The best businesses have Executives that focus on two functions:
1) The processes that help the business run seamlessly, both internally for it’s employee’s sake…and externally for their customer’s sake.
2) People. At first glance, that likely seems obvious, but it’s what you do with them and how you make them feel. Fostering an environment that people WANT to be in… and can thrive in. Many times, the processes put in place have a direct effect on this.
Most people have a tendency to lean one way or the other. They are either really good at setting up processes…or really good with people.
The best executives can do both.
That’s where I want to live and I wanted to share my thoughts & experiences as I continue to work my way towards being able to do both of those functions really well.
I’ve written in the past about the importance of spending time alone (and enjoying it). This is a time for reflection. A time for analyzing past experiences and planning for new ones. Why did something happen? What do I need to do in order to be ready for tomorrow’s call? What will happen because of X and how it will affect the next X years, etc. etc. It’s largely NOT about being in the present. You’re either looking backwards or forwards. At first, this may not be an enjoyable place to be, as it will be just you and your thoughts…and trust me, those thoughts can go in any direction real quick and can be hard to shut off. The caveat? It’s a safe zone. You can write down plans, give a presentation in front of the mirror, write a nasty letter to someone who will never receive it, etc.
This is important. If you look at the US military, they train and train and train as if they are at war at all times. We’re going to do the same thing. There is always a presentation to be ready for. There is always a client to sell. There is always a person who needs help. Anticipating and being ready for that is all about process.
At the same time, we need to be able to act on these thoughts and processes. This is all about being in the present. What’s the point of all those thoughts if you aren’t going to share them or try to enact them throughout an organization?.. and it’s heavily focused on people. The presentation you prepared for is for an audience. The sales process you outlined is to help sales people sell better. The pitch you outlined is for a company to use your product or service. This is not the time for thought. It’s the time for engagement. We need to make the people on the other end of these processes feel good or move forward in some way.
The caveat here? The safe zone is gone. We’re in real time, baby!.. and anything can happen! This is the time for wearing it all on your sleeve and improvising.
What’s interesting to me about this, is if you want the best responses, you need to be ready…and that comes from the head. Without both of these functions, you’ll just be in front of a group of people bumbling nonsense. I think this is one reason why a lot of sales people fail or never make it as a true manager of relationships…
I’ll share two examples from my experience that has helped me grow in these areas.
A trip to Brazil
A few years ago, I was in Brazil for a sales training session regarding salesforce.com. I had planned the presentation. I had run through the entire process, at work, at home, in coffee shops and on the plane. I had my passport ready. I had timed out the length it would take me to get to the airport, park my car, get through security. What I would do on the airplane. I told myself to be ready for something to go wrong (and wondered what that might be) I ran through it 25+ times. The night before I left, there was nothing to do but wait, and I tossed and turned with anxiety wondering about everything that could go wrong. The alarm went off at 6 am, I got up, showered and grabbed my suitcase and was out the door. My head was turned off and it was all heart from there. Was I nervous about going to another country? Yes. Was I nervous about the 11 hour flight? Yes. Was I nervous the sales training would go bad and I’d suffer the repurcussions with my boss? Yes. None of that mattered anymore, though, as I had a job to do and I’d never have answers to these questions if I didn’t execute all my planning in the present.
I remember getting off the plane and being exhausted. I was in the Sao Paulo airport with a coworker from Mexico. No one looked or talked like me. We hailed a taxi to take us 2 hours inland. The culture shock was real. I didn’t know this place, nor did it know me. I could barely keep my eyes open. We got to the office and no one spoke English… and they were eager to begin. I hadn’t planned on giving the presentation that day, nor did I have a translator. Didn’t matter, it was Go time. We setup the projector and my coworker helped me translate the presentation. Suddenly a burst of energy overcame me. Everything went pretty well.
If I’d stopped to think about any of the things that were happening, who knows what would have happened. Being uncomfortable in an unknown land. Not being ready for translation. Being too tired to function. My head could have taken over and told me all of the things I couldn’t do. But I blocked it out. I had prepared everything and was determined to follow through. I did.
Every Presentation I’ve ever given
I enjoy public speaking and giving presentations. I receive lots of compliments on my ability to do so. Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m a natural, like I just love talking and being around people all the time. Truth be told, the only reason I’m good at giving presentations is because I prepare for all of them extensively.
The first step is outlining what I’m going to talk about. I then run through it 10+ times to make sure it’s flowing, telling a story and relevant to the audience. I then find an individual I admire and study one of their speeches. How they move. How they say certain words. When they pause. What they do when they make a mistake. I then try to incorporate some of that in my prep. This is the safe zone and all in my head. I can make as many tweaks as I want and mess up as many times as I want. I can hit the rewind button when something seems off or push fast forward when I think I’ve nailed it. Finally, I wonder what questions people will have for me and prepare answers for them.
When it comes time to actually give the presentation, I’m always nervous. There have been a few times right before I’ve gone on stage or been set to deliver where I’ve wished I could run the other way or just cancel the whole thing… and then something happens. About 5 seconds before it’s my time to deliver, everything slows down. There is a calming sensation. It’s me accepting that everything can either go really well..or terribly wrong and I’ll never know if I don’t go and deliver.
Rarely has a speech or presentation of mine ever gone exactly as planned. When you’re in front of an audience, there is no thought. It’s all delivery. It’s all heart. Sometimes things are out of order or don’t come out perfect, but because I’ve planned for it, I know what to do if a word comes out wrong, or I need to poke fun at myself, or restart a piece of it. It’s just me on a stage being a real person. When the questions come at the end, even if they aren’t quite what I expected, I can usually re purpose an answer from my prep. Do that a few times and then saying, “I’m not sure, but I can find out,” gives you enough credibility for future engagement.
What I find interesting about this is that occasionally I’m called on to give an answer or fill in for someone with no time to prepare. Usually I barf up an answer or bumble my through something that makes no sense.
So there you have it. Coming full circle, if you can work on both of these functions and incorporate them into your business roles…I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people take notice.