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!!!

Regards,

Austin

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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.

Regards,

Austin

When should I NOT use Best Practices?

As “we all know” Best Practices are techniques, methods, processes, activities, incentives or rewards that are believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other techniques, methods, processes, etc. The general idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications.

I find it somewhat problematic to buy into the term “Best Practice” as the term has implications of generality and universality applicability. I sense that some universal source has settled all disputes and the matter is closed decided, set and resolved. In addition, because of the wide spread use of best practice as a buzzword, I’ve found it easier and more precise to use this term or sometimes “better practices”, or “current thinking in the industry”. At least these terms may imply that the practices are not universal, but depends on the specific situation.

For deciding when to apply best practices, I have found it to consider two axes:

  • External service provider vs. Internal service provider
  • Degree of reward for differentiation (doing business significantly different from your competitors has a high return and lies within your expertise – or at least it should)

This creates a matrix with four quadrants.

Q1: The first quadrant describes the sitation where differentiation pays off and the services and competence is contained within the company, i.e. produced internally. This is typically where your core business is and where most of your competence and effort should be built around. I see no reason for applying Best Practices here. You should probably go for “best in class”.

Q2: The second quadrant describes a situation where differentiation pays off, but the service is produced outside your company. Here’s where you rely on close partnerships and probably some kind of shared rewards.

Q3: The third quadrant describes a situation where differentiation doesn’t have a significant benefit (your aim should be that it is “good enough”) and often where work processes are standardized, volumes high and economies of scale significant. Here’s where you give it to someone who makes a living from doing this kind of work as efficiently as possible.

Q4: The fourth quadrant describes a situation where differentiation doesn’t pay off, but for some reason the services are produced internally. This could be because of regulatory issues (e.g. safety or social responsibilities) or for historic reasons (e.g. a lot of competence in this area). I have found this situation to be generally “unstable” and tend to die out.

By mapping your business functions or processes in this matrix, I believe you can easily sort out where to focus your effort. A humorous friend of mine once said, let’s not become the  “United States of Generica”. I tend to agree, especially now that you know how to consider when to use Best Practices…

Regards,
Kevin

Why don’t smart people learn from their mistakes

In an HBR article in 1991, Chris Ayrgis, described the basic dilemma: success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn. What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation.

Why is it so and what can we do about it?

The rest of this post is tanken directly from the “In Brief” section of the original article from HBR:

The Idea in Brief

Problem solving is an example of single-loop learning. You identify an error and apply a particular remedy to correct it. But genuine learning involves an extra step, in which you reflect on your assumptions and test the validity of your hypotheses. Achieving this double-loop learning is more than a matter of motivation—you have to reflect on the way you think.

Failure forces you to reflect on your assumptions and inferences. Which is why an organization’s smartest and most successful employees are often such poor learners: they haven’t had the opportunity for introspection that failure affords. So when they do fail—or merely underperform—they can be surprisingly defensive. Instead of critically examining their own behavior, they cast blame outward—on anyone or anything they can.

The Idea in Practice

People often profess to be open to critique and new learning, but their actions suggest a very different set of governing values or theories-in-use:

•   the desire to remain in unilateral control

•   the goal of maximizing “winning” while minimizing “losing”

•   the belief that negative feelings should be suppressed

•   the desire to appear as rational as possible.

Taken together, these values betray a profoundly defensive posture: a need to avoid embarrassment, threat, or feelings of vulnerability and incompetence. This closed-loop reasoning explains why the mere encouragement of open inquiry can be intimidating to some. And it’s especially relevant to the behavior of many of the most highly skilled and best-trained employees. Behind their high aspirations are an equally high fear of failure and a tendency to be ashamed when they don’t live up to their high standards. Consequently, they become brittle and despondent in situations in which they don’t excel immediately.

Fortunately, it is possible for individuals and organizations to develop more productive patterns of behavior. Two suggestions for how to make this happen:

1. Apply the same kind of “tough reasoning” you use to conduct strategic analysis. Collect the most objective data you can find. Make your inferences explicit and test them constantly. Submit your conclusions to the toughest tests of all: make sure they aren’t self-serving or impossible for others to verify.

2. Senior managers must model the desired changes first. When the leadership demonstrates its willingness to examine critically its own theories-in-use, changing them as indicated, everyone will find it easier to do the same.

Example: The CEO of an organizational-development firm created a case study to address real problems caused by the intense competition among his direct reports. In a paragraph, he described a meeting he intended to have with his subordinates. Then he wrote down what he planned to say, how he thought his subordinates would respond, as well any thoughts or feelings he thought he might have but not express for fear of derailing the conversation. Instead of actually holding the meeting, he analyzed the scenario he had developed with his direct reports. The result was an illuminating conversation in which the CEO and his subordinates were able to circumvent the closed-loop reasoning that had characterized so many prior discussions.

Hope it made you think – reason and act  differently.

Kevin

Children Learn What They Live

Context and Our View of Self and Others


Sometimes, and probably more often than we like to admit, a heavy emphasis is put on personality characteristics (internal factors) to explain someone’s behavior in a given situation, rather than thinking about situational factors (external) contributing to the results. This phenomenon is often referred to as the fundamental attribution error. The flip side of the fundamental attribution error is the actor-observer bias, in which people tend to over-emphasize the significance of a situation in their behaviors and under-emphasize the role of their personality characteristics. My guess is that the latter bias, is quite useful as a defense to our self esteem – but also a hard nut to crack when it comes to self-improvement. In combination, these two thinking patterns are and explosive mix which. In the following I’ve made some personal notes on how to avoid these traps and try to assess situations and results more objectively.

What can I do avoid making the fundamental attribution error?

Being human, I believe it is virtually impossible to avoid making attributions from time to time. It is probably a combination of brain efficiency – .

To avoid making the fundamental attribution error, one of the best things you can do is “put yourself in the other
person’s shoes,” as the old saying goes. By thinking about what you might do in the same situation, you might come up with some situational factors for a behavior which could shed more light on the subject.

In addition, asking the question: Why would a intelligent, rational and decent human being do this?

I think awareness of a common cognitive bias can help you look for hidden behavioral factors, making you a better observer and better able to read people and situations. Finally, when you are trying to explain your own behavior, avoid indulging the actor-observer effect, and make sure to give your personality some credit for your actions.

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”
– Ralph Hodgson

After all, it is about respect and decency, isn’t it?

Rgds,
Kevin