Archive for the ‘On-the-job Success’ Category
Whether your goal is to sell, inform, or land a job offer, telling engaging, relevant stories can turn even a so-so presentation into a great one. Illustrating your points with the right stories will have a far stronger impact than many other things you can do, including slide design, body language, eye contact, and so forth.
Telling stories is so effective because people more easily remember the images that make up a story, as opposed to “facts.” They remember the problems, the struggles, the triumphs, the places and the names. And by the way, emphasizing these elements is exactly how you tell a compelling story. Keep it simple, and aim for the emotion, the drama. Don’t bury the listener in jargon or product/service features.
In my webinar I recommend the following storytelling framework to help you organize your delivery: Situation (or problem)/Action/Result — that is, SAR. Describe the situation or problem that you/your department/client/etc. faced, the action you took to improve the situation, and lastly the result of your efforts. And, make sure you tie the story directly to the point you are making with your audience! Rehearse the stories ahead of time, until you’ve got the telling down to a smooth, natural delivery.
Note, if you are demonstrating a product or service, which is essentially a real-time story, you can follow the exact same “SAR” format. (I use this format all the time when demonstrating LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media to clients and audiences.)
The three case studies below (“stories” if you will) illustrate how story-telling works.
A job interview
The interviewer asked one of my clients, Susan, a typical question– “What is your greatest strength?” Susan might have simply said “My analytic skills” and stopped there, leaving an opportunity on the table to make a strong positive impression.
Instead, she said “My analytic skills– let me give you an example so you can see what I mean. Last year we were seeing a retention problem in our division— accounts were closing in droves. No one was sure why or what to do about it, and the revenue loss was threatening layoffs! So I took the initiative to analyze the data, looking at x, y, and z. It became clear to me that the people were leaving as a result of a change in a product’s service terms. I presented my findings to management, and suggested they combine a marketing initiative with another revision to the service terms. They adopted my recommendation and over the next six months our retention problem reversed itself.”
In telling her story to illustrate the point about her analytic-skills, Susan followed the SAR format:
- Situation– people leaving in droves.
- Action– took initiative to analyze x, y and z.
- Result– problem reversed itself in six months.
Susan used this format to turn a dry subject into an emotional, engaging one, making her point about her analytic strength memorable and real for the interviewer. Notice– no jargon, no mention about the specific service terms that were changed, the product features, etc. (she could have easily drilled down into these discussions if asked). She kept it simple, engaging and interesting. And yes, she got the offer.
An Information Technology Director’s recommendation
A client was presenting to his I.T. leadership team. In the presentation he included a proposal that his Chief Technology Officer push for a new technology platform. What helped win over the CTO? According to my client, it wasn’t a description of the features and benefits of the new platform vs. the current one (although that helped). Rather, it was the story he had rehearsed and shared about the difficulties a business unit end-user faced with the current platform, how it ended up costing the company a substantial expense, and how the new platform would have changed the outcome.
Influencing an audience to purchase a service
I went to a presentation several weeks ago delivered by someone who was pitching a service. His physical delivery was almost designed to turn the audience off; He spoke in a flat affect, used dense wordy slides, and appeared somewhat disheveled. Yet the two powerful, emotional stories he shared with us about how his service solved clients’ difficult problems are still with me. In fact, they are the only thing I (and my colleagues at the presentation with whom I’ve discussed this) remember! Those stories are probably the main reason we are looking to re-engage him, since it enabled us to both “experience” and remember how his service could help solve client problems.
I’ll have a lot more to share with you regarding how to Deliver Powerful Presentations that Get RESULTS in my September 6th 12-1pm EST webinar.
Having an effective contact management system can save you a lot of time and missed opportunities, whether you are in business for yourself, in a job search, or on the job. It’s just too easy to let your inbox grow to unmanageable proportions, miss an important follow-up, waste time with things like “filing” or looking for that one email, or lose touch with potential clients. The key to solving all these problems and more, for me and for my clients, is to have a desktop-based or cloud-based system where all communication elements for a contact are associated with the contact, together in one place. These elements include Read more…
I’ve been sharing LinkedIn’s new Skills section with clients; they’ve found it very helpful for a range of activities including composing a resume or LinkedIn profile, evaluating a career change, deciding on companies to target, identifying contacts for meetings, and staying current in their present job. Once you input a skill you possess or want to learn more about, you get a “skills analysis” that shows you:
a list of people in your network with the same skill in their profile. This list is great for suggesting people you may want to try and meet with.
companies that hire for the skill you’ve selected. Use this list of companies for your job-search marketing plan.
a list of additional related skills (i.e. other skills that people have on their profiles along with the skill you entered). Use this list as source material for “skill” keywords to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume.
LinkedIn Groups to join that are related to the skill you’ve selected.
A listing of job openings that use this skill.
A definition of the skill (e.g. from Wikipedia, etc.) that can be useful in exploring new career options.
To start using this feature, go to “More” on the top menu of LinkedIn, and in the dropdown, select “Skills.” Then type in the skill you want to analyze or add to your profile. As you type, LinkedIn will suggest the word you’re looking for. For example, if I start to type “financial advisor” LinkedIn prompts me to select “financial advisory” from among a list of related skills. Try to select one of the skills it suggests for you that matches most closely. To add to the “Skills” section of your profile (increasing its appeal to recruiters sourcing candidates on LinkedIn), click on the “Add” button on the analysis page.
UPCOMING CAREER WEBINARS
I’ll be covering this new feature, and far more, in the webinars I’m running in December that are open for registration, including Finding YOUR Right Career (Dec 6), Resume and “Pitch” Intensive (Dec 13), and Getting Interviews (Dec 20). Feel free to check out my seminars page for more information on these and other webinars.
Performance reviews are widely used in organizations, yet are implemented inconsistently and are often controversial: Do they work? What’s the best way to implement them? Don’t unfair grudges or favoritism, or other forms of bias, fatally compromise them? I’ll begin to share with you a few thoughts on each of these questions Read more …
I’ve created a podcast from the mini-talk that I gave on January 17th as part of my weekly Monday seminar series, “Ask A Career Coach“. You can access the podcast HERE. FYI, the Six Keys are: 1) The New Goal is Marketability, 2) Manage Up, Down and Across, 3) Develop a vision for your Career, then a Plan, 4) Build and Maintain a Network, 5) Know when it’s Time to Move-on, and 6) Demonstrate Leadership.
In our dealings with people, most of us will adapt our style to the particular audience and the context we’re operating in. For example, we might communicate differently with an employee depending on their level of motivation, or whether there’s a severe time crunch or not.
As a rule of thumb, look first to adopt an influencing and delegating leadership style to enlist others to help you achieve your leadership vision. Delegating work frees up your time to focus on tasks only you can do. In addition, when you can influence instead of “order” someone to get something done, you’ll find you have more motivated employees!
There are inevitably situations, however, in which you need to adopt a highly directive style. You’ll know whether the situation warrants this “telling” style based on: 1) the employee’s competency around the required tasks, 2) how motivated the employee is, and 3) how time-critical the task you need to get accomplished is. So, for a subordinate who isn’t motivated to perform a task with a tight deadline, or for a new employee who doesn’t yet have the competency, you will need to adopt a more highly directive style to make sure that they get it done in the tight time-frame you require.
The acknowledged pioneers in this “situational leadership” approach are Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. Many top organizations, focused on employee engagement, teach this approach based on their research. Here’s an example of how actively choosing a new leadership style produced great results for Beth, one of my clients.
When Beth took on her new position as Sales Director, she initially tried to keep the reporting structure of her predecessor in place, so that all the sales representatives would report directly to her. Beth’s predecessor had, by all accounts, used a highly directive style in her approach to all her subordinates. She made sure she was involved in all decisions and told her staff exactly what needed to be done, regardless of their experience and expertise. Needless to say, morale was low, particularly for the highly motivated, highly skilled sales team.
With a major expansion of the organization underway, and with 20 people reporting to her, Beth was feeling overwhelmed. She was so busy helping them put out their daily fires that she was having trouble performing the tasks she had been hired to do, including coordinating with marketing and developing new sales tools to help her staff succeed. On top of that, she heard through the grapevine that several of her top performers were looking to leave the organization.
Beth decided to adopt a more influencing/delegative approach wherever possible. She did this by: 1) dropping the number of direct reports from 20 to five and giving these five people managerial responsibility over the others (her five direct-reports were those in the department who had the greatest skill level and motivation), 2) reducing her “open door” time, thus requiring staff to generate their own solutions to many of the problems they had formerly come to her about, 3) Presenting her staff with a “self-reliance” model for how they could deal with questions and problems on their own.
The approach worked. It freed Beth up to focus on the strategic issues that only she could address. The change in style also resulted in an immediate boost in sales-force morale, with several top sales performers canceling their impending departures from the company.
In Part 1, I shared with you how a seasoned executive was able to succeed early in her new position by demonstrating leadership. Sometimes more junior employees, or those without staff to manage, don’t realize how much real leadership they can demonstrate in their jobs as well. Regardless of your level, seek to mentally put aside for a moment your specific management responsibilities– the things you have to get done. Then take a fresh look at how your job could add value to the organization. Start asking yourself questions about your specific job tasks, such as:
• Why are we doing things this way?
• How could this be done better? What are the alternatives, pros and cons?
• What are the obstacles to an improved way of doing things?
• Where is the proper place for these tasks?
• When should this be done, or how often?
• Who should be more involved to make for a better outcome?
In answering these questions, you may hit upon a vision for a better way of doing things that you could seek to influence others to adopt: the two core aspects of leadership.
For example, I worked with a client, Stephan, who had among his job responsibilities running reports and distributing them. One might think that doing a good job simply means running the reports on time, making sure there are no errors, and then quickly distributing them to the recipients. This is all true.
But, I asked Stephan challenging questions about this task, to see if there were ways that he could be providing greater value for his company. For example, why are all these reports necessary– can money be saved by eliminating some? What’s the best way for a report to be sent out? Who should these reports go to? How could these reports be improved– is the correct information on them, and are they easy to understand? Do they really need to be produced weekly, or would monthly work?
From the answers to these questions, Stephan began to develop a vision of more efficient and effective reporting. He sold this vision into his boss and ended up leading a successful reporting task force that reduced reporting costs by half, and did wonders for his performance review!
Bringing a leadership mindset to your job (a compelling vision that you can influence others to support), no matter what your level, is a key to helping you stand out and move up (or stay employed) in an organization. Recent client experiences have once again reinforced this point for me. In this first of a two part blog entry, I’ll share with you how an executive-level client’s leadership mindset was key to her early success in a new job. Read more …
In Part 1, I summarized how performance reviews can help individuals and the organization as a whole. In this blog entry, I’ll share with you some of the key details that can help you to conduct the actual review and get the most out of the process Read more …
The Five O’Clock Club has a four-step approach to salary negotiation that I have used to help clients (and myself!) negotiate thousands more in compensation. Thought I would mention a few highlights from this approach.
First off, salary negotiation in a job search is best postponed until after the offer is received. This is because once hey make you the offer, all the negotiating leverage has switched over to you. After the offer is made, the hiring manager wants you to start “yesterday”– they are focused on you, they don’t want the other candidates. So negotiation is more of a possibility. Before the offer, citing a salary requirement that wasn’t in line with their thinking could have immediately excluded you from consideration, no matter how well you were doing otherwise (in an interview they are looking for ways to screen you out!).
A couple of other key elements of the four step process. Always place yourself on the same side of the table as the hiring manager (or your boss) when negotiating. Do not be an adversary– re-iterate how much you’re looking forward to contributing. A related item– focus on negotiating the job, not the salary. That is, make your case for compensation by showing that you will be helping them with more than the job posting. Or, by saying that you need to be brought in at a higher level to get the respect and attention you need to do your job effectively.
And lastly (for now), take into account all aspects of compensation when you negotiate. It’s not just base salary, it’s bonus, profit sharing, 401k matching, amount of raises, frequency of raises, tuition reimbursement, and on and on. In short, everything is negotiable, and you should consider the big picture when negotiating. This means you need to have all the information about compensation before you negotiate.
There’s so much more to say on this subject (including how to manage the negotiating session and how to address salary questions in an interview), so you’ll be hearing more from me on this!