It’s the Relationships that Count

 

As part of the coaching and mentoring I do for young people entering the workforce (see MentoringInternships.com), I often have to broaden their perspective: success takes more than competence with technical skills; it requires building effective relationships. (See blog last month on a study conducted at Google.)

When I heard that Warren Buffett credits 12 lessons from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” for transforming his life, I began re-reading Dale Carnegie’s book and recommending it.

I thought I’d share the lessons (as noted by Richard Feloni in Business Insider), since we can all learn from them

  • Avoid criticism, condemning or complaining
  • Praise others’ achievements
  • Be empathic
  • Know the value of charm
  • Encourage people to talk about themselves
  • Know when to use suggestions instead of direct orders
  • Acknowledge your own mistakes
  • Respect others’ dignity
  • Don’t try “winning” an argument
  • Be Friendly, no matter how angry the other person may be
  • Reach common ground as soon as possible
  • Get others to think your conclusion is their own

Which ones stand out for you? Why?  Share with us!

Tips for Delivering Bad News

 

For many people, December was mostly filled with good news: holiday cheer, raises, promotions, etc. Life isn’t always like that, and there’s bad news. A contract is cancelled or the new budget requires eliminating jobs and you need to let people know they’re out of a job. Unfortunately, two colleagues presented such cases last month, and asked me for advice.

In November, Entrepreneur magazine featured an article on the topic, “How to Give Bad News”. Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of Science of People advises four guidelines.

  • Stay Positive: No one wants negative feedback which is viewed as a personal attack, rather than a constructive aid. One way to reduce the often automatic defensive reaction is to deliver the information is a positive tone and frame the information as an opportunity for growth.
  • Focus on the facts. Most negative feedback is backed by verifiable reasons for it; therefore use facts to deliver the bad news. By reducing the emotional aspect of the message, the listener’s defensive radar doesn’t rise as quickly. The conversation then shifts to what actions are now possible, rather than dwelling on personal loss
  • Show you care. Take time to think through what you want to say; don’t rush into it. In one case, the decision was made to not notify people about the contract loss the day before the Xmas holiday, but to wait till after the weekend; in the other case, the presenter spent time identifying new ways the recipient could move forward before having the meeting. Ask sincere questions about how the recipient is experiencing the bad news. Then focus on solutions to the problem that are viable.
  • Help them get better. After delivering the bad news, promote a growth mindset by encouraging the person’s belief in their own ability to move forward and help find support. If the news is really bad, the person may need time to recover from the shock, so help the person have reasonable time expectations so they can bounce back. Most people are resilient, when they realize they have the capability of moving forward.

What’s your experience being the barer or recipient of bad news?  Share tips with us!

Discover the New Opportunities

As you may know I teach a capstone business course for CUNY. I help the students a mindset that the world is changing rapidly and they need to get ahead of them, before automation, artificial intelligence, etc. eliminate many of those jobs.

One of the topics we discussed is the interesting competition between the e-commerce leader, e.g., Amazon, as it invades the former territory of retail stores and creates new opportunities, and the actions of the retail stores, e.g., Walmart, to move into the e-commerce space and create new opportunities. The issue isn’t who will win, the issue is how will the new opportunities to serve existing and future customers’ expanded set of needs morph the entire playing field.

Initially, the retail stores simply responded to the ecommerce threat by offering their own version. Then Amazon redefined the playing field to integrate retail and ecommerce, through its purchase of Whole Foods, its experiment with its Amazon stores, and more recently with the experiment of Go stores which offer a cashier-free app-based shopping experience.

Walmart responded by buying Jet.com, to get the expertise and insights of Marc Lore, including his interest in creating greater access to more upscale brands than Walmart has traditionally served. The results are experiments such as the following

  • Project Kepler is an effort to “change in-store experiences leveraging emerging technologies to define and deliver on evolving customer expectations”. The goal is to create physical stores that, like Go, will operate without checkout lines or cashiers.
  • Code Eight is designed to reach high net worth urban customers, such as busy NYC moms, who they could never reach customers with stores. Allegedly, its goal is to provide them with personal shopping services: product recommendations will be made via text messages for health, beauty, household essentials and apparel/accessories. Walmart also acquired Bonobos to experiment with provide personalized clothing services for men.)

In other word, both sides are not going to fight directly over the turfs they currently dominate (i.e., the “Red Ocean” strategy) but instead to discover new opportunities in terms of markets and products (i.e. “Blue Ocean” strategy. (See: Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan and Mauborgne).

And that’s where all the best opportunities exist for us in 2018 and the future: harnessing the technology and cultural changes taking place and finding new opportunities to serve existing and future clients.  How are you doing so?  Share your experiences and plans!

Presentation Quality Beats Quantity

Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking that by adding more mediocre work, we can achieve better results.  Quantity does not compensate for quality. Unnecessary information is distractive and reduces the impact. Limits are often set for presentations (e.g., pages in a RFP or length of time for an investor pitch), both for the audience (less to read/listen), and to focus the presenter on understanding what’s necessary for a WINning presentation- one that’s focused on What’s (Really) Important Now). For me this issue comes up in training all the time.

3M did a study with Wharton many years ago showing that presentations with visuals increase recall as much as 5-fold. They also found that presenters were consistently rated as more interesting, professional, better prepared, etc. I explain to students that the real reason for the second finding probably has to do with the quality of workmanship that goes into finding just the right images to make a point. I know I spent lots of time sifting through different images to get just the right ones – and during this process, my mind is working on the nuances that I want to make and the implications that audiences can draw.

One result is that I focus clients on using only a limited number of slides when making Board presentation. In most cases, Boards have already seen the original presentation before the meeting; so rather than wasting everyone’s time and good will by repeating it, they highlight the key points in one or two slides and then focus the meeting on a discussion over one or two slides, and not a full presentation. Therefore, last week, to help a CEO get what he really wanted from the Board – buy-in for new strategic directions, we agreed that he would highlight the point he had already made, gain approval, and then discuss the real issue – strategic direction – with no more than three new “discussion-focused” slides.

Interestingly, Morten Hansen, tells a similar story about a presentation to a CEO in  Great At Work: How Top Performers Do less, work Better and Achieve More. He was asked to present to an executive committee on an issue, and the CEO told him to present the proposal in one slide.  He struggled to reduce the number to 15, then four, and with painstaking attention to one “color-coded, hourly calendar of the program”. As a result, the CEO and Hansen spent 45 minutes discussing the program in depth (instead of making a long winded presentation about it), and at the end the CEO “ remarked on how  productive the meeting had been!”

In sum, focus presentations on delivering quality discussions that facilitate the decisions you want made. Eliminate clutter; present what’s important for the decision’ less IS more…. And you’ll deliver a winning presentation!

What’s your experience? Share it with us.

 

Jerry Cahn, PhD,JD. is a NYC Vistage Chair & Chairman of the Presentation Excellence Group. He can be reached at 646-290-7664, jerry.cahn@presentationexcellencegroup.com & jerry.cahn@vistagechair.com.

What’s the Most Important Point?

How sad.  All too often, clients come to Presentation Excellence after they’ve been presenting a pitch to raise money and/or sell a company for months and not receive the level of interest they wanted. They blame market conditions and keep trying. Then, someone recommends discussing the presentation with us. We then review the material (in one case it was version 46!) and reach a completely different conclusion: the presentation that the external banker/consultants created is a poorly constructed data-dump of all the material available, with repetitive long-winded text.

Instead of producing a succinct, easy-to-grasp, exciting-to-follow presentation that highlights a key value proposition with a few mutually reinforcing ones that lead the buyer to the conclusion that “this is a deal you shouldn’t miss!”, they force the audience to navigate (or falling asleep on) page-after-page (or slide-after-slide) of clutter: too much text and numbers that don’t drive home a powerful conclusion. It’s not surprising that the “buyers” decide to pass or low-ball their offer.

Let me give you two recent examples:

  • As you may know, there are over 10 Million American business owners thinking about “retiring” from their business in the next few years. They enjoy their work, the income and the perks. Not having a plan for the next 7-10,000 days of their lives, selling for “too little” isn’t attractive. Therefore, they need to find a way to convince a buyer what the real value of the business can be, and make the “sales price” reasonable for her/himself. In this case, the presentation for selling the company placed a value on the company that seemed fair to the buyer and seller, until the buyer understood the tax implications and how much less money he’d actually get to take home. In the initial acceptable proposal for the seller, he achieved his goal of walking away with $7.6M on a total sales price of $18M. Then, the seller showed the buyer how a change in paying out for the sale could reduce the total price to only $15M and still allow the seller to net out the $7.6M. The conclusion: the seller is a savvy business person who could structure a deal that benefits both parties; imagine how much more his company may be doing that for its customers. Buying became a no-brainer.
  • As we all know, retail businesses are being hurt by e-commerce from companies like Amazon. So if you’re a supplier of apparel who mainly sells to retail stores, a buyer will look past current sales trends, even if fairly positive, and worry about the future. In this case, the company sells a unique woman’s product line. The initial presentation focused on the numbers – current and projected future sales; buyers reviewed it and screened the deal based on future retail trends. We were invited to re-frame the presentation to make the most important point – the uniqueness of its product line stand out. We did so in three ways. First, we used supportive data to show that the product was evergreen – would always be purchased by customers who would really want to try on the product: the market share of this product hadn’t dropped in years!  Second, we focused on the explosion of the market: the increased presence of baby boomers (e.g., the number of people over 65 will double to over 80 Million by 2050) and the increased use of this product by Millennials – the largest generation alive (another 80 million). Finally, given that all the bankers, consultants and buyers were men, and this is a woman’s unique product, we recommended that the head of the company, a woman, sandwich the presentation with an opening and closing of these two points by focusing on women’s usage patterns – as evidenced by their wives, daughters and mothers!. Stay tuned for the outcome.

So, before you produce a boring presentation that doesn’t compel the audience to buy into your proposition – identify the most important point and build your case around it. Attend our corporate and open-to-the public workshops or ask for one-on-one consulting so you, top, can close more deals!

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