Tag Archives: Engagement

Love in an Elevator…

A few years ago, I facilitated a training session for a global sales team. The team had been assigned the task of creating an Elevator Pitch — a self-contained value proposition of no more than three paragraphs.

A great elevator pitch is an understandable summary of what’s being offered and why it’s important. The whole idea is to tell your story in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the lobby to the floor on which your client’s offices are located.

Because of the limited trip time, elevator pitches must be self-contained, requiring little, if any, context or set-up.

After several hours of diligent preparation, the sales team leader stepped up to share the three paragraphs his team had constructed. “Before I start,” said the sales leader, “I do need to offer a little CONTEXT.

And so he began


21 minutes later

After he felt comfortable that he’d covered all the stuff we needed to know to understand what he was offering… he finally read the three paragraphs.

Silence in the room.

He stood there looking at me…

Waiting for me to say something…

My response?

“Unless your client is in Dubai [home of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building], that elevator ride doesn’t exist!”

The moral of the story?

Less IS more!

Show your love and respect by:

  • Owning your material
  • Stating your value
  • Keeping it short. Then…
  • Drop the mic and exit, leaving them wanting more


This week’s shout out goes to Adrian Smith, the architect of the Burj Khalifa building and the man who gave long winded people hope for completing their elevator pitches after all. Amazingly, he shared his idea while riding in an elevator and his original plans were created and submitted on a cocktail napkin (just kidding).

Until next week… Stay connected!



Life is hard enough without adding more complexity to the mix. For me, Denzel Washington’s 1993 line in the movie Philadelphia, remains a sound piece of business advice, tell it to me “as if I were six-years-old.”


And I won’t be offended if you lower the bar a year or two lower than that!

Sure the world is filled with nuance, but many of us try to dress our communications up-for-success, using big words or complex concepts, but over time, sophisticated leaders know how to keep it simple…SERIOUSLY!

Three ways to simplify your life and your communications:

  1. Put a sock in it… Remember the old saying. “I wrote you a long letter, if I had more time, I would have written you a short letter.” The rule? Write a draft and then revise to reduce the number of words you used by 50%.
  2. 95% Seuss-Test it… Would 95% of the worlds you used fit nicely in a Dr. Seuss tale? If not, think of other, more accessible terms that will help your audience understand what you really mean.
  3. Engage your child or get one on loan…If you want to know if your message can be understood by a six-year-old, get a six-year-old consultant! I’ve been asking my son William questions about my work for years and he’s consistently offered great advice. If you are wondering if this will really work, ask yourself if the concepts you deal with professionally are really all that complex or are you just making them that way? Either way, my son is ten now, so he may be outgrowing the job.

Keeping it simple and keeping it real… until next week, this is Jeff saying, stay connected,

P.S. 300 words of a 300-word budget


Improving Your Click-age: 6.5 Ways to Make Quick Connections

Ever meet someone and instantly connect?

Why is it that we just ‘click’ with some people, while others take a bit longer?

And some people, well… there’s no ‘click-age’ at all, ever?

The first time I met Gary Larson, he was a training executive at Bank of America and within 5 minutes my new friend felt like an old friend. He was my brother-from-another-mother and I felt an amazing sense of freedom not having to worry about what I said or how I acted.

When meeting new people we are generally well served to respect cultural norms, consider situational factors and manage our self-revelations but what can we do to speed up the process?

Interestingly, our research shows that – like many things in life – we are the problem. Most of us build invisible walls around ourselves that hold others at bay and slow the process way down.

In 1987 President Reagan challenged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”! If you are up to the challenge, here are 6.5 ways to tear down the walls around you and invite others to connect:

  1. Immersive engagement: Be in the moment and listen fully – don’t be thinking about the brilliant thing you are going to say next,
  2. Change your perspective: Instead of extending the conversation with your amazing insights, ask your new friend to confirm your understanding of what they just said… “So what you’re saying is…?”,
  3. Don’t be too serious: While respecting the situation and your soon-to-be new friend, don’t be more serious than you need to be… think “comfortable in your own skin”,
  4. Ask for what you need: Don’t be afraid to test your new relationship with small requests. The best relationships are give-and-take affairs, so start the process early,
  5. Be enthusiastic: Energy and optimism are contagious, if you are excited, show it!
  6. Be quiet: Awkward silence is only awkward when we are on guard or feeling like we are being judged. Embracing silence is a sign of acceptance, trust and self-confidence,
6.5 Be willing to walk away: Not everyone is going to like us and that’s ok. If you’ve torn down your wall only to get the cold shoulder – move on. Getting to a “no-go” quicker gives you more time to develop friendships with other people – better people!

What’s Our Strategy Again?

Is your strategic execution process broken?

Have you ever witnessed a well-crafted and well-intended strategy really work – from top to bottom, from inception to execution?

With organizational resources stretched to the limit, time in short supply and focused attention a near impossibility, many of our best strategic initiatives get lost in the middle between executive inspiration and frontline perspiration.

Too often, spot-on-perfect-for-this-organization strategic ideas are met with fanfare, embraced by executives and rewarded by the street; only to get bogged down, lose steam and become irrelevant words to those tasked with bringing the strategy to life.

What looks great on paper, adds up in a spreadsheet and sounds logical when the boss talks about it, may have little chance at success without the tools necessary to transform strategic ideas into bottom line organizational performance.

While many great business minds have tried to create a globally applicable method of strategic execution, our general understanding of the topic is fragmented, sometimes contradictory and overly complex.

After years of combing the research, analyzing what’s worked and what’s missed the mark and talking to executives, middle managers and individual contributors in dozens of industries across the globe, a pattern has started to emerge.

Strategic execution, the DOING of strategic performance, depends largely on an organization’s ability to recognize and address three issues:

  1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success. Strategic execution requires different ways of thinking and acting.
  2. Together is better. Maximizing performance depends largely on an organization’s ability to clearly define how each person can contribute to organizational success.
  3. Human connection drives the bottom line. Strategic success is as much about the people we need to engage with as it is about what needs to be accomplished.

What’s your experience with strategic execution?

Do you know anyone that’s breaking the mold to lead organizational performance in a new way?

What are some of your biggest challenges with the way strategic initiatives are handled in your organization?

Don’t hesitate to reach out directly and share your thoughts as we start to crack the code on strategic execution…

S.O.S.: Has Anybody Seen My Boss?

What do you do when your boss checks out?

Finding purpose and reengaging middle managers…

Top organization executives steer the ship by setting out broad organizational initiatives.

Frontline workers keep the engines going by performing tactical actions.

While the people at the top are facing outward and the people at the bottom are heads down: business unit and team leaders can get lost in the middle.

With the trend toward flatter organizational structures, tolerating disengaged middle managers may be an interim step to eliminating the layer entirely but that won’t really stop the issue that’s plaguing lots of organizations and contributing to middle manager disengagement.

What’s the Answer?

Let’s look to nature for guidance. Facing ecosystem scarcity, most plants will adapt by making their leaves more efficient but the plants that survive go belowground to utilize a combination of diverse strategies to get more out of their root systems.

I say mix the metaphor and let our organizational ships take the lead from the plants, work below the waterline to give middle managers a new role and a new reason to check back in. Research supports the idea, suggesting that developing a process for translating creative ideas into tangible innovations that enable the achievement of organizational strategies may be key to sustainable organizational performance in the future. If that’s what connects the bridge and the engine room, the leaves to the roots…what better role for the middle manager?

Either that or we can simply knee-jerk to traditional business wisdom:

“If the ship is in trouble, shuffle the deck chairs and rename the boat.”



Graham Zemunik, Benjamin L. Turner, Hans Lambers, Etienne Lalibert�. Diversity of plant nutrient-acquisition strategies increases during long-term ecosystem development. Nature Plants, 2015; 15050 DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2015.50

Yaping Gong, Jing Zhou, Song Chang. Core Knowledge Employee Creativity and Firm Performance: The Moderating Role of Riskiness Orientation, Firm Size, and Realized Absorptive Capacity. Personnel Psychology, 2013; 66 (2): 443 DOI:10.1111/peps.12024

N. Anderson, K. Poto nik, J. Zhou. Innovation and Creativity in Organizations: A State-of-the-Science Review, Prospective Commentary, and Guiding Framework. Journal of Management, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0149206314527128