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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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Guest Bloggers
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

st patricks day

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my Irish friends around the world...And to everyone, as today you are Irish (smile).

I look forward to St. Paddy's Day as it is always festive. I wore my green tie and shamrock lapel pin.

It also is a day that starts with a fantastic breakfast event hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau with Invest NI and Visit Ireland.  Having done some workshop programs in Belfast, Northern Ireland, NI holds a special place in my heart.

I included a few pictures from the breakfast.

Here I am with  Norman Houston, Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau. And a big thanks to the entire team of Stewart, Lorraine, Tracy, Kirsten, and Kelsey.

 TheChiefStoryteller.Blog.2017-03-StPatricks-1

Inside teh beautiful Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.  Mr. Houston has just finished his remarks.

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In front of the big Welcome sign.

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A look into the goodie box everyone received. Delicious Irish Soda bread which we made at home, potato chips my daughter devoured, tea we enjoy, and fudge we have to bake with.

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presentation emergency kit checklist

All too often, I have witnessed less than successful presentations due to unplanned problems and issues.

Most, if not all, of the impact from an unplanned circumstance, can be minimized or eliminated with your own emergency presentation kit.

Here are some pre-event suggestions to ensure your presentation goes smoothly.

In next week's tip, I’ll cover some suggestions for you when you arrive on-site.

 

EMERGENCY PRESENTATION KIT

- Bring a flash drive with your presentation, workbook, video, and audio files. Test it from the flash drive
- Print your presentation with your delivery notes
- Bring a six-foot USB extension cord. You may need it for your flash drive and/or your presenter
- Bring your own presentation device with backup batteries. Bring only fully charged batteries
- Bring your own laptop with an extension cord. Charge fully your battery
- Print out your biography and/or introduction and bring with you
- Bring your own bottle of water (no caffeinated beverages)
- Bring your own timing device (e.g., watch, mini-sized clock, professional presentation timer) or purchase a reliable app for your smart device
- Print out driving directions

Two other pre-event suggestions:
- Test your presentation, every slide, ensuring the animations, audio, and videos work perfectly
- Research the organization’s key executive and planning staff including short biographies. Bring a printout and review.

Depending upon your own situation, some of the suggestions may or may not be appropriate. Make your own list. Print it out. Check items off.

USE YOUR CHECKLIST EVERY TIME.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veterans Day 2016

speaking, presenting, keynote, workshop, motivational speaker, storytelling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing all of the active duty service members and veterans a happy and healthy Veterans Day.

It all started in college in ROTC. Great experiences that then lead me to active duty in the US Army. I spent five excellent years supporting military health.

speaking, presenting, keynote, workshop, motivational speaker, storytelling

I'm back! Back to kickoff the 2016 Business EXCELerator Series for Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. I had honor of kicking off the 2015 series, with my elevator speech program.

MCCC is an awesome organization that I'm proud to be a member of for years. They do so much for the community...

My topic is "Executive Storytelling:  How Leaders Use Stories to Engage, Persuade, and Inspire."

Brief Description:  Learn how to turn your personal experiences into powerful workplace stories that engage and inspire your stakeholders. Follow a proven framework complemented by practical training aides to develop your high-impact stories that influence change, motivate teams, obtain approval, and secure funding.

I'll be reviewing my executive storytelling framework, having fun with "That's Interesting, Tell Me More" exercise, sharing some powerful videos, and walking through the Leadership Story Framework.

Agenda and More Information

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What a great time. The room was filled with business owners, executives, sales professionals, marketing folks, and those in customer service from corporate, non profits, and government (boy that was a lot of lists!). I had them do my exercise, "That's Interesting, Tell Me More," to set a foundation for their leadership story. This foundation identified what was missing -- powerful words, powerful message, and powerful delivery.  I reviewed my story framework, shared some insightful videos, and was engaged with a variety of great questions.

Here's the excellent write up from the Chamber...

"Ira Koretsky, CEO, The Chief Storyteller® presented “Executive Storytelling: How Leaders Use Stories to Engage, Persuade and Inspire.” A key differentiator in the marketplace for any business is customer service.  Ira stressed the use of effective storytelling to be remembered and to demonstrate your value and that of your organization. When you tell a personal, workplace story, select one that that has a universal message. The best story is one that is easily shared. When developing your story, “start in the middle,” keep it under three minutes, and always inspire your audiences to think or act differently. Your organization can and will be changed by changing the stories executives tell, customers tell, and employees tell."

 

 

 

figure of speech, repetition, speaking, presenting, impact, messaging

I’m often asked, "When it comes to deciding what story to tell, where do I start?”

Great stories are those that touch people, that touch people with a personal experience shared in a memorable workplace message.

When you are thinking about the next strategic presentation, board meeting, report, etc. where a story will help advance your agenda (when won't it?), think about experience moments. These are times in your life where you gained new insights and where you changed because of these new insights. These insights should be profound such that they still affect your thinking and actions today.

Then take these experience moments and turn them into workplace stories with a specific message, a specific idea, a specific action you want your audiences to take.

Experience Moment Suggestions:
- Experiences that changed you a) Related to a person or b) "Aha" moments/epiphanies
- Firsts:  First win, first loss (playing sports, hobby, tournament), and first promotion
- Friends & Family:  Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, Mother, Father (always great sources of stories, sayings, messages)
- Media:  Movies, books, poems from childhood to adulthood

figure of speech, repetition, speaking, presenting, impact, messaging

The English language has hundreds of figures of speech to help you improve the effectiveness of your communications. Anaphora is an excellent example of repetition.

Look at the examples below. Find ways for you to experiment by including this figure of speech in your written, spoken, and online communications.

As always, test your use of language. Is it engaging, persuasive, and memorable? If not, (ruthlessly) revise.

 

- Definition:   A word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of a successive phrase, clause, or sentence, two or more times
- Pronunciation:  ah-NAF-oh-rah
- Also Known As:  Epanaphora, Iteratio, Relatio, and Repetitio
- Etymology:  Greek, “carrying back”

Example:  “Freedom's Forge," Book Launch Event, Author Arthur Herman, 5/2012
Now, what I want to do here tonight is to tell you a story. And this is a story that usually is told backwards. {If you go to the} textbooks, {if you go to the} movies, {if you go to the} usual discussions...

Example:  Rick Blaine in Casablanca the movie
{Of all the} gin joints {in all the} towns {in all the} world, she walks into mine

Example:  President John Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan 1961
{Let both sides} explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. {Let both sides}, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

{Let both sides} seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

{Let both sides} unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah--to 'undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free.'

Monday, April 18, 2016

Just Be Nice with Your Words

speaking, leadership, leader, ceo, cxo, employee, language, positive, words

Negative words, whether used on purpose or by accident, can have a big impact on your audience. Potentially, an impact you did not want or plan for.

Imagine you are work. Think about when you hear someone say something negative about a co-worker? Or when someone says something critical about a work product such as a report? How does the negativity color your world about the person and the organization? Do you ignore it? Distance yourself from the person? Or even, offer excuses for him/her?

Whatever you say or write, we believe at The Chief Storyteller that whenever possible, be positive. In many cases, you can indeed turn negative words and phrases into positive ones, while still getting your point across.

Often people write sentences such as, “Bill, this is a great idea, but I don’t like xyz.” As such, everything after the “but” is negative…everything. Instead, make it positive with “Bill, this is a great idea. Let’s talk more about xyz to better understand your ideas.”

Examples of negative words include:
- But
- However
- Although
- Except
- Even though
- Unfortunately
- Let me be honest
- This is simple to do

Here are some suggestions to improve your interactions and relationships when it comes to using words:
- Eliminate “but.” Replace it with “and” or a “.” (period)
- Think about the negative aspect of what you are intending to say. Does it really have to be said? If you must communicate a negative idea, re-phrase it to make it more positive.
- Do not write/email while angry or upset. Wait at least 10 minutes.
- Read what you wrote aloud (not in your head). It helps you to “feel” the emotional level of the words.

speaking, presenting, keynote, workshop, motivational speaker, storytelling

I'm honored to be delivering the opening keynote for the 15th Annual Departement of Energy (DOE) Small Business Forum & Expo in Atlanta May 23 to 25.

My topic is "Awaken the Storytelling Giant in You."
Description: What if the right story inspired your company's targeted program, site office, or laboratory to add your company to their team? What if the right story persuaded the small business program manager to invite you to hear your ideas and company's capabilities? What if the right story prompted the small business program manager or contracting officer to recommend your company? What difference could that right story mean to your company? Join Ira for a lively and insightful keynote on how to turn your experiences into powerful stories that engage and inspire stakeholders throughout the DOE Community.

I will also deliver a complementary workshop that will be a hands-on program later in the day.

*** If you are attending, please send me a note and let's coordinate schedules.

Here's more information on the event:

The Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), is proud to present the 15th Annual DOE Small Business Forum & Expo at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, GA, May 23 - 25, 2016.

Dr. Ernest Moniz, United States Secretary of Energy, will welcome everyone Tuesday morning. Throughout the event, there will be plenaries, educational workshops, a large Exhibit Hall, as well as business matchmaking sessions. Over 800 attendees will represent all levels of Federal, state, and local government agencies, the small business community, large/prime contractors, and many more!

The OSDBU goal is to provide maximum practicable opportunities in the Departments' acquisitions to all small business concerns.  The OSDBU created this 2 1/2 day event to connect small businesses with various DOE offices and programs to enhance DOE's overall mission of ensuring America's security and prosperity by:

- Strengthening and sustaining America's Energy Independence
- Introducing new innovations in areas of Science and Engineering
- Enhancing nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts

DOE2016 will provide small businesses with the information needed to help you navigate through the largest civilian agency within the Federal government.  General sessions and breakouts will include subjects, such as:

- Finding and Winning Simplified Acquisitions, Part 1 & 2 (from my friend and colleague, Guy Timberlake of the American Small Business Coalition)
- DOE Headquarters Panel
- DOE National Laboratories and Site Office
- DOE IT Opportunities
- DOE's Supply Chain Management
- National Nuclear Security Administration (East Coast Locations)
- Executive Storytelling: How Leaders Use Stories to Engage, Persuade and Inspire (my breakout session)
- More...

Agenda (click here)

Speakers (click here)

 

 

 

speaking, pause, pausing, art of the pause, presenting, presentation, motivational speaker

The art of the “pause” – knowing when to use a short pause or long pause – offers a lot of benefits to speakers, presenters, and trainers alike.

Everybody reads at a different speed.
Everyone listens at the same speed.
Everyone comprehends in a different way.
Pausing helps smooth out the learning speed bumps.

Here are a few benefits of employing effective pauses. Pauses…
a) Are an elegant way to emphasize points
b) Give your audience important moments to process what you say
c) Enable your audience to catch up, especially if you are a fast talker
d) Make you appear more confident, as you don’t need to fill every second with words
e) Can add tension and suspense
f) Are very effective with international audiences. They allow your audience and translator to catch up to you (similar to C)
g) Keep your audiences engaged

People frequently ask us, “Won’t my audiences notice I am pausing on purpose? It doesn’t seem natural.”

Our answer, “Used appropriately, no one will know you are deliberately pausing. What they will think is that you are an effective speaker.”

If you are new to pausing, start using short pauses in your next conversation. Test out your effectiveness until you are able to master the pause. Then move on to public speaking and training.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Write it Down Before You Forget

writing, memory, forget, forgetfulness, recordOur short-term memory is very short. Experts vary in their opinions sharing a range of 20 to 30 seconds. Whatever the right number of seconds, it really does not matter.

If you are like us, you forget the unimportant to the important. Think about when you are a in a meeting and an idea pops into your head. How often do you forget the idea? Or forget that important item your client asked about? Or…you get the idea.

Anytime you have an idea/thought you know you want to remember, write it down. To aid in recall, remove all judgment, your desire to analyze, your need to evaluate, etc. – this eliminates mental clutter competing with memory recall.

Use a sticky note, a napkin, text message yourself, email yourself, or call yourself and leave that important message.

Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher (c. 551-c. 479 BC), said, "The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory."

speaking, training, presenting, practice, practicingThere isn’t a prospect or client that tells us something close to “I really don’t have time to practice my [blank] like I should.” [Blank] is a presentation to the board, a story to inspire action, a sales presentation, an investor pitch, and so on.

Our response is something like, “There isn’t an Olympic athlete, celebrity actor, famous musician, and New York Times best-selling author that doesn’t practice his or her craft—and some practice daily. Not one.”

One of the more well respected researchers in expert performance, K. Anders Ericsson, PhD, has published numerous papers and articles. One paper is “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance” (link here). According to Dr. Ericsson, at the intersection of expertise and habit is deliberate practice.

Whatever you do, make practice part of your planning. Practice at least a little. We suggest for really important events, three to five times.

Deliberate Practice helps you.....
- smooth out transitions from slide to slide and big concept to big concept
- identify "bumpy" areas--areas that sound awkward, cause you to hesitate and stumble, etc.
- feel (much) more confident, which then allows more authentic passion and the real you to shine

networking, eating, dining, relationship buildingEver been at a business meal and found yourself finished way before your dining partner? Or perhaps your dining partner was finished way before you?

Generally, this occurs for one of two reasons:  

1) Someone is talking much more than the other person

2) One person is a much faster eater

In either case, it is best to match your partner's eating speed when possible.

We have seen some people eat like vacuum cleaners and exclaim afterward, "Sorry, I know I am a fast eater." Please note, while men are the typical fast eaters, a conversation topic may skew the eating speed one way or the other.

Your goal...finish approximately at the same time.

speaking, whisper,vocal variety,presenting,presentation,motivational speakerPeople are naturally curious. Suspense heightens curiosity. One of the best ways to build suspense is by varying the volume and tone of your voice.

For this tip, lower your voice to a (near) whisper. In this way, you surprise your audience, as they are not expecting you to whisper. Once they hear your story sotto voce, they will automatically be intrigued by what comes next in your story.

Experiment, mix, and test to find the techniques that work best for you and your story.

speaking podiums presenting presentation motivational speakerHave you ever seen a stage without a podium? Likely not. And like all moths drawn to the light, most speakers are drawn to the podium. Instead, you should avoid them. Podiums:

- Create a physical and psychological barrier between you and your audience
- Force you to remain in one spot - behind the podium
- Block most of your body and therefore block your body language
- Are hand-arm magnets, with most speakers leaning and holding onto the sides of the podium
- Minimize your ability to move around, minimizing your ability to connect with your audience

In advance of your next presentation or training day, coordinate with the event planning team to a) remove/move the podium and b) have a lavaliere (preferred) or hand-held microphone available for you.

In honor of Dr. King and celebration of his holiday, here is one of our favorite quotes.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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Everyone at The Chief Storyteller® wishes you a warm, safe, and relaxing holiday season. Here's a little storytelling humor.

secret-formula-for-great-storytelling

An organization's vision statement proclaims its desire to be the very best. Its top leaders are the personification of excellence in everything they do.

Yet, many of its employees are content with mediocrity and the lackluster performance that invariably follows. It can be a frustrating experience for the movers and the shakers in any organization – who must confront a wall of indifference, a lack of engagement and an omnipresent sense of laziness at the office on a daily basis.

Why is this?

It all starts with attitude. Some years back, I wrote a post on the importance of attitude. When my youngest son, who is now a first-year student at the University of Virginia (UVa), was playing basketball in junior high, I noticed a poster on the wall of the gym that read, "Attitudes Are Contagious. Are Yours Worth Catching?" He took that idea to heart that day and let it guide him as he pursued his dream of gaining admission to Virginia's flagship university over the high school years that followed.

Attitude cannot be taught. I suppose that's the reason the Walt Disney Company is known for its practice of hiring more for attitude and less for experience. So, yes, a culture of excellence begins with attitude...at hiring time.

Beyond the initial hire, however, attitude can be cultivated. It takes a commitment from management to set measurable performance objectives, to be engaged and to hold people accountable – "inspect what you expect," if you will. It takes a realization that there are consequences – both positive and negative – to how employees perform or fail to deliver. Even my college-aged son knew early on in his high school career that unless he built sufficient rigor into his schedule, worked hard to earn a competitive grade point average and achieved an SAT score in the top percentile, gaining admission to UVa wasn't going to happen.

If you're a senior manager, my challenge to you is this: take stock of your organization as you begin the new year. Are the attitudes of your employees contributing to the culture of excellence you aspire to? Or, are they holding your organization back?

Remember, a culture of excellence begins with attitude.

visual words

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” perfectly describes the necessity for you to tell your stories with engaging (and powerful) imagery.

Think of a story you were told recently while at work. Was it interesting? Engaging? Memorable? We bet you a billion (Monopoly®) dollars that for you to say yes to all three, the storyteller used visual words. Words like those of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, during a commencement she gave to the Harvard Business School Graduates:

Lori has a great metaphor for careers. She says they’re not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym. As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume.

This excerpt is an excellent example of metaphor and descriptive language. People who love to tell stories...the good storytellers...think visually. When they create stories in their minds, they transform words into engaging and memorable experiences…experiences that draw you in and make you feel like you are part of the experience.

Watch videos of professional speakers. As you do, stop the video every so often. Think about the words you just heard. Do they move you? Try to determine why and why not? What can you learn from these examples?

- Watch videos on TED and TEDx.
- Watch speeches on YouTube from noted academics, business leaders, politicians, opinion leaders, and thought leaders (examples include LinkedIn Speakers, @Google Talks, and Harvard Business School)
- Watch movies with powerful dialogue and memorable scenes (IMDB is an excellent source of movie information)

active listening

Children say the most honest things, don’t they? Over the weekend, my family went to Washington, DC National Zoo for a child’s birthday party. We walked visiting various animals like the elephants, sea otters, and lions.

After eating tasty cake and ice cream at the end of the party, we ended up walking with some friends. They happen to have an inquisitive, bright-eyed three-year old son. As we were almost to the exit, I overheard the little boy say to his mother, “We can’t go. It’s jail. We have to let them out.”

Wow! What a powerful statement. My wife and I talked about it. We take for granted the animals are in cages—it’s a zoo afterall. How insightful, how raw, how eye opening was that statement?

As we continued to walk to our car and for the ride home I thought more about what I don’t pay attention to as much as should, personally and professionally.

And I’ll ask you the same question I asked my team:  “Are we listening to our audiences enough?”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Master the Art of Active Listening

active listening

James Nathan Miller made an interesting observation some 50 years ago—“Conversation in the U.S. is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener” (The Art of Intelligent Listening, Readers Digest, September 1965).

Don’t let Miller’s observation describe your conversations. Master the art of active listening.

Whether you are a government agency, association, charity, education institution, or corporation, we all have stakeholders—both internal and external. And what each person or persons needs, changes. Depending upon due dates, unforeseen events, new priorities, and the like, the needs can change quickly or slowly.

Whatever your situation, you really have to listen to “them” to really know what is important to them.

Effective listening benefits you in many ways such as: 
- Improves bonding and rapport building
- Reduces communication misunderstandings
- Reduces interpersonal conflicts
- Increases quality of work-related activities

Here are some suggestions to master the art of active listening:
- Use Non-verbal Body Language: Nod your head, smile, and lean forward are good ways to demonstrate your attentiveness. On the telephone, say words like Right, Sure, Understand, and Yes to demonstrate your attentiveness.
- Paraphrase: Summarize and repeat back to the person initiating the conversation the key points. This ensures common understanding. Use this suggestion for the more important discussion points.
- Communicate: Based on your mutual goals with your stakeholders, communicate in person (e.g., coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, and meetings). Communicate in other ways such as by telephone, email, text message, and postal mail. 
- Wait Your Turn: Resist the temptation to interrupt and interject. Let your communication partner finish sharing her/his thoughts.

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A few weeks ago, Bhavesh Bhagat from Confident Governance, and I co-presented a keynote presentation at the annual ISACA DC conference. ISACA is an association of IT, Audit, Security & Risk Management, and Cyber professionals.  Its roots go back to 1967. More information on ISACA below.

I met Bhavesh at an Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) two-day event where I was presenting a variety of programs on the elevator speech/value proposition, LinkedIn Makeover, and Media Relations. 

Over the coming months, we created a different kind of "technology" presentation titled, "Awakening the Hidden 'Risk Giant' in You." 

And I do mean different. 

Bhavesh...
- kicked the keynote off sharing a personal story of his time at The Grand Bretgane in Athens, Greece
- talked about the absence of Pluto from our solar system
- shared his outlook on life as a musician and how it positively affects his views as an ISACA professional
- showed a video clip from Daito Manabe's Elevenplay Dance Performance with Drones (yes, drones)

I...
- shared a personal story about my time in Egypt at the famous Sphinx and how that relates to brand and personal recognition
- showed a video clip that epitomized what not do in a presentation
- redefined word clouds into message clouds and how they can benefit you in determining your message
- emphasized the importance of "changing the conversation" (meaning change your messages and personal and organizational stories) to effect change in your organization

I had a great time at the conference. And want to thank Bhavesh again for his invitation to co-present.

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From the ISACA website:  "Today, ISACA’s constituency—more than 140,000 strong worldwide—is characterized by its diversity. Constituents live and work in more than 180 countries and cover a variety of professional IT-related positions—to name just a few, IS auditor, consultant, educator, IS security professional, regulator, chief information officer and internal auditor. Some are new to the field, others are at middle management levels and still others are in the most senior ranks. They work in nearly all industry categories, including financial and banking, public accounting, government and the public sector, utilities and manufacturing. This diversity enables members to learn from each other, and exchange widely divergent viewpoints on a variety of professional topics. It has long been considered one of ISACA’s strengths."

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When it comes to presentations, humor is often a controversial subject. Most speaking experts suggest avoiding humor. The undeniable fact is worldwide, people love to laugh. So…why can’t we include humor?

We suggest YOU DO. In fact, we strongly suggest USING humor in your presentations.

The likely question on your mind is “how do I use humor?” or the less flattering, “I’m not funny. There’s no way I’m using humor.”

Change your mindset. Start small.

Here are some suggested sources that come directly from your personal experiences, which are the best way to tell humorous stories:

a) Family experiences. Stories about both immediate and extended families
b) Personal experiences. Travel stories are universal. Everyone laughs at bad travel experiences
c) Humorous quotes. In your favorite search engine, type, "funny quotes" (without the quotation marks)

            Example:  "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."  (Mark Twain)

Whenever possible, test your use of humor on friends, colleagues, and in presentation practice sessions. When you say something funny, wait a few seconds for the audience to “get it” – that is the pausing part.

 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Great CEOs are Lazy

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Friend and colleague Jim Schleckser writes some great CEO and executive-focused articles. I really liked this one and thought to share it. At the end are some links for more great ideas from Jim.  How about that title?  Grabs your attention...

 

 

Great CEOs Are Lazy

Jim Schleckser, CEO and Managing Director, The CEO Project, 2 June 2015

 

Great CEOs rarely enter into Player Mode. Rather, their first move is to find someone else to do the work.
 
When most CEOs find their company getting into some kind of bind, they jump in to personally help resolve the issue. We call this going into "Player Mode." "I'm just helping out for now," these CEOs tell themselves, "and later on I'll bring in someone else."
 
But the great CEOs out there rarely enter into Player Mode. Rather, his or her first move is to find someone else to do the work. They are very intentional about engaging the organization. That's why great CEOs are lazy.
 
Before you jump through the screen and strangle me, hear me out. Of course great CEOs work hard--but the hard work they do is in finding, recruiting, and engaging the best people to get the task at hand done as well as it can be.

Think back to your high school reading list and recall the story of Tom Sawyer and how he found a way to recruit his friends to help him paint a fence for his aunt. Tom found a way to make the job sound so exciting, he even got his friends to pay him for the privilege of doing it!  Now I'm not advocating using sleight of hand in tackling the issues at your workplace. What I am emphasizing is that as soon as you, as CEO, engage in Player Mode, you lose your ability to recruit other people to get the work done, because you are busy.
 
This notion is very counterintuitive. Many of us began our working lives at the age of 14 or 16, cutting lawns or busing tables or the like. We have worked our whole lives. The idea of not working is somehow offensive to our sense of an internal work ethic.
 
But being "lazy" in this case this is all about working smarter, not harder.

Case in point: I recently met up with the CEO of a professional services company. The top priority for his firm this year is growing its client base. In fact, they planned to double it. And when I talked to this CEO, he mentioned how he planned to work harder to help the firm meet its goals.
 
That's when I stopped him and asked what he meant by that. After all, he couldn't realistically work twice as hard as he was already, right? And how feasible was it that he could help the company literally double the rate at which it closed new deals? The only option on the table that might work, I explained, was to get more people involved in the process. What you need to do, I explained, is to get lazy. He needed to do less customer and sales work himself and do more recruiting of people who could handle that work for the company instead.

I will acknowledge that there will always be times where, when the stuff really hits the proverbial fan, you as CEO might have to step in to do some actual "work." But the great CEOs will make that their fourth or fifth option. In fact, I've known some CEOs who, the worse things get, get "lazier" still: They work harder to get the right people involved in solving the problem, while personally detaching themselves as much from it as they can to remain objective. Not only is that a great way to ensure the right person is doing the job, it's also a great empowerment and team-building approach. Rather than you as CEO parachuting in to save the day, your team will begin to learn that they are the ones who are trusted to save things for themselves. No one is coming to save them. That's powerful stuff.

The point is that unless you are really good at what needs to be done, or truly enjoy it, you're better off with the lazy solution. Heck, even Steve Jobs, who in some ways has become the epitome of the micromanager, really stuck with just a few things he cared about, like the design and look-and-feel of the products. You don't hear about him getting wrapped up in solving operational issues or things dealing with production and manufacturing. He wasn't designing circuit boards. He let the people who were pros at those tasks solve their own issues.
 
So the moral of the story, as you might have guessed by now, is that being lazy pays off for the best CEOs out there. You might ask yourself how your business might benefit if you started doing less and just got lazy.

* Find more about the Inc. CEO Project here including some great articles and insightful videos (scroll down).  Check out Jim's first of five videos on the roles of a CEO. The first one is "5 Roles of a CEO:  Architect."

 

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In describing Atlas Corps, Scott Beale, Founder and CEO, shares that Atlas Corps is "an international network of the world's best non profit leaders and social change organizations.  We bring leaders from around the world to serve in the U.S. to learn skills and share their perspectives. And then go back home to create a global network of the world's best social change professionals."

I met Scott about a year ago through a program hosted by CRDF Global and my good friend Natalia Pipia.  We talked briefly and then over the course of about a month outlined a communications program to be offered to the next class of Atlas Corps' Fellows.

Today, I had a the honor of spending a half-day with nearly 70 very passionate social change professionals from more than 50 countries (see picture below). My program was "Executive Storytelling: How to Use Stories to Engage, Persuade, and Inspire."

Two big take-aways:

- Passion opens the door to opportunities. Scalability opens the door to investment. Several of the Fellows are doing great things in their respective countries. They were looking for local partners and investors to help them expand outreach. Someone asked a question sparking a lively discussion of passion and scability. I emphasized investors around the world will always be more receptive to an idea that scales, whether it be for social good or for economic gain.

- Find the right balance. Many of the Fellows were tackling sensitive culture, justice, and historical issues.  Some of the issues were heart-breaking and would bring tears to your eyes hearing some of the stories. I encouraged the fellows to share these stories while keeping in mind that tugging on someone's heart to inspire them to be part of the solution, you must find the right balance of emotion and benefit. In general, people do not want to be overwhelmed with an emotional appeal. They want a reasoned set of arguments with clear benefits. Weave your emotional appeal just enough so that your audience truly understands what is at stake. Empathy over sympathy.

I really enjoyed spending time with the Atlas Corps' Class 18 Fellows. And I sincerely look forward to staying in touch and helping them continue to make a (big) difference in the world.

The next day, Scott posted this very nice recommendation/testimonial. 

Ira did a fantastic job with this public speaking and storytelling workshop to the Atlas Corps Fellows. He engaged a diverse and professional audience of nearly 70 leaders from over 50 different countries and after a four-day training on Marketing and Communication skills, Ira was the favorite presenter for the majority of the Fellows. He is fantastic!

 

With its fantastic history of excellence, Atlas Corps has built a world wide reputation, drawing thousands of applications each year (apply here). What it needs most are host organizations (contact Atlas Corps here). Host organizations receive a variety of benefits. If interested visit the website or email me.

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The Fellows sat at tables of six to eight. On some of the tables I saw name tents with each Fellow's name in a variety of languages. I didn't think of asking them to translate my name until my program was nearly over. I did manage a few...languages and countries of origin are labeled on the next photograph.

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I did manage a few...languages and countries of origin are labeled. Too bad I wasn't able to do more...next time!

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About a week ago I was on LinkedIn.  In the “Whose Viewed Your Profile,” LinkedIn is always making suggestions for groups. This time the Harvard Business Review group was displayed.  I clicked on the [Join] button and was promptly "rejected." Just kidding. The group already had a million members and was full. LinkedIn was sorry, the screen message said.

Not to be deterred, for the next several days, when I would remember, I would click on the [Join] button. I would just sigh and resign myself to be rejected. It now was a matter of "when" I told myself.

After a few days of trying, I was accepted. I didn’t think anything of it.

About an hour later, my friend and colleague Dave (his LinkedIn Profile) sent me a screen shot of the LinkedIn update of me being the 1,000,000 member of the HBR group. His email was “1 in a 1,000,000.” I laughed out loud…quite loudly.

What are you doing to connect with your LinkedIn networks?

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During a facilitation session to develop a new mission statement for a non-profit client, several of the executive team members encouraged the group to use “strive.”

We politely pointed out strive is a wishy-washy word, and should not be used.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states the definition of strive as “to try very hard to do or achieve something.” The implication is you achieve your goal. In reality, you may or may not.

In business, like Yoda from Star Wars aptly said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Avoid wishy-washy words such as strive, hope, surely, chiefly, usually, going to, often, sort of, possibly, and many more.

Words like these reduce your effectiveness when communicating with your stakeholders.

I was on Twitter recently when I stumbled upon a tweet by the Mother Nature Network on laughter. It contained a link to an article on the results of a recent study by Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at University College London and part-time stand-up comedian.

She concluded from her study that people don't just laugh at things they think are funny. They also laugh to show positive feelings of likability, agreement and commonality toward others. In her words, "laughter is an index of the strength of a relationship."

I once worked for a senior executive who almost never laughed. Within weeks of her hire, the culture of the entire office changed. It went from a collegial, "we're all in this together," results-oriented atmosphere to a self-centered, fear and intimidation, activity-focused environment. Morale took a nose-dive and sales and marketing results soon followed.

Without exception, every successful sales and marketing organization I've ever been a part of has been led by a "Chief Happiness Officer." These are people who, in spite of their formal titles or official roles, manage to keep the rest of us from taking ourselves too seriously. They know that employees who like each other will focus more on achieving quantifiable wins for the team than on useless activities designed to promote their own self-interests. They know strong personal relationships bring out the best in everyone and allow the team to achieve more.

Take a moment to look around your office. Does your organization have a Chief Happiness Officer?

 

For more on the impact leaders have on organizational culture, please see:
How Important Is Your Internal Customer Experience?
Wise and Selfless Leadership Is No Fairy Tale
How You Treat Your Employees Matters
Your Employees Play a Leading Role In Shaping Great Brands
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?

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Elmer Wheeler said, “Your first 10 words are more important than your next 10,000. In fact, if your first 10 words aren't the right words, you won't have a chance to use the next 10,000.”

Wheeler is one of the fathers of sales. Perhaps you know him from the famous phrase, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” which he coined in the 1940s?

Starting your presentation is one of the most important parts to a successful speaker and audience experience. The beginning sets the tone. The beginning puts your audience into a frame of mind. And the beginning sets up the expectations for what’s to come.

Your beginning should be well thought-out and rehearsed. It should grab them in the first 10 seconds. A great quote works very well. Everyone loves a great quote as it has a lot of meaning shared in just a few words.

Whether you realize it or not, the quotes you use are a reflection of who you are and how you think. As such, only use quotes that have had a profound impact on your thinking. Now when you share the quote with your audience, share a little story about how you discovered the quote and its impact on your life. Your audience will “feel” the authenticity in your story and better appreciate the quote’s message.

Here are a few sites to find great quotes:

- BrainyQuote
- World of Quotes
- Quoteland

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Have you ever thought that someone else or some other organization has copied your website?  Using your LinkedIn profile picture? Incorporated your amazing graphic into their website?

It happens...

TinEye and Google Images are free sites that scour the Internet in just a few seconds showing you where your image or photo is being used. You can then determine if it is legitimate or if legal steps need to be taken. This is commonly called "Reverse Image Search."

At a minimum, search for uses of your profile pictures and key images/graphics important to your brand identity.

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Expand your network by attending an event of your choice this week. For this event, your goal is to meet one new connection--partner or colleague—not a prospect.

This experience is geared toward expanding your network by building relationships. Each new person you bring into your network has his or her own network of people—likely several hundred. Instead of “qualifying,” get to know people. Think of it more as a Saturday afternoon party. Perhaps even offer some assistance in the form of referrals, suggestions, and introductions?

The true genius of networking is “who knows you.” With today’s world of LinkedIn, it becomes, “who is connected to you.” The power of relationships lay with the person on the other end of the connection.

As a result, a referral from this new business friend comes with a tremendous amount of relationship capital with his/her network. And the same when it comes to your introductions into your network.

 

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