Employee Jobs Should Address Strategy and Culture

Tom Peters, in his new book, The Excellence Dividend,  which is a follow-up to the classic,  In Search of Excellence, he shares two quotes which make an important point which leadders should heed: we all need to address culture!

In 1990, Lou Gerstner, took the helm of IBM, which was failing to adapt to the changing computer landscape. Many people thought it could only survive if major changes took place. Mr. Gerstner previously was CEO of RJR Nabisco – a consumer products company – with little expertise in technology. He was a “strategist’s strategist; he believed that if you “get the strategy right and you’re three quarters of the way down the road.” Yet, he took the time to truly understand the company and do what was needed to turn it around.”

In his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Hstoric Turnaround, he shares an important perspective:  “ If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn’t have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparsion, changing the attitude and behavior of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. Yet, I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it IS the game”

Similarly, Parick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage: why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, recounts a story consistent with this issue. “As I sat at the conference listening to one presentation after another highlighting the remarkable and unorthodox activities (people-first dogman, leadership stule, communal culture etc.) that have made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and asked the CEO a semi-rhetorical question: Why in the world don’t your competitors do any of this? After a few seconds, he whispered, almost sadly, ‘You know, I honestly believe they think it’s beneath them.”

Leaders heed the advice: address culture and strategy if you truly want a more successful company. As our  Eval2Win system advocates, in a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO) each person is accountable for specific job responsibilites that fulfill the company’s cultural values and his/her component of its strategic mission. This allows you to hire, develop and promote people to new positions over time while always maintaining an aligned situation in which as employees win, the company also wins.

Pitching Deals with Emotional Intelligence

Over the last year, I’ve witnessed a number of companies pitching private equity, investment banking and related deals that have all been disappointing. The time frame for closing the deal is extended enormously; the number of interested investors is a fraction of what was expected, and the multiple offered is far less than expected. In several cases, the deals just fell through.

In each case, recognized bankers/investment firms were involved. While the senior people gather the date they use junior people to produce the presentation products, using a forumalic presentation template. When the clients express disappointment in the process, I point out the obvious:

  • The people who draft the actual presentation products are detached from the true meaning of the deal (eg., really understanding the competitive advantage, the actual parties involved (buyers and sellers.)
  • They are judged by their ability to fit boat-loads of information into a standard presentation template which has two negative consequences:
    • The delivery doesn’t complement the material (e.g., a suit should highlight the best of a man’s build; off-the-shelf suits don’t)
    • High quality content gets lost in a long-winded, presentation that makes sense to the designer but not necessarily the buyer. (E.g., an investor relations person was once asked to communicate the Competitive Advantange of the deal and then spent minutes looking for the key part, and not being able to find it commented, “I know it’s here somewhere.”)
  • The presenter is encouraged to follow the banker’s format – rather than one that encourages the presenter to focus on the unique needs of the buyer (e.g.,present an Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentation).

One example is a pitch-book devleoped for an apparel company . It addressed the traditional issues, quality of the products, distribution, and the company’s rate of return, and how it’s handling changes in the retail market due to Amazon. However, the company’s product is unique and no real mention of that fact was made.  Unlike most apparel (e.g., jeans, suits, coats, etc.) which generally can be used over and over again, this product is likely to be used only once or twice, and only at setting where it’s beauty-value is treasured.

Not unexpectedly, interested buyers saw it only as a commodity, and the selling process did not produce a satisfactory result.

The solution is to use Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Allow the presenter (in this case company leader) to deliver an Audience-Driven, Authentic  Presentation which use the emotional information of both presenter and audience in an effective and meaningful way. Unleash the presenter rather than fit their message into a (bad) template); meet the emotional needs of a buyer for something really special. Make sure the people designing have the EQ skills (which comes from experience) to understand both parties to the actual transaction.

What’s your experience on this issue?  Share it with us.

Afraid of Public Speaking?

One of the most common fears people have is getting in front of people to perform.  A book was published many years ago offering an alternative  –  “I’d Rather Die Than Give a Speech”  – but not a desirable one.

The real issue whether  to confront the fear.  What do you really want from life? Helen Keller noted that “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outight exposure; the fearful are caught as often as the bold.”  Peter Drucker, the father of management theory , once noted that the greatest risk is taking no risk. The safest plane is one that doesn’t fly; the safest ship is oen that nevr leaves port; but playing it safes comes with a cost – lost opportunities. “ When I look at my own life, it is those things that I was once most fearful of, which, when overcme and ultimately mastered, were the greatest conributos to my success and happiness”. You can cushion the risk when you take the leap and confront your fears, by working with supportive people.

Toastmasters offers virtually free opportunities to practice in front of other people (who are also fearful) and stick at it till they feel more confortable.  Most  speaking/presentation trainers use of variety of techniques to help people overcome it. Google has 90,200,000 entries for “how to overcome the fear of public speaking”; There are many strategies and tactics; find one that works for you.  Some focus on your sensitivity to triggers and help you reduce them and re-label them; others focus on shifting focus from themselves to their audience – through eye-contact, immersive engagement, etc. – so you’re not focused on your own triggers.

Indeed, we tailor the solutions to each student , with an understanding that each time a little fear is natural. Barbra Streisand once observed that despite years of successful entertainment in front of large groups, she still feels anxious for the first 15 seconds; but by shifting from the”me-to-them” mindset to one of “we’re all here together”it disappears quickly.

Finally, take advantage of every opportunity to practice. A colleague recently turned down an opportunity to speak to a dozen executives because he’s not self-confident in large groups (where the “enemy” outnumbers me by a lot; I’m fine one-on one”. So we recommended practicing with a large group (e.g., Toastmasters) where there were no high-stakes. As a result, he gained greater confidence, and has learned (through additional practice) how to work through the fear quickly and then relate to his audience with great results.

Share with us your story of how you overcame the fear of public speaking.

To Win, Presentations Require Emotional Intelligence

One of the fun parts of my job is the ability to draw insights from juggling the diverse set of issues I address in an average week.  Working with our Vistage CEOs, we focused on Emotional Intelligence. Working with Presentation Excellence, we focused on ADAP – our simple formula for great presentation. It occurred to me that people who focus on ADAP to produce winning presentations are using their Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

ADAP stands for Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations. After helping over 5000 (executive-level) presenters develop winning presentations, we saw a clear pattern: they built and delivered their presentations using these two key ingredients. To be Audience-driven, you need to understand where your audience is coming from. This includes a variety of issues, including:

  • How “ready” are they to accept arguments you present (from opposed to already convinced)
  • How is the message presented : to what extent is it based on logic vs. emotions
  • How does the format influence receptiveness (e.g, structure, time-length, ease of finding the key points quickly,graphics, text, numbers, charts, etc.)
  • How does the setting (place, time of day, etc.) affect attention-spans

To deliver an Authentic Presentation, you believe in your message and commicate the message passionately to the audience. That’s done through speech (e.g.,tone, pacing, inflection, etc.) eye-contact, body language and mannerisms, interpersonal distance, etc.

Emotional Intelligence, which was popularized in the book by Daniel Goleman, is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.  It consists of a set of Emotional and Social Skills that Influence the way we:

  • Perceive and Express Ourselves
  • Develop and Maintain Social Relationships
  • Cope with Challenges
  • Use Emotional Information in an Effective and Meaningful way.

As you can see, we might expect people with higher EQ to do better at designing and delivering presentations!  Indeed, Google notes that it’s the key to both personal and professional success.  For over 15 years, we’ve been using this approach when we train and coaching our clients to use ADAP for winning presentations.  Now, we will develop more format tools which a wider audience can use to test their EQ and ADAP capabilities. To stay informed on our progress, contact us.

I’m Curious: What’s Your Big Idea?

In a world of countless (often similar) presentations – how to do you get people to really pay attention?

Many presentations are issue-focused: here are the facts, organized to persuade you to accept our position.  It gets boring.  Chris Anderson, in his book on Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking proposes an alternative approach: develop curiosity. Think of how we all listen to stories: we want to listen to the whole message because we’re curious as to how it will turn out, so we stay till the end.

The key is to present an idea, not an issue. As he notes, June Cohen noticed that idea-based talks lead with curiosity, whereas issue-based talks lead with lessons – morality, capitalism, sustainability, etc.  An issue exposes a problem; an idea proposes a solution. An issue may be something I know something about; an idea proposed something I may not yet know, so I will feel that this may make a difference to me. You’re not just asking them to care about your issue; instead you’re taking the audience on a journey to discuss a puzzle and offer a solution as a gift,

For instance, we all know (the issue) that despite millions of research dollars; no magic bullet has been found to solve Alzheimer’s Disease. However, here’s another approach: the idea that a pill may not be the right approach. Instead using a series of therapies together has shown some indication that it might actually slow the progression of AD and possibly reverses some of its impacts. Are you curious to know about this approach, how it would work, what kinds of trials and FDA tests has it gone through? Is it available to use? Can I invest in the companies engaged in the R&D and commercialization?

Engaging the audience through curiosity requires that you, as the speaker, need to use your best ADAP attributes: Audience-Driven and Authentic Presentation) attributes. You need to be competent and passionate on the topic; you need to engage the audience in your own struggle to understand the idea and where it’s going to take everyone, so people are inspired and enthusiastic.  Unlike issue-presentations, where the goal is for the speaker to persuade the audience, here the goal is to engage the audience journey in the discovery process and paint a bold picture of the (future) idea, so we, the audience, persuades ourselves.

Next time you’re preparing a presentation, get the audience curious on what the idea means for them!  Then share with us the results of this presentation style!

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