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Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’

A Social Contract – Why you won’t survive without one?

When was the last time you found yourself all alone.. in a dangerous dark alley.. and on the wrong side of town?

You’ve been strolling down a beautiful path of endless optimism, hope and opportunity. Suddenly you realize something has just drastically changed! You’ve made a sudden wrong turn and now find yourself, with the exception of the “thugs”  that intend to provoke physical and emotional harm, all alone in an obviously dangerous place!

What do you do? Who’s got your back? Who’s going to help you get out of the predicament you’ve just found yourself in? Who’s going to stand with you and deal with what’s to come?

Does this sound like a scary scenario? Unfortunately it’s all too frequent!

Let me take you back a few weeks when I had the privilege to be amongst illustrious fellow mentors at the Barcelona mini-seed camp. The night before, as I looked over the agenda, my excitement peaked when I realized that I would be in close quarters with the “legendary” Fred Destin of Atlas Venture. “Legendary” you ask?!?! Well, anytime highly successful entrepreneurs refer to a VC as someone they hold in high regard and respect, first my eyes open wide, then my ears perk up and finally I sit at attention ready to listen!

The very next day this reputation was cemented based on Fred’s shared view of “Social Contracts”. In turn I redefined how I viewed this critical catalyst for success. What I would later read in Fred’s blog couldn’t have prepared me for the wild and wacky, sometimes borderline ethical, tales of business dealings that go on between entrepreneurs and VC’s.

A few days later, Fred agreed to a Skype call, generously shared his perspective on Social Contracts, and here’s what I came away with:

  • A Social Contract is an “understanding” or gentleman’s agreement between two parties
    • To be effective, it supersedes the required legal contracts that govern a relationship
  • A Social Contract is bound by honor, integrity and will become most relevant during critical “moments of truth” yet to come
    • It will get all parties safely through the tough times and hard decisions that are guaranteed in any venture
  • You establish a Social Contract based on a firm hand-shake, a confident stare into the white of the eyes and a mutual respect that you’re both in this journey for the “long-haul”
    • It’s two “human beings” coming together to form an “enterprise”
    • It’s a relationship where either party recognizes the requirement to stand-up against pressure that is sure to come from business and likely life partners, as the journey get’s complicated and the waters become muddied
  • A Social Contract isn’t something entered into lightly and often needs to be the preceded by a multi-hour brainstorming session to guarantee the like-minded intentions of both parties
    • It’s the basis of how you’re about to govern your relationship whilst executing on an agreed 12 to 18 month business plan
    • It has little to do with the financial plan and more to do with the necessary “pivoting of strategy” that is sure to come
  • It’s an investment into the long-term strategy and is based more on the soft assets that are critical in a “moment of truth” vs. the hard assets that traditionally formulate a Business Plan

Our conversation reinforced the practical nature of “working agreements” that I’ve always felt are necessary for any engagement. I take relationships very seriously and just as I would expect my “friends” (vs. acquaintances) to never leave me stranded in an unfortunate circumstance, regardless of who’s at fault for getting us into the mess, I also expect my Social Contract counterpart to stand-up and fight with me regardless of the danger we’re about to face.

Practical Experience

1- The Entrepreneur and their Partner; In similar situations, within the past 12 months I can recount two separate entrepreneurs that “were left hanging” when their supposed partners “parked-it” and quit on them in the midst of the most significant challenges the venture was experiencing. In both cases the entrepreneur was at fault for getting themselves into trouble, more based on inexperience than reckless abandon, yet the partner “checked-out” and left them “hanging in the lurch”. They tried to make it about who’s right or wrong, over-looking that they were both, along with other investors, about to loose their shirts! Fortunately, the entrepreneurs’ resilience, along with a strong network of friends and allies helped pick themselves up by the boot-straps and out of immediate danger.

Both entrepreneurs paid a significant and costly price by either missing time-to-market or suffering a significant devaluation in equity, but most importantly, they learned a crucial lesson in Social Contracts.

2- The Employer and their Employee; Recently I’ve seen the same thing happen in three separate organizations with Senior Executives. This is yet another reason I identified so strongly with the core concept of Fred’s Social Contract. Too often the employee/employer relationship hasn’t been tested under difficult circumstances and when the moment of truth finally comes, especially in a critical situation such as a start-up or hyper-growth environment, the “paid/contracted resource” isn’t up to the task of facing the required adversity! Rather than having the courage to support their leader, or quit outright, they “park-it”, leaving their leader and their company “out-to-dry”. Later, they move onto another company, never taking full responsibility  to the true consequences of their actions, or lack there of.

I always share with employers that often it’s more important to know what NOT to count on than assume what you believe you can count on. Unless the relationship has been tried and tested under adverse conditions, you’re better planning off for, and expecting the worst, whilst hoping for the best.

3- The Friend and the Bar Room Brawl; Several years back, I’d like to think it were only a few ;-), when I was still living in Philadelphia and a few years “younger and innocent”, I was hanging out on South Street in South Philadelphia with 4 “close” friends. We had entered an outside bar that was protected from the street walking traffic by 2 meter high iron gates. In essence, no easy way out! We had all had a few drinks however one particular friend had too much to drink when he decided to cause trouble.  I bet you can imagine what happened next. First I tried to refrain him from being an absolute idiot, but he insisted. Then I tried to mediate the situation before it was 6 against 2! 6 guys staring me and my mate down. Where were my other two friends? They had “checked-out” and left the bar as soon as they saw we were out-numbered and headed for trouble. Later they justified that they hadn’t started the trouble so therefore they shouldn’t have to “face the music”.

The end result were some broken chairs, broken tables and my friend and I were barred from South Street for the next 6 months by the Philadelphia Police Department. We walked away with a little more humility and a few bumps and bruises to show for our stupidity. I slapped my mate over the head and promised to kick him in the pants if he ever did that again! The relevant fact was, I didn’t leave his side, neither would he have left mine. See, we had a bond stronger than words or any legal agreement! We had a Social Contract that we had entered into a few years before, which was to stand-by each other, be the times good or bad, regardless of who stuffed-up. Much like how most marriages are supposed to work! 😉

My closing questions to you are;

  • How secure is your Social Contract with the partners you have in your business or life?
    • Have you faced any moments of truth lately?
      • How did your partners stand-up in the face of adversity, regardless of who was to blame for the mess you found yourselves in?
    • What lessons can you take from that situation?

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Reducing your Employee Churn/Burn Rate & Getting Results

What is the most value asset you have in your company? You shouldn’t have to think too hard! It’s the people that execute on your strategy.

So why do you always seem to be “the last man left standing” in your organization?

I’ll share with you the answer, followed by two key lessons & one practical example/result as to the “why” of so many company’s having challenges in retaining staff these days. An especially complex issue to understand, given the current economical crisis, is the unemployment rates around the world are still incredibly high.

The Answer is that we, as leaders, typically do a very poor job of recruitment, induction, ongoing management & assessment of our most valuable assets. And the general root cause is through poor communication and lack of courage!

Personally, even though sometimes hard to swallow, I firmly believe in the 90/10 rule, which states that if one of your staff isn’t working out, it’s 90% YOUR fault.. & only 10% theirs!

Do you think I’m being harsh, unfair & unrealistic? Well, consider this.. who’s in the drivers seat?

  • Who (ultimately) did, or approved the hiring?
  • How clear were you in defining and communicating the Mission & Vision of the company?
    • Did you receive acknowledgment, or other form of undeniable proof that you were clearly understood?
  • How clear were you in defining the role to be fulfilled & the specific outcomes to be expected of the role?
    • Key words being “role & specific outcome”.. forget job description!
  • How clear were you in communicating the behaviors you expected whilst your team executed on your plan?
    • How did you manage the first signs of lack in performance or alignment with your vision, message and/or expectations?
  • How often did you sit down to agree S.M.A.R.T. objectives/goals?
    • How frequently did you follow-up to make necessary adjustments?
    • How quickly did you put someone on a performance plan when they didn’t deliver on what was agreed?
  • How much planning & thought went into the induction, education/training, mentoring or skills acquisition process the individual needed to succeed?
    • How much coaching or mentoring did you consider to be required from yourself, or senior/more experienced staff?
  • How quickly, and how brave were YOU in having “the difficult & uncomfortable conversations”?
    • Are you paying & rewarding your staff to perform?
      • Are you doing the opposite?
      • How are you motivating/encouraging non-performance/conformance?

I could go on & on.. but I think you get the point! It’s YOUR company, YOUR department or YOUR team, and therefore YOU are the ultimate responsible person for the outcome/output of everyone’s role. If things aren’t working out then look inward before you look outward, and once you’ve completed this assignment take responsibility to make the immediate & necessary adjustments.

Lesson #1

  • Be crystal clear on Your Vision & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Who needs to do What, How & by When?
      • This requires acknowledgment & buy-in, however remember you’re the boss (90% responsibility), so make sure that “your team” buys into “your plan”, even if you need their help in constructing it, and not the opposite!
    • Where do you want your company, area or department to be?
    • When do you expect specific results?
      • When do you expect escalations when things are in danger, or aren’t going according to plan?
    • How do you want (expect) your employees to behave, handle themselves and handle adversity (which is sure to come)?
      • What are the rules of engagement?
    • What are the boundaries & non-boundaries that you expect people to respect & understand?
      • What are the focus areas they’re supposed to be focused on in order to achieve success?
  • Be crystal clear on Your Mission… & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Why do you want your people to behave in a certain manner?
    • Why do you need your people to achieve certain results?
    • Why do you require specific results within specific time frames?
    • Why is the company in business to begin with?

I’ve embedded the Core Values, which are the “behaviors” or “rules for the road” within the context of the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How above. That, in short, is your Core Ideology!

Lesson #2

The next biggest lesson you might have to learn, is regarding COURAGE. Courage to stand-up to the “know-it all’s” who’ve never run an enterprise but have every theory in the book as to how your organization should run! I find these days far too many companies have “grayed the line” between “boss & employee” and between responsible for direction & responsible for execution. If you’re going to take 90% responsibility for the failure of an organization, you need to get straight, and clearly understand, who’s “experienced” and better still “paid to run the show”.

In order to deliver on the above, you need the right skill-set that’s for sure, and you also need to have the backbone to “listen first” and “act accordingly second”. Acknowledging someone’s perspective and giving them voice doesn’t mean that you have to take their advice or recommendations over your own experienced opinion or gut instinct/intuition. It only makes you more responsible and accountable to the eventual decisions you make.

Once you’ve guaranteed success, then you can stand back, be humble and allow your team to bask in the glory of having executed excellently on a plan. Take 90% of the responsibility, give 90% of the credit and you’ll have an effective & motivated team!

I’ve spent hours-upon-hours giving practical workshops to MBA students who have paid a pretty penny to gain a highly valuable education, just like I’ve spent hours-upon-hours with both managers and employees who’ve read the latest books containing magical and earth moving experiences. What I always share with them is that “now you have the logic, it’s time to go out into the real world to implement and execute”.

The execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of a thought, or even a strategy. A brilliant thought without effective execution is merely an illusion. A brilliant strategy, without effective execution, is merely a waste of everyone’s energy & time.

Practical Example/Result

I recently walked into an assignment that demanded many changes in a short period of time. Multiple colleagues had just been fired for non performance and conformance. I was walking into an understandably hostile environment!

I stood in front of a room and shared my “what” followed by my “why”. Then came my “how”, where I told them that I only expected  1/2 (!?!?) of the output, dedication and commitment that I was willing to put in myself! However, I also advised them that I typically give 300% to every assignment!!

I explained that I would give them 48 hours to go through the grieving process of having lost their colleagues, followed by 15 days to be at 80% or better, and showing signs they would be at 150% by day 30.

I committed myself to complete transparency & communication, just as I would to holding them as accountable (where & when) as I would hold myself. I shared with them that there would be 2 day, 15 day & 30 day milestones, at which time I would have conversations with non-performers & either implement a performance plan or retire them. I would also make it a regular habit to commend the good performances along the way.

I shared with them that in a 24 hour weekday, I’m hoping you have 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll guarantee you that more than 50% of the remaining 16h will be based on, or thinking about, “work”. Therefore, if you’re going to dedicate more than 50% of your “awake” time to “work” during a 5 day work week rather than to your loved ones & special interests, it’s absolute lunacy to work in a place where you’re not motivated and inspired. As a consequence, if I ask you or if you decide to leave, then we’re only doing each other a favor based on a general concern & well-being for all.

Result

One person left within 48 hours, a few more within the first 15 days, then a few more within the next 15 days. Along the way change happened, a pride which previously didn’t exist filled the department! Results, followed by customer satisfaction, started to sparkle where it didn’t exist before. THEY, the last ones standing, did all of the work. I merely gave them direction and the opportunity to be everything I already knew they could be.

Top 3 things to focus on when fixing what’s broken

Having just finished up another successful assignment at a hyper growth enterprise, and noting that the core principles of success were again very similar to many other situations faced over the past +25 years, I thought I’d share my 3 areas of focus.

I should add to this that two days before I departed, an interested 2nd line manager/team leader asked if I could share with him some insights. He had witnessed remarkable changes in a very short period of time, and whilst I had been very busy with first line management, he recognized the possibility to learn some very practical & valuable lessons directly himself.

It inspired me that again we had been able to affect collateral interest, as well as a desire for change deeper within the organization, so I rallied the entire 2nd line leadership team and spent the next 2 hours giving them some day-to-day examples of the following:

  • Customer Centricity – Focus on the Customer
    • We have Internal Customers
      1. Every person in every department, in one way or another, facilitates the servicing of External Customers
      2. By serving the needs of our Internal Customers, we are either directly or indirectly addressing the needs of our External Customers
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, bi-lateral Service Level Agreements
    • We have External Customers
      1. Shift from a systems interoperability focus to a successful customer purchasing focus
      2. Now start to look for opportunities to enrich & enhance the customer purchasing experience
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, Service Level Agreements
  • Ownership – Never let go until you’re satisfied
    • Ownership is a like a hungry dog with a bone.. you never let go until you’re satisfied the hunger is quenched
      1. You can never assume the client, internal or external, is satisfied with a solution until you have direct confirmation/validation from/of the same
      2. Every obstacle is merely an opportunity for you to find another alternative path to a solution
      3. Don’t accept that a problem can’t be fixed until you’ve exhausted every means, including escalated your concern to the highest level within your organization
    • Ownership is like a football team moving forward to score a goal, just because you’ve passed the ball forward, your contribution to the goal isn’t over until the ball is in the net & you’re embracing your colleagues in celebration
      1. Just because you’ve forwarded a need or requirement, your job isn’t done until you’ve confirmed/validated that the next person is carrying out the necessary task(s) until the “client” is satisfied
      2. Trust is good..  but verification is proof.. & much.. much better!
      3. Confirm the goal! Confirm with the “client” that they’ve gotten the result they expected, and then celebrate the WIN/GOAL/SCORE & never just the great pass
  • Communication – “Engage with..” instead of “talking to..”
    • Communication is a bi-directional inter-activity & never a uni-lateral conversation
      1. Effective communication requires active empathetic listening
      2. Effective communication is never assuming that you know what the other person has just said, but repeating it for acknowledgment & confirmation of detail
      3. In effective communication, there is no such thing as “common sense”.. common sense is merely an accumulation of related experiences, and we all have different filters (interpretations & perceptions) based on our past influences
    • More than talking to someone, effective communication is when you confirm that an intention is understood, and the expected outcome has been agreed to by the “actioning party”
      1. To borrow from Engineering terms, effective communications requires an active & affective acknowledgment process (ACK/NAK or checksum), which is an infallible confirmation that what has been requested, has been acknowledge and understood
      2. Effective communications requires a S.M.A.R.T. conversation, with specific confirmation by all parties as to what has been requested vs. what will be delivered by when by whom to where & how

These might sound simple enough that you would actually overlook or underestimate the impact that they are already having on your organization, but the fact is, and I’m willing to be openly challenged on this, you show me a problem in your organization, and I’ll show you where one, if not all of the above are responsible for the lack of results that you know your enterprise is capable of.

How to fix your company in 30 days

Whether you’re a “hired” senior executive or an entrepreneur leading your enterprise to greatness, you’ve probably raised your head from the table more than once and questioned yourself as to “how am I going to fix what’s broken(?)”. And regardless of whether you already have a plan to action on this thought, or not, checking over the following points can only help you fix it faster, better, cheaper.. and maybe even keep you out of bigger trouble than you are already in!

  1. Gut Check Time – How committed are you to affect change in your organization?
    • Are you willing to embrace this opportunity for self reflection & personal awareness/growth?
    • Are you committed to taking the necessary action steps required to fix the situation first, and the root cause second?
  2. Core Ideology Clarity – Do you have, and have you communicated, your organizations Mission, Vision & Core Values?
    • Mission = The Purpose for being (The WHY for your organizations existence)
    • Vision = The Dream you want to manifest (The WHAT of the outcome you want to achieve)
    • Core Values = The Rules for the Road (The HOW you & your team will behave whilst executing your strategy)
  3. Gut Check Time – Do you have proof that your staff/Team have bought into and fully understand your Core Ideology?
    • Do they understand the “why” things need to change?
    • Have you looked them “in the white of their eyes” & confirmed they’re on-board?
      • How are they “living” your Core Ideology day-in / day-out?
  4. Seek “outside & unbiased” contribution from nothing less than a non-consultant consultant
    • As the “owner of your own experience”, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by getting someone who is too close to the business to be objective as to what the true cause for the issues are
    • In fact, the root of the problem might be yourself.. are you ready to admit that?
  5. Validate you have an “Engagement Model” that works
    • Are you communicating “at/to”, or “with” your team?
      • “Communication is a bi-directional activity, and it requires active & empathetic listening
    • Do you have a One-Page Plan, or similar framework to ensure that you and your team are literally on the same page in what concerns your goals & objectives
    • Do you have regular review/Pulse Check cycles? – “People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect
      • 15m Daily Huddles?
      • 1h Weekly Strategic Meetings?
      • 2h Monthly Sanity Check & Planning Meetings?
      • Half Day Quarterly Strategic Review & Adjustment Sessions?
      • Semi-Annual Full-Day Strategic Alignment & Planning Workshops Off-Site?
      • Annual Full-Day/Two-Day Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy?
    • Do you have Periodic Performance Review Cycles with your Team?
    • What’s your feedback loop to track & measure progress along the way?
      • How do you ensure you’re hitting your milestones in a timely manner?
      • What’s your escalation process to avoid surprises & keep you in the drivers seat?
  6. Gut Check TimeAre you Strategy or Execution focused?
    • The execution of an idea is ALWAYS more important than the brilliance of the thought!
      • Don’t get hung-up on a beautiful strategy if you’re not going to be able to execute on it
        • Do you have the proper (and proven) skill-set on-board to execute?
  7. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate again
    • Don’t take anything for granted!
    • Keep up the communication with your team, and those you need support from to keep everyone motivated
    • Circulate results & celebrate wins!
    • Look / seek out “quick wins” to boost confidence & motivation
      • Get some air beneath your wings
    • Praise the great work!
    • Address set-backs as opportunities for learning & growth!
    • Give your plan “teeth”!!
      • Make sure there are consequences for non conformance!
  8. Celebrate as a TEAM, so that you can repeat success as, and when needed, to overcome any challenge

It really is that simple! The complexity comes when you have to judge how bad things have gotten and for how long. How corrupt or rotten has your company culture become? This is the difference between a 30 day, 3 month, or a 3 year fix. This will be the significant reason why your employee churn will be single or double digits. The deeper the already ingrained bad habits, the longer it will take to build new & healthy habits! Remember, you don’t stop doing things wrong, you learn how to start doing things right! You don’t stop practicing bad habits, you learn & practice new healthy & productive habits! It takes up to 21 consecutive days of practicing a new healthy habit before it becomes ingrained in your DNA, so you have to be persistent & diligent.

Finally, if you can find a way to make it fun & rewarding, then you’re going to increase the probability & speed of your success.

11 Quick Secrets for winning – What’s your Super Bowl?

February 8, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been an avid American Football fan ever since I can remember, and so I’m obviously one of the many who eagerly await the crowning of the National Football League Super Bowl Champions each year. I also love “sentimental favorites”, and so this year we hit the jackpot! After Hurricane Katrina 4,5 years ago, everyone on the planet had to have been cheering for the New Orleans Saints to upset the favorite Indianapolis (formerly Baltimore) Colts.

Drew Brees, the undersized and unlikely hero in a land of giants was voted the Most Valuable Player, and I just finished watching a pre-Super Bowl interview with Katie Couric which will give you 11 key secrets for a formula of success necessary for you to lead your team to your own Super Bowl victory.

These 11 gems, or pearls of practical wisdom that you can implement immediately, are all contained within the first 5 minutes. Here are the highlights, accompanied with my own questions to you:

  • @ 40s; I’m excited.. 4 years ago we had a dream, we had a goal that we would be here at some point, fighting through some ups & downs & adversity to get here
    • It’s never an easy road to victory, so..
      • What’s your plan?
      • How well is it articulated?
      • How prepared are you & your team to deal with adversity along the way?
  • @ 1m10s; I’m always going to be nervous.. feeling those butterflies.. the minute you loose that nervousness it’s time to get out because with that nervousness comes the edge, that edge keeps you locked in, keeps you focused, it’s that will to win..
    • It’s all about Passion, so..
      • What’s your WHY?
      • How Passionate & Focused are you about what you’re doing?
      • How Passionate & Focused are your team?
      • How “bad” does everyone want to win & what are the sacrifices that you’re all willing to make?
  • @ 1m36s; I have so many mentors in my life, coaches, teachers, people that I’ve worked with in my past, that I continue to talk to today. People that give me the best advice at the best time, and then I’m able to relay that to my teammates, or guys who need it, who may be going through the same thing that I went through at some point
    • You can’t do it on your own, so..
      • Who are you surrounding yourself with that’s going to give you the right answers at the right time for the right situation?
      • How are you going to engage & relay that information to your team, and with what frequency & intensity?
      • Are you surrounding yourself with practical people that have been there, “done that” before, or theorists that have studied it? What’s the right blend?
  • @ 2m03s; so much about being a Quarterback is that there are 10 other guys in that huddle, each one is motivated at times in different ways. Some guys.. all you have to is give them a look, other guys you might have to yell at them a little bit, each guy had a different trigger or button that you need to push in order to get their best
    • You have to know your team (Leadership part 1), so..
      • Are you prepared to give that stern look, or have that “hard conversation”, yet be empowering in the way that you do it?
      • Are you communicating, engaging & enrolling your player? Do you know their “triggers” and treating your team as a motivated group of individual performers?
      • Are you willing to follow-up on lack of performance & “bench”/sideline your players when they don’t perform? In a worst case scenario are you ready to let go & trade them to another team, or even league?
  • @ 2m35s; when you let people know how much you care, how much you care about them ,or in our case, how much you care about the game & winning the game, and being at my best, & that I’m going to lay it on the line for them.. they play for you
    • You have to set the example (Leadership part 2), so..
      • How much are you rallying around you own “WHY”, and are you communicating with passion?
      • How are you showing that you care? As much for the team as eh victory itself?
      • How are you striving to “be the best”, be your best?
      • How are you “laying it on the line” for your team? (walking your talk)
  • @ 3m16s; (Katie) A teacher told us that you’ve been teaching kids in New Orleans that anything is possible , and therefore you’re becoming responsible for the hopes & dreams of all these children looking to you for courage & inspiration.. do you some times feel like that’s too much pressure?  (Drew) It’s a source of strength for me.. a responsibility just knowing that as a quarterback of this football team, and a member of this community, I have the platform that I do to influence so many people in such a positive way, and in the end, I’m only being myself, I just embrace the opportunity & do as much as I can and give back as much as I can
    • Take responsibility for your team’s hopes & dreams (Leadership part 3), so..
      • Are you shying away from responsibility, or rather rising up to it & embracing it?
      • Are you leading a team, but still part of a community?
      • Are you leveraging the platform you have in order to positively influence your team’s performance?
      • Are you being yourself, allowing your true self to shine through?
      • How are you giving back?
  • @ 3m50s; the number one piece of advice I give to kids is that they can accomplish anything they want in life, don’t allow anyone else to tell you otherwise if you’re willing to work for it! That’s the truth, we can all be whoever we want to be as long as we’re willing to work for it. There’s no mountain that too high or task that’s too great!
    • If you can can dream it you can achieve it, so..
      • What’s your dream? Personal, Professional, and team?
      • How have you communicated it & how do you remind yourself & the team on a daily basis?
      • Is everyone putting in “the hard yards”? Is it a true team effort?
      • How hungry are you? How hungry is your team?
  • @ 4m25s; no Quarterback that’s too short.. impossible.. I’ll never let those people get the best of me.. they’ve been telling me that all my life!
    • It’s all about belief, so..
      • How much do you & your team believe in your dream or vision?
      • What are the reaffirming tools that are in place to make sure that the belief stays strong?
  • @ 5m00s; I’m supposed to be the calm, cool & collected one.. but that’s what I like about it.. going outside the norm, outside the box and something I started two years ago.. a special rally cry that get’s you going..
    • It’s all about communication & innovation (Leadership part 4), so..
      • When things aren’t working, how are you stepping outside the box to find new solutions?
      • How are you rallying your team?
      • What is your own unique & secret “rallying cry”?
  • @ 5m45s; that once you’re in that huddle, you’re part of a brother hood, now we’re going to go out onto that field & we have to play together, trust each other and win together
    • It’s all about teamwork, unity & trust, so..
      • What’s your “huddle” routine? How often & when do you look each other in the eyes & set the course of the next play that’s going to score you a touchdown?
      • What’s your pulse check to make sure everyone senses the responsibility of a “brotherhood” and steps up their game?
      • What’s your method of creating transparency that has everyone “play together” & trust one another enough to “pick-up the ball & run with it” when your teammate has fallen or faltered?

At the 13m50s mark, Drew talks about the perspective that an injury brought him early in his career. A downward cycle in his life that became a moment of reflection and gave him heightened perspective. A “time-out” of sorts, that possibly allowed him to gather his thoughts, strengthen his conviction and put together a master plan built on the sweat & tears of good old hard & honest work. A moment of reflection, that led him to stand on top of the biggest stage of his life only a few shorts hours ago.

What are the simple lessons you can learn from this interview, and from his story?

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.