To Win in the Roaring 20s, Build a Strong Leadership Pipeline

The next few years present significant leadership challenges. Our workforce, workplace, and potential use of automation, are changing everything.  We need to make the right leadership investments now to build successful companies with sustainable growth. 

Over the last decade, I’ve been a Vistage Chair(man) working with NYC CEOs to leverage Vistage’s award winning 60+ year leadership ecosystem to become better leaders and build sustainable growth companies. I’m now involved with two other programs that I want to bring to your attention.

  • Developing Leader Program-Overview. The”Emerging Leader” program helps individual stars and managers to develop leadership skills, habits and acumen using an ongoing program involving workshops, practicums and mentoring from your company’s existing leaders. 
  • Vistage Inside. The key to sustainable growth is for the executive team to be running the company, rather than have everyone turn to the CEO. Top teams don’t come together by magic. Improving their performance as teams should be an explicit goal realized through explicit means. With 60+ years of hands-on leadership development experience with over 100,000 companies, they created this program. Learn more by reading these case-studies .

Want to learn more about leadership development? Contact me at jerry.cahn@vistagechair.com and we can schedule a time to discuss it. If you’re not in NY, I can connect you to Vistage Chairs, throughout the country.  Let’s get the right people in the right seats in your company to produce winning presentations and then deliver on the promises!

6 Presentation Excellence Strategies

When the stakes for effective leaders are high, smart leaders know that they need to elevate their standards for effective communication. They are operating in an environment where media channels are full of confusing and conflicting information, and lots of counterproductive noise. Already stressed by the need to adapt to the covid pandemic and the future possibilities of hybrid/virtual office options, people’s attention spans are stretched to the limits. Since the goal of a presentation is to influence the audience to take key actions well, leaders need to pay greater attention to their presentation’s level of excellence. (It’s the main  reason that we resumed face-to-face coaching at Presentation Excellence.)

Alain Hunkins, in Cracking the Leadership Code, identifies communication as one of the critical areas effective  leaders must master.  He identifies 6 key strategies you should adopt – and we’d like to elaborate on them to help you make more effective presentations.

  1. Communicate with the end in mind.  Presentations are NOT data-dumps that have to look good. Relying on analysts to develop the presentation or graphics department with little experience actually working with your audience, risks producing an ineffective presentation. Very few people make a final decision immediately after hearing the presentation; instead they have to present a filtered view of it to their partners, bosses, investors, etc. to get their buy-in. So the goal is to deliver a compelling message they can relay to their partners with almost the same enthusiasm as you had!
  2. Have a central message. What’s the point? If the goal is to have the person invest in your company, sharing generic industry facts will fail. They need to know your Competitive Advantage – why choose you over the other options that exist,and why now? You need to know the territory and why your option is unique; that makes you the ideal presenter because you are the expert and authentic. 
  3. Create checks for understanding. A great presentation is a dialogue, even if you’re the only one public speaking. You can ask questions to make sure they understand complex issues; if not, you can watch your audience’s body language and “feel” how they are processing the information. Do they shake their heads in approval and smile, or does the brow of their heads show that they don’t?
  4. Own and fix the communication breakdowns. When the audience isn’t jumping to take the action you want, face the reality that you are not delivering a powerful message that’s landing correctly. Ask questions to eliminate confusion; use analogies and tell stories that increase comprehension. Extreme ownership leads to powerful persuasion.
  5. Make the “implicit” explicit. Our technical side uses acronyms and short-cut phrases to communicate with others. Too often we forget that the audience we’re now addressing (e.g., an investor from a different industry) may not understand something we take for granted. If the presentation includes concepts that you assume people understand, practice it with someone who lacks the background. Then, you can make changes so the “implicit” is “explicitly” understood.
  6. Master the medium. The use of Zoom, Teams and other virtual delivery systems, has heightened our awareness of the need to adapt the way we deliver messages powerfully to our audiences. But this was always the case. Once a client pitched a $100M deal to investors standing at a bar table for 10-15 minutes max per investor! Today, presenters use modular presentations that can be used with a variety of live and virtual media, with different time, audience and interest level interests.

How are you adjusting to the greater challenges of designing and delivering effective presentations, especially when you’re selling mission-critical ideas, services and products? If you’re not having the impact you wanted, it may be time to get feedback on how you’re handling these strategies and improve your skills.  Contact us for one-on-one coaching and group training. 

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!

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