The Daily Recruiter

The Ezine for Executive Managers … brought to you by The SearchLogix Group.

Fear Screws Up Your Leadership

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“By David Dye, Lead Change Group contributor”

It’s a question that has perplexed me for many years:  With the wealth of leadership wisdom available, why do we continue to struggle to lead well? Why do employee engagement rates continue to hover around 30% despite the obvious advantages for leaders who choose to lead well?

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How compassion helps

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“By Jennifer V. Miller, SmartBrief contributor”

Years ago, when I was a 23-year-old assistant HR manager at a large department store, one of our sales associates suffered a heart attack and died while at work.

At the time, I was out of town, attending my grandfather’s funeral. Upon my return to work, my boss, Mary, told me what had happened and carefully gauged my reaction. She was concerned about me suffering two losses in quick succession. When I assured her I was OK, she asked me to check in with Scott, the department manager of the gentleman who had died.

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Pressure leads to narrow

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” By Naphtali Hoff, SmartBrief contributor”

After years of commuting to work with an old minivan (it was really nice when I first bought it), I recently leased a midsize sedan. To say that it drives better than my old hunk of junk is an understatement. It handles well, doesn’t guzzle nearly as much gas, and is far more enjoyable to drive.

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When an employee resigns

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“By Julie Winkle Giulioni, SmartBrief contributor” 

“I Quit” These words strike fear in the hearts of managers everywhere. Resignations represent one of the most emotional, stressful and challenging situations leaders face. They undermine confidence in ourselves, our leadership and our organizations. They threaten the status quo. And they have the potential to compromise team dynamics and business results.

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Questions great managers ask

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“By Joel Garfinkle, SmartBrief, contributor”

As a manager, you may feel that it’s always on you to deliver the messages, make the tough calls and guide the team through thick and thin — and it is.

Your team is looking for that sure-footed, goal-oriented sureness that makes them feel comfortable in the direction of the day, the project and the company. But here’s the thing that great managers know — while they want to feel secure that there is “a plan” and that it’s working, they also want to be included and to share that vision.

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A Powerful Talk In Under 5 Minutes

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“By Michelle Lam, Fast Company contributor”

Most of the time, you won’t have a captive audience for 20 uninterrupted minutes anyway.

Presenting in front of a crowd usually gives me the shakes. I compensate by talking quickly through slides stuffed with facts. I rarely rehearse. Instead, I’ll usually keep a few main points in my head and improvise the rest of a 15- to 20–minute talk.

In my experience, my approach to public speaking was never great to begin with. In addition, while longer, formal talks are important, I still wanted to make an impact out of much briefer chances to say a few words.

That’s why Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis founded Ignite Talks in 2006, after being barred from participating in another speaking community. Ignite is based around what it calls the “short story talk,” a format designed to make the most of really strict time constraints: five minutes max, with up to 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds. Every sentence counts.

In the 10 years since its founding, Ignite has hosted over 300 speaking events worldwide, at venues as diverse as schools in Africa to the White House. This year I was invited to participate in Ignite’s first-ever event at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, as part of an eclectic lineup of 40 speakers.

When I accepted Ignite’s invitation to speak, I knew I would have to invest the time to properly prepare a “short story” talk. “Figure out what the essence of your message is,” Forrest insists. “And deliver it fast.” Here’s how I learned to do that.

LESS TIME MEANS MORE FORETHOUGHT

“If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter,” the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote in 1657. What he found is still true today: Concision usually takes more upfront work and strategic thinking than long-windedness.

But the benefits of keeping it short are often long lasting. “Ignite helped me create Startup Metrics for Pirates in 2007,” Dave McClure tells me. “I put together all the disparate pieces of my startup advice in one coherent philosophy.” McClure’s five-minute talks are peppered with profanity, and emojis grace his slides. But he founded the renowned incubator 500 Startups in 2010 based partly on his Ignite talk, which distilled McClure’s philosophy to its essence.

Ondi Timoner, the only two-time recipient of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for documentaries, mentions that “speaking at TedxKC and my Masterclass allowed me to reflect on my journey behind a camera. However, Ignite’s five-minute limit forced me to identify the most vital stepping stones in the narrative of my work.”

For me, honing the story of my company True&Co was a chance to practice imaginative consumer-ready messaging in front of a live audience. One of the messages I worked into my Ignite talk later evolved into a key page of a new print catalog we released nationwide.

7 TIPS FOR SUPER-SHORT SPEECHES

These are a few of the key lessons I’ve learned about giving powerful talks in just five minutes.

1. Focus on the problem you’re solving. Speakers often make the mistake of promoting a company or a product, which puts audiences off. Most listeners don’t sign up for a commercial, but they are interested in the problem you encountered, why you thought it was important, and how you solved it in a novel way. Present the puzzle and your solution, and you won’t sound promotional.

2. Speak to the audience, not yourself. “Speaking clubs taught me that public speaking is more than words strung together. It is an opportunity to take my audience on a journey with me,” notes Elaine Lee, a former volunteer city governor for Toastmasters (and, in full disclosure, my cousin). She has a point: Facts may be intriguing, but only stories are truly engaging. The latest data that you tried so hard to remember often doesn’t register–the overall emotional arc of your narrative is what’s really memorable.

3. Start simple, with just a couple words per slide. Outline your talk and build your deck with only the barest amount of text on each slide–pare it down to just one or two words apiece. Then record yourself, and force yourself to listen to your talk. Iterate and repeat. Only then should you spend the time finding the perfectly evocative, just-so phrasing.

4. No notes, no memorizing.Improvising can make it more difficult to get your key message across, but it’s pretty much always better than reciting a speech from your notes. You’ll lose the connection with your audience and come across as rote and inauthentic if you do. When you practice, focus on remembering how you flow from one point to the next, not word to word or sentence to sentence.

5. Humor is great–if it’s natural. You don’t have to be funny. There’s nothing more painful than forced humor. But I’ve found that a shortened format makes it more natural, because you don’t really have time to wind up to a punchline. “People are more likely to laugh during short talks, because you are doing something that is unnatural,” Forrest says. “Everybody knows . . . and appreciates it.”

6. If you mess up, carry on. You are the only one who knows what you were about to say, or that your last slide was wrong. If you don’t give it away, no one will ever know.

7. Practice with like-minded folks. Remember that “speaking club” audiences are the most supportive in the world–whether it’s Ignite or any other group you hunt down so you can practice your own speaking chops, you’ll find a community of people who’ve deliberately sought out to do the same. Chances are you’ll be able to learn from one another much better than you could had you just practiced in front of a mirror or video recorder for hours by yourself.

Leadership self-esteem

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“By Naphtali Hoff, SmartBrief, contributor”

Ask the average person what it takes to be a great leader, and you will surely hear a bevy of characteristics and qualities, such as visionary, communicator, motivator and charismatic.

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5 Questions to Ask

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” By Megan Reitz and John Higgins, Harvard Business Review contributor”

A leader in the health industry recalled an incident from 40 years ago that still haunted him. In the early stages of his career he decided he had to speak up about malpractice he had witnessed. He remembered the experience very clearly: “I was hauled before the District Medical Officer… there’s me at 21 and him fifty-odd: ‘Young man, if you think you have any future in this career, you’ll desist from this [questioning] immediately.’ So I did desist.”

To avoid situations like this, most people will consciously or unconsciously weigh up relative power differences before deciding to speak up. And it’s always tempting to think that when you have more power — maybe even just a littlemore – it will be easier to call out wrongdoing. But over the last two years, as we interviewed over 60 business leaders, what we found is that this feeling never goes away. There is always someone or something more powerful than you are — when we spoke with company CEOs, they’d express concern about their boards, and when we spoke with board chairmen, they’d admit to being afraid of the media. No matter how senior the person we interviewed, there was always a lingering doubt about the risks and consequences of speaking up.

In our study, recently published, we sought to understand the complexities surrounding the decision to speak up or not at work — from a small idea about how to change customer service conversations, to a more serious issue of professional wrongdoing. In a previous article we explored how leaders may inadvertently silence others through being blind to their relative power. Now, we share what we’ve learned about those who do speak up. Our research suggests that speaking truth to power requires attention to these five intimately related questions:

1. How much do you believe in your own opinion? Speaking up requires you to believe you have a contribution to make and to feel strongly enough about it to speak up. So how much do you care? How would you feel if you didn’t speak up?

When we spoke to one whistle-blower who had inadvertently discovered that their CEO had been defrauding the company, he described the devastating consequences of speaking up: not only did he lose his job, but his family came apart as well. Asked whether he would blow the whistle again, had he known the consequences, he replied quickly: “Absolutely not!” Then, wracked with distress, he said: “But how could I not have?” Even with the consequences so brutally apparent, this executive felt so strongly that speaking up was the morally right choice that he could not have lived with himself had he stayed silent.

This is an atypical story that stands out because of its drama — in many cases, the morally right course of action is murkier, and the consequences of speaking up are not so devastating. Which leads us to the second question:

2. Do you have a realistic grasp of the consequences of speaking up? By balancing how much we believe in what we have to say with what might happen if we say it, we can decide whether we have the energy and resilience required to do so. People often have an exaggerated fear of the consequences of speaking up, and so we tend to prefer the short-term security of staying silent. How can we best ensure we are being realistic with our fears? Start by considering how those who have previously spoken up have actually been treated. Then don’t forget to reflect on the counter-argument: what are the long-term consequences to you and others of staying silent? And think carefully about who is likely to be affected if you do speak out. This brings us onto the third key question:

3. How will what you have to say affect the political games being played in the organization? The Chief Operating Officer of one of the world’s biggest banks described the environment that fostered the culture that enabled the Libor and related scandals: “It all begins with the organization’s biggest lie.” This lie?  “Budgets.” The COO said that as soon as budget conversations were initiated, the political games began. Those new to the organization often fell afoul of the unwritten rules of the game. The organizational culture became so Byzantine with intrigue, and silence so obviously the safest choice, that larger and larger lies were allowed to grow unchecked.

This applies in all organizations. There is always politics in organizations, even in those that say they don’t have any, and there are always written and unwritten rules — with the unwritten ones being those that will usually trip you up.

4. What are the social rules that govern how you speak up and how you are listened to? Human beings label one another all the time, often unconsciously. So we meet someone and label them as: woman or old or American or rich. And then of course we consider their formal organizational label: CEO, sales rep, shelf-stacker, consultant. All these labels convey status, which differs according to context. A consultant in one organization may be expected to speak up and challenge the status quo — that is why they have been brought in — but in another, they might be expected to provide evidence to support the CEO’s stated strategy.

An activist investor in America, responsible for funds worth billions, described how she was often the only woman in the boardroom when she met with the executive teams of the companies she invested in.  And she was nearly always the only person aged under 50. Well aware that in these settings the labels “woman” and “young” conveyed lower status, she explained how she sought to build alliances before board meetings by speaking with her co-investors in advance, one-on-one, to secure their support.

Labels matter. If you want to speak up you would be wise to consider what labels are applied to you and the consequences of the labels you are applying to those you are speaking up to. This leads to the final question:

5. What is the most skillful way of speaking up in order to be heard? The Deputy Chairman of a global media organization explained to us that he quickly learned not to challenge the Chairman in a group situation. However, when traveling with the Chairman he knew that when they sat down together in the hotel lobby with a glass of wine, he could say anything he liked — and he would be heard.

Knowing what to say, how, when, and to whom is how you mitigate the consequences of speaking out and amplify the likelihood of being heard. Rehearsing can help, as can actively reflecting on your previous experience of speaking up — what worked, what didn’t, and what did you learn that you should apply in this situation?

The reality is that organizations are soaked in power and power politics. Speaking up is always a political act.

In choosing to speak up or not, a less powerful person has to be acutely aware of their own drivers and behavioral triggers, sensitive to their standing in the formal and informal social hierarchy, and also to the specifics of their organizational culture. There is no one-size-fits-all approach people can adopt. But there is no doubt that organizations of all stripes, and in all sectors, would perform better if more voices were raised, and heard.

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How to Craft Meetings

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” By Eric J McNulty, Strategy+Business contributor” 

We open today on a familiar scene: After a long day of back-to-back meetings, Bob arrives home to find his wife, Jane, who also has just returned from work, starting to prepare dinner. As Bob rolls up his sleeves to begin chopping carrots, they talk about their day.

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CREATE A SENSE OF FAMILY

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“By Dan Price, Business Guru Club contributor” 

Sarah was not just a top performer—she always exceeded her quota. She was like a sister to me. Then her daughter became sick, and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Sarah no longer went on sales calls. She stopped hitting her quota. Others were forced to pick up her slack. Month after month, she had to be there for her daughter. I was at a crossroads. How could I keep paying someone who wasn’t working? Gravity Payments, my company, couldn’t afford it.

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