How to prepare your “elevator pitch”

“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea for a product, service or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch should be possible to deliver in the time span of an elevator ride, meaning in a maximum of 30 seconds and in 130 words or fewer.” [from Wikipedia]

It should cover the following information:

  • What is the CORE (of your produc, service or project)
  • What are the benefites (for the buyer, investor or sponsor)
  • Who are you (and why will YOU be successful)

Here are a few more pointers when preparing your pitch, as presented by HBR:

  1. Think relevant, not recent. There’s no rule that says you must talk about your resume in reverse chronological order. Mike was a marketing executive who took a sales position abroad for two years. Yet when he returned to marketing, he kept introducing himself as a someone who had just made a career switch, always leading off with an anecdote about his short stint in sales. Instead, Mike should have started with the fact that he was a seasoned marketing professional who had taken a sabbatical but was now back where he belonged — putting his marketing prowess to work and thinking about what drives consumer spending habits.
  2. Focus on skills-based versus situation or industry-based qualifications. You don’t have to have a background in finance to be good at finance. Alex was a chemist and researcher who had gone back to business school to get her MBA. She decided she wanted to work in corporate finance for a large pharmaceutical company but she was afraid no one would take her seriously given her background. When I pressed Alex to explain to me why she chose finance, she exclaimed, “That’s the way my brain works.” Her thinking was methodical, mathematical and formulaic — all of which translated to someone who was a natural fit within a corporate finance department. Instead of focusing on the fact that her background was in academia, Alex could emphasize to colleagues and clients that she was a numbers person at her core.
  3. Connect the dots — what ties it all together? If you are a chemist turned finance professional or a marketing executive with experience in international sales, you should find a way to bring together the richness of your experiences and show how each one complements the other. For me, personally, I had a significant hurdle to clear with clients as a former Peace Corps volunteer turned investment banker. I explained away the dichotomy of the two by emphasizing to others that I was big picture thinker by nature and a numbers person by training. Banking was a perfect combination of the two — I liked looking at client’s challenges and issues from 30,000 feet and then digging down into the details to come up with creative financing solutions. Whether the client was the mayor of my Peace Corps town in Chile or the CEO of a healthcare company, I could start at a high level and drill down quickly and effectively.

People often think of the elevator pitch as something you use when you’re interviewing for a new job, trying to raise capital for a new venture or trying to lobby for you project. The elevator pitch, however, is no less important once you’ve got the job as it is when you’re looking.

In fact, your 30-second “play” about who you are, how you’re different, and why you’re memorable is arguably more important once you’ve landed that great position or won the support of investors and now interact with senior colleagues and important clients regularly.

Be prepared!!!




Here’s what it takes to be a good CEO

(By JOSE RAMON PIN and GUIDO STEIN, From The New York Times Syndicate — 03.11.2009 09:06)

A lot of managers stretch for the position as the CEO, a position that they view as the peak of their carreer. But before they start climbing for the apex, leaders should ask themselves : Is it really worth it?

To answer this question, Spanish school of management, IESE’s International Research Center on Organization, in cooperation with the PR-agency Burston-Marsteller. The survey, included 1000 spanish managers, had a question searching for the pros and cons of becoming the “top dog”.

Based on the answers, you can identify two main reasons for becoming the CEO – not surprising:

The opportunity of putting your own ideas into action, and the challenge and responsibility that comes with the job.

When it comes to the negative sides, the respondents pointed out two disadvantages: Difficulties combining a private life and carreer, and the fact that executives sometimes have to make decision that are difficult from an interpersonal perspecitve, particularly when it comes to laying off people close to you. In the end, however, many say they think the pros outweigh the cons.

The achievement syndrome:

Potential CEO’s are characterized by what is often referred to as the “achievement syndrome”:

  • They accept reasonable challenges, i.e. challenges that are neither easy nor too difficult. Their goals have an acceptable chance of being achieved. They are not interrested in pursuing something that is too easy or totally out of reach.
  • They have their own view of reality, which sometimes creates discussion until they get their visions realized.
  • The work towards results – medium and long term, not just short term. Short term results are just a means for longer term ends.
  • They need indicators telling them whether or not they achieve planned results.
  • They want to change the environment in which they operate. This is more about chasing personal interrests: They aim to improve the working conditions of those around them.

The achievement syndrome, which in principle has positive effects, could easily end up becoming a power syndrome, particularly if you lose the broader motivation. When this happens, executives start pursuing their own interrests, and stop caring what is good for the organization.



Strategy formation is important – but implementation is key

A strategy is of course worthless if the only ones that care are the board of directors. While the board is responsible to ensure that your company has a strategy, it doesn’t really help  if your strategy stops there. Having a strategy isn’t even half the effort and IKEA knows this.

If the strategy is going to be executed, the company has to have resources enough to follow through and all employees have to know how. Make a few practical rules for your employees to live by – to tell your people how the strategy is going to be implemented. This is how IKEA is leading the way and Ingvar Kamprad (the IKEA founder) has 9 commandments:

1) Product ranges – IKEA’s identity is simple, bright. This is linked to the lifestyle you want to convey. Functional and good quality, but at a reasonable price.

2) The IKEA-spirit – strong vital reality. Enthusiasm. Countinous renewal. Helping one another doing an even better job. Humility.

3) Good profits – provide more resources and more oportunities. We need money to reach our goals. Everything has a price tag on it – e.g. the catalog. Saving money is a virtue – even small amounts.

4) Good results desipte limited resources. Reaching your goals with limited resources is a virtue. Waste is a mortal sin.

5) Simplicity is a virtue. Simple procedures and policies are powerful. Simplicity in our behavior gives us strength. Excessive planning is also waste. Concentrate on the execution.

6) Think – what can be done differently? Why are we doing it like this? Beware the curse of knowledge and experience. Prior experience can dampen your thirst for knowledge and willingness to experiment

7) Focus – is vital to all prosperity. You cannot do everything, everywhere all the time, all at once. Strategy is choice – choice is deciding what NOT to do.

8) Being responsible is an advantage – being accountable is taking action. Fight the fear of failing. Making mistakes is the privilege of the action oriented.

9) There is more to be done than has been done so far – there is a wonderful future. A company that has reached its goals, will stagnate and lose its life power. The sense of being done is the best remedy for sleeping.



How to build accountability or “Who’s got the monkey”

These key ideas in this post are taken from the Harvard Business Review article “Management Time: Who’s got the Monkey?”  by William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass

How to identify the situation – “you have the monkey”:

Imagin the situation: You are racing down the hall. An employee stops you and says, “We’ve got a problem.” You assume you should get involved but can’t make an on-the-spot decision. You say, “Let me think about it.” You’ve just allowed a “monkey” to leap from your subordinate’s back to yours. You’re now working for your subordinate. Take on enough monkeys, and you won’t have time to handle your real job: fulfilling your own boss’s mandates and helping peers generate business results. How to avoid accumulating monkeys? Develop your subordinates’ initiative, say Oncken and Wass. For example, when an employee tries to hand you a problem, clarify whether he should: recommend and implement a solution, take action then brief you immediately, or act and report the outcome at a regular update. When you encourage employees to handle their own monkeys, they acquire new skills—and you liberate time to do your own job.

How to return monkeys to their proper owners:

  • Make appointments to deal with monkeys.
    Avoid discussing any monkey on an ad hoc basis—for example, when you pass a subordinate in the hallway. You won’t convey the proper seriousness. Instead, acknowledge the problem and schedule an appointment to discuss the issue.
  • Specify level of initiative.
    Your employees can exercise five levels of initiative in handling on-the-job problems. From lowest to highest, the levels are:
  1. Wait until told what to do.
  2. Ask what to do.
  3. Recommend an action, then with your approval, implement it.
  4. Take independent action but advise you at once.
  5. Take independent action and update you through routine procedure.

When an employee brings a problem to you, outlaw use of level 1 or 2. Agree on and assign level 3, 4, or 5 to the monkey. Take no more than 15 minutes to discuss the problem.

  • Agree on a status update.
    After deciding how to proceed, agree on a time and place when the employee will give you a progress report.
  • Examine your own motives.
    Some managers secretly worry that if they encourage subordinates to take more initiative, they’ll appear less strong, more vulnerable, and less useful. Instead, cultivate an inward sense of security that frees you to relinquish direct control and support employees’ growth.
  • Develop employees’ skills.
    Employees try to hand off monkeys when they lack the desire or ability to handle them. Help employees develop needed problem-solving skills. It’s initially more time consuming than tackling problems yourself—but it saves time in the long run.
  • Foster trust.
    Developing employees’ initiative requires a trusting relationship between you and your subordinates. If they’re afraid of failing, they’ll keep bringing their monkeys to you rather than working to solve their own problems. To promote trust, reassure them it’s safe to make mistakes.

As I’ve used this framework at work (yes, I have to admit I’ve even used in my personal life), I’ve found it both easy to apply and effective – it requires some effort but mostly simple behavioral change on your part.

However, what I’ve found equally valuable, is that this “process” over time reduces the amount of “monkeys” your employees give you.  At least that is my experience.



Positive thinking – in practice

Think Positively. Yes, Even in This Economy

With the economy in the state it’s in, encouraging your employees to think positively may make you look foolish and insensitive. Yet, focusing your employees on what they can do rather than what they cannot do will lead to better attitudes and results. Here are three ways to promote positivity in your people:

1. Treat employees as contributors, not costs.

Emphasize each employee’s role in contributing to the business. The minute you start talking about people as costs, negativity will take over.

2. Never sugarcoat reality.

Don’t hold back information. Talk frankly with employees about the economic realities your company is facing, while you also explain what they can do to help.

3. Challenge your people.

Slow economies provide time to reflect on and re-think your business. Ask your people to come up with ideas for improving processes, systems, and products.

Source: HBR


4 simple ways to keep your employees happy

Is it important to keep people happy in the workplace? Ultimately, I leave that up for each to decide, but personally I believe, yes, keeping people happy enough is important. Consider it a necessity if you will. I also think that keeping people happy in their jobs is easier than it seems, especially if you focus on intrinsic rewards like pride in their work, rather than extrinsic rewards like money and stock options. I touched upon this in an earlier post as well – here’s four four ways to keep your employees positive I found in Anthony Tjan’s blog (

  • Create meaningful roles. Don’t be a stickler for job descriptions. Help your employees find what they like to do best and create roles that allow them to contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Give feedback. Tell your people regularly how they’re doing. Avoid generic feedback by being honest and thoughtful.
  • Offer professional development. Ask your people where they want to be in five years and be sure you are helping them get there.
  • Say “thank you”. Express your gratitude by thanking them regularly for their contributions.

Best regards,

What’s your story, TWO minute manager?

Everyone has heard or read about the “One minute manager“, the classic managment “telltale” book by Blanchard & Johnson’s published in the late 80’s. In this post I’m trying to advocate for the “TWO minute manager”, not to be taken literally, however, it suggests that it’s not as easy as it sounds – and an important tool for getting your point across is using the format of “The One minute manager”.

Undeniably, one of the most important tasks of leadership is making sure that everyone in your organization knows the direction and priorities so people further down the hierarechy knows what to decide when faced with everyday decision in the work environment. You may argue this is why you have a vision and a strategy document in the first place, however, I have found that communicating the strategy is not as easy as it sounds.  Another way of disseminating your intentional message throughout the organisation is running a thorough “strategy process” involving all levels of the organization. Although, I am a believer in engaging everyone in this process is both costly and time consuming – and still in order to have an effect, the process would have to be repeated frequently.

For those involved in the process of generating, comprehension of the strategy is not an issue, – although I’ve found that even in this case oppinions differ somewhat – and undeniably the situation is even more challenging when it comes to those that were not connected to your strategy process.

But how do you get the attention of your audience, and how do you get your message across, where we’re increasingly bombarded with messages in a torrent of information?

This, of couse, whe the blessing of communcation comes in. From experience, I’ve found that telling a good story or anecdote is a very effective way to show people what is important and establish trust that you believe in the strategy – show your passion – share your stories.

For a pleasant read and a good strating point to understand how you can create your stories please see “Made-to-stick“- (see also my shameless praise of this book in my review)

In your quest to create your story:

  • Say WHY the goal is so important for the team or organization and PLEASE say something about HOW you’re going to get there
  • A good leadership story has to appeal to heart and mind and must contain the following ingredients:
  1. The story refers to something you’ve experience and what you learned from it
  2. The story strikes a cord with the audience on an emotional level because it is relevant to them and they can relate to it
  3. The story inspires people becase you pour your enthusiasm and authenticity into it
  4. The story shows the tention between the goal and the motstanden you will face when you’re going to reach your destination
  5. The story is illustrated by a vivid example
  6. The store contains important insight.

And last, but not least… it is like everything else: It’s hard work! After all it is not a “fairytale”…

Good luck!