Can the “Great Resignation” Become the “Great Elevation”? It’s Up to You.

The data is clear: one of the consequences of the Pandemic is that people are leaving their jobs. From my perch, the patterns are clear. I see it when I work with CEOs who lead multi-million dollar companies and share their thoughts and feelings with other Vistage members in order to be more effective leaders for themselves, their employees and companies and communities with which they work. I see it when I work with the Age Brilliantly community where adults share their questions and potential solutions on our interactional platform with peers, experts and service providers, who share our common mission: to lead long, fulfilling lives (to 100+).

It’s happening across almost all demographic groups for a simple reason: staying in a job that doesn’t meet some of their essential needs for a fulfilling life doesn’t make sense. The Pandemic which disrupted so many aspects of life, destroyed our allegiance to inertia: the reluctance to change. It moved workers from offices to home; it forced people to restructure how and when the use time to do jobs and reallocate it to relationships, passion and purpose. 

It challenged workers’ beliefs that they had to sacrifice some aspects of life for others. We learned that we no longer have to commute an hour a day to do your daily job, nor spend a day traveling back and forth for a meeting that could be done via Zoom. We learned that we have 12-18 hours during which we can work and spend time with our children and parents -often with more positive results for everyone. With a far more fulfilling life, why return to the old way of sacrificing “self” for the “job”. 

As humans continue to evolve, we’re motivated less by fears driven by our reptilian brains and more by the positive outlook of opportunities by our “sage” (frontal neocortex) brains. (See  Positive Psychology and Positive Intelligence to learn more.)  For emerging and young adults, the discovery happens early in their careers; for middle and later stage adults who are questioning what a potential 80 year adult life really means, this is the opportunity to stop living the “default” life and start leading an intentional life.

If they work for a company, this is the time to reflect on what they really want to do for the rest of their life. Resignations allow some to focus on GROWTHH time (i.e., Goal Re-orientation with Time for Health and Happiness) and launch their Future Selves. Young people can start careers that are more challenging and lucrative, and uses their time well. Middle and later stage adults can change careers, start businesses, and serve as SharExers (Sharing Experience and Expertise) to advise companies, mentor younger people, etc.) CEOs who resisted retirement because the company produces many values (e.g., identity, income, relationships), can identify inertia’s opportunity costs, and focus on life’s wonders, gifts and opportunities that they are missing

Since the beginning of the pandemic, McKinsey and others noted that it accelerated trends already in place. Experts have been sharing with us the impact of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the job market: we’re going to lose between 25-40+% of jobs manual and routine jobs that Robots (physical machines) and Bots (software robots). At the same time, it creates new job and industries. Remember, digital transformation, telehealth, RPA (robotic process automation), etc. are all in their infancy. 

Thus, rather than lament the labor shortages that the “great resignation” has produced, we should focus on the opportunities it creates. Let the “robots and bots” free people from jobs that are routine and boring; and let’s enable those people who want to support companies’ vision and mission to increase their contribution! Let people acquire the soft- and hard-skills necessary to take on elevated work with interesting teams of other people who share that vision. 

One of the Vistage member CEOs with whom I work leads a unique firm. While many of the larger RPA firms develop tools that they help customers adopt, Simple Fractal focuses on diagnosis of client’s needs to develop customized bots (cRPA). As part of tits needs assessment process, it not only identifies where its bots can generate more revenue, more profit, better customer experiences, more efficiency, etc., but also challenges the client to think about how to use the enormous ROI that cRPA can produce to look at its future workforce and “elevate human capital”.

As individuals make better decisions concerning the jobs they want to own during the next decade while they also lead a more fulfilling lifestyle, they need to elevate their capabilities to take on these jobs. At the same time, companies and schools need to increase their commitment to helping people upskill their talents and capabilities to take on more interesting careers during next few decades.

Together, as individuals, schools, and companies, we can turn the Great Resignation into the Great Elevation.  Are you up to the challenge? Let’s get started, now!

For more information, contact: Jerry.Cahn@VistageChair.com or JCahn@AgeBrilliantly.org 

Think Like a BUYER to Design and Deliver Winning Sales Presentations

Do you want to sell your company (or an important product or service) for maximum value and quickly? Then, you need to think like the BUYER before you design the presentation.

This message has been reinforced recently, as several CEOs who are selling their companies share with me how they are struggling with sales presentations designed for them by investment banking and related firms. Why are they’re struggling? While the banker-types do a decent job collecting the information that needs to be presented, they turn the design job to junior analysts who “fit” the data into an evergreen sales template. This process generates several problems:

  • The templates often are not designed from the perspective of a BUYER but rather reflect the “data-dump” of the data collected to make the sake. A BUYER presentation focuses on:
  • What the BUYER needs to know (and what should be deleted),
  • How the facts and data should be presented to be compelling, 
  • How to structure the entire presentation to guide the BUYER to reach the conclusion: “I really want this!”
  • The potential BUYER is part of an extended team that has to pull the trigger on buying.  This includes people in the company, investors and advisors. Therefore, a key goal of the presentation is to enable the person to share the information with others!  Like the game of telephone, as it gets communicated from one person to another, pieces get lost and confused. Therefore, the presentation must make crystal clear at the end WHY this is an incredible deal and do it in a way that the BUYER can share it completely with others!
  • Most analysts shouldn’t be expected truly understand the BUYER context.  He/she only recently graduated a (often top) college which taught how to do financial modeling and make presentations. These are key technical skills. But, as Google’s research demonstrated, the soft-skills often count more today than the hard skills. That the template may not include the right facts in the right offer and therefore eliminate the right flow to persuade a BUYER is something not yet experienced. As a mentor once shared with me, don’t expect someone who drives used cars to be a powerful new luxury car sales person.
  • All too often the person who presents to potential buyers is given the mandate to present this less-than-ideal-templated presentation” to potential buyers by going from over-stuffed- slide-to-slide. Instead, the seller should be presenting his/her persuasive, memorable STORY, filled with passion, purpose and vision and supported by informative and engaging slides within a powerful, flowing presentation. Only then can a deal proceed at full value and at full value. (The gap between reading the slides and presenting a powerful story is the largest reason that potential deals don’t advance.)

For over thirty years, my teams at Presentation Excellence and its predecessor Brilliant Image, have been telling our over 5000 customers to follow a simple formula that almost always enable them to win: ADAP – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Understanding the buyer context is KEY. One of my clients once raised $100M Opportunity fund with a 20 minute stand-up presentation at tall tables in bars. Another CEO had trouble selling a company which sold at retail dressy dresses ; once we realized that the Buyer-Reps were all men – who often bought tuxedos that they wore over and over again, we realized changing the mindset immediately was key to revealing Company’s real value. Finally, I wrote this blog in response to a third CEO who told to present their hot-off-the-press presentation the next day (for the first time) while he was uncomfortable with the flow and style, but was willing to go along with the (expensive) experts.

So, if you’re one of the millions of owners and managers who have critical sales planned for 2022, THINK LIKE THE BUYER, before you design and deliver the presentation!  

(For more information, call JerryCahn@PresentationExcellence.com or 800 493 1334

that can only be worn once is not the same as selling Tuxedos which may be work countless times.

 Think Like the Buyer, BEFORE You Design the Presentation

What’s Your Purpose Statement?

One of the initial tasks of every company is to articulate the corporate identify so management, employees and investors are all on the same page, and then articulate the band that the company wants to project to its customers. Over time, things may change, and it’s important to revisit the corporate identify.  When was the last time your team revisited the accuracy and engagement-value of your company’s corporate identity?

Over the past few years, corporate leaders who previously may have declared that their company’s purpose was to “increase shareholder value” have expanded their purpose to include other stakeholders, including employees, communities and society in general. Concerns about climate change, sustainability, diversity and inclusion are all fueling this change.

Today, as a result of the pandemic, between 20 and 33% of adults, especially emerging and early stage adults, are beginning to rethink their lifestyle and career steps. Why continue to spent a lot of time commuting to work and away from raising a family and forging a wholesome lifestyle, when remote and hybrid work options let you integrate work and family into a lifestyle? “The great resignation”, as this trend has been called, reflects the re-evaluation of people’s values and prior life decisions. Many are taking GROWTHH sabbaticals to reflect and decide what they want to do and then seek out news skills, jobs, cities, etc.

Against this backdrop, an article by PwC, Why Corporate Purpose Statements Often Miss Their Mark, caught my attention. Are your company’s Corporate Identity components, which may have been developed years ago, still appropriate and accurate (1) for the current and future business and (2) for your stakeholders now and in the immediate future? 

The article focuses on the fact that many purpose statements lack and meaningful sense of purpose – which may explain why so many people no longer feel drawn to their former employers and the new ones desperate to find new employees.  For instance, when an environmental organization says its purpose is to “create daylight, fresh air and a better environment for people’s every day lives”, it tells you the reason the company exists, identifies the beneficiary and inspires people concerned with our climate challenges. Contrast that to another company’s  purpose to “produce goods of as high a quality as possible with as low as possible production costs”; practical, but not inspiring.

So it may be time for you to review your set of corporate identity statements:

  • Purpose: Why does the company exist? It should describe what the company does, who they do it for and how they do it.  The PwC study found that the overwhelming majority neglected to mention the core problem they intend to solve or refer to its history illustrate its actual purpose.
  • Vision:  What will you ultimate product as a result? Think of the headline you’d like to see in a major newspaper about the achievements accomplished in the distant future. (e.g., “ WHO announces that XYZ disease is now eliminated worldwide.”)
  • Mission: How are you contributing daily to the service that will solve the beneficiary’s problems?
  • Strategy. What resources will you mobilize and tradeoffs will you make to achieve the solution?
  • Culture: What values and behaviors should your team practice in order to actualize the purpose?

Once you’ve identified your corporate identify statements, then you can develop just descriptions for individuals and teams which incorporate them and build accountability systems and improvement systems to help people grow professionally and personally. (See Accountable4Success.com)

Most important, your statement of Corporate Identity is a living document. Over times, people and circumstances will change. What worked yesterday may not be appropriate for tomorrow. On an annual basis, at the least, your executive team should review and edit as needed. And the best time to evaluate your purpose and other statements is NOW!

Decisions, Decisions: It’s the Presentation that Counts

A leader is responsible for making the best possible decisions for her/his team/company. Ideally, we have plenty of time to get the facts, weigh the options and then objectively make the best possible decision. That’s not today’s world, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous).  As Greg Satell relates in 4 Things Every Leader Should Know About Making Decisions (But Most Don’t), we make decisions based on limited data and time, and because we’re human, lots of psychological processes related to which facts we analyze, how we weigh the “data”, and how we present it, allow subjectivity to enter. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book, Decisive, make similar points about unconscious biases and tendencies.

After doing the best we can to overcome the biases, collect the data and analyze, what can we do? Satell raises some good points that you should consider:

  • Your team’s willingness to follow your lead depends on how well you confidently you present your decision. He relates a story in which one of his people noted that “Well, you always seemed confident and that made us confident.” Even though he wasn’t always confident that he was making the right decision, he was confident that a decision had to be made at that time.  Over time, you learn to make the best decision under constraining circumstances, and so your confidence relates to the process:  the best possible decision you could make is offered as needed.
  • Learn how to use time to help you make the best decision.  If a decision is needed the next day and someone asks you for it at the end of a day, when you’re not able to necessarily make the best decision and review it, agree to provide the decision – tomorrow when it’s needed. That buys you the time to reflect on the tentative decision and all the factors that might affect it.
  • Buying time often buys you the ability to receive additional facts and perspectives that the “selective attention of your prepared mind” may identify. (Think about buying a “red car” and suddenly you “see” more of them around than ever.)
  • Use the time to reflect on many of the unconscious biases, such as availability bias,  priming, and framing, to see if they are affecting the decision. If time permits, consider using pre-mortems and red teams, to identify opposing perspectives and weigh them. Finally, keepin mind, as Kahneman notes in Noise,  that experts (e.g.,  radiologists and auditors)

In sum, work toward making the best possible decision by checking your premises, and then feel confident that you’ve done the best job. It’s often said that “sales is the transfer of enthusiasm”; when you’re presenting the decision to motivate and engage the team, your confidence in the decision will close the sale.

Why Do We Shout Sometimes

The majority of people who come to Presentation Excellence to help improve their “presentation effectiveness” tend to focus on two issues:

  • The extent to which their presentation is compelling – which means understanding its content, flow, design and ability to address any audience reactance and situational constraints which would impact significantly on how a message is absorbed.
  • Their own ability to present powerfully, since many experience speaker anxiety. (Remember fear of public speaking is the number one fear people have, and is the reason that, as jerry Seinfeld noted, at funerals “people would rather be in the box than giving the eulogy!”).

How we present ourselves has become even more important since the pandemic started, because so many presentations are done virtually, often showing only our heads, which means we can’t manage our body language as we do in a live-presentation. Many of our colleagues focus on helping people set up their “zoom rooms” to help demonstrate their professionalism, and train themselves to look straight “into the eyes” of the other Zoom attendants.

However, more important is our speech pattern –e.g., clarity, pacing, timber, modulating volume, keeping thoughts short and using breaths to allow people to absorb key points. This is especially the case when we’re giving presentations – such as webinars and podcasts – where our body and face and not present or prominent.   This point was brought home to me this summer, by two events.

I’ve known for years that when I’m excited to share something that I think will really help my audience, I unconsciously raise my volume to “make sure they heard” the point. Whether live or virtually, I generally manage it well.  But suddenly, people were telling me I was shouting. Surprised to hear it I reflected on whether I was exceptionally excited, and then realized that there probably was a change in the speaker system I was using. I just moved my office and changed my equipment and sure enough the settings were off.  Thanks for the feedback! Now that doesn’t happen again.

Also, I read the Wall Street Journal’s article, Why Do We Shout When We Argue, which highlighted a second factor: our lack of confidence. While we all “know” that shouting doesn’t actually persuade anyone, and often has the opposite effect, Vanessa Bohns noted that researchers have found that when people lack confidence, they tend to shout, “ While we often are over-confident in our beliefs, the tendency to shout…comes from under-confidence in our ability to convince others.”

This “shouting” can take several forms, in addition to just speaking louder and faster. Thinking this will help impress the audience, presenters often “raise their vocabulary” – using larger words and more jargon. In the design of their presentation, they compensate by using more text, and detailed charts and tables than are needed – often weakening the impact of their presentation.  And, from a speech standpoint they raise volume when they think their losing the audience’s attention thinking that by shouting they will get more attention.

As we note in our training programs, less is more, and that applies to the amount of slides, text per slide, and details per chart and table. The key is to provide the key information in a way that the audience wants to receive it – and not shout it out.  Indeed, when you dropping your volume on something important, audiences will give you more attention in order to make sure they heard it. And if you want them to totally absorb an idea, taking a pause gives them the break needed to do so – and is likely to help you persuade your audience.

So the next time you present, think through both the presentation you designed and the delivery. And ask for feedback so you can avoid “shouting” in both areas!

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