Monthly Archives: July 2021

Align Your Executive Team for Peak Performance

One of the most important elements of a successful company is a strong Executive Team.  Whether you’re forging ahead with a new business strategy or considering selling your company, it’s the power of the team to coordinate their efforts to create individual and collective peak performances that really counts. As John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell, and other experts in helping owners develop lucrative business exits note, it’s their ability to carry on the business as well – and often better – without  you that significantly affects the final price.

Especially during times of great change – whether it’s the switch to post-lockdown hybrid workforces, new product lines with new suppliers and distribution channels, or workforce utilization due to automation and AI – it’s important that the Executive Team stays on the same wavelength to collaborate effectively and efficiently, and not end up unaligned and in silos.

It’s for this reason that I stress with the CEOs with whom I work the importance of coaching direct reports and opening stronger lines of communication. Indeed, Marshall Goldsmith, a leading executive coach, recently shared 6 questions that would be appropriate for these coaching sessions. They are:

·   Where are we going?  Are we in sync with the current vision, goals and priorities? Are we aligned?!

·   Where are you going? Is your part really aligned with the company and other divisions?

·   What is going well?

·   What can be improved?

·   How can I help?

After asking these questions, switch the focus with:  “What suggestions do you have for me?” This opens the door to a two way dialogue.

With such coaching, you can identify cracks in the company’s strategy and be able to repair them.

Also be sure that you and your team have full “conversational capacity”. He created a “conversational martial art of business communication” that allows teams to perform well and remain open, balanced, and non-defensive as they tackle their most troublesome issues.  For more information, see Craig Weber’s Conversation Capacity  and https://weberconsultinggroup.net).

Final note: Recently, Vistage introduced a set of new leadership programs for managers that they supervise.  For details on the Executive Leadership Programs, contact me at jerry.cahn@vistage.com)

It’s Showtime!

Whether you deliver one or a thousand presentations, the last thing you need to address is your own energy.  Yes, you’ve followed the rules to design and deliver a totally ADAP Presentation (Audience-Drive, Authentic Presentation), and in a few minutes before “the rubber meets the road”, it’s up to you. How do you become laser-focused, totally immersed in the process?

Years ago, a colleague of mine gave me his formula. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard the same great advice with different stories leading them to the same conclusion from Shizard Carmine, CEO of Positive Intelligence (with whom I’ve been taking a course to master PQ and how to use it in a new coaching program that will soon be available) and Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s top executive coaches. So, try it!

Murphy’s law sets the scenario:  "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong". So, regardless of all the preparation, negative forces can get in the way. The equipment suddenly breaks down; your flight to the presentation is delayed and the flight took 18 hours and your suitcase was lost, or the customer can’t make it and her intimidating boss is leading the meeting. How do you possibly step onto the “stage” with enthusiasm?

Just before getting on the “stage”, take a minute to remind yourself that “It’s Showtime”, and the show must go on, and YOU are the show. Stop into a restroom or its equivalent, put everything down, and look into the mirror. Look yourself in the eye, fix straighten your dress, tie, suit, or whatever “suit of armor” You’re wearing, and enthusiastically and out loud tell yourself “It’s Showtime”! And as you repeat it out loud watch how you stand straighter, smile, and feel more relaxed. 

In a recent blog, Marshall observed that’s how Broadway actors launch themselves despite the “headache”, foot pain, etc. If you’re a Positive Intelligence user, do a couple of PQs to switch your brain from one dominated by your saboteurs who are focused on the negatives to one which allows you to adopt the Sage perspective and its five powers.  In both cases, your positive, enthusiastic self walks on stage. And even though you may have stage-fright (which most people do have), you know that within 15 seconds you’ll be immersed in the ADAP delivery and focused on the audience impact.  Indeed, when Barbra Streisand opened at the Barclay Center many years ago, she confessed to still having butterflies when walking on stage, but knowing that they would end within a few seconds, enabled her to perform with the excellence she and her fans expected.

So, the next time you present – remember:  It’s Showtime!

(P. S. To learn more about Positive Intelligence, visit their website take the free assessment, and then contact me to discuss it; jerrycahn@presentationexcellence.com)

Presenting for Change: What’s Your Audience Perspective?

The stakes for presentations vary. Traditional investor, management, and marketing ones are important to the players, but rarely earth-shattering. Getting a company’s Board or employees to adopt an innovation or restructuring, involves much larger stakes. But the highest stakes belong to those focused on creating a social or other critical revolution.  Think of the presentation skills that the founders of the United States used to mobilize public opinion to gain support for a revolution!

While the key skills we’ve highlight when applying the ADAP (Audience-Driven Authentic Presentations) formula apply to virtually all presentations, fomenting a revolution requires going beyond influencing the audience you’re trying to mobilize. It requires taking into account the future actions of the people who will oppose the desired action or even stay “neutral”.

Greg Satell, in How to Prepare Your Organization for Transformation in a Post-Covid World, shares many observations about the need to take into account the first of these parties. For years, he has shared his insights based on experience with the revolutionary movement designed to overthrow the brutal Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milošević, and later people involved with the rise (and fall) of the Arab Spring. More recently, he’s extended his insights to corporate settings.

Based on his experience and expertise, he shares with us that the traditional approach to launching a new initiative with a bang can be counterproductive.  Lining up the “right people” for a big “kick-off” meeting to move fast and gain scale and generate some quick wins, can create urgency and inevitability. Yet the “shock and awe” approach can backfire because it might inspire an insurgency that bogs things down. “For any significant change, there will always be some who will oppose the idea and they will resist it in ways that are often insidious and not immediately obvious. The dangers of resistance are especially acute when…you need to drive transformation on multiple fronts.”

Thus, his ADAP solution is to start with small groups of enthusiasts that you can empower to succeed, rather than try to push an initiative on the masses that you’ll struggle to convince.  Second, focus on instilling shared values and shared purpose so your audience stays dedicated. This allows the enthusiasts to spread the word and help recruit more people to your cause.

In “Those Who Forget: My Family’s story in Nazi Europe”, Geraldine Schwarz focuses on the larger “middle” group between change activists and the insurgency. Her family “did not participate more than nominally in National Socialism”; but the Nazi leaders took them into account so that they eventually were neutralized by ignoring their prior values regarding human dignity and life. Little by little, they did nothing to oppose Nazis when they entered towns to round up Jews and put them in cattle carts which took them to death camps. 

In sum, depending on the stakes, define the audience you need to influence to include your future change audience, those who might oppose change and those caught in the middle.     

Do you have any life or business experiences with such issues? If so, share them with us!

When Context Matters, Win with ADAP

First, thanks for sharing: We love it when Presentation Excellence members share with us their example of how our ADAP formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) solves a presenters’ dilemma. When people make presentations, we focus on content, format, media, and delivery skills; but sometimes the key to impact requires focusing on Context.

Investor Business daily recently shared an observation by Retired General Stanley McChrystal (who led the successful “surge” in the Iraq war) on leadership.  “Leaders have got to be able to understand the context in which they’re operating. You lead a group of soldiers differently on Monday morning than you do Friday afternoon.”

For those of us who are “office warriors”, we know that’s true. People come to work at the beginning of a week, looking forward to starting a productive week. By Friday, their focus is more likely to be bringing the week to a successful conclusion. When we started in Vietnam, there was all kinds of optimism and a willingness to keep investing in the cause. In the end, we just wanted to get out quickly. We’re seeing a similar scenario in Afghanistan.

It made me think of how I train my presentation warriors to win their battles when their goal is to motivate and energize an audience. Here are three examples.

·   If possible, pick a time slot when the audience is most receptive to engaging with you. For instance, the first speaker at a conference has that advantage. Whereas the speaker after lunch is likely to have a more distracted (and tired) audience. And if you’re chosen for that slot, you need to compensate by creating keeping your audience engaged. (At a conference for emerging growth companies, they asked me to be the key after-lunch speaker. Why that slot? “Because you know how to engage a lethargic audience.” (They were right, by getting off the podium and walking around the audience and I stayed energized.)

·   As an IR specialist, I help CEOs design powerful investor presentations. At an investor conference, speakers usually get a 30-minute slot. My clients usually present for 20 minutes so the audience can ask the questions we want them to ask, and demonstrate our expertise. However, in about 25% of the cases, something changes the schedule (e.g., a fire drill, equipment failures). Most presenters then rush their 25-30 minute presentation in the 15-minute allotment – and are less effective. My clients use a second, 15 minute, presentation that is power-packed and eliminates the need to rush. The contrast blows the audience away!

·   An executive engaged us to solve a problem: survival. His department was being moved; one potential supervisor was a fan of his; the other wasn’t. His once chance to influence the decision was at the upcoming Board meeting at which he was going to present for the first time ever. After working on the presentation itself, we took a look at the meeting room. The Board table had 40 seats, with the chairman at one end and the speaker platform at the other. We needed to bring the two together. So we arranged for him to stand at the middle of the table – bring in him closer to the Chairman and also to the Executive for whom he wanted to work. As a result, all three were engaged in the conversation that accompanied the presentation – and he became his boss. (Unfortunately, a few years later, that boss left and he moved to the other person’s division – and was let go within months!)

So, when you plan your presentation focus on the presentation itself, your skills, the audience’s needs, and the context in which the presentation will occur. Do it right, and the ADAP formula will work for you, too!

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