Thursday 24 October 2013

What To Do When You Aren't A Good Fit For An Opportunity

I was contacted about an opportunity that looked great. It was a speaking engagement at a business conference. The industry was new to me, but was going through massive change, which I knew well. 

The session title and synopsis referred to "change management" and the challenges it would discuss appeared to be ones I had experience in.

Over the weekend, I took a closer look at the session description and the conference agenda. Although "change" was referenced, objectives had little to do with the topic. The session was really about managing difficult relationships where few connections or little trust exists. It was a relationship management session. 

My a-ha moment quickly turned into a feeling of dread. My enthusiasm for an opportunity was leading me down a path I did not know. I had three options:

a) Do the presentation anyway
b) Negotiate a new topic that I was qualified to speak about
c) Decline the opportunity

a) Doing the presentation anyway appealed to my "can do" attitude. With time, research and determination I could figure it out. The problem is that I would be compromising the value I provide, devote an inordinate amount of time researching a topic I wasn't knowledgeable on and potentially damage my reputation. 

b) Negotiating a new topic could work but it wouldn't fit the themes of the conference so what would be the benefit? The poor fit of topic would compromise the value I could provide.

c) Declining the opportunity meant passing on an opportunity to share what I know with a group that might benefit from it. On the positive side, it would demonstrate honesty and integrity. This was the only credible option.

The next time an opportunity arises, I will ask better questions before I enthusiastically say "great". The most important one will be, "Is this a good fit for my skills, experience and goals? I know what I will say if the answer is no.


Friday 18 October 2013

If you didn't care about what people thought of you...

Last week, I presented at the Elevating Results conference. The audience was a good mix of private and public sector leaders and students.

The conference closed with a presenters' panel discussion. Questions had been submitted in advance along with ones taken from the floor.

It was exciting to be part of this group. All of my fellow presenters were highly-accomplished experts in their fields:
  • Ryan Walter, NHL hockey star; author of Hungry and  Fueling Your Best Game; President at Abbotsford Heat Hockey Ltd.
  • Lauren Friese, President and Founder at Talent Egg; awarded Top 100 Canada's Most Powerful Women by WXN, and many other business awards
  • Jocelyn Bérard, Author of Accelerating Leadership Development; VP Leadership and Business Solutions - International at Global Knowledge
  • Jason Atkins, CEO at 360incentives, winner second in the 2013 'Best Workplaces in Canada' awards
  • Jamie Allison, President and Founder at Epitome and conference MC
Ryan Walter
Someone from the audience asked about our leadership philosophies. Ryan finished his answer by mentioning that "He didn't care if someone liked him or what he did." He wished them well anyway." He said it with such confidence and conviction. 

The comment struck me and after the panel I asked Ryan when he came to this conclusion. He said that through his years in hockey and the constant feedback you get during them, he realized that to be great you have to focus on what you have to do and not worry about what people think of you. 

As I was driving home, I asked myself, "If you didn't care about what people thought of you would you do anything differently?" Part of a change manager's role is to call it when you see individuals or teams doing things that risk the success of their transitions, regardless of how unpopular or cross-cultural it is. It's your job, responsibility and duty. But would I do it differently?

My question really was, "Are you not doing things because you want to be liked?" I couldn't think of anything I would have done differently but I thought long and hard. Perhaps the lesson is that you need to keep testing yourself to make sure you are doing what you need to do. That sounds like a good leadership philosophy.


Friday 11 October 2013

Ten Ways to Give a Presentation Multiple Times (and Keep it Fresh!)

Yesterday, I completed a two-and-a-half week public speaking marathon: I gave nine presentations in Canada and England. My most intense day was on Tuesday when I gave three presentations across 2,000 miles in 23 hours. It was intense, long day.

One of the challenges of public speaking is keeping presentations engaging. Entertainers face a similar challenge. I remember a friend sharing a quote from Colm Wilkinson's when he was asked about playing the Phantom of the Opera every night He said, "You have to remember that each member of the audience is seeing your performance for the first time."

Mike Mandel, the master hypnotist who I had hired to coach a sales team said, "I always change 10 percent of my material so if people compare sessions they might share different things."

Here are my tips for keeping a presentation fresh every time you present it:

  • Create a bank of stories and examples to mix and match - from different industries and geographies, especially ones you don't know well
  • Customize your presentation for each audience - only present what they need
  • Make it interactive - poll the group, ask for examples, invite people to challenge your thinking
  • Use different exercises to achieve the same objectives
  • Vary the length of your presentation - this week I gave 45, 60 and 90 minutes sessions
  • Rewrite your slides - even the ones you love
  • Prepare different scenarios and ask your audience to pick the one that is most beneficial
  • Move the furniture around - rooms with or without tables have different dynamics
  • Change how you dress - I act differently when wearing a suit and tie
  • Change your introduction including how you represent yourself - the themes you present will carry throughout your presentation
The effort is worth it. I have never seen an audience get excited or inspired by a presenter who isn't excited or inspired. The good news is that you are already half way there; the audience members are seeing your material for the first time.


Friday 4 October 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Attend Conferences

I am writing this post at 12:30 am on a flight back to Toronto from London. The three-day Association of Change Management Professionals Europe conference was excellent. Although it is late, I am still on a post-conference high.

My role was to participate on a 'Best Change Management Books' panel and to lead a session called 'Helping Leaders Lead Change'. 

The panel was facilitated by an avid reader and partner of the CMC Partnership, and included a change management book commissioning editor from Kogan Page and a  partner in a firm that had just published a book called 'New Eyes: The Human Side of Change Leadership'. It was a great discussion and I learned a lot about publishing. 

My session went well. There were six other interesting sessions running in parallel so I wasn't sure if anyone would show up. They did and the room was full. 

Presenting to your community is a heightened experience. Given the expert knowledge and experience in the room, you are fortunate if it turns into an engaging dialogue. I didn't anticipate how much dialogue we had and had prepared too much information. The participants will have the extra slides, which hopefully is a bonus to them. 

Thanks to Luc Galoppin

I have not been a role model for investing time to learn. For most of my career, I was always 'too busy' to go to courses or conferences ̶ knowledge only came through experience and reading.

Conferences are essential for personal and business development. Here are my top ten reasons for attending conferences in your field:
  • Learn of advancements in your field ̶ e.g., neuroscience is still hot
  • Test and expand your perspectives
  • Understand what other businesses offer
  • Reconnect with friends
  • Grow your network
  • Reenergize you excitement for your profession
  • Take time to reflect, when learning takes hold
  • Learn of other conferences that would be good to attend (e.g., Berlin Change Days 2013)
  • Realize how much you don't know
  • Miss and appreciate your family
My next change management conference is in March. I know I will leave it wiser than I am now.