Effective Elevator Pitch

We have all seen some TV program where someone has to deliver a message to an audience to gain some investment (Dragon’s Den / Shark Tank).

Some deliveries look terrible and some are amazing but do not underestimate the art of saying a lot, in limited time; convincing and influencing others; delivering in a fluid coherent manner.

These skills are not limited to TV, but are evident day-to-day in work.  In Dan Pink’s book: “To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others”, he states, “People are now spending 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-selling – persuading, influencing and convincing others that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.  We are devoting twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others”. So convincing others, is becoming a key activity on a daily basis.

Living in a world shaped by attention span deficiency (meaning we do not have a lot of time to listen to a convincing argument) the art of saying a lot in a short time is a key skill for many to develop so here are my four steps for an effective elevator pitch.  Why an elevator pitch?  Imagine, you get into a lift with your boss, and you are going together to floor seven, which takes say three minutes.  How could you convince your boss on some position / idea you have within that short period of time?

Elevator pitchIdentify what you want to achieve

At this step, think about the bigger picture and view the problem holistically. Make sure that you identify the key messages to be delivered during your pitch.  Identify what messages you want to present and re-enforce, but equally what not to dwell on.  This requires a disciplined approach but ensures that the message remains highly focussed.

Understand your target.  Focus on solving the needs of the target audience.  Your pitch should not solve your problems alone, but should identify how you are going to solve problems from other people’s.

Consider what aspects of your pitch will interest the audience.  They all have their individual areas of interest and you need to identify how you can meet all their needs.

Be prepared.  Gather all the materials and evidence that you need to support your message.  Make sure that you do your research and come prepared.  You may need to talk to other and  can only be done in advance of the pitch to support step 1 of the process.

Practice.  Nothing prepares you for delivering an effective elevator pitch, than practicing.  The act of getting the message delivered in a short period of time is not an easy task and takes careful consideration and masterful delivery and aim to get your message across in a short period of time – aim for four minutes.  Questions and answers are additional, but the focus is not on the length of the delivery, but the quality of the message.

  • Believe in what you are saying. Maintaining authenticity will show in the delivery.  If an urgent decision is required, stress the point and explain why, but avoid continuous repetition to maintain the audience’s attention.
  • Maintain eye contact. This creates engagement and means that you avoid reading from a script.
  • The use of visual aids or a computer-based presentation may not always be possible, so the congruence between your message and your body language is important.
  • Be flexible and react to what you are listening to. If concerns are raised address them and ask if the question has been addressed.  Ensure that the discussions do not move away from the central point that you want to get across.  If this does occur, park the issue and deal with at a later stage.
  • At the end of the pitch, ask for questions and prepare for this in advance. Remember to consider the responses from the audience’s perspective.
  • Stick to the time you have set yourself and as soon as you go over this, you will lose the attention of the audience.
  • Finally thank your audience and follow-up to affirm the next steps.
  • Practising delivery is important and presenting to a mirror allows you to observe yourself in action. When you are comfortable with your delivery consider a dry run with a colleague.   They will pick up points that you have overlooked.
  • Remember that the message you want to deliver is important so nothing replaces practise and preparation to ensure that the delivery is effective.


Leading Teleworkers

I have worked with many organization’s to assist its leaders to manage the rise of teleworkers – those that are able to work at home and in the office.  For many of us, this would appear as the norm expectation for what we perceive as being “work” nowadays. But this is not universal.

I travel to many countries and visit many different types of organizations and observe many companies that do not want to do this and choose to have their employees all working in one location.

Teleworking if great if you want to do this.  But again this not universal.  Some find that working out at home is not entirely beneficial…

  • The lack of office gossip
  • No access to the coffee moments
  • No office meetings to break up the work conveyor belt
  • The blurring of lines between where is work and home life (especially for those that are working during school vacation time)

Others, of course, relish the benefits of working at home, and balancing the needs of work and home life and cutting out the wasted commute time.

Say you are a leader in an organization how do you lead a team of individuals who may be at home or in the office?  I am now coming across organizations where managers never have the luxury of getting the team together in one place at the same time.  How do you manage in these constructs?  Here is some advice to consider:

  • list-1030596_1280Set the ground rules.  We have them (implicit and explicit) when we are in the office so these should also exist when we are away from the office.
  • Touch base with the team, both individually and collectively often.  When a team is remote (operating at a distance using communications tools) then generally we need more not less communication.  From a leader’s perspective, has this been built-in?  If you do not make time, then it may not happen.
  • Be proactive in your use of communication tools.  Consider the message and then select the appropriate tool.  Often we pick a tool that is often closest to hand.  We have great tools but do we all know they exist and more importantly, are we even trained in using the tools?  I worked recently with a company where they all used social media tools (Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp etc) – but crucially they used these tools outside of the office and not inside the working environment.
    • I am also finding that training in using the communication tools is not offered by either the IT or the HR section, so it falls between the cracks.  If individuals are not trained in using a tool, they will not use it.
  • Make sure you trust your employees. Strange as it sounds, if there is no trust when the employee(s) and the manager are in the office, then it is unlikely to occur when the team members are separated from one another.
  • Build in the small talk.  It is part of life when we work together so it does not disappear when we are apart.
  • Working from home may not suit everyone, so keep in touch to find out how they are getting on, what issues they face and whether they may need to come back to the office (I am meeting more and more individuals who would rather go to an office then work from home).
  • Focus on building relationships and then maintaining these relationships, not just between the manager and the employee, but also between each team member.  We work well with others when we have built this foundation.



S.U.S.T.A.I.N – Business Rationale

Should our organization be focussing on a sustainable approach? What does that even mean?

Try using this as an initial guide.  Becoming sustainable is not a business fad. It is a serious decision with lots of strategic and resource ramifications.  Perhaps this will assist in your decision-making:

So here is my definition of SUSTAIN.  What do you think?

Strategic.  An organization, regardless of size has to have a strategic rationale for embracing and deploying sustainability within its practices.  What is the vision of what it is attempting to undertake and what are the timescales? Begin with the end in mind as Steven Covey says (https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit2.php)

Other questions to consider from a holistic perspective include:

  • What resources are required?
  • What is the extent of the sustainable initiatives? Is it all-embracing or focused on an initial department or division?  Front or back office?  Supply chain or not?
  • Has the strategic intent been communicated to all parties? Are they ready for any resultant change?

Universal. How big a net do we need to cast?  How universal is universal.  Too big and perhaps we are set up for failure.  Too small and is there any point?  Is there a right approach?  I am a big fan of Kaizen (the process of continuous improvement) and really back the ideas as shown in Robert Maurer’s book: “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way”.  He advocates the approach of taking small steps so that change is better managed and internalized.  Perhaps consider a small sustainable initiative, undertake it and discover what works and what does not.  Now apply the lessons at a larger scale, and perhaps this “experiment” is now scalable and can embrace more stakeholders and larger portion of the organization.  So perhaps universal is all about defining and articulating the scale of the initiative and then scaling up.

Stakeholders.  These are any interested parties who are involved in the sustainable activities and can be internal or external to the organization.  These stakeholders are intrinsically involved in undertaking and delivering the initiatives.  They need to be proactively involved in the communications and in identifying the wins (both short-term and long-term).  If the stakeholders are not identified and prioritized then how can you get things done to help the organization move forwards in the strategic sustainable direction set.

TransformationalAn organization that is truly sustainable has to be clear where it is going and communicate its strategic intent.  This will create changes at a number of levels involving staff, resources, equipment and impacting decisions.  It will create transformational impact.  The questions, is whether the organization is ready and willing to embrace this?

ActivitiesIf the strategic intent has been defined and articulated, then this will cascade into a series of activities that the departments, teams and individuals undertake to enact the sustainable initiatives.  Good management practices are required to manage and co-ordinate the activities to ensure success.   What activities are selected and what is the rationale behind the selection, and crucially has this been communicated to all stakeholders?

Innovate. Innovation is the ability to do something new, to translate an idea into a new product or service.  How can we use innovation to embrace sustainability?  Looking at this from the perspective of creating something disruptive or at a large-scale, limits the number of potential outputs from the process.  Examining what is done from a small-scale perspective (ties back into the Kaizen approach), provides more opportunities to innovate.  But does the organization have the culture to innovate, think and implement new ideas?  Perhaps we should consider innovation not from an external perspective, but from an internal perspective.  What processes does the organization undertake that can be subject to the innovation lens?

Novel?  If the rationale for undertaking sustainability within an organization, at whatever level, is not articulated, communicated and internalized then it will not move from the theoretical approach to the day-to-day activities of ensuring that the resources available today are used in a responsible way that does not adversely impact generations to come.

Emotional Intelligence And The Impact On Management

Emotional Intelligence and Management

This is a talk I gave some time ago – still apt and applicable today and the subject gains more and more resonance.

In here I present some data that suggests that a measure of emotional intelligence [known as Emotional Quotient EQ] decreases with role / seniority.  It suggests that past management level, EQ falls.

I show this and get a reaction of agreement – based on what individuals have seen from their leaders.  But I really believe that the best leaders demonstrate not only exceptional strategic and business acumen, but also high levels of emotional intelligence.  At the end of the day, they only achieve success through the actions of others.  “Others” need to be motivated and inspired to create followers.  Perhaps we can use emotional intelligence to create willing followers?

Make Connections

Navigate Leadership – Make Connections chapter introduction

At the start of a career, the value-add an employee offers is based on their formal education and exposure to the working world. As an individual gains more experience, and their career progresses, the focus moves away from their primary technical knowledge to another set of skills, colloquially known as soft skills. They include the ability to manage and then lead, motivate others, deal with performance issues, negotiate and influence stakeholders, gain buy-in to new initiatives and manage change, to name a few. Those that become successful learn that there is a shift in gear from developing and refining their soft skills to an increased emphasis on whom they know, the ability to build and develop connections with others. These collectively become a network that is actively leveraged at the individual and group-wide levels. These relationships include:Internally above and below, the solid line (direct) and dotted line (indirect) reporting.

  • Internally above and below, the solid line (direct) and dotted line (indirect) reporting.
  • Externally with key stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and shareholders).

In one global organization I have worked with all new employees are told that successfully progressing their career is directly related to their ability to become successful networker. What do they mean by this? It is not simply a case of increasing the number of entries in the address book. It requires and requires a strategic approach. The goal of forming connections and creating a meaningful network is to form an extensive web of formal and informal relationships that creates value for all. This value add has to be identified and can include a variety of factors such as:

  • Knowledge transfer.
  • Mutual decision-making.
  • Influencing others to gain buy-in into new ideas.
  • Marketing the activities of the organization both internally and externally.
  • Managing and delivering organizational change.

Operating successfully involves shifting the focus away from the quantity to its quality. The aim being to form relationships with others to create mutual win-win benefits. Forming successful connections can, if used strategically, lead to success, defined by quality relationships shaped by high degrees of trust (see Build Trust). It is qualitative in nature and if undertaken well allows an Executive Leader to deliver their results.

communication-1015376_1280In this chapter, the focus is on the role of the Executive Leader in creating connections that provide access to a wider pool of knowledge and identify new opportunities to pursue. Success is increasingly defined by not what we know but whom we know. There is a focus on the quality, and the efforts required to maintain them, shaped by attention on connecting for mutual benefit.

Foster Innovation

Navigate Leadership – Foster Innovation chapter introduction

Being innovative and inventive is often confused, but there is a subtle difference. Invention is the process of noticing and creating new ideas for products, services and processes. Innovation is “a new idea or way to do something that when exploited in some way, leads to new or improved products, processes or solutions.” Consider these approaches, regardless of whether they have a large or small impact.

Global organizations seek continual evolution, by embracing an innovative posture. Seeking new ways of doing things, experimenting at a small-scale and having a culture that enables collective thinking at all levels. Innovation or rather an innovation mindset applies to both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. For-profit organizations may need it to create a continuous throughput of products and services to meet anticipated customer needs and maximise profitability. Stakeholders in not-for-profit organizations increasingly demand a return on their investments that consist of quantitative and qualitative outputs.

An example of an organization that embraces innovation is 3M, which creates a vast array of innovative products. It may well employ industrious employees and have a great leadership team. It mandated that twenty-five per-cent of all new products be introduced within its last five years, requiring to develop an innovative posture. To achieve this goal it allowed employees to spend fifteen per-cent of their working week focussing on selecting their initiatives. The role of the Executive Leader was to create the strategic mandate, shape the environment and let the teams get on with it by standing out of their way and letting them innovate. Without this catalyst, perhaps, the range of products and services would not occur.


In this Chapter, the focus is on the role of the Executive Leader in forming and shaping the innovative environment.


Create Vision

Navigate Leadership – Create Vision chapter introduction

An organization can spend considerable time shaping the strategic intent based on their current mission (where they are) and future aspirational vision (where they want to be). Moreover, will ultimately impact its allocation of resources and investments. The same can be applied to the Executive Leader where the forming and acting upon their personal vision shapes their current and future activities and provides direction.

Most leadership discussion starts with crafting a personal vision statement, which in its simplest form provides a clear understanding of where you want to be and consider:

  • How do you make your personal vision happen?
  • Where are you now and where do you want to be?
  • On what is your personal vision based? Myth or reality?
  • Is your personal vision aligned to who you are, your values and leadership style?
  • What time frame is your vision based?

I have met many leaders who have taken time out to consider and create their personal vision statement. However, as soon as they return to reality, they forget their short snappy statement, and there is no longer alignment with their declared actions. They may even place it on a card on the desk and despite staring at it every day, they see through it as if it no longer exists.

A personal vision is powerful when we live it, and there is congruence between what you believe in and what you actually do.

When John F Kennedy declared that the U.S.A wanted to put a man on the moon, this was not some random statement based on spin and dreams. Many of the components required to make this happen were already in place, the vision became the catalyst to turn it into reality.

As an Executive Leader, your personal vision will impact the team and other stakeholders. It should be important to you, but equally consider how it will shape the beliefs, behaviours, direction, and actions of others.

Your personal vision should have alignment with the organization’s strategic vision. Achieving your personal success is highly dependent on the organization achieving its success, and there should be a mutually symbiotic relationship that results in win-win outcomes.


Communicate Messages

Navigate Leadership – Communicating Messages chapter introduction

No matter what organization I work with (large or small, for profit or not for profit), I am often brought in to fix some organizational issue. I often discover that the real problem is invariably communication or more precisely the lack of communication, but when asked to pinpoint the cause, it is often difficult to do so.

Communication represents a large sack filled to the brim with a range of issues and includes how messages are both delivered and received, the tools used to convey a message and the context in which it occurs.

Communication is an art and science, but we often overlook that. When it does not work, it becomes one directional. When it works, it is bi-directional and rich. It connects us emotionally allowing us to complete tasks with focus, operate as a team and deliver results.

Communication is at the heart of everything we do and deliver, whether it is setting a vision, building and maintaining trust or shaping our personal brand. It influences everything that we represent and being an effective communicator is a key function that an Executive Leader must master. It is the way that we externalize (and therefore make available to others) what is going on internally for us. We need to create our own authentic and effective leadership ‘voice’.

Communication exists in a number of guises: internally and externally, horizontally and vertically, formally and informally. Effective communication requires a proactive approach to addressing challenges that exist.

ball-63527_1280In this Chapter, we identify what constitutes effective communication and how the richness of face-to-face interactions is translated and filtered through a wide variety of communication tools that we use on a day-to-day basis. Communication in its broadest sense is providing the right information and knowledge to the right person at the right time in the right way.


Workplace Communications

Alistair Coburn (2002), presented a wonderful graph that shows the effectiveness of communications versus the richness of communications.  At the top scale, the most effective and richest form of communication is face to face with a whiteboard.  At the lower end of the scale, are telephone calls and at the least rich and least effective is email.  So what tool do we use more than any other tool on a day-to-day basis?  Email I hear you shout.  According to the Radicatti Group, the number of corporate emails has grown year on year.  Where will it end?  How will social networking impact email usage?  If you take a look at what tools teenagers use, they do not use email.  They communicate using instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter.  People of my generation say that teenagers do not communicate as much as they did.  Do simply use and harness these communication tools?

If we spend so much time using emails, why don’t we get training on how to use these tools effectively?  How often does email management appear in a time management course?  It will be interesting to see how the email versus social networking race progresses over the next few years.

Sustainability: Short / Long term goals?

My definition of what the aim of an organization is to “maximize returns for its stakeholders”.

But over what term?  When we say short or long-term what does this mean and what are the implications for sustainability?

I started thinking about this when reading a HBR article “Capitalism for the Long Term: by Dominic Barton: http://hbr.org/2011/03/capitalism-for-the-long-term

If you take a typical business, what does long-term mean?  Three to five years?  This defines the strategic planning activities, allocation of resources, finance initiatives etc.  What about a ten or twenty-year timeframe?   This is typically unheard off in the West, but pretty much par for the course in the East, for the larger organization.

So how do these fundamental views of outlook impact sustainability?  If we use the definition of sustainability as being the capacity to endure, then having a short-term outlook (you decide what short-term means for you) will shape your view on all activities including the purchase and utilization of resources including materials, people, machines etc.  It shapes your finance initiates.  Is the organization seeking suitable short-returns that may increase its exposure to risk, in the pursuit of these returns.  This will shape an organization’s approach to sustainability and all activities associated with sustainable practices.

By its implicit nature, sustainability has a long-term outlook.  If we take the Bruntland Commission of the United Nations, March 20th, 1987, view of sustainable development as being the “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, then a long-term approach is certainly viewed here.  So what happens when you are driven by the short-term?  The very nature of the markets in which you operate may dictate this and take this out of your control.  If the outlook is short-term, then what impact does this have on the sustainable considerations, your organization may be considering?  Are the organization goals at odds with each other (short-term metrics such as profit and growth versus long-term goals as sustainability)

Barton’s article focuses on the West near obsession on a short-term outlook and if we were able to adopt and consider a longer-term outlook, perhaps this would create better foundation for creating and sustaining growth, profits, allocation and utilization of resources, financing activities, use of personnel.

If you are driven by short-term goals and measurement indicators, yet want to have a long-term sustainable outlook, what are you doing to maintain balance?