Creating a Two-Minute Persuasive Story

The vice president of Sales and Marketing approached me a week before the big trade show. He said he’d be joining me for dinner to meet one of my clients on the first night of the conference. He also made sure I understood the severe consequences if I didn’t set up the meet-and-greet.

Just before we sat down for dinner, I introduced my client to the VP. I was surprised to learn that the president of my division was also invited, along with two other executives and their guests. The dinner for three barely fit at the table now set for eight.

Then came another surprise. The president suggested that I start my presentation before the food arrived. Presentation? What happened to the meet-and-greet? The VP instructed me to begin. I wanted to confront him, but didn’t know how, so I dove into an off-the-cuff presentation.

The client, who agreed to a meet-and-greet, not a presentation, quickly interrupted and clarified what I already knew; He couldn’t do anything until he received his next budget in six months.

It was no surprise that I returned to a pink slip back at the office and was promptly escorted out of the building. I never learned if the dinner was a set-up, but I did wonder how things might have been different had I confronted the VP. What would’ve happened if I took two minutes at the table to persuade the executives to understand that the dinner was scheduled as a meet-and-greet, and nothing more?

The most difficult situations I’ve experienced always came down to a defining moment that was either won or lost during a two minute conversation. Being able to present a persuasive viewpoint in two minutes can separate those who are embraced in business from those who are rejected.

Everyone in business can present a persuasive argument by following four simple steps that can be formulated in the moment.

  1. Define a Specific Problem. The more specific the focus, the more plausible it is to correct or improve the stated problem. General comments allow the mind to wander into various avenues of possibilities and it dilutes the prospects of an actual fix. By establishing a focused issue, the train of thought is easily followed and considered – creating a mental or emotional buy-in on the specific problem being discussed.
  1. Share a Similar Experience. By sharing a similar experience that was methodically fixed, associates can easily extrapolate the same information as a probable fix, or at least agree to a certain line of thinking that has the potential of delivering a similar result. This connection positions the associate to consider a new outcome.
  1. Share the Positive Outcome/Benefit. All ideas must be field tested to determine its potential level of success. When positive results occurred consistently using a similar model or approach, associates are more likely to vote for similar trials within the area of problematic concern. Listing the benefits received from a similar experience helps the associates paint a vision for their own testing in order to speed the possible solution and its estimated benefits.
  1. Suggest Similar Action with Specific Problem. Buy-in is typically reached during a two-minute persuasive talk that matches a similar benefit to a known problem, however, without the actual “ask” to take action, the idea will dissolve into a sea of arbitrary comments that preceded the moment. It’s critical to state the needed action and ask for a consensus to move forward on implementation.

The above steps can be shared in two minutes. Defining the problem and getting a quick buy-in will take about 45 seconds. Sharing a similar experience can take 30 – 45 seconds. The benefits achieved will take 15 – 30 seconds and the call to action only takes 15 seconds.

Using these steps during an unexpected meeting with executives will clearly demonstrate great leadership skills, an understanding of the business, and insights worthy of consideration. It may also get you promoted to the task force for follow through – A chance to demonstrate additional leadership skills.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

Inspiring Leaders Develop 3 Easter Eggs of Success

© apops - Fotolia.comMy son gave a great talk at a large conference of social web developers. While the talk didn’t come together until a few days before his presentation, it was extremely well received and life changing for the participants. Others also grew by watching his talk on the web weeks later.

When Chris explained how he put his talk together, I realized that he followed the Dale Carnegie method of preparation. Carnegie was a leader who felt it was important to be constantly learning and growing, so as to always be prepared for any opportunity to speak. Carnegie had a large reservoir of information he could draw from at any point in time to give a great talk.

Chris prepared by gathering known information from within his own reservoir, organized it and personalized it for his audience. While it only took a few days to “create” his talk, Chris had taken months in preparing the information – A task he takes for granted.

I wanted to learn how the talk went so I asked him a few questions. Chris immediately suggested that his talk was successful for three reasons. It just so happens that he listed the same three Easter eggs of success that inspiring leaders take time to develop.

1. DEVELOP TRUST

Inspiring leaders are authentic. They address their employees from a point of reality, even when casting a vision for the company’s future. This creates a level of hope within each employee, as they comprehend how things could work and understand their role in making it happen. To support this new hope, inspiring leaders invite participation from every employee.

The results are products and services that each employee thinks and feels is in place because of their part in the process, yet no one is able to separate out their portion from the whole. The item also becomes a symbol of trust that each employee placed in the inspiring leader to see the vision come to fruition.

2. DEVELOP PERFORMANCE

Building trust is simplified when the inspiring leader sells the benefit of the process to each employee. The newly agreed upon benefit also drives the employees to higher levels of performance. This is especially true when the atmosphere is one of curiosity and play, rather than pressure and deadlines.

The strong inspiring leader is able to navigate a course of action based on quick but calculated decisions, the established process being an adventure for the team to explore together, and a playful time of creative exercise. All of which raises the bar of outstanding performance among peers.

3. DEVELOP EMPLOYEES

Developing employees over time is the most practical of activities that inspiring leaders engage in. The reinforcing of the employee’s optimism is critical to the company’s long-term success. Related by perspective is the opportunity to turn all failures into educational experiences, especially when coupled with a focus on igniting the enthusiastic potential within each worker.

This emphasis on individuals encourages confidence of character and voice. Self-assurance becomes the very driver that turns standard employees into the gifted. Without the employees, the company has no future potential and will eventually be overtaken by the next big thing.

Inspiring leaders build trust by focusing on their resources. They also work to refine their abilities and seek to promote the best in others. When evaluating the gifts, skills and talents of their team, they work hard to draw out a higher level of performance than what the worker thought was innately possible.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

Learning Leaders Commit to 3 Ideas

Plumber Attention © jokatoonsIt was a night of terrible storms that sent hundreds with flooding basements to local hardware stores for new sump pumps. The plumbing aisle was packed with eager customers, where I witnessed a leadership opportunity. The situation was volatile for the lone employee trying to respond to dozens of desperate people crowding in.

The employee (I’ll call him Bob) was a professional plumber that tried to make a few extra bucks selling supplies at night. He asked his manager to help twice, but received no help. An employee (I’ll call her Anne) from another department saw the crowd and started to help Bob. Within minutes the shelves were empty.

Bob climbed the ladder to the overstock area and passed sump pumps down to Anne. The eager crowd grabbed the sump pumps before she could set them down. Another wave of people entered the plumbing aisle and Anne called the manager for help, but wasn’t able to convince him to participate.

A continuous onslaught of people bombarded the two workers. Anne asked Bob what she should do to help and Bob quickly subdivided their workload. He sold the sump pumps, connectors and pipes, while Anne sold immersible utility pumps and hoses.

Another surge of people overwhelmed Bob with foolish questions. Their urgent agenda didn’t allow time for listening to Bob’s expert advice in solving their crisis. He acquiesced to their foolish demands, knowing they’d return within the hour.

Anne knew the ramifications and called the manager. She demanded that he help in the plumbing aisle or send two employees in his place. She hung up, to help another handful of people, before he could respond. Anne shifted over to yet another group needing help and noticed that the manager stepped into the far end of the aisle, helped one person and then left.

A short lull hit the aisle for a few minutes. During that time the manager returned and pulled Anne for other duties. He had her move cleaning supplies to the front of the store for the people’s anticipated return after their projects were finished.

Anne started setting up a display and noticed more people headed to the plumbing aisle. She immediately headed back to plumbing and the manager asked where she was going. She replied, “The aisle is filled with customers and I have to help Bob.” The manager responded in a shocked tone, ”Really?” As Anne disappeared into the aisle, the manager shouted out, “I’ll support that.”

Bob and Anne continued handing out various pumps until the shelves and overstock areas were empty – fifteen minutes past the store’s closing time.

I walked slowly toward checkout and heard the manager start to chum around with the two workers, as if he had participated in the workload. Then he exclaimed, “I can’t understand why hardly any of the pumps from the palette I put up front sold.”

“What?” shrieked Bob. “We told customers that we were out. Why would you take them up front?”

“To save them a trip to the plumbing aisle,” said the manager.

Bob countered, “But they’d have to come to plumbing anyway for the connectors.”

The next day, I purchased cleaning supplies and bumped into Bob and suggested the night before was kind of crazy.

Bob Responded, “Yeah, we sold close to a years worth of sump pumps in one night.”

“It’s a good thing you had help,” I reminded him.

“You’re not kidding,” he said. “I had just made the decision to quit and walk out, but I stopped when Anne started helping me. She was a godsend.”

“That wouldn’t have been too good of an idea, would it?” I questioned.

“What else could I do,” Bob exclaimed. “I was going crazy and my supervisor refused to help. I don’t need this kind of pressure in my life with what little I get paid. Besides, I learned this morning that there were several employees last night sitting on their hands because their departments didn’t have any customers.”

I felt for Bob and Anne. They would‘ve benefited from a Learning Leader – A leader who commits to three ideas in supporting their employees.

THE PERSON IN NEED DEFINES WHAT SUPPORT LOOKS LIKE

A Learning Leader seeks the advice of the expert in order to streamline workflow and avert crisis. Bob was the only expert that could determine the best way to handle the unexpected demand brought on by the flood. Taking advantage of the moment to learn what things should and should not happen during a future crisis will make the Learning Leader invaluable.

Bob was also the only one who could assign tasks to get everyone through the crisis. When Anne volunteered, he quickly assigned her something simple based on her background or lack thereof. Bob knew what items required Q&A to determine the best solution and what items could be supplied with little information. He was the only one in a position to define what help looked like for a volunteer.

DOING YOUR OWN THING TO HELP IS NO HELP AT ALL

The manager had no idea that he hindered sales by moving sump pumps to the front of the store – Out of sight for those making a beeline to the plumbing aisle. His idea to help the customer avoid the crowds was illogical because of the needed connectors. Had he first asked Bob, “What can I do to help?” Bob would’ve told him to hunt for every pump in the overheads and loading dock, and bring it to the middle of the aisle for customers.

The Learning Leader would’ve gained the knowledge that in a crisis everyone heads to where the answer resides, not where the product is stored. The vast majority of people headed to the expert to learn what they needed from the shelf. A Learning Leader would’ve realized that his expert was important to the customer looking for a solution, which could then be pulled from the shelf by any volunteer.

GIVE KUDOS TO EMPLOYEES FOR AVERTING (NOT SURVIVING) A CRISIS

Comraderie is common after a crisis especially if the employees commiserate together. However, its more profitable for the manager to encourage everything the employees did in advance that prevented a greater crisis. These elements can be easily picked up by a manager willing to listen to what could’ve been done better or what was averted because of Bob’s common practices.

A Learning Leader would immediately follow up a crisis with questions about what worked well and what daily preparation diminished the crisis. This is the opposite of the manager looking for attention. He would rather speak of how he and his team put out a fire – The sexy thing to do when vying for a promotion.

Only leaders that are willing to learn from their people know how to manage during a crisis. They learn what helps and doesn’t hinder. They also gain wisdom for next year’s crisis.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers