forget that it’s the vision that inspires people to take on the hardships that might be required to achieve the goal. Building a ship takes a lot of work, and can at time be quite draining, in terms of the workload, the doubts that might arise, etc. – as is true for many creative endeavors. Think of Noah’s very long-term commitment to build his ark!  Yet, to get people to make the commitment to prevent hunger, end cancer, or create a transformative new venture, it’s the commitment to the vision of how the world will look afterwards that provides fuel to overcome the challenges.  Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley from Pepsi  to Apple Computers by asking whether he wanted to be the best at selling soda (i.e., brown sugar water) or “make a dent in the universe”.

So, when you recruit people to your new venture, be sure to paint a powerful vision. Share with us your company’s vision statement to inspire other leaders.

What Does “Powerful” Mean?

What do we mean when we say that a presentation is powerful? It’s got great content? It was graphically engaging? The delivery was captivating to convert people to “buy” into the proposition? All of the above are true, but the most important part is whether it had IMPACT – produce the desired deal. Since the average viewer generally is not the final decision-maker, impact is determined by what happens after the presentation.

When the presentation is over, the viewer needs to be committed to taking action (based on the features mentioned), remember the key points and be able to communicate it almost as effectively as the original presenter did.

For many presenters, this is where the breakdown takes place. For instance, all necessary content is considered when preparing the presentation; but usually it’s more than the audience needs to hear and more than they can remember. WINNING means producing a presentation with What’s Important Now (WIN) only! Delete the clutter – it distracts from the core message and the ability to remember it clearly! Powerful means grabbing attention and keeping it by being succinct for quick grasping of key points in a memorable manner (e.g., “3 points”) which the listener can remember and communicate to others. Slides with too many facts and/or presenter with too many words, makes it difficult to remember the key point and easily repeat it to the final decision-makers. Further, words need to be simple and powerful for one person to communicate with others. “They had a breakthrough year, tripling sales and profits” is a memorable conclusion, you are likely to share; a whole paragraph discussing it, is not.

Similarly, charts with too many details and boring headlines (e.g., Sales History 2013-2018) that don’t telegraph the important point (“Sales are Doubling Annually, for 5 years”), don’t make it easy to tell the final decision-makers. For instance, yesterday I sat in a presentation in which a slide showed three charts side by side, with boring titles on each, so much detail that it was hard to discern the real trends, and did not use the same color line for each company when charting (e.g., IBM was blue, red and green) in the three charts. The audience spent time trying to make sense of what chart was saying, and had no ability to grasp quickly the important point to remember and communicate easily to others.

Suggestion: rehearse your presentation with someone not familiar with the information before delivering it. When finished ask them to share with you the three key takeaways. If the person gets them all, immediately, you have a Powerful Presentation. Similarly, if you do not win a deal, give take the test and see what happens. If the person can’t remember and communicate, then it’s time to master the basics of Presentation Excellence.

What’s your experience with powerful presentations? Share with us.

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