What’s Your SOCO?

As life becomes more complex, so do the presentations.  

As the number of people, technologies, ideologies, crises, etc. increase in our lives, we can understand that prioritizing, integrating, balancing them will get more complex. But what’s the excuse with presentations?

No, it seems that people are confusing the goal of a presentation – enabling the “audience” to accept your proposed idea – with how much information can be “crammed” into it and how long it is.

We’re clearly forgetting the value of a succinct presentation is that it’s easy to follow – and therefore more likely to generate results. Less truly is more! There’s no excuse for your compelling reason (often your Competitive Advantage) to show up as a footnote on page 21 of a 38 page presentation!

Here’s a suggestion for developing more succinct and focused presentations:

  • When you start your outline, identify your SOCO: the single overriding communication objective. This is the main message to your target audience, by which you would like to achieve your communication aim.
  • Outline the presentation – with each “slide” providing a unique message and providing whatever support it needs from facts, statistics, social proof, etc.
  • Practicing the trait that Steve Jobs used to acknowledge was a key to his success: saying no.

Review what you have and cut, cut and cut.

Then, when you deliver the presentation, remember to state your compelling point at the beginning, use the presentation to explain why it’s important and conclude by reinforcing the point.

If winning deals is even more important now, as you try to build a post-pandemic company, feel free to contact us for help: www.presentationexcellence.com  

Drive Accountability for Success

As companies get larger, and people work on diverse projects remotely, the need to hold people accountable is increasing. The old system of annual reviews, which gets lip-service, but provides little meaningful feedback for growth and only has consequences when things go seriously wrong, is being  “fired” at employee-centric companies. They need to have individuals working in-sync to achieve the corporate mission and goals. In the Accountable for Success (A4S) model, the fundamental building blocks are to:  generate individual and team peak performance, gain alignment with culture and strategy, and upgrade leadership capabilities. This happens with two key elements

  • Ongoing communication between the dyadic unit: manager and worker
  • A review calendar system that facilitates continuous learning for employee advancement in the existing job and all future ones.

As we work with companies to implement A4S, we learn about related tools that can help. For instance, most managers are not training to be excellent at giving feedback and coaching others. (As a result they turn to micro-managements!) New programs help managers upgrade their skills at delivering valuable feedback and using coaching principles such as catalytic coaching. (For more information, contact us.)
Brent Gleeson, in TakingPoint, addresses this issue in his Six Fundamental Leadership Accountability Skills

  • Results-driven Messaging –Accountability starts with providing crystal clear expectations of the results to be achieved. The expectations have to be measurable (e.g., monthly financial report for the prior month, with no errors, is due the third working day of each month). Objective metrics are also needed to evaluate success. (e.g., on a 1-10 scale, delivery by deadline gets a top score with lower numbers set for missing the target).
  • Courage to take Ownership – The leader (supervisor) is responsible for making sure that the worker truly understands what is expected of the worker/team. Only then can the worker/team’s missed performances be assessed and correct by both parties through additional training, etc. 
  • Clear Direction –People can only be held accountable if targets and processes are clear and aligned with one another; no conflicting priorities are permitted
  • Training for Skills – Companies that use the A4S model are Continued Improvement Learning Organizations (CILOs), committed to training people in the new skills they will take to better perform their current job and move to new ones. The ultimate success is instilling in each worker the desire to learn even more.
  • Willingness to Change – A core value for each person in a CILO is a willingness (even desire) to change. As individuals grow, new challenges and boundaries are necessary to keep them engaged.
  • Respectful Conflict Resolution – Fundamental to a success is trust among its members. Therefore, the leader needs to help workers and teams resolve conflicts with respect. 

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” This quote is credited to both Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker, two people known for their word of wisdom and lessons to live by. The next best thing is knowing how to navigate it, especially in a world that’s described as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) and market gyrations of close to 1000 points.

To anticipate and creatively respond to the changes, you might find Robert Tucker’s“13 Guidelines for Navigating the New Decade Ahead” very useful. Here are some of them:

1. Create your own early warning system. “Managing the future”combines the tools of technology scouting, forward thinking, competitive intelligence, strategic thinking, and scenario planning.

2. Think like a futurist. Systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present. Include the driving forces of change and mega-trends: workplace, demographic, social, regulatory, environmental, geopolitical and technological. 

3. Audit your information diet. Read voraciously and widely, and audit your information intake periodically. Move from passively “getting informed” to actively “being informed. By looking at what’s new, what’s incongruous, and what’s intriguing to you.

4. Connect the dots. Make connections between information that requires that you to adopt an open mind as you consume information. Challenge your own assumptions about where emerging trends are headed, and on how you and your organization might best respond. Don’t be blindsided!

5. Turn emerging trends into new solutions.  Innovation means seizing the opportunities, taking calculated risks, and translating hindsight, insight and foresight into strategic action. 

6. Practice getting better at predicting.  Demographic, automation and AI, and job flexibility trends can be predicted. By 2035, there will be 78 million people over the age of 65 years vs. 76 million under the age of 18. As more people live past 90, fewer will “retire from work” at age 55-65, preferring a new life-balance for their 70-80 years of adult life. 

Now is the time to disrupt yourself. Challenge your personal value proposition. Learn to navigate the future so you always will be relevant. Take charge by getting information, inspiration and support. Join the AgeBrilliantly.org community to navigate your life as you and your children age in a future quite different from that of our parents.

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.

Don’t Confuse Credentials with Effectiveness

Since I worked on Capitol Hill decades ago, I find “inappropriate indicators” – criteria or benchmarks people use to make judgments that should not be used for those purposes – interesting; I’ve shared a few in past blogs, here’s one related to Job Performance Success.

Too many executives focus on academic background – schools and grades – when hiring new workers, even though behavioral assessments are much more predictive. This includes experiences demonstrating skills (to perform the strategic activities key to the job) and ability to work well co-workers and clients (to fit into your culture). Topgrading by Bradford Smart is an excellent approach to how to choose the right predictive indicators for successful recruitment.

In December, 2014 the White House held an early childhood education Summit to launch two new federal competitive programs: the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (to increase the availability of high-quality infant and toddler care) and The Preschool Development grants (to expand preschool programs in disadvantaged communities). Katharine Stevens’ op-ed on it in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention because (1) I coordinated the first evaluation of the needs for handicapped children to get Head Start Services (which led to the funding of a model program and eventual incorporation of the children in all programs) and believe strongly in such programs and (2) its title Here Come the Child-Care Cops (Dec. 12, 2014).

Grants were announced at the Summit, as well as the conditions winners must meet to get them.
The Early Head Start-Child Care Partners will find that their funding is subject to federal monitoring to ensure “compliance with 2400 Head Start ‘Performance Standards’, stipulating everything from staff qualifications to cot placement to how to clean potties.”

The Preschool Development Grants similarly seek high quality care by dictating staff qualifications and class size – rather than good outcomes, such as improved knowledge and skills. It requires that all preschool teachers have Bachelor’s degrees (in any field) to ensure a “qualified workforce”. The true measure should be whether the caretakers are effective. Does having a Bachelor’s degree make a pre-school teacher more effective?

Research by Robert Pianta and Bridget Hamre at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Research on Teaching and Learning found that “what counts isn’t what degrees teachers have but how they teach. That’s especially critical in early childhood when interactions between teachers and students, not content knowledge, is what drives success.”

Teacher quality and pay should be defined by effectiveness in the classroom, not credentials. Attending college, per se, may not provide essential skills needed to teach young children. Those skills are best learned through specialized training combined with on-the-job[practice under the supervision of an expert teacher.

Focusing on the academic degree allows program officials to claim they raised teacher quality, without actually doing so. What it will do is increase the cost of programs – as current pre-school teachers without college degrees have to go back to school to get them (estimated at $23 Billion for 300,000 teachers) –and require that someone enforce this new provision at each childcare program! (For this reason, Ms. Stevens entitled her article: Here Come the Child-Care Cops. See it for more details.)

So, once again, using inappropriate indicators may not produce the desired results. By becoming more attuned to the danger of using them, we can focus on truly predictive ones. Do you have examples of inappropriate indicators? Share them.

Is Lack of Self-Awareness Hurting You And Your Company?

According to a recent report by Korn Ferry, lack of self-awareness is damaging to your personal and corporate growth. Self-awareness is not a soft skill; it’s about leader effectiveness and plays out on your bottom line. Here are some interesting findings from David Zes and Dana Landis’ study A Better Return on Self-Awareness which analyzed 6977 self-assessments from professionals at 486 public companies to identify “blind spots” – disparities between self-reported skills and peer ratings. (It was reported by Kevin Cashman in he May 2014 issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials.)

  • Public companies who had higher rates of return (ROR) also had more professionals exhibiting higher levels of self-awareness.
  • Poorly performing companies’ employees had 20% more blind spots than those working at financially strong companies.
  • People with fewer blindspots had improved performance and greater satisfaction.

Why is this important for leaders? Because when we’re not self-aware people around us have a better sense of our strengths and weaknesses than we do, we lose credibility with them.

So to be a more effective leader, check your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). These tests focus on both self-awareness and how we relate to others. Both are important. Many times when I see leaders take the tests the focus is on how they relate to others, but these findings suggest it would be wise to focus internally as well – since we have greater control over changing our own level of awareness to avoid blind spots. It’s also something a good coach, such as your Vistage Chair can help you address!


If you’ve taken EQ tests and focused on improving your level of self-awareness, share your experiences!

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