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Archive for January, 2010

Vueling / Iberia Tricks – the low fare airline farse

January 28, 2010 4 comments

As a consumer, I hate to be taken advantage of! The consumer attention & care that airlines give these days is on the borderline of being criminal. No wonder they’re loosing money by the bucket loads!

What’s got me raving today is those so called “low-fare” flights! As if it weren’t enough that for the lure of a cheap fare, they charge you for every single inch they can, my most recent experience with Vueling (Spanish low-fare airline recently merged w/ Iberia) a few minutes ago is absolutely shameful! My wife & I are going away for a weekend trip to Ibiza, and chose not to pay anywhere from 3€ to 30€ (depending on seat choice) to assign ourselves a seat. The booking & online checking were made jointly, so obviously they know we’re flying together.

Their automated seating assignment put us into the very last rows, and to boot, put us into separate rows, when 3/4 of the plane is still empty! I have no issue with being put “toward” the rear for them to try & make some extra money by people choosing to sit more toward the front, but a joint booking & Vueling puts us in separate seats? In separate rows? Do you really think I don’t get the trick?

Sure, it’s a 30 minute flight & it’s cheap, but what has me furious is the “trick” to try & squeeze and extra buck out of you!

Shame on you Vueling!!! What used to be a good service that I would highly recommend to clients & friends. Now you’re just another provider on the list of poor customer service & consumer value!

For the other airlines out there, take care of your revenue sources, because choices are abundant!

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How an “Elevator Pitch” & is like Public Speaking

January 28, 2010 1 comment

A good mate of mine Conor Neill recently “enrolled” me to help him facilitate his Persuasive Speaking workshops, with which he’s very successfully engaged by the likes of big corporations & leading Executive MBA programs such as those at IESE.

Is he good at what he does? Well let’s just say that

  1. I chose the word “enroll” because that’s just what he does
  2. If you don’t believe me have a glimpse at his blog & get a taste for yourself
  3. This blog article is actually a part of a “homework assignment”

In a nutshell, what I’ve taken away from our frequent conversations is that Persuasive Speaking is all about getting people to do things that they wouldn’t typically do. And writing about Elevator Pitches & Public Speaking is not something I commonly do, so I guess you get my point 😉

Further on this topic, I want to leverage an HBR article I read this weekend on “The Elevator Pitch”, as I believe it bridges perfectly onto the topic of Pubic Speaking, and I would even dare say Persuasive Speaking itself.

The article starts off with the accounts of a famous casual encounter between an entrepreneur & Warren Buffet outside The Plaza Hotel in NYC, and how with one short sentence, he kicked the door of opportunity wide open! It goes on to describe the Elevator Pitch as “the ability to successfully deliver a quick and concise explanation of your case”. Now that sounds like the strong basis for a public speech, or even a persuasive conversation!

As I read further, I picked up the following points:

  • Grab the attention of listeners, convincing them with the promise of mutual benefit, and setting the stage for follow-up
  • Speak in terms your audience can relate to
  • And communicate with the passion that comes from knowing that this opportunity may never come again

How am I doing so far? Do you know of anyone who would sit through 90 minutes of chatter that didn’t fulfill on at least the above? Now allow me to continue with the following key tips of a successful elevator pitch as presented in the article:

  • Know the goal
  • Know the subject
  • Know the audience
  • Organize the pitch (a.k.a. speech)
  • Hook them from the opening
  • Plug into the connection
  • Presentation matters
  • Incorporate feedback

Again, sounds like the routine I often go through, tick-off & rehearse before I get up in front of any audience, even when it’s an audience of ONE.

Further supporting my rational, Milo O. Frank, author of How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, suggests looking at each of the points in an extended presentation as individual 30-second messages. “During the two, three, five, or ten minutes that your speech lasts, you’ll have an opportunity to ask—and answer—several provocative questions, paint more than one picture, use more than one personal anecdote or experience”.

Now I’ll be the first one to admit that public speaking hasn’t come easily for me. A naturally introverted personality, as much as that may surprise the majority of the people I’ve engaged in the past, it’s taken me allot of hard work, discipline, practice & allot of receptiveness to constructive criticism to get me to where I am. Over the course of time, and many mistakes along the way, I will be the first one to admit that anytime I didn’t tick-off each of the above bullets, I walked away from my engagement very disappointed with m performance.

So what do you think? Have I made my case? It was allot longer than a 30 second elevator pitch, but then again I’m still working at getting better at it! 😉

What are you doing this summer?

My friends back home in Europe & the U.S. might think me mad for talking about summer in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record, but considering that I’ve spent most of December / January on the sunny & warmer side of the Equator (Australia & Brazil), I find this theme very relevant.

So the question lingers.. where are you spending your summer vacation this year?

My wife, an inspired & driven entrepreneur herself, recently commented on how she thought it strange that so many entrepreneurs she knew, who’s businesses are struggling, still take time off this summer instead of leveraging the “lull” to sharpen their strategy’s & planning skills.

On the other hand, I have seen my fair share of entrepreneurs who have taken the opportunity of a summer to bring me in & help them prepare for a full-out assault in the remaining quarter or trimester of this year. In fact, we have found some businesses who traditionally run on quarterly rhythms, this year closing out the year with a switch to an extended trimester, with the specific intention of making that final push to close out their fiscal year in a strong fashion.

Whether you’re in a position to take immediate action, fine-tuning your business model, as well as the strategy needed to successfully execute on it, or whether that opportunity is still in the far off-distance, I would strongly recommend that you engage a neutral party to come in and help you get a holistic vision of the work required to achieve your goals & objectives.

And if that work is still 5-6 months away, then I strongly encourage you to start the process of recruiting that trusted partner immediately so as to ensure that you secure the person best suited for the culture of your organization.

Why you should fire yourself

A few weeks ago I was sitting around a dinner table in Sydney with 3 entrepreneurs and this very topic of “firing yourself” came up! I love this extract from the HBR post of the same name; “Jack Welch used to gather his senior executives together in January and tell them to act as though they had just been newly appointed to their jobs. What would they do differently if they were coming in to their business without preconceived notions and with a completely fresh perspective?”

I have often witnessed first hand how preconceived notions & biases sometimes have us do very unproductive things. Looking at the same situation through new eyes, having someone you trust look at it as well, and having them be honest with you will have you see things you were amazing blind to previously.

Quick Tip: Don’t be defensive & just absorb the other persons observations, otherwise you won’t get the necessary & available value that’s immediately at your disposal.

Now.. armed with this information, what would you do differently? Are you focusing on what you’re really good at? Fire yourself from what you’re not good at (if you can) and get someone else who’s stronger to take care of it. Whilst you’re at it.. learn anything you can by surrounding yourself with smarter people than yourself. it’s one of the most effective secrets to accelerate your growth.

Back to my dinner in Sydney a few weeks back. What did each of those entrepreneurs end-up doing after our conversation? Two of them already had business coaches and walked away with a new perspective on some of the issues we discussed, and the last one brought me in to work with his team before I left for Europe. By coming into those various scenarios as a complete outsider & emotionally detached from what was going on in their businesses, not to mention the solutions that had been previously established, each of those entrepreneurs walked away with significant value which they’ve subsequently implemented into their businesses. I’ve since received some e-mail updates & they’ve been amazed at how quickly change has taken root in their organizations.

Quick Tip; How do I apply this practice to myself? How do you apply this practice if you feel you have the skills to make the necessary changes in your business? One solution I have is to ask my entrepreneurial wife or friends to look at my business, and or situation.The second solution, and the one I use whilst on the road, as was the case last week in São Paulo, is to open yourself from assumed beliefs, and go on a journey reading various articles looking for precious gems of insight and knowledge.  Sometimes to get “outside of my own head”, I find it necessary to listen to music or have a relaxing massage.

Question: What practices do you have to “get outside of yourself” and ask the necessary questions? How can you fire yourself from your own business in time to make the right decisions, and possibly be in a better position to hire yourself back?

Everybody is a “mate” – The Power of a Smile

I’ve just come back from a month in Sydney. Since meeting my wife of Australian origin, I’ve had the privilege to “fly south” for the winter during the last 4 Christmas’.

For those of you that dread long flights, I have to tell you that Sydney isn’t the easiest place to get to, especially from my Barcelona base. But I can also guarantee you that each time you return, your smile get’s bigger & bigger, along with the excitement of what’s to come, which every time, starts earlier on your route.

Quick tip; arrange your flight so that you can stop into Bangkok for the day, get into the center of town and have yourself an authentically relaxing Thai massage!  Trust me, once you’ve had one, your smile will come to you even before you board the plane! 🙂

The first time I landed in Sydney, I was blown away by how I was a “mate” to everyone in sight. Later I was to learn from my good friends at Bertoni’s in Balmain that I was a “brother” as well. 🙂 Every day, no matter where you go, people who you’ve never known before will simply smile & acknowledge you, for absolutely no apparent reason. And as my energy levels grew over the course of my recent stay,  I was reminded of so many articles we read about the importance of a smile.

The one I’ve been reading this morning, and wanted to share with you, strangely enough is entitled The Power of a Smile.

My key “take-aways” have been how

  • The human body associates physical responses with the associated emotion
  • You should Smile with your eyes
  • You’ve gotta want to be happy, in order to be happy
  • Happiness is frequently a choice

Smiling is also one of the Top 10 Fun Ways to Live Longer,  and you can expect the following 10 benefits when you focus on the “art of smiling”.

  1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive
    • We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away — but a smile draws them in.
  2. Smiling Changes Our Mood
    • Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There’s a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.
  3. Smiling Is Contagious
    • When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.
  4. Smiling Relieves Stress
    • Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.
  5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
    • Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.
  6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
    • When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?
  7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin
    • Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.
  8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger
    • The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day — you’ll look younger and feel better.
  9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
    • Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.
  10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive
    • Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.

Any questions?

The new “M&Ms”; Maslow & me

January 24, 2010 2 comments

Do you remember eating M&Ms as a Kid? Chocolate on the inside, protective color candy coated on the outside? How did you eat yours? Did you let the candy covered outside melt in your mouth, building suspense for a few minutes, to then finally enjoy the rich chocolaty inside? Did you separate the little treats by color and color code your eating pattern? Wow.. it’s scary to think about how many ways there are to eat a simple little treat.

Until a few years back, the candies, along with the raper Eminem were the only M&Ms in my life, or at least so I thought. And then, through my work with clients, I came across a framework known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which gave me a framework for what I instinctively knew all along. I found that by leveraging Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs”, now ever present in all of my engagements, I was more effectively able to quicken the pace of Personal & Enterprise Self Actualization.

By focusing on the deeper understanding of a team’s current knowledge, habits & challenges, along with Vision & Goals, the more I could intervene to provide them with the necessary tools to learn & grow through the creation and implementation of new practices & habits, the quicker we accelerated the pace of change in the necessary direction.

Being a very practical person, I also strive to take every theory & put it to practical use immediately, and what I’ve learned from Maslow & human nature is that you can’t just “copy / paste” solutions or best practices, but rather understand teh core concept & then discover the most effective way to customize it to the culture of the person, or enterprise with whom you wish to affect change. This to say that outside of the initial stages of continuing discovery, there is no one solution! The work to be done is ever dynamic, and a consequence of the “current reality” encountered at each stage. In short, I look provide a “Practical MBA-in-a-box”, short cutting the practical learning curve, whilst expanding the ability to execute. I able t achieve this based on the +25 years of first-hand case studies/experience in my “arsenal”.

Be it an individual or an organization, I have found that there are only three fundamental reasons standing in the way of anyone declaring success once they’ve articulated their vision,

  • Limiting belief(s)
  • Lacking of an effective strategy
  • Lacking communication

In short, the practices, routines & habits to be applied must be a direct consequence of effectively straddling the worlds of academia & practical implementation. Whilst addressing these three “limitative catalysts”, you need to ensure a safe environment which guarantees allot of fun, growth & self-actualization, for both the individual as well as the collective enterprise.

I understand Enterprise Self Actualization is achieved the moment

  • Employees find meaning
  • Customers find transforming experiences
  • Investors are able to make a difference through their investments

Consider this, if humans aspire to self-actualization, then why shouldn’t companies, which are really just a collection of people, aspire to this peak experience as well?

Maslow once wrote “There are moments of ecstasy which cannot be bought, cannot be guaranteed, cannot even be sought, but one can set-up the conditions so that peak experiences are more likely, or one can perversely set up the conditions so that they are less likely”. I’ve found through practical experience that this process differs from others because it is based on the premise that “the growth of an organization is simply the accumulated growth of the individual relationships that constitute it”.

And so the question that lingers for Maslow & me as you finish reading this blog article is; “what are you doing to facilitate your own Peak Experience”?

“Chief of Staff”, a CEO accessory or non-negotiable?

January 23, 2010 3 comments

Challenges to right, obstacles to the left, investors & competitors on your heels , and your family is crying for some “quality time”. Sound familiar? Reading a very interesting article entitled “Latest CEO accessory: A chief of staff” had me reflect on the role of Chief of Staff. More specifically, it was the opening paragraph that grabbed my attention; “These days it’s a chief of staff, a top-level adviser who’s part confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. While that has long been a key position in politics, many top executives are now adding this person to the payroll.”

Which led me to think to myself… “A Chief of Staff, by definition, provides a buffer between a chief executive (CEO of a corporation) and that executive’s direct-reporting team. The chief of staff generally works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, and deal with issues before they bubble up to the Chief Executive. The varying amount of politics, egos, and issues to deal with require that a highly experienced senior executive with a proven background in delivering results in the most adverse conditions lead this role.

A Chief of Staff also acts as a confidante and top-level adviser to the Chief Executive, as a sounding board for ideas, confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. Ultimately, the actual duties will depend on the actual position, roles and the people involved, as well as the situations that present themselves, and could even fulfill temporary senior management voids until one is effectively on-board.

As a resident in-house resource, the role of Chief of Staff will also increase the practical experience of the management team as a whole, as well as their ability to deliver/over-deliver on expected results. Inter-acting across multiple functional areas, this solution will significantly increase interdepartmental efficiencies“.

In short, an all-around personal Strategic Consultant, Practical Implementer & Trusted Partner?

A “scorecard” for someone like that might look like:

  • Facilitates fellow entrepreneurs & CEO’s worldwide across varying industrial verticals
  • Leverages their extensive experience & network in favor of action steps once your success strategy has been defined
  • In working with the team regularly give tools, mechanisms & methodologies that will increase practical knowledge with the ability to immediately implement
  • Fulfill on academic requirements by explaining in clear enough terms what they’ve observed
  • Translate into actionable lessons how, or what, you can learn from to achieve success
  • In parallel, be driven by gut and trusted instinct honed by years of experience, allow an organization to fulfill on practical requirements by “reading” the situations and finding the most appropriate solutions

If you had read Simon Sinek’s recent articles “Two Types of Experts”, you’d see that it’s not that far fetched of a notion to begin with. And if you had been present in a client meeting of mine whilst in Sydney earlier this month, when a new client asked me to help him better align his staff with a methodology previously unknown to me as a formal framework, you would have been even more convinced that, again,  it’s not that far fetched of a notion.

That methodology my Sydney client was referring to is known as Horizon 1-2-3, and after adapting some other frameworks I traditionally work with, we customized a new & improved Horizon 1-2-3 scenario to work with his team, 🙂 which goes something like this..

  • Horizon 1 (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits), resulting in doing what is currently done in better ways, whilst leveraging (direct or indirect) functional expertise along with industry experience, to drive for greater efficiency based on the focus on performance & results
  • Horizon 2 (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities that will extend the H1 operations, but rather than being focused only on continual improvement in short-term performance, through the art of continual questioning and periodic structured pulse checks (Weekly/Monthly Strategic Meetings), bring new ideas to fruition. This involves increased risk, taking and dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty as the team will be confronted with the Vision Chasms which often don’t exist in Horizon 1 and based on them now literally straddling between H1 & H2 more often
  • Horizon 3 (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed. This requires seeding options today for the future, which represents understanding these type of costs as related to the required research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc, as practical implementation of the same must be immediate

Now, if you’re a CEO, or anything similar, how would any of this information impact your life? Both personal & professional? How would it impact your business? Who do you have in your business or network that can help you in this fashion? And finally, here’s the trick question 😉 is it really an “accessory” (a nice to have), or is it a modern day “non-negotiable” (a must have) for a CEO that want’s to guarantee success?