Saturday, September 29, 2012

Closing the Barn Door After The Horse Is Gone....

Came across this list of questions you should ask in an Exit Interview
  • What did you like best about your job?
  • What did you like least about your job?
  • Was there anything especially challenging that you had to contend with?
  • What would you change about your job?
  • How did you feel about the supervision you received?
  • Did did you receive enough training to do the job effectively?
  • Did you receive enough support to do your job effectively?
  • How do you feel about the feedback your received from your manager?
  • What did you like best about working for the company?
  • What did you like least about working for the company?
  • Do you have any recommendations for the company for the future?
  • Would you work for the company in the future?
  • Would you recommend this company to prospective employees?
  • Do you have any questions or comments?
 My question is this; Why are you waiting until they're out the door before asking your employees these questions?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9 Steps To Coaching Millennials In The Workplace

Ah yes, leadership back in the news again as Gallup finds Millennial employees are seriously disgruntled at the poor mentorship they get from their Boomer and GenX supervisors.  Their conclusion: Growing professionally will mean moving to a new job.
I once worked for an Executive Director who often would say 'My real job title is Head Coach".  And right she was.  It's a point I emphasize in my series on The New Executive Director.  The idea that if you don't coach them, your best employees will look towards another organization.
While there are several thousands books on being an effective coach to your employees, I find they mostly boil down to nine basic principles:
  • Put the employee at ease. This step is important when the coaching session is a response to poor performance--it's not as important in other situations.
  • Find out what they already know. There are two reasons for this. First, there's little use in telling them what they already know. Second, prior knowledge serves as the foundation for new knowledge that's acquired. Hence, you want to link the "training" to what they already know and correct any misconceptions that could interfere with their learning.
  • Present information or demonstrate work methods. This is the point where you deliver the content of the training.
  • Repeat. Repetition enhances understanding and retention.
  • Evaluate learning. Test whether the employee understands the information or can perform the skill.
  • Provide feedback. Let the employee know what they have successfully learned and what they still need to learn.
  • Correct. Show the right answers or methods again.
  • Evaluate performance on the job. Periodically check to see whether the employee is using the knowledge or skills effectively on the job. Gradually increase the interval at which you check. The employee should eventually take responsibility for monitoring their own performance.
  • Reward. Provide praise or other rewards for successful acquisition and use of the knowledge or skill.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What Superstar Presenters Know...

Great presentations are more craft than art.  But you have to do it well as it’s becoming increasingly important in today’s world.  Whether it’s a small group of donors/investors, your staff, a webinar or a conference you need a sense of what to do not just when you are  up in front of everyone, but what to do before and afterward as well. 

Passion is important. Yet in delivering a presentation there’s so much that just can’t be covered up by your passion for the topic.  I’ve seen plenty of presentations and pitches both in large and small settings. Whether you’re going to present at a large conference or in front of a small group of donors, focusing upon presentation basics will give you a big leg up on your competition.

Over the past decade I’ve delivered 300-400 presentations and sat through another 500-600.  That’s a broad range of speaking environments. In order to help you get the most out of yourself (and your audience) at your next presentation, follow some core principles.  There are things to do and things to avoid. Heed this advice and you’ll succeed the next time you step up in front of a crowd.

Don’t Count On Props, Paper Or PowerPoint

By relying upon your equipment you give up control…you are dependent upon all the support systems working perfectly.  This reliance spells trouble if the power goes out, or the PowerPoint is not compatible or the staff did not copy your handouts. There is nothing more painful than watch a presenter stumble around for ten minutes at the start while they try to resolve ‘technology issues’. Don’t get caught in that trap.

As an ‘early adopter’ of PowerPoint I was forced to learn this lesson.  Previous versions didn’t work with newer versions or with the plethora of LED projectors.  I’d have slides in advance assured that ‘Oh yes, it’ll work with Windows95 and our Ricoh projector”, only to get there and discover differently.  Since I couldn’t always haul my own equipment around, I crafted presentations that worked with or without PowerPoint.  A valuable lesson.

You must be able to deliver the content by itself.   Spend a little time watching various speakers at TED events.  The most engaging ones such as Ken Robinson use no props or slides.  You should be able to deliver ANY presentation without them.  Just you…on stage….alone.  So develop your presentation without those props.  In a future post I’ll show you how once you’ve crafted a stand alone presentation, you then fold in props, paper and PowerPoint to enhance your message.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It takes a lot of practice to give an off the cuff presentation.  By this I mean that by rehearsing you’ll be more relaxed and then appear more conversational….and thus better to connect with your audience. However, there is a danger in over rehearsing. This happens when you come off as programmed…rigid…too unnatural.  

It happens a lot.   There are plenty of ‘circuit speakers’ who ply their trade at business conferences. They parachute in for an afternoon, deliver a canned talk based upon their latest book, then whisk away to their next gig (with a fat check from conference organizers).  While technically perfect, they never connect with me.  I often think, ‘Dang, I could have stayed home and watched this online”.

But rehearsing is important, especially for timing.  If you have 30 minutes, it’s better to go 25 than 35.  In fact you’ll lose your audience at 31.  There’s something in the human brain which operates like a calendar.  So if you say your talk will go till 2:00pm, at 2:01 their brains are moving on to the next session (although their bodies may still be with you).  Go short…always.  It also gives you greater flexibility.  More than once I’ve been asked to present for 45 minutes at a staff meeting only to discover their agenda has run long and could I “just take 30 minutes to give us your talk”.  If you know your material and have rehearsed, you’ll quickly pare down in order to deliver your message in a more concise format.  

Practicing make a gigantic difference. You soak in your material and keep your presentation fresh.  Know your message but don’t be scripted.  Know the key points you want to deliver, but don’t get married to wording.  It lets you be more relaxed and conversational, so you’ll genuinely appear that way to your audience.

Keep The Focus Upon You

You are the star.  If you prepare accordingly and know your stuff, then the technology, props and handouts will augment the presentation rather than overshadow it. The classic graphics guru EdwardTufte wrote a searing critique of PowerPoint and how it has became a crutch which ultimately delivers less information.  He is also the source for the humorous quip “Power corrupts, but PowerPoint corrupts absolutely”.   His point is well taken.  That simple, direct information can be clouded by reliance upon software which makes things visually appealing, but ultimately confusing.  

Watch your audience eyes glaze over
Your audience will filter your information, and having them focus upon the screen (or a handout) may deliver a different message than what’s coming out of your mouth.  I’ve witnessed too many presenters disappear because the audience was focused upon the PowerPoint.  Don’t you be one of them.

Since the focus is upon you, the power is yours as well. You are free to make mistakes that no one need to know.  You can forget a point but since there are no slides or handouts to follow no one will recognize that you did.  Just keep going because that’s what professionals do. The audience will never know unless you tell don't.

Become A Star

If you free yourself of dependence upon Props and PowerPoint, continue to Practice, and remember to keep the focus upon you, you’ll notice a huge improvement in your presentations. How you prepare, how you perform, how you react – that’s all on you.  That’s what you want the audience to remember…you.   The coming years will demand better presentation skills.  If you can master the basics, then you’re well on your way to become a SuperStar of the next generation.