10 tips to build terrific virtual teams

herding catsHaving tried and tested principles to guide you through the mire of leading virtual teams- technical and non-technical alike.

You know, the kind of teams that are use to operating within geographical, functional or individual silos,  don’t communicate with each other and so on.  .

This time I’ve bowed out and the left the writing to team turnaround titan, Amit Eitan.

In his roles as CIO, VP Consulting and Global Programme Director, Amit has been working with and leading organisations and teams around the world, creating cats that hit and often, exceed targets, so that less time has to be spent herding them.

Below,  Amit focusses on the 10 top tips that can turn make a difference to how teams relate to others, which is as important as technical savvy if you want to achieve results.

 

1.  Identity:

Establish team identity – be it through the project they are working on or the IT organization they are member of – through a clear and simple mission statement.

Companies often think that the IT teams are so absorbed by the technical world, that they have no interest in what they’re doing it for, when actually they often appreciate being guided.  This can instill a sense of purpose, which, when incorporated into identity and mission can be highly motivational.

 

2. Common goals:

Establish clear and measurable goals, milestones etc. for the team as a whole and the individuals within the team.

 

3. Effective organization:

Define a clear organization, roles & responsibilities that is allows for the individuals to excel and get the best out of themselves, as a team and as individuals.

 

4. Empowerment:

Make team members genuinely feel empowered, focus on the WHAT not the HOW.  I don’t mean an away day with lots of cheering and baseball caps, although I have nothing against joy and tasteful head wear.  This is about allowing your people to follow through on their ideas and manage projects/tasks the way they see fit – within reason and giving a suitable level of guidance, as required.

 

5. Effective Communications culture:

Establish clear and pragmatic team communications plan (status calls/meetings, etc.), foster a culture where team members at all levels openly raise opinions and ideas, and challenge others even if they are more senior. Create a culture of talking rather than writing and walk the talk !

 

6. Be WITH the team:

Lead from the front – be integral part of the team, be with them in the trenches, especially in challenging times. Be approachable beyond the cliché. Make sure you spend sufficient time with ALL team members, not only those in the center (HQ).

 

7.  Recognition:

Continuously and publicly recognize achievements, of the team as a whole and individuals within the team, making sure senior management and stakeholders are informed in also in the presence of the team (be it in writing, phone or meeting).

 

8. Rewards:

Define and implement a fair incentive plan in line with project/team goals.   This is not necessarily about a big fat bonus, (cue ‘sigh of relief’).  There are many ways to incentivize:  a social occasion, vouchers, free membership to an online or offline portal or publication, days off in-lieu etc.

 

9. Performance:  

Regularly review team and individual performance and do NOT hesitate to make necessary changes when required, even if those are not popular in some quarters.

 

10. Fun:

Make sure the fun bit is not forgotten, find the way for the team to have fun too alongside the day to day job !

 

Amit Eitan: 

 

Amit Eitan

 

Amit Eitan’s entrepreneurial stamina and charismatic leadership have always inspired  organisations, peers and partners to peak performance, teamwork and collaboration, while his easy-going sense of humour has always played a defining role in bringing out the best in everyone and mobilising them to achieve stretch goals.  To find out more about Amit’s roles as   CIO, VP Consulting and Global Programme Director, you can look him up and get in touch with him here.

 

 

5 reasons to avoid a promotion

The poisoned chaliceSuch is the reward for being good at your job: the poisoned chalice is all yours.   Going from numbers, codes and mechanisms to the murky world of people is like jumping from being a great Mechanical Engineer to Chief Architect.   The skills needed for one role seem to have no bearing on the other.

As you stare into the screen and bite your lip, you realise 5 reasons that you should have said ‘no’ to the offer of a step up:

 

No. 1

Suddenly I’m managing my peers.  I used to sit and take the p*ss out of management, complaining about stuff with them.  Now I realise that: a) I’m going to have to get rid of Bob/Jo/Mo if they don’t buck up their performance b) they expect me to do something about whatever we were grumbling about.  As some of those concerns were related to difficult people, I’d rather be playing Candy Crush Saga and not making difficult decisions.”

If you avoid a problem, you could risk this becoming a crisis, so it’s important you know what to challenge and when. With a few techniques and help in developing understanding about how your teams work, instead of avoiding challenging conversations, you’ll learn to face them with confidence.   That doesn’t mean you’ll bound out of bed in the morning, elated at the thought of slapping your colleagues down (although I know one or two who rather warm to this idea). However, the dread does subside and a clearer sense of resolve results.  The outcome is greater respect from those around you.

 

No. 2

This leads to my second quandary.  I’m now appearing at Senior Management Meetings and have to prove myself but they’ve an entirely different way of conducting meetings and it’s all so political.  It’s like an episode of The West Wing, and I’m nothing more than the notepad, such is my ability to influence them.”

There are many techniques for influence and persuasion, some of which you’ll find here.  Every situation is different and yours is unique so you may need help in getting clarity on your specific situation.  It’s worth thinking about how you the impression you may be giving others, non-verbally as well as verbally.

 

No. 3

They’re talking to me about Business Development.  What?  Was I trained in a souk?  How the hell am I meant to go from code to drumming up business.  What are Sales and Marketing doing?”

They need you to translate the technolingo to suppliers, distributors, resellers etc.  and you’ll probably be doing 121 and team meetings and presentations, if not already, very soon.  Also, if you were to look at who you’ve already been working with, you’d realise you’re the best person to make the contacts: people know you and trust you.   Building on that secures opportunities for you and your team.  Even if you understand the rationale behind Business Development in your position, one IT Director with whom I was working with was at a loss at to how he could gain from networking.  With a bit of coaching he was able to recoup the £1000s he was spending on a major trade annual networking event in won business and surprised himself by having a lot of fun in the process.

 

No. 4

I’m hiding behind two 22 inch computer screens at the moment but I know they’re going to find me.  I can’t run and I can’t hide.  I’m now accountable to the forces that be for how my team perform.”

Managing up, as well as across and sideways are essential skills for you to develop if you don’t want to be that supplicant, begging to your boss for mercy as you see a metaphorical blade in suspense above your head.  Get good at the managing up and it will help you manage down and across.

 

No. 5

Apparently, my focus needs to shift from detail to ‘big picture’: manageable short term tasks to reach those obscure long term goals.”

Suddenly, you have to be more bi-lingual than you were before, being able to understand the large goals, how they translate into your remit and spread this across to your people.  Motivation is increased when you know why you’re doing something and it’s meaningful.  This also means, a finer grasp of the relationships between departments.

All 5 of the toxins in the poisoned chalice have one characteristic in common:  communicating with others.  It’s not the technical challenges but how you handle others to achieve that’s more important in a new role.

Ella Fitzgerald created a message especially for you but Bananarama’s is the version that I sing to, so here they are (and, oh my, you’ll just love the hair!):

 

 

Click here to see how I’ve worked with different teams to get them back on track in their interpersonal communication.

Give them a Wallop!

Sock it to them!

Sock it to them!

Getting cut short in your prime

You get in front of senior management, having prepared your 30 minute presentation, having practised your body language, eye contact and tricks to engage the audience.  You’re ready to go: all psyched up and beating with adrenalin.

OK.  That’s what you imagined.  One participant on my 2-day Knock Out Presentations course asked:

“What happens once in the Board Room when they’re running late, like they always do.  You’re 10 minutes from the end of the meeting and you’re asked to spit out your message there and then”

Here’s what you can do:

  • Tell them exactly what you want – but without the rationale you’re more likely to get refused;
  • Whizz through your slides, talking twice as fast.  You’ll sound like Mickey Mouse on amphetamines and they’ll take in nothing.
  • Chuck your handouts across the table – if you’re lucky they’ll go through them before forgetting about the contents. The worst scenario is that the pages will be made into paper planes flying towards the recycling bin.

 

Walloping the Board when you’ve little time

Instead, try this technique, ‘The Wallop, Down, Up, Please’ approach. Before I explain, I would love to take the credit for this but must, reluctantly, give this to Andy Bounds author of the ‘Snowball Effect, Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable’. My pride is dented but I hope to get Karma points for not saying it’s my own original invention…

Here we go:

1. Wallop – Give the impact of the situation, usually negative. This hits the ‘pain’ button, telling the audience the impact of not doing something;

2. Down – Make the situation worse (“And, as a result, this will also happen…”);

3. Up – Give the alternative that improves the situation;

4. Please – Now make your request

 

 

And an example:

1. Wallop – We’re spending £230,000 per month on X

2. Down – Even worse, the number will increase over the next couple of months. Projected needless waste will cost £2.8 million this year. This will increase to over £5.6 million in the next couple of years.

3. Up – We can reduce these costs by over 75% – that’s a potential saving of over £4 million – by implementing x (Spend 2-3 minutes explaining your proposal, using ‘What, Where, When, How)

4. Please – Given that successful implementation could deliver £4 million of savings, please can I ask you to Action X?

 

(Thanks, Andy, for your example. You may nick my model below for your next book).
A similar model is the PROEP, so you’ve got two tools you can use when they say “Sorry, but could you just give us a quick overview. We’ve run out of time.”

You can find the PROEP structure here.

What do you do when you need to get your point across quickly?

Got a request you want to wedge into this structure?

Let me know in the comments!

Speech, the Greatest Barrier to Communication

Over those millions of years since the Big Bang, many believe that evolution has done a rather spiffing job of turning us into the creatures we are today. We learned how to walk, to think, to learn, to fight and all in the name of survival. But why did we learn to talk and use language?

If we look at the modern human, it would appear that talking is a method of communication that aims to avoid any communication at all. With speech, we all have the ability to talk nonsense with friends, tell lies and generally blur the lines between conversation and noise.

Has this conversation ever happened between you and your boss?

Your boss: “Is the report ready?”

You: “Nearly!”

In this example, the ability to speak meant you replied without replying. If it weren’t for speech, you would have needed to say no. Probably by banging your club on the ground and not presenting a report you would have accomplished this.

This is all made so much clearer when we look at politics

Interviewer: “Is your party going to reduce interest rates next year?”

Politician: “Interest rates form part of our policy and following consultations with stakeholders a white paper will be released”

If the politician began humming whilst simultaneously releasing their belt buckle, they would have conveyed the same amount of information. But they didn’t, they decided to fill the gap with a combination of words that could have been the answer to any question ever asked about interest rates since 1973.

The fact of the matter is, speaking is not necessarily communication!

Take this excerpt from the popular 1980s TV programme, Yes, Prime Minister for example.

Although many fantastic words are used, they convey nothing more than one simple fact. The communication can be made in two words but a long speech is used. Of course this example uses exaggeration for comic effect, but many politicians of the time could relate to it.

It appears that the most versatile and potentially specific form of communication we have as humans is the one we use to confuse, deflect and mislead with!

How do you dig between opaque comments, bland statements and meaningless words? Firstly, you need to acquire the self-confidence to cut through the language.

An Admiral on a nuclear submarine, new to her role, sat her first meeting and understood none of the gobbledegook and acronyms that were being banded around the table with utter conviction. She asked questions about specifics, exact meanings and precise definitions. The trick was doing this in a way which seemed neither challenging or naive.

It soon became as clear as day that those people, at that meeting on a submarine carrying enough power to blow large parts of the world to radioactive dust, had little understanding of the discussion.

I’ve seen this with educators, engineers and technical experts at all levels. Radioactive disaster was not the potential danger here, however it did make you wonder how they all did a job when nobody understood each other.

Challenging with confidence is very much about knowing which questions to ask and how. Consultants need this, colleagues must acquire this task to manage their peers and suppliers need this with the same urgency as buyers, educators and their students.

Clear language shows a clear head and asking questions and the techniques of reflecting back, reading body language and voice intonation help to unearth any lack of clarity.

In the words of Beatrix Potter, “The shorter and the plainer the better.”

And when greeted by vague language, high-blown phrases or jargon, use your right to refine the art of questioning, a skill which is as vital as giving the right answers.

Have a look here at the programmes designed to help you and your people develop this ability.

Got an experience of being mislead with language?  Have a query about how to get behind the words?

COMMENT OR QUERY BELOW AND I WILL GET BACK TO YOU!  

 

 

 

5 New Boardroom Phrases That Disguise Incompetence

The 70s gave us unfortunate fashion, the 80s gave us questionable music tastes and the 90s brought along a whole raft of phrases for the boardroom that don’t actually mean anything.

If you’ve ever cringed at the moment you were encouraged to “think outside the box” or when bringing up a harsh reality being asked “how can the sky be the limit when there are footprints on the moon?”, you can always start introducing these new beauties either for comic effect or just plain fun.

1) “Tickle the salmon!”

A salmon has a strange existence which for all intents and purposes isn’t incredibly interesting. Tickling the salmon is about turning a boring situation into a happy occasion and is suitable for management decisions concerning monotonous work.

An example:

“Morale is low amongst the sales team downstairs”

“How can we tickle the salmon here?”

“We could loosen their straightjackets…”

2) “How can the sky be the limit when Einstein’s theory of general relativity states otherwise?”

If somebody is getting a little bit “creatively pumped” you snap them back to reality quite quickly with this little “never appropriate” number. You’ll get some funny looks yourself but it will take the focus off Mr Cliché.

An example:

“Let’s do some blue sky thinking, the sky is the limit!”

“How can the sky be the limit when Einstein’s theory of general relativity states otherwise?” Well…?

[Silence]

3) “Let’s create a problem onion”

All problems can be broken down into smaller problems that need to be solved before the main issue can be addressed so creating a problem onion helps us see that we need to attack an issue layer by layer. The word “onion” has no place in corporate doublespeak so it can help you stand out.
“Our employee turnover is very high compared to five years ago”

“It’s because of the new hiring policy”

“Which came in after we shuffled the HR department”

“Woah, there’s obviously a root cause here, let’s create a problem onion and work this out step by step”

4) “Let’s five-why it!”

To really find out where the problem lies, you should ask yourself “why” five times in a row and it’s likely you’ll end up with something closer to the real issue.

Saying “why” constantly at your sales director is likely to lead to your P45 being on your desk the following morning so we need a new way of introducing this idea at the board meeting.

“The flingle flangle no longer works and the meta-flump collapsed this morning. What’s going on?”

“Let’s five-why it!”

“I know what that means, let’s do that!”

5) “Down is the new up”

When sales figures are terrible and there’s no other way to justify it, you can act like it’s a good thing and quote “down is the new up”.

You can follow with, “this business has been successful year on year since 1976, are you scared of a little change? In recessionary Britain, down is the new up”

4 Jobs Guaranteed to be Worse than Your Own

You may feel unmotivated, unexcited, and unable to open your eyes at your desk. You’re begging for an apocalypse on your commute.

Granted, there are some rather poor jobs out there and managers aren’t always natural born leaders. But if we step back a few years (or a few hundred), you’ll realise that your yearly appraisal isn’t actually the worst day of your life.

1) Leech Collector

It can be tough in an office environment. The window may be sealed shut, the air conditioning may be broken and Sarah has had a cold since last week and refuses to take any time off.

Why not put all of this aside and become a leech collector? You’ll be walking through marshes and bogs using your delicious blood supply as bait for leeches which you’ll sell to the medial profession. It’s not all glamorous though, you’ll routinely suffer from infections and the excessive blood loss will in due course damage your health. But what job comes without a few kinks?

2) Fuller

Have you ever wanted to become closer to nature and experience the great outdoors for a living? Become a fuller, and get yourself out of that lifeless office!

Once the shearer has deprived the sheep of their wooly coat, your job will be to saturate it with urine and constantly tread it with your feet. The end result is a lovely piece of cloth that you can be proud of.

You can’t argue that this job takes the p***, it requires you to use it skilfully as a cheap alkaline solution.

3) Violin Maker

If music is more your thing, become an 18th century violin maker. You’ll have the pleasure and pride that comes with being part of the noble art of constructing the instrument of the gods.

The 18th century was a time of religious strife and civil upheaval but you could easily put this to the back of your mind whilst cutting into a dead sheep to recover the lower intestine for use as strings.

Cleaning out the intestines thoroughly and squeezing out the bile by hand is most certainly a doddle compared to creating that presentation for the Oxford account next week. And don’t forget, manually scraping off the blood vessels can be considered therapeutic in some way. Just like ironing, or hepatitis.

4) Match Maker

This job is only suitable for those who are not fond of their jaw bone. People who require the ability to chew need not apply.

Spend your day dipping short pieces of wood into a vat of phosphorus. We know this sounds too good to be true, which is why you’ll be doing it in a room that those unlucky folk outside can’t see. We know they’ll want in on the action.

You’ll learn a lot about efficiency and space-saving measures as the dipping, drying, mixing and heating of the poisonous compounds are all done in this one room alongside you.

A trivial drawback to this position is you’ll likely end up with what the regulars call “phossy jaw” in which you’ll develop a toothache and then your jaw will start to glow because of the phosphorus. It’s a problem easily solved however and the removal of your entire jawbone will eliminate all issues moving forward. Every cloud has a silver lining – at least you won’t be surrounded by chatterboxes! We know you hate it when Paul keeps bringing up his holiday in Tenerife.

4 steps to kick ass in 5 minutes

beontarget

Hit the target in Job Interviews

You’ve researched and practised all the really important questions for your impending interview— and then, as soon as you’ve sat down, they hit you with it:

“Tell me about yourself.”

You knew you’d get that, but why prepare for it? It’s only a warm-up question.

Well, actually it’s not.

Sure, while some interviews might ask it to break the ice or because they don’t know what else to ask, most people ask it for a reason: to get a quick idea of whether or not you’re right for the job.

Really, if you get this right, the rest is just filling in time.

So, instead of regurgitating your cover letter or rambling on about your year spent trucking around Asia, or your home renovation project,  follow this four-step process to impress the interviewer in the first 5 minutes.

 

1. Identify the competencies you want to show

Go through the role description and jot down how you can match your experience with the required competencies.  For example:

Project Manager:

What they want (the Competency)

What I’ve got (the Experience)

1.Work to understand the customer’s point of view

 

 

 

 

2. Devising and maintaining complex project plans

  • client request to introduce completely new system in order to cut transaction process time by 30%.  Persuaded them to better use existing systems.  This decreased client spend by 20% and cut transaction process time by 40%

 

  •  with xxxx client, liaised with 3 teams on 2 continents to draw up client project plan, to facilitate merger affecting 10,000 staff.  Liaised closely with project team and client to keep them informed of scope, budget and timing changes.  Teams completed project to time and in budget despite client scope change throughout the project.

 

For each competency, you may have a few examples, maybe mixing up the personal with the professional to vary the stories you tell.

 

 2. Choose stories that show your competencies

Once you’ve identified the competencies that the role requires, you’ll want to match them up to three points relating to your own experience.  To start with, pick three of the following to talk about:

  • A personal achievement
  • A professional achievement
  • A (future) professional challenge/A (future) personal challenge
    (something you will be dealing with and need to solve e.g. getting your Prince II exam; keeping cohesive communication when new partners enter the picture)
  • Hobbies and interests – you may wonder why this is relevant but remember they’re taking ‘you’ on as an individual and they want to see if culturally you are the right fit.

 

Mix up the personal and professional

Using examples from the both social and professional spheres helps interviewers see if you’d fit into the cultural framework of the business.

For example, with a ‘future professional challenge’, for a Business Development role, you may mention your desire to forge stronger links with local businesses both on and off-line.

For the same role, mentioning your solo hiking trips reflects resilience as you reach your goal: 15 km, 3 valleys and 2 mountains down the coastal path.

Note that many of these experiences may not be on your CV.  You are more than a couple of sheets of a resume so build in what’s not on there or embellish what is.  You’ll be on your way to standing out from the other candidates.

Example outline

So for a Project Management role, you may mention:

1)   a personal achievement – your own wedding plan

  1. what you organised
  2. timescale
  3. challenges

2)   a professional challenge – setting up a department abroad,

  1. how many people involved, timescale,
  2. extent of your responsibilities
  3. any particular obstacles e.g. lack of resource and mention solution

3)      personal interests and hobbies.

  1. Your hiking
  2. Sightseeing
  3. painting

 

3. Add ‘a tail’

At the end of each section of the “Tell me about yourself” question, draw out more explicitly the competencies that you’ve demonstrated with a simple sentence—a “tail” to your story.

This way, you’re making it more obvious to the interviewer how you meet the needs of the role for which you’re interviewing. Many people can feel uncomfortable with this because they think it sounds like bragging, but using the following phrases at the beginning of the ‘tail’ can help you:

  1. “So, what I learned from this was… ”
  2. “This helped me to develop… ”
  3. “What I got from the experience was… ”

 

Tailing in the examples I covered above could look like this:

 

  • “I learned how I could apply my knowledge of motivating people to real situations and ones where there was a genuine risk.”

or

  • “This helped me to develop the ability to plan projects in fine detail.”

 

This way, you’re bringing the story full circle, ticking the boxes for your interviewer and, sounding less braggy than if you’d said “I’m obviously highly resourceful and an excellent leader.”

 

 4. Plan the introductory sentence

I’ve put the ‘intro’ sentence as the last step because this part is generally easier to draft at the end, even though it will be your beginning.

This is the sentence (or two) that introduces the whole piece, acting as a springboard for your three stories.

A good way to come up with this is to think how you’d complete one or two of the sentences below:

“I have a background in…’; I trained at..’, ‘I’ve had several roles in..for…’

then go into your first story, marked in the example below with the last sentence:

“Since leaving college, I have had several roles in both online and offline business development for start-ups and big corporates. I think one of my greatest challenges was…”

 

5. In a nutshell

  1. Firstly, define the defined competencies, before picking the three areas you’ll talk about that show off these competencies.
  2. Make sure you conclude each section with the tail, so that you tick the boxes for the interviewer.
  3. Finally, then, and only then, write your ‘intro sentence’

 

You’ll have the interviewer eating out of your hand in the time it takes to boil an egg.

 


 

The Job Interview Translation

We’ve all been there, sat in a job interview, heart pounding, palms sweaty awaiting the impending doom of the first question.

And then it arrives…

 “How was your journey here today?”

Your chest tightens, you feel like you’re at Guantanamo Bay. What do they mean? Are they assessing your ability to navigate? Are they probing you for your capability of making small talk? Is the prostate exam next?

 

There is the distinct possibility that they may actually be asking you if your journey was eventful or otherwise. But we’ll gloss over that fact and translate some potentially cryptic interview questions from “interview speak” into English for humans.

 

When they say: “So, tell me about yourself.”

 

They mean: “Please take this early opportunity to destroy your chances of working here. Here’s a noose.”

 

 

When they say: “You seem to have a gap in your employment history, could you tell me about that?”

 

They mean: “What did you go to prison for?”

 

 

When they say: “What’s your greatest weakness?”

 

They mean: “I googled ‘interview questions’ 10 minutes ago when I remembered you were coming. I insist you humour me and my tortuous job title”

 

 

When they say: “Why do you want to work here?”

 

They mean: “Obviously the money’s great and you get a swivel chair, but I need you to put your head in my backside for a few minutes. Go ahead.”

 

 

When they say: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

 

They mean: “Despite that fact that I know the outcome of this interview will change your answer, and that you’re not thinking far beyond this Friday evening, please pull out your crystal ball and answer my question.

 

 

In an economy with so many people applying for so few positions, the pressure is really on in interviews as the chances are whatever experience you have, there’s somebody else who has been doing it longer and knew how to polish their shoes better than you.

Going into an interview with some coaching can put the odds in your favour as being prepared can make you feel confident and collected, two qualities that can make even the most unlikely candidates look appealing.

What’s More Important in Your Presentation? Content or Delivery?

Rubbish wrapped in a ribbbon?

Rubbish wrapped in style?

Presentation day looming? You’re Eddie Izzard, you’re Margaret Thatcher, you’re a children’s storyteller! Unless your aim is to induce a coma on your poor audience, your presentation needs to be more than just words. Your job is to entertain, to enlighten and most importantly, get your message across.

It’s not uncommon to be nervous about speaking in front of a group, but a sizeable chunk of these nerves can be put to one side if you’re prepared and know your stuff. You want to be able to walk out in front of your audience and before you’ve even said a word, convey the message – “shut your mouths and listen to my face, I’m wonderful!”

Of course, you should never say this out loud.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas that emphasise the importance of the delivery.

 

Does Your Powerpoint Presentation Have More Personality Than You?

Slideshow software is fantastic for demonstrating key points and showing information in a clear and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s a substitute for human interaction and end up giving their audience nothing but lumbar pain and an unnatural compulsion to book in with a Swiss clinic.

In the world of academia, Stephen Ceci, a university professor at Cornell improved his evaluations over two terms simply by changing the way in which he delivered the content. What’s noteworthy is that the content did not change, only the delivery. In the second term of teaching, with a new group of students, he added more gestures, used his tone of voice tactically and generally become more enthusiastic when lecturing.

After he introduced new delivery techniques, the following happened:

  • The professor was perceived as being a more effective lecturer
  • He was considered to be more open, to others’ ideas
  • He was viewed as being more organised
  • Even Ceci’s textbooks were perceived to be 20% better than with previous classes
  • The students’ believed had learned more

But the content didn’t change, just the delivery. Are you getting the point?

 

Men! Evolution Not Your Cup of Tea?

According to primary school history lessons, men used to spend their days fighting wild animals and eventually eating them. But unless you’re from certain parts of the country, chances are you’ve evolved and now chase fewer beasts through the street.

Men, unless an irate pterodactyl is gazing at you from behind the whiteboard, there’s really no need to cover your throat with your hand. This is a primitive gesture that men make when faced with a threat, which a few thousand years ago may well have been an angry bird with serrated teeth but nowadays it could equally be Jane from accounts who is eager to talk to you about the Weatherspoons receipts you submitted on expenses.

Either way, when you’re trying to instill a sense of confidence in your audience, gestures like this will not be welcomed. Another example is the “penalty shoot out pose” where your legs are shoulder width apart and your hands covering your crotch. This is absolutely fine if you’re delivering your presentation 18 yards from the goalposts at Wembley, not so great if you’re living in the real world.

 

Women, Are You Shrinking?

Standing with your feet together like you’re in choir practice is not a confidence builder for your audience.  And while we’re at it, leave your hair alone! Women tend to be guilty of this sin and often need to be told to adopt a more authoritative stance.

 

To Sum it All Up

The fact of the matter is, your audience is human and as such will fail to separate the delivery from the content, which is why it’s your responsibility to deliver the right content in the right way. A presentation should be seen as a way to add some flavour to what you’re trying to say so there’s no excuse for delivering what could be said using words on a page. Text is vanilla, presentations are mint choc chip.

 

To see what we did to shape up content and delivery in academia and business, click here for the case studies

 

Toilets, Tea and Inspiration

Gimme the Gamma Mama

You may think he's doing nothing but he's being creative.

You may think he’s doing nothing but he’s being creative.

“Just think about it deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face.” Donald Draper, Season One, ‘Mad Men’.

Even though the TV series, ‘Mad Men’ was about the world of advertising, it does explain why we get some of our best ideas whilst walking to the toilet, doing the washing up or getting into the car.

The lightbulb moment is really an unforced revelation of the sub-conscious.  Whether you call this being creative or resourceful, we all need to know how to solve problems and get ideas.

So, how do we encourage this ‘unforced revelation’ that leads to a bright idea?

Get your Gamma going

In order to get those ideas flowing, you’ve got get your Gamma going.

Gamma waves start in the chunk of the brain in the right neo-cortex, the part of the brain that understands the unconscious, metaphors, jokes and dreams.

Scans have shown that gamma activity signifies new connections between neurons, the formation of new pathways in the brain.

If you want to see where the Gamma waves start, look below: hopefully, this is what your brain looks like:

Hopefully, your brain looks like this.

Hopefully, your brain looks like this.

 

Gamma brain waves are involved in higher mental activity and consolidation of information. The spike, emanating from the right part of the brain, could fire off new pathways in any part of the brain.

To get the gamma going, the best state for this is to generate Alpha brain waves, the energy level that happens when you feel relaxed and open.

That’s why when you play, feel relaxed, or are doing something other than working on ‘the problem’, you get your best idea.

It’s the moment you give up racking your brain and walk to the loo, then ‘ping!’, you have a light bulb moment.

The very act of switching ‘off’, has actually allowed other parts of the brain to switch ‘on’.

Do as Draper says:

1) immerse yourself in the problem;
2) relax/go for a walk/make a drink;
3) The idea will suddenly creep into your head. No need to reach out for it.

So the question is, when you get stuck with issues, how do you or your teams find a way through? Do you use ‘play’ or ‘letting go’ in your idea generation? Alternatively, what specific techniques do you find generate ideas and solutions?

Let me know below and join the discussion below!

See you in those comments!