Strategy

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!

Clarity on Employee Coaching

A key practice that Stephen Covey told us to adopt in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is to start with the end in mind. As we return to work as a distributed workforce – working sometimes in the office and sometimes not, without knowing exactly how this will eventually settle (which is why we call this the “fluid” post-pandemic stage), we need to adopt the most effective practices to empower and develop our staff. This especially applies to training and coaching our staff.  Marshall Goldsmith, one of the leading executive coaches, recently noted a number of key leader-coaching strategies. As an executive coach, I found his recommendations valuable – and realized we can apply some of them to coaching our staff. Here they are:

  1. Involve the staff member being coached in determining the desired behaviors. People cannot be expected to change behavior if they don’t have a clear understanding of what desired behavior looks like.
  2. Involve the staff member being coached in determining key stakeholders. Without identifying the company stakeholders with whom they’ll be involved, you can’t help them get them to focus on the right issues nor accept the feedback from the right colleagues.  This ensures their “buy in” to the process, as they will be discussing it with these peers, subordinates and supervisors.
  3. Collect feedback. Marshall personally interviews all key stakeholder for a CEO or gets 360° feedback, because feedback is critical. It is impossible to get evaluated on changed behavior if there is not agreement on what behavior to change!
  4. Reach agreement on key behaviors for change. Don’t try to change everything; pick only one or two key areas for behavioral change with each coaching-client and agree upon the desired behavior for change.
  5. Have the coachee get other input from key stakeholders. As the person being coached speaks with stakeholders, she/he can collect “feedforward” suggestions on how to improve on the key areas targeted for improvement. The feedback provides greater depth, breadth and wisdom.
  6. Enable your coachee to develop the action plans that result from the principles discussed. These plans need to come from them, with constructive feedback provided by you, the coach. They often know what’s the right thing to do; they just need to execute it well and evaluate it for continuous improvement.

As we increasingly use automation and artificial intelligence to take over the “routine” activities with which we’re involved, being coached on how to handle human-interactions, especially effective collaboration when people are working in different offices at different times, becomes more critical.  Use the Presentation Excellence ADAP principles to make sure you’re effective. If you have questions, share them with us!

Tips to Better Coach Your Executives

As companies grow, it becomes increasingly important for CEOs and other executives to improve their coaching skills so they can help direct reports take on more responsibilities and be successful. The need is even more important now that staff are distributed rather than working in a central office; micro-management as a back-up isn’t as easy.  Going forward, workers need to self-manage and be accountable to themselves and team members.

As a vistage Chair, I have the privilege of working with 800 other chair-facilitators-coaches who constantly seek to improve our own skills at helping the CEOs with whom we work, but also share insights. Recently, it published an article, 9 Powerful Questions Coaches Ask CEOs, in which other chairs highlighted ideas which leaders at all levels can use to assist their direct reports. 

I thought I’d share a few of them to stimulate your thinking. You can substitute the word department or division for company, since it applies.

  • Are you running your company or leading it?  Too many leaders spend more time than they should being “hands-on” with activities and tactical, rather than taking the time to be strategic and focus on making sure everyone is asking the big strategic, cultural and leadership questions. Leaders should allocate 20% of their time to being strategic. (That’s one of the hidden benefits of Vistage – it sets aside 7% of a leader’s time to focus on strategic growth issues.)
  • Are you more of a fire-fighter or a fire-preventer? We all want to feel successful – but are we doing the things that add the most value? At our initial coaching session, one CEO admitted that he spent 50% of his time firefighting – and recognized the need to change how he and his team operate. 
  • Are meetings focused on the problems needing to be solved or the value of different solutions? At our Board meetings, we use Issue processing to enable members to resolve their biggest challenge by getting fresh perspectives and accountability. The format serves as a model they can use in their companies as well: each member is expected to identify the issues around the problems and then propose the alternative solutions under consideration. 
  • What habits do you have which hold you back from being the kind of leader you want to be?  We’re often focused on (new) things we want to do, without understanding that the best way to get rid of a bad habit is to substitute a good one for it. Similarly, you manage your time better when you recognize that, to have 4 extra hours a week to work on a project, you have to give away 4 hours of activities.

What questions help you coach your team more effectively? Share them with us.  If you feel that Vistage might be a tool to help you be a more strategic leader, feel free to contact me to discuss experiencing it! (Jerry.cahn@vistage.com)

What Could Innovation Do for Your Company?

As human beings, there’s one set of innovations we’re all waiting for: effective vaccines for Covid-19 and ways to distribute them as quickly as possible.

There’s a second set many of us are thinking about: a system that will enable us to handle the next pandemic a lot better than the one we’re in now. Let’s not be unprepared again!

There’s a third group that the CEOs with whom I work are now talking about: product and process innovations that enable their companies to serve customers better. Helping companies unleash their workers’ creativity and forge innovations has been a special area of interest for me for dozens of years and therefore a subject we discuss in group meetings and executive coaching sessions.

As we have these conversations, I am reminded of a major misconception about innovations: the myth of the lone genius who comes up with an innovation. Instead, the experts remind us that innovations are “cobbled together” by contributions from a number of sources. Henry Ford’s assembly line idea was the product of observations made while watching the meat “disassembly” plants by meat packers, and the replaceable parts concept used in the sewing machine.

In How Breakthroughs Happen: the Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate, Andrew Hargadon focuses on this issue by introducing the concept of the “technology broker” – outsiders who specialize in trying to see how a new idea could be commercialized effectively.  We all know stories about companies where people created innovations that never saw the light-of-day as commercial products and/or services. For instance, Xerox’s PARC’s (Palo Alto Research Center) scientists created the GUI (graphic user interface), the mouse, and other technologies; but did nothing with them. It took an outsider – Steve Jobs to see the commercial applications – and then used them to create Apple Computer. Similarly, Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, discovered an adhesive that stuck lightly and saw no use for it.  Art Fry found a use for it and engaged others (secretaries) to experiment with it – and created 3M’s Post-it Notes. He was the critical “technology broker”.

Who is your technology broker?   If you don’t already have a group of objective, smart business leaders who look at your ideas and, using  their fresh perspectives, give you insights on how it can be adapted  successfully, now is the time to do so

One of unheralded benefits of belonging to Vistage Worldwide is that you have a set of smart, committed leaders who are constantly coming up with new ideas and approaches, sharing them, and getting constructive, objective feedback from members of their local Peer Advisory group and/or the “special interest” networks to which the 23,000 global members belong.
Why not find out for yourself? Vistage offers appropriate leaders an opportunity to experience Vistage meetings virtually. Just contact me for details.  Email Jerry.Cahn@VistageChair.com or call 646-290-7664.

9 Ways to Influence

Leadership involves getting other people to do things you want them to do. In the world of offices, if both of you are in the same space, you can use your physical presence – including body language, voice tonality, etc. to influence people. When you’re not able to use your physical presence – which is increasingly going to happen as we become a distributed workforce, but have a position of authority, you can leverage the powers inherent in the position. If you lack authority you can use other forms of power – such as “expert” power to influence people. 

Today, more than ever, people work with others as team members lacking the physical presence, and often being peers without authority. So, using other forms of influence become increasingly important to people who want to achieve process or outcome goals.  In Becoming a Person of Influence John Maxwell and Jim Dornan identified nine qualities of influence.  The spell out Influence!

  • Integrity – Builds relationships based on trust
  • Nurturing – Cares about people as individuals
  • Faith — Believes in people
  • Listening  – Values what others have to say
  • Understanding – Sees things from others’ point of view
  • Enlarging – Helps others become bigger
  • Navigating – Assists others through difficulties
  • Connecting – Initiates positive relationships
  • Empowering – gives them the power to lead.

Which are your strengths? Which can be strengthened?  Especially in this Covid-19 era, , now is the time to work on these qualities in order to achieve your team’s process and outcome goals.

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