Monthly Archives: April 2008

Effective Presentation Design – what’s the evidence?

Thanks to Coert Visser for the link to the Evidence Based Management website. I’ve enjoyed the work of Professors Pfeffer and Sutton over the years.

Their Hard Facts book provides good evidence to dispel some of our persistent management myths.

The website’s guest column, from Associate Professor Abela, gives us

10 principles for evidence-based presentation design, grouped into two themes:

– spend more time perfecting the content and

– spend less time embellishing.

Its just-in-time information for a workshop on Presenting and Meeting Management Skills that I’m updating at the moment, so I’ll get back to work on the content to make sure it’s perfect!

The right thing vs the easy thing

Today I was talking with my father, who is an avid garage sale attendee. Dad told me about a small chest of drawers he’d bought last week from a pensioner. It cost him $30 (which is a big amount for my dad, who prides himself on going to garage sales with only gold coins in his pocket) and was filled with all sorts of drills and bits and pieces. When dad pulled the drawers out to wipe them over, he found a $50 note and a $20 note in the cavity underneath the bottom drawer.

Dad said to me, “I decided I’d have to return it, it’s the right thing to do, and mum agreed. Even though I could do with an extra $70, it didn’t seem right.”

He added that the gentleman was speechless when he went back to give him the money, which is an interesting reflection of our lowered expectations of others in today’s society.

This conversation echoes a theme that has been coming up in my workshops recently – the tension between the organisation / team’s aspirations and the tendency for managers to take the ‘easy way out’.

Continue reading

How to deal with Shafters

I was talking to a colleague recently about collaboration and we were lamenting how hard it is to stay in collaborative mode all the time. He said: “if I think they are a shafter, I go straight for the money – e.g, “sorry this is no longer a conversation, we are now consulting and my fee is…”.

It reminded me of the book “The New Negotiating Edge“, by Gavin Kennedy, who talks about red (shafting) and blue (collaborative) behaviour. Certainly many of my course participants want to know what to do when they have to deal with “shafters”.

The classic response pattern in game theory is “tit for tat”, which somehow got a bad name where I came from. Maybe it got overridden by the catholic mantra “turn the other cheek”, which a buddhist monk once described as strange behaviour. He said “I don’t understand this strange behaviour. If someone throw a rock at me, I duck”.

In essence tit-for-tat means: start co-operatively, then match the behaviour of the party you are negotiating with. If they behave co-operatively, so do you and if they behave competitively, so do you.

For more ideas, here’s a good article about how to deal with ‘shafters’ of all varieties.

Continue reading

Co-operative not Superior Specialists

I’m working with a client whose strategy was to hire the best specialists and throw them together to solve the problems faced by their clients. You can imagine the result – not quite what the founders imagined. It’s similar to the outcomes described by Dr Meredith Belbin, the creator of the Belbin Team Roles inventory, in his book Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail.

Unfortunately, there’s a dangerous tendency for specialists to also be superiorists -“I’m better than you are” and whilst I don’t know for sure, I suspect this organisation had a few of them.

It’s the same when the most technically expert person is promoted to a management role; their attitude is often “no one can do it as well as I can” and unfortunately, the staff get the communication loud and clear.

So what can we do in such a situation?

If you are the ‘superior specialist’, the key is to remind yourself that even if you can do better than others, you can’t necessarily do more than others, so you have to decide to what extent you are interested in quality and to what extent you are interested in achieving more than you alone can achieve, which is the power of team-based working.

From a team perspective, it’s useful to acknowledge that strengths come bundled together with weaknesses, so a good thinker is not necessarily good person with people and vice versa, but a team that has all bases covered can outperform any single-strength team, no matter how technically brilliant.

The Manager’s Toolkit – Modelling Excellence

“The tool kit of every innovator typically includes three things: questions, experiments, and self-reliance.” Scott Berkun.

We have been delving into our innovator’s toolkit in our business lately to ask the question:

“If higher self confidence encourages our clients to try new things, what development experiments can we create to allow them to build their confidence?”

It’s a bit of a catch-22, because the surface answer is “Any experiment that gets the manager to take action”.

One experiment that has been a bit of a success has been Modelling (copying) Excellence. We ask managers to “think of someone they admire and model their actions for ten minutes”. Think how you understand they think, speak how you’ve heard them speak, act how you’ve seen them act. It’s a great way of practicing new skills and the managers are amazed at how differently they act.

If you want to learn more about Modelling Excellence, our colleague, Cheryl Gilroy, will be in Sydney in May to demonstrate modelling in action. Phone Sharon on 02 9960 3700 if you would like more details.

Life’s a Garden

Thanks to colleague Meiron Lees for his reminder that summer is over and the analogy of life as a flower. My take on it is this:

Life is a garden. What you put your attention (water) on flourishes. Things you don’t water tend to grow up stunted in some way, except for those pesky, persistent weeds.

Take some time to make sure you are tending to the right thoughts and behaviours so that next spring you will watch amazing things flourish.