Employee efficiency! How to create efficiency in the workplace.

How’s your employee efficiency? How is your efficiency in the workplace around them?

A lot of managers are unhappy with the performance of their employees:

“My employees often do not focus on the right things and they simply do not work efficiently!”

Many think that this can be changed just with proper training of the staff. Well, it’s mostly not that simple. It is rarely purely the fault of your employees.

Efficiency in the workplace? To be efficient or to be effective?

employee efficiency and efficiency in the workplace

Efficiency in the workplace depends not just on your employees.

It is crucial to distinguish between effectiveness and efficiency. If you are effective you are doing the right things. If you are efficient you are doing the things right.

In other words, effectiveness is the goal and efficiency addresses the way!

Effectiveness asks the “what” and efficiency asks the ‘how’.

Why is this distinction important?

First things first: First think about being effective and then being efficient. First ask what needs to be done and then how.

Let me give you an example:

You want to cut down a tree in the garden. Then it is not effective starting to cut off the branches or to mow the lawn around the tree. It helps you not eventually come closer to your goal – namely to cut the tree.

However, it is effective to cut the tree with a blunt axe. This may take some time, but eventually you will cut down the tree. Surely it makes more sense to use a sharp axe or even better to use a chainsaw.

All three methods are effective because they serve the purpose. The methods differ, however, in terms of efficiency.

What does that have to do with my employees?

If your employees are often working on the wrong things, they do not work effectively. If this is the case, usually the objectives are not clear.

Whose job is it in a company to have the vision and to set the objectives? Exactly: That’s your job as the executive.

If you complain, that your employees are doing the wrong things, make sure that the vision and the objectives of your company are clearly communicated and understood by all your staff. Otherwise they don’t know how to prioritize their work.

But I cannot specify everything…

You don’t need to specify everything. But you need to set the direction. You need to say what is important, otherwise employee efficiency will suffer.

Do your employees really know your company’s vision and the business objectives? Don’t answer with “Yes, of course” so easily.

Ask your employees. You will probably be amazed how little the answers coincide with your vision and your goals.

Prioritize only works if you know the goals!

If you want your employees to act in your best interests, business vision and goals must be clear. If your employees have to work on multiple tasks, they need to prioritize. You can help them to stay focused on their goals. But that is only possible if they know what the purpose of their work is, what is most important for the company.

As an entrepreneur and executive it is your task to define the business vision and goals and constantly talking about it.

Employee efficiency: But they know their goals …

OK, Now if vision and goals are clear and understood – but you still have the problem that your staff does not provide the expected output. What can be the reason?

In most cases the reason is not laziness of the employees. Think about the following three situations employees may have to cope with:

1. The desire to be efficient

Sometimes, an employee strives to be particularly efficient. Therefore he thinks he needs to work very quickly. This can be the case if the boss repeatedly stresses that the team needs to be more efficient. The result is that the employee starts to work in haste without first to clarify the goal.

An example:

The employee gets a new project. He just skims the description for the new project briefly. He successfully worked on similar projects for several other customers. In order not to waste time, he starts immediately.

It is just a pity that this project differs from the older projects slightly in a few points. Unfortunately he overlooked this. In the following days, he works very efficiently on the project. But the result is unfortunately not what the customer ordered.

His desire to be particularly efficient made him doing the wrong things. When he realizes that after a few days, he needs to put a lot of effort, time and money into correcting and reworking. Finally he is successful with the project – but was he efficient? Not at all!

2. Missing helicopter view

Many people find it difficult to cope with frequently changing requirements. If a new project gets on their desk, it is important that they do not ignore it and work on with their existing projects. They need to step back, get an overview about their new situation and clarify what is now important:

  • Does the project they are working on is still No1 priority or does it need to be postponed?
  • Having a new responsibility for the new project will they still be able to meet all the deadlines they committed to?
  • If not, do they raise their hand and tell their managers about it?

Often employees don’t change from their detailed work view into the helicopter view. They are bogged in details and try to work harder and quicker. They want to improve their situation by working more efficiently. But it would be necessary to firstly think about effectiveness.

Getting into helicopter view and thinking about effectiveness can be difficult – especially if you’re pressed for time and lost in details. But everyone can learn to regularly take the helicopter view.

As a Manager you can coach your employees to get into helicopter view. But take care that you don’t just tell them what they should do, but let them suggest their priorities. Discuss it with them. In that way you really coach them and they will improve their effectiveness over time.

3. Wrong priorities

Sometimes people just work based on wrong priorities. You may know it from yourself – at least I do. Instead of starting with the most important task, I often prefer to work on the ones, which are most fun or give instant rewards. Reading my emails seems to be more fun and joy than working on my tax declaration.

Acting like this is obviously not effective. Again, it helps to regularly take the helicopter view and to question actions and priorities regularly.

Do your employees know exactly your business vision and the business goals?

How to motivate yourself to reach your goals

motivate yourself

How to motivate yourself.
Image: LuMaxArt/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

“Setting goals” is part of how to motivate yourself, but it isn’t enough. You must define action plans to ensure that your objectives are attained – and you must also execute these action plans.

I am sure that you are familiar with this: The implementation and stamina is the tough part – especially when changing your own habits.

Motivate yourself to become more efficient!

Let’s assume you need to be more efficient. For this reason, you have decided to limit yourself to checking your emails only twice a day. You want to focus on the important issues and not be constantly distracted by insignificant emails. You want to prevent email overload. That is a great intention. You know why you want to do it. You’re intrinsically motivated.

You are full of energy in the first few days and vigorously stick to your own rule: You read your emails only twice a day: once in the morning around 11:00 a.m., and then again in the afternoon around 5:00 p.m.

The email software is shut down for the rest of the day. Terrific. You are getting much more work done during the first week, and are focusing on the actually important issues.

And now it gets tough!

But you cannot stick with it. You cannot resist after the weekend: You have barely entered the office, and the email software is up and running: All you want is to take a quick look at what came in over the weekend. – That’s unfortunate. You did not stick by your own rule.

The next day, you open your email software at 11:00 a.m., but don’t close it after you have read your emails. You’re waiting for an important email from your employee. He promised to send you the presentation for tomorrow’s meeting. And once more, you fail to stick by your own rule.

You can probably guess the rest: After no more than three weeks, everything is back to usual. Your email software is constantly running, you immediately read every incoming email, and your efficiency is back to rock bottom. You are back to focusing on a myriad of details in the operational part of the business. This is unfortunate! Motivate yourself failed.

To motivate yourself is difficult?

Why is it so difficult to break one’s own habits? For example, why don’t New Year’s resolutions typically survive past the second week?

The reason can be found in one’s own willpower. Almost no one can withstand it for more than 1-2 weeks. But a minimum of 4-6 weeks are needed to form a new habit. Some even say it takes more than 60 days.

What can you do to motivate yourself?

Before I reveal the solution for this problem, I want you to think about the following situation: What would happen if you knew that every time you violated your resolution,

• $ 1,000 are automatically deducted from your account

or

• Someone would hand you a resounding slap in the face.

Would that be helpful? This might just work, right? Avoiding the pain would be a decent motivator to stick to one’s own rule. This would even work when your own willpower begins to fail you.

And now think about the following: What would happen, if every day that you stuck with your own rule, someone

• would give you $ 1,000 as a gift

or

• you would be surprised with your favorite meal, wine or dessert in the evening?

Would that be helpful? Here again: This would probably work for most people.

Change is driven by strong motivation!

People want to experience pleasure and avoid pain! What you need is something that triggers an emotion in you. If you have that, then you don’t need discipline. Declining willpower then no longer threatens your good intentions.

To implement your own intentions and motivate yourself over a period of several weeks, you can use this kind of extrinsic motivation: choose between the flight motivation or the goal motivation.

You can either penalize yourself if you didn’t stick with your intentions at the end of the day, or you can reward yourself. Neither the penalty, nor the reward has to be as drastic as the aforementioned examples. It is strictly up to you.

Pleasure or pain?

Psychologists will say that flight motivation is the better of the two to break a habit or doctrine. But to instill a new habit, the goal motivation is probably the better choice.

My recommendation: Simply experiment to find out what works for you and how to motivate yourself. I wish you lots of success and stamina with your good intentions. Here are 3 tips to help you:

3 Tips to stay motivated

1. Put it in writing!

You already know that objectives and action plans should always be recorded in writing. But also draw on your motivation yourself. Think about your motivations, and write these down in advance for each day.

An example for flight motivation:

If I leave my email software up and running, then I am not allowed to watch my favorite show tonight.

An example for goal motivation:

If I am successful in only reading my emails at 11:00 a.m. and at 4:00 p.m., then I can watch my favorite show tonight.

You may think this sounds trivial or immature. This may be so – but it works. Give it a try! You only need to rely on these motivations for the first 6 weeks. After that you will have become used to the new rule, and will use it automatically.

2. Have an accountability partner

It is very helpful to tell others, for instance your partner, about your intentions, motivators and also how you try to motivate yourself. This approach will help you to rigorously implement the reward or penalty.

Try to find someone who checks in on you time to time how you are doing with your goals. This can be a mentor, friend or even one of your employees. Just openly ask him or her if they would be willing to become your acountability partner.

3. Find a routine for yourself

Create a schedule that works for you, but consistency is key. It will become much easier, if you work at your best time. For instance: schedule your routine for the morning if you are a morning person.

 

 

Effective Meetings – How to prepare and hold them without wasting valuable time.

Every day many non effective meetings take place. Lots of managers spend as much as 50% of their time at work in appointments, meetings and conferences.

Many of these are certainly necessary and serve a purpose. But frequently, meetings are prepared poorly and waste the valuable time of the participants.

Effective Meetings

Effective Meetings? Not really.
Image: TEA/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Effective meetings?

You are most likely familiar with meetings that were intended as decision-making committees and ultimately degraded into a free for all. Loosely according to the motto:

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to get anything done!”

Of course employees need to exchange and discuss information. It is also true that many decisions are best made in meetings, assuming that all decision makers are invited.

But these effective meetings must be prepared well, and be managed efficiently and on point.

When planning an effective meeting, you should ensure that the number of participants is held to a minimum, but is at least large enough to make the required decisions.

Create the proper environment: The success of your appointment begins with adequate preparation:

5 Steps to take before an effective meeting

1. Do you really need a meeting?

Before scheduling an appointment, you should therefore always ask yourself: is it truly necessary to have an official meeting? Is it possible to replace the appointment with e-mails, a telephone call or a telephone conference? If yes, don’t call for a meeting.

2. What is the purpose?

Develop clear expectations about the objective, or the objectives that you hope to achieve with the meeting.

Be specific and write it down. What do you want to achieve with the meeting? Is the purpose only to provide information? Are you planning to discuss certain topics and to develop ideas?

What decisions should be taken in the meeting? A meeting has always to be result oriented. Be crystal clear about the desired outcome!

3. Who should attend the meeting?

Effective meetings should hold value for anyone invited to them. Time is money. If you invite people to your meeting who don’t deliver value or don’t get value out of the meeting: Don’t invite them!

4. Do you have an invitation and an agenda?

Clearly outline what the objectives are and how you expect participants to prepare. For each topic plan a separate agenda item with a description of the objective and schedule the time for it. Don’t overestimate what you can do in the meeting.

When convening a meeting, you should also determine who is responsible for drafting and sending the invitations. Who manages confirmations and cancellations.

5. How long will the meeting last?

Be precise with your timing and planning. When will the meeting start and when will it end? As a rule of thumb: For most of the meetings: Don’t go for more than 1 hour.

Set times for each topic and during the meeting stick to the time table! Most important: Start and end on time! Always!!! You don’t want to jeopardice deadlines of other meetings or projects.

Some more valuable tips for your preparation:

What exactly is the topic?

The invitation to an appointment should clearly outline what the objectives of the meeting are, and how you expect participants to prepare.

For each topic, plan a separate agenda item with a description of the objective and the scheduled time. Don’t forget to designate the person responsible for preparing this agenda item, i.e.:

AI 2:
Information about the status of the new CRM system rollout,
presented by: Mr. Smith, time: 15 min.

What else do we need?

Invitations to your effective meetings are also intended for the individual participants to prepare. Ensure that participants are provided with all required information, such as the agenda, an outline of the topic to be discussed and the minutes of the last meeting. This is best accomplished well in advance, along with the invitation.

What room do we use?

Book the correct room for your event well in advance. You will need a large space for an informational event with many attendees. You may also need to arrange for a microphone system and a projector and screen.

Workshops intended to identify ideas call for sufficient pens, flip charts and pin-boards.

Does everything work?

If you are the person in charge of the meeting you should be there 5 to 10 minutes before. Verify that everything is porperly prepared for a smooth meeting.

During your effective meeting

If you are the moderator you control the meeting. You enforce the rules. Of course, you must adhere to these yourself and be a good role model.

On-time start

Ensure that your meeting begins on schedule. It goes without saying that all participants should be present on time. Accept late arrivals only if absolutely necessary. Arriving late demonstrates a lack of respect toward you and the other participants.

I vividly recall a production manager who had a large sign posted in all conference rooms of his factory that said:

“Being on-time is a key quality criterion!”

Correct!

Who takes the notes?

After welcoming the participants, you must first decide who takes the notes: Who will be the note taker?

Normally, meeting notes are sufficient if they are a brief, understandable and to the point written summary of the results. Ensure that any agreed to action plan always has a responsible person and a deadline assigned.

“Participants discussed the new CRM system. Several employees are struggling with the system. A decision was made to conduct employee training.”

Wrong! A decision was apparently made, but the meeting failed to decide who should take care of this and by when.

It’s therefore frequently useful to not only take notes about the meeting results, but to also visualize the results on a blackboard or a flip-chart. This approach will much more readily make you and the participants aware that you forgot to designate a deadline and a responsible person in the heat of the moment.

Who receives the meeting notes and by when?

The meeting notes do not take much time to write. The note taker can frequently write the notes during the meeting and forward these to the participants. But he should have the notes written no later than the next day and have sent these to all participants.

Before sending the notes to other recipients outside of the group of meeting attendees, give them an opportunity to provide any feedback about misunderstandings or omitted results. You should plan at least 1-2 days for this and let the participants know about this in advance.

What about the action plans from the previous meeting?

Did you designate the note taker? Outstanding. You should then review the notes from the previous meeting item by item – assuming that a previous meeting took place.

Were all agreed to action plans implemented as planned? If not, why not? Do you need to extend the deadline or do the participants have to work out a new solution? Ensure that the result is again recorded and that it is brought back up at the next meeting. By taking these steps you are facilitating the implementation efforts.

Rules of conduct for meetings?

  • Effective meetings require certain basic rules. The most important ones are:
  • Everyone is on-time!
  • Anyone should only speak if they have something truly newsworthy to contribute!
  • Everyone is brief. Limit verbal contributions to 2-3 minutes!
  • Shut off your Cellphones!
  • Don’t read your e-mails in the meeting!

I am getting mad when people read e-mails during the meeting. I hate that! It is a typical leadership mistake, if you allow this – oreven worth – if you do it.

Watch the video below to clearly understand how to handle important e-mails in a meeting:

What to do if you run out of time?

When the scheduled time has expired for an agenda item you must decide whether to defer the item, to convene a separate meeting, or to process or prepare the issue in a smaller group.

You are free to discuss this with the participants, but the ultimate decision rests with you as the meeting moderator.

How should you end your effective meeting?

Certainly no later than at the end of the meeting you should schedule a follow-up appointment with the participants, if needed. Afterward you or the note taker briefly summarize the results of the meeting. You end the meeting by thanking all participants.

Now it is your turn to trun your next meeting in an effective meeting.

 

The inspirational quote:

“Meetings are the backside’s victory over the mind.”

Willibald Alexis

Are you a true Leader? Do you encourage your people?

True Leader

True Leaders!
Image: Ayeshstockphoto/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Are you just a manager or are you a true leader? As a leader you must focus on

  • People not on transaction
  • Success and not on failure
  • Future not on the past

If you are a true leader you are a people person. A leader encourages and rewards people. A leader pays attention to people.

Ask yourself the following 5 questions and check if you are a true leader:

1 How do you handle phone calls?

Do you really give your employees undivided attention?

Assume you have a meeting with one of your employees: Does your employee have your full undivided attention? What if your phone rings?  Do you take the call during the conversation? What’s your answer?

A lot of managers respond:

“It depends who is calling and if it is important!”

Others say:

“No, of course not. I don’t take the call”

You know what a real leader says?

“My phone is never ringing when I am in a meeting with one of my employees. I will always turn it off. Calls are forwarded to my secretary. If it is really important she will let me know.”

How you handle phone calls in a conversation shows if you really are a leader. So, turn off your smartphone when you are in a conversation – always!

2 How do you handle emails?

I know managers who process emails during meetings on their Smartphone. Are you doing this as well? What is the point of this?

If brain research has taught us anything in recent years it is that multi-tasking is neither effective nor efficient. I can either read my emails or I can participate in the meeting!

If the meeting is not important, if it is not an effective meeting – why the hell are you as the manager present at the meeting? If the meeting is useless, why not cancel it?

You may say:

“Well, the meeting is important but some emails are important as well! I need to read them!”

What? I assure you: Urgent and important issues will never be sent by e-mail. If someone has an urgent matter for you that is also important, they will always contact you in person, or they will call your secretary.

Believe me: You will not be notified by email if your house is on fire. If you suffer from email overload click here.

3 How do you communicate?

True leaders inspire their people. How do they do that? True leaders take care that their message is understood. That is the most important key to the success of a business leader. A true leader communicates clearly.

Unfortunately lots of managers talk to their employees like that:

“The financial uncertainty and lack of confidence in the market place has been increasingly challenging, but due to our strategic fit, our synergies achieved and our core competencies we think outside the box to add more value and have a win-win situation with our customers to sequentially leverage our efforts and to improve our bottom line. – Let’s go for it!”

Lots of managers just talk but they don’t really say anything. In business presentations they use buzzwords to sound intelligent, but in the end it is just boring and blah blah.

A true leader tells it like it is and he gives complete, understandable information. True leaders are specific and they use plain English! They want to be understood.

Clear communication is the most important key to success of business leaders. So to grow into a true leader, you must learn how to be crystal clear in your communication.

Don’t use buzzwords! Be specific and use plain English.

 4 How do you manage your day-to-day tasks?

How much time do you spend with operative management like administrative stuff, budget controlling, day to day work? Most managers tell me that they spend about 90 % of their time with these operative tasks.

So they only spend 10 % of their time with leadership tasks – with the future of their business, with vision, goals and strategies with talking, informing and inspiring employees.

Why do these managers only have 10 % of their time for leadership? Most of them do not understand how important it is. They do not delegate. They want to be involved and to be in control of everything.

But as a manager you have to delegate most of the operative tasks to your employees. That is why you are a manager. Otherwise you do not have the time for the important tasks: the leadership tasks.

Try to spend at least 50 % of your time with leadership tasks. Therefore, think about which of your daily tasks can you delegate?

Do you really need to

  • decide how many pencils your company need to purchase?
  • control all company bills in detail?
  • read and sign every paper?

Don’t be a micromanager, but strive to be a true leader!

5 How do you earn trust?

Leadership is about trust. But trust has to be earned.

Some managers think their employees will trust them because they are the managers. Other managers behave in a friendly way and talk nicely.They think that this will help them to earn the trust of their employees. – But all of that is nonsense!

The only way you earn trust is by walk the talk! Do what you say you would do, don’t make empty promises. True leaders don’t break their word!

Now, lots of “wanna be” leaders tell me:

“I know that and of course I behave like that: I am a true leader. I always stick with my commitments.”

Really? What’s about that promise you gave to your employees about the 5 % salary increase?

“That is not my fault. My boss in our headquarter refuses to make any salary increases this year.”

Aha, so why did you promise something which is out of your control?

If you want to be a true leader: Don’t take the easy way. Only promise what is under your control and what you can keep.

Work hard to keep your promises all the time – even if the action you promised seems to be not important.

If you promise your employee that you send him an email feedback on Monday, you better make sure that he receives that email on Monday and not on Tuesday morning.

Always keep in mind:

“Most people give trust away slowly but they take it back quickly. It often takes years to build trust and it can take seconds to destroy trust.”

So, if you want to be a true leader:

“Keep your promises – always – even the very small ones! Only make a promise if you can keep it.”

But there is more about true leaders…

True leaders need disagreement

It is quite natural: If you have a great idea, it feels good when others telling you:

“Waoh, That’s a fantastic idea.”

It is so good for your ego, isn’t it?

But be careful: If your employees tell you always how great you and your ideas are, something is going terribly wrong.

Avoid the Yes-Man-Mentality

Managers often tend to surround themselves with people who agree with them and who think like them – or at least always saying “Yes” to all what the boss presents.

That is dangerous. True leaders do it differently. You need people in your team who are not like you. You need people who challenge your ideas, who think differently and who may suggest even the opposite way of your presented direction.

Do you really need redundancy?

Gen George Marshall said once:

“If you and I agree all the time, one of us is redundant!”

Good disagreement is central to progress. If you don’t allow dissent, you produce a company culture of stagnation, fear and frustration. The result: Employees with good ideas leave your company or they mentally resign. They sit back and protect their jobs by agreeing with everything you suggest.

If that’s the case you have surrounded yourself only with “Yes–Men!” That’s not what you and your company need. Avoid it by all means.

You need controversial discussions!

Ideas need to be discussed – controversially. You need to encourage your people to challenge you and your ideas. Encourage disagreement and use it to empower collaboration and decision making.

Disagreement vs Disrespect

There is a difference between disagreement and disrespect! Don’t confuse the two.

As the manager or as the subordinate: Be honest and tell what you think, but do it politely. Disagreements should not become personal.

However, if the decision is made after discussions and balancing pros and cons, dissent must stop. Once the decision has been made, the employees need to understand that they have an obligation to support the decision – even if they disagree with the decision.

 

A true leader asks the right questions correctly

Any salesman worth his salt knows: He who asks questions leads. This is old news. But in spite of this, many managers are not aware how important and helpful, but also powerful correctly placed questions can be.

The controlling nature of questions is impressively put on display during interrogations, as shown in crime dramas.

For instance, a suspect is questioned by a police officer. The police officer applies increasing pressure by asking short questions in rapid succession. The suspect is increasingly pressed into a defensive position, from which he desperately attempts to explain himself. The same happens to the poor employee who has to defend himself against the staccato of pressing questions from the Chairman after a presentation.

Questions as a demonstration of power

Some managers use these pressing questions intentionally to demonstrate their power. But others are not even aware that they present themselves as far too dominant, and are perceived as a threatening inquisitor and attacker. This is very damaging. Such behavior is perceived as showing little regard, and will frequently trigger fear, demotivation and frustration. True leaders don’t do this.

When a behavior pattern of authoritarian questioning becomes part of the company culture this results in submissiveness and sandbagging. These companies can forget about innovation, out of the box thinking and commitment.

How can questions be defused?

How can multiple topics be explored by questions, without the questions feeling like an interrogation? Several options exist. The most important point is: allow the other person to finish, and insert pauses between the questions. Consider: The shorter the question is formulated, the more pressing it is perceived by the counterpart.

You can attenuate your questions by preceding some of your questions with a personal statement. Instead of asking:

“Why did you make the decision this way?”

try saying:

“I can see that you were in a tough situation. What led you to make the decision this way?”

You can also briefly introduce the background of your question with one or two sentences before asking the actual question. This keeps you from constantly badgering your employees with short questions.

Avoid countering with “why”

Pay attention to the classic “why” question. In combination with a pointed question, this is almost always perceived as an attack. Posed as a single word question, “why” achieves maximum confrontation. In the end you can counter any response with “why?”. Avoid this at all costs.

Expressing esteem with questions

Questions can be used to structure and control conversations. Focused questions can also be a terrific way to get others to think. But this will only work if your counterpart feels that you hold him in high regard. You will not achieve this with a barrage of questions.

The inspiring quote

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders!”

Tom Peters

How to give a great business presentation

As a manager you will have to do a business presentation once in a while, either internally or extrernally e.g. in a customer meeting.

If you have to present your company, what should you pay attention to? What makes a good business presentation?

Bad business presentations

Boring company presentation

Boring company presentation
Image: Nosnibor137/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

I recently met the Managing Director of an high-tech company. He told me that he finally commissioned the preparation of a company presentation. When I asked him why he did this he replied:

“We need this urgently. I want my sales employees to use coordinated PowerPoint slides when they present our company.“

That’s just great. The boss is forcing every sales employee in this company to bore customers with the same image oozing PowerPoint slides:

  • Our service portfolio and our organization
  • Our history and our technology
  • Our processes and our products

Our, our, our …

Sorry, but nobody wants this!

Simply because large corporations spend tens of thousands of Dollars on these tiresome company presentations doesn’t mean that you have to do it!

Initial meeting with the customer

Spot this example: You were finally able to get that hotly desired appointment with your important customer. The decision maker actually took half an hour of his time to meet you. – Do you seriously believe that he now wants to hear your “We are the Champions”- company presentation?

Nonsense! He wants to get to know you as a person. He wants to get to know your company – but very briefly. That means, he wants to waste no time getting to the most important point – and this point is not your company but his own problems instead.

After all, the point of the meeting is to determine whether you can help him solve his problems! He’s meeting with you to explain his problems. This means that you have to listen and ask questions – instead of shoving your “We are the greatest and can do everything for you” speech down his throat!

When a customer asks for an introduction to your company, he wants a concise summary – a 2 minute “elevator speech“. You don’t need a PowerPoint presentation to accomplish this!

Initial meeting with suppliers and partners

When meeting with suppliers and partners you should also only present your company briefly. The issues that are important for the suppliers and partners will be talked about during the technical discussion anyway.

Nobody is likely to remember the facts and figures. It is therefore much more effective to refer to the website or to hand out a company brochure. Don’t waste time, but get to work on the important topics that you need to spend time on together. Forget your PowerPoint based business presentation.

Official events or competitive presentations

When you are asked to present your company for an official event or as part of a competition you should never use a canned presentation! Standards are boring. Without fail!

Consider: You can make many mistakes during a presentation. Your audience will forgive you almost anything. But there is one thing that you must not be – boring!!!

You must therefore clearly understand who the presentation is for. What does your audience expect and what objective do you have in mind?

A presentation is not about facts and figures or detailed information. Your listeners can more easily read up on these. The point is to have listeners keyed in on you. Therefore stop pontificating, but impress and inspire instead!

“Your slides will not impress or inspire, only you as the person can do so.”

When presenting your company during an official event, don’t start by talking about yourself or your company. Begin with an interesting or intriguing statement. Then transition to a problem that the listeners regard as important. Describe the negative impact of the problem in broad strokes.

Only now demonstrate briefly how your services or your product solves the problem. This allows you to make an interesting business presentation without boring self-promotion and will also position your company as a problem solver.

Company presentations have to be catered to the audience and the speaker. Generalized PowerPoint slides to present the company are rarely useful for this!

But my customer wants a business presentation about our company…

Really? Do you truly believe that your prospective customer simply grants you an hour out of his valuable work schedule? No, he has made advance inquiries about your company, for instance on your company’s website.

Decision makers have very little time. If he did not inform himself in advance, and still grants you an hour of his time, chances are that you are presenting to the wrong individual anyway.

Here are 3 objections, you may hear when people think they need to do a boring company presentation the old fashion way.

1. Objection:

“Yes, but the company presentation is the best tool I have to speak to the benefits our company can provide!”

Wrong! Company presentations are boring and useless! Think about it: Most company presentations follow this format:

The first slide shows the company logo, which is followed by a world map with lots of dots.

“Absolutely, Mr. Customer, we even have sales offices in the Congo, in Timbuktu and the far reaches of Mongolia.”

Honestly: does anyone actually care about this?

This is followed by a black and white photo of the company founder, and a photo of the production facility dating back to before the Second World War. This is intended to demonstrate stability and continuity.

The next slide shows a steadily growing revenue stream, followed by a convoluted org chart. The org chart has lots of circles and arrows and hopes to convey the customer oriented matrix structure. – The truth is that not even the consulting company that prepared this chart for the company understands this slide. The customer cannot and will not understand it. He puts up with this out of courtesy.

Then the following 20 slides show all company products with details about a multitude of specifications, compliance with various ISO  regulations and quality guidelines. No later than now, the customer will be begging that this presentation comes to an end soon.

Don’t do it.

2. Objection:

“Yes, but this is what we always do.”

Bad enough. In fact, there are companies that direct their sales employees to introduce their company to the customer using exactly the slides that were prepared by the marketing department. Unbearable!

3. Objection:

“Yes, but my customer demanded that I show him the company presentation.”

Truly? Please listen carefully. When the customer says that he wants to know more about your company, then he’s asking for a brief summary. He wants a so-called “elevator speech“, i.e. you have no more than two minutes to present your company to the customer in a concise manner. No more than that. You don’t need a PowerPoint presentation to accomplish this!

Here is how you can do this correctly

It is particularly important to get to know your customer during the introductory meeting, to understand his business and to find out about his problems. You or your company is not what this is about.

There is no need to demonstrate what a great guy, or company you are, and all the great things you can do. The customer wants to be understood and not persuaded. You have a particularly good shot at winning the customer over if you do not want to persuade.

 

Death by Powerpoint?

If you need to give a business presentation internally or on a conference. Should you use Powerpoint slides?

Do you know, that there are more than 300 million Powerpoint users world-wide. More than 30 million presentations are made each day.

Precisely at this moment, more than a million presentations are made world-wide – and more than half of these are painfully poor and mindnumbingly boring.

These tiresome presentations are called hey waste valuable time, and in our professional environment are one of the most feared torture methods for committed people!“Death by Powerpoint“.

How can you make sure that your presentation doesn’t drive your fellow men to madness? What makes a presentation exciting, inspiring and worth remembering?

Should you use PowerPoint?

business presentation

Business presentation with Death by PowerPoint
Image: akiwi/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Some purists claim that good presenters speak freely and by rule do not use PowerPoint. I believe this is an incorrect generalization.

During my professional career, I have seen many outstanding presentations with and without PowerPoint support. But I was also frequently driven to the edge of despair by poor presentations – PowerPoint or not.

PowerPoint is a tool – nothing more and nothing less. Whether you make a good presentation or not depends on you – not on PowerPoint. You are the presenter and must decide whether and how to use this tool.

The 3 most important questions

Three questions are the key to your business presentation. Answering these questions correctly will determine whether your presentation ends up being a success or a disaster!

By the way: None of the questions includes whether you want to work with or without PowerPoint.

1. Why are you making this presentation?

Be honest with yourself. What do you want to accomplish?

“I am making this presentation for others to …

  • … see how important I am!”
  • … see how much I know!”
  • … realize how little they know!”

You are probably getting the clue: None of these answers will help you make a good presentation.

I have to do it!

You may also say:

“I am making the presentation because I was told to do so!”

Are you sure about that? Were you told to make a presentation of any kind? It is likely that this involves a certain topic, right? You were surely told to report something of interest or importance about this topic. A small but essential distinction!

Do you have something important to say?

Only if you have something important to say will you speak with passion. If you can show this emotion for your topic, your listeners will reward you with attention.

Only make a speech or a business presentation if you have something important to say. Your message must be of interest for your listeners.

Even if you only make a brief, humorous address: What is your central message? At a company function this could also involve opening up the buffet. Trust me, for many people this can be very important. But then please keep the speech to a minimum!

2. Does your business presentation have a logical structure and is easy to understand?

Any good presentation has the following structure:

  • an interesting introduction
  • a compelling main section
  • a worthy conclusion

It’s completely irrelevant whether you speak for 5 min, 15 min or 1 hour: This structure of a good business presentation always remains the same.

The introduction

Start your presentation in an interesting way! Do not bore your listeners with insignificant forewords or by introducing yourself, or worse, your company. Get right into it!

Do not introduce yourself, but instead begin by making a compelling statement, with a question or with a brief anecdote that should underscore or lead into your topic.

The main section

Your main section should not contain more than 3 key messages. Most people cannot remember more anyway. If you have time, you can substantiate your key messages in detail, but do not deviate from your topic.

Make sure that your presentation has a line of reasoning. This should not simply consist of a list of bullet points. You should be telling a well thought out story.

The conclusion

You end your business presentation by concisely summarizing your 3 key messages.

Avoid endings such as

“Thank you for your attention. Are there any questions?“

Allow your last sentence to impact on your key messages. Then quietly scan your audience for several seconds. Then briefly nod and only say

“Thanks”

Is your presentation easy to understand?

Do not read from a manuscript. But also do not learn every sentence by heart. Formulate and speak freely. This forces you to express yourself in easy to understand language. The listeners will thank you for that.

Be concise and speak freely!

Use short sentences and speak in clear terms! Do not be upset when you make grammatical errors. A speech is not an exercise in English grammar.

Don’t read, but speak to the listener!

Your listeners aren’t interested in reading. They also don’t want you to read the slides to them. The purpose of your presentation is to inform, to excite and to elicit critical thinking. When using PowerPoint slides, these are only intended as support.

Condense the speech to the substantive points!

Many outstanding PowerPoint business presentations consist entirely of images. They visualize the presented idea and therefore optimally underscore the spoken content.

Reduce your slides to the substantive content:

  • Only one key message per slide!
  • Whenever possible use images and no text!
  • If text is needed, use only few keywords!
  • If graphics are used make them illustrative and readable!

3. Do you dry-run your business presentation?

Even professional speakers dry-run their presentation. One could actually say: The professionalism of a speaker is demonstrated by the fact that he dry-runs his presentation. After all, a presentation never works on the first pass. Practice makes perfect.

Practice out loud!

When practicing a presentation stand up and speak out loud. You must do this even when nobody else but you is in the room and you feel funny. Your thoughts might sound great in your mind. But you can only find out if this is true when speaking out loud.

Time yourself!

Time the length of your presentation during the dry-run. It is OK if your presentation is a little shorter than planned. But avoid speaking longer than what was agreed.

Does everything work?

Before your business presentation: Test the equipment in the presentation room. Do the microphone, remote and projector work? Is the computer booted up and the current PowerPoint presentation ready to go? Will you be supported by a technician or will you have to take care of everything yourself?

“Detailed preparation requires time, but is easily more desirable than a disaster in front of the audience!”

Business strategy: What you need to know as a leader.

business strategy

business strategy:
Image: miskolin/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

What exactly does business strategy actually mean? The answer is anything but simple. The strategy expert Henry Mintzberg says:

“Strategy is one of those words that we like to define in one way, but use in quite another.”

A multitude of definitions exist for the term strategy. I find the following definition helpful in the business environment:

A company busines strategy is a long-term plan. It describes how, and by what means the company’s vision will be attained. As such, a business strategy provides an orientation for future actions. Objectives and action plans are then developed to implement the strategy.

Business strategy: focus on fewer operational aspects!

Unfortunately, many executives spend too little time on their strategy. Many are literally trapped by operational thinking. Using several examples, Michael Porter (Harvard Business School) highlights this problem in the Video “What is strategy?”:

When asked about their strategy, managers will for instance say:

“We are globalizing.”

or

“We are outsourcing our products.”

But these are not strategies!

Business strategy or action plan?

Neither globalization nor outsourcing is a strategy. These are action plans. In contrast, a business strategy will state why the company is globalizing or why it’s outsourcing.

A business strategy describes the positioning of the enterprise, the long-term benefits, the future unique characteristics of the company and the potentially unique competitive positions.

Firstly, describe crystal clear which direction the company is heading. Then define the action plans and objectives.

Does your company have an actual strategy and a crystal clear positioning statement?

7 pointers  for a successful business strategy

Your business strategy defines the long-term direction of your company. The strategy is the guiding principle. Therefore, it provides the needed orientation for important company decisions.

The following 7 pointers will show you what mandatory components must be included in your strategy. That will help you to get a clear picture for developing and implementing your business strategy.

1. Vision

The most important need for people is the desire to have a purpose. That’s why, your strategy must be rooted in an attractive and motivating image of the future. If they have a business vision they can assign a purpose to their own work, and to that of others.

2. Focus and concentration

Your business strategy not only determines the direction, but also what activities to pursue. You must clearly define what you are not going to offer. You must also be clear about who your customers are, and who is not. Define which market segments you will operate in, and which are best avoided. Focus!

3. Simplicity

Your strategy must be straightforward, and easily understood. Otherwise, it will be difficult to get your employee’s buy-in.

4. Differentiation

Your strategy must clearly define how you will be different from your competition. How do you position your company in the marketplace? What do you do differently, and what are you better at – to the benefit of your customers?

5. Customer value

Regardless of what you produce, or what service you provide, it is essential that your product or service provides a value to your customers. No value – no business. Define precisely which customers you benefit, and how you benefit them.

6. Continuity

Stick with your business strategy. Only continuity will ensure that your employees internalize your strategy. Act accordingly. You cannot be successful if you discard your strategy every six months.

7. Objectives

Your strategy must implementable. You need clearly defined objectives by which you and your employees can implement the strategy. These objectives must be defined precisely. They must be measurable, attainable, relevant and have a completion date, a deadline. For every defined objective ask: Who does what by when?