Problematic PowerPoint

There really isn’t a problem with PowerPoint. The problem is with how so many people use it.

PowerPoint was never intended to be used as a shield for uncomfortable or inexperienced presenters to hide behind. PowerPoint was not developed to be an entertainment tool or act as “filler” for an incomplete presentation. It also was most certainly not designed to be a presenter’s notes.

PowerPoint was developed to enhance a well thought out professional presentation. It is intended to help a speaker present complex concepts where a visual is indeed worth a thousand words.

PowerPoint when used as intended adds to a presentation, it is not the entire presentation.

If you’re playing peek-a-boo with your audience by turning your back on them to read slides then you’re misusing the tool. If you put up a slide and your first words are “I know you can’t see this but….” then you’re misusing the tool.

If you spend more time prettying up your slides then you invest in strengthening your presentation then you’re doing a great disservice to your audience.

If you can’t make an outstanding presentation without your PowerPoint slides then you might not be prepared to make a presentation. If your presentation can’t continue because a light bulb burns out on a projector then you might be using PowerPoint as a crutch.

I’ve seen hundreds of post meeting surveys. I’ve never once seen a speaker receive feedback that said their presentation was terrible but their slides were awesome. PowerPoint will not save a poorly prepared presentation.

Practice your presentation without your slides. Once you’re comfortable with your content and you’re able to explain your key points without assistance then you’re ready to prepare your visuals. That’s the surest way to ensure that your slides are not your presentation but only an enhancement to it.

We’ve all sat through “death by PowerPoint” presentations, the next time you’re in front of a group make sure you’re not the one doing the killing.

It’s 2020! Can You See Clearly Now?

I’ve never been clear on whether a year like 2020 is the end of the decade or the beginning of a new one. There are a high percentage of “experts” that would tell you the beginning of a decade is the year ending in 01, not 00.

I remember seeing Hubert Humphrey speak after he has lost the 1968 Presidential Election to Richard Nixon. I was very young but something he said has stuck with me to this day. He said you had to be very careful what you said in your concession speech after losing an election. He said it wasn’t your last speech of the just lost campaign, it was actually your first speech of the next, yet to be officially started campaign.

That’s why to this day I recommend to salespeople that they send a Thank You note thanking a prospect for the opportunity to earn their business after the prospect purchased from someone else. You see, that isn’t the final communication of the just lost sales cycle, it’s the first communication of the yet to be started next sales cycle.

But whether you see the New Year as a beginning or an ending it’s a pretty good time to take stock of where you are currently. Also to determine where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years in the future.

But the key to determining where you will be in the future is knowing where you are today. Really knowing.

Try getting directions from Google Maps without inputting a starting point. It doesn’t work. Neither does making plans for the future without seeing clearly where you’re starting from.

You must be brutally honest with yourself in regards to your strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t do that then you’ll need to find a coach or a mentor who cares enough about you to be honest for you. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know my thoughts on mentors….anyone, regardless of their level of success, age, or occupation will be better off having a mentor in their life.

Here’s the thing about being more successful tomorrow than you are today. You need to worry less about your weaknesses so you can focus more of your energies on developing your strengths.

If that seems counterintuitive to you don’t worry, you’re in a very large group. It’s the group most often called average. I don’t mean that to be insulting in any way. It’s just that most of us believe being better means turning our weaknesses into strengths. That is not always true. The most successful people invest less than 20 percent of their efforts trying to eliminate every weakness. They invest 80 percent of their time further developing their strengths.

There are times where those percentages won’t hold true. If you have a glaring weakness that is holding you back then you had best deal with it immediately. One example that comes to mind might be substantially below average human relations skills. If that’s the case it could affect your efforts in every other part of your life. In that case some of your strengths development will have to wait.

If you’re in that average group I’m guessing you have not invested a great deal of time over the past years to truly take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. “Truly taking stock” means more than a vague awareness of what you’re good at and what you might not be so good at. It requires a good bit of reflection. Reflecting is the only time I recommend looking to the past. I only recommend looking there long enough to learn what you can from your successes and failures. Then turn immediately to the future because that’s the only place you’ll find additional success.

How clearly you see yourself, your current situation, your current weaknesses and your current strengths will determine your level of success in the future.

But hey, it’s 2020, if you can’t see clearly now I don’t know when you will.

An Apology Can Change the Future

The very best time to apologize is the moment you think an apology is due. Waiting can dilute the sincerity of the apology. It can also make it harder to give because it gets blocked by something called pride.

A “qualified” apology is almost as bad as no apology at all. In case you‘re wondering, a qualified apology sounds something like “I am sorry if anyone was offended by something I said or did.” You might as well have said “sorry you’re such a sensitive wuss, I’ll try to avoid you in the future as much as possible.”

If an apology is due then give an apology…an unqualified apology that makes it clear there is no “if” or “but” and no chance the apology is insincere.

Apologies can’t change the past. If you said or did something that offended someone an apology isn’t going to make that offense disappear. It will likely also take some time for the hurt of the offense to pass. But a sincere apology might change your future with the offended person or people.

IF…. if the apology is sincere and is backed up with changed behavior.

You can apologize for the first transgression. Maybe even the second but repeated offenses are not mistakes, they are a choice. If you make the choice to repeatedly offend someone, whether consciously or subconsciously then you likely do not deserve forgiveness.

An apology not followed up with changed behavior is no apology at all. If you mean what you say in your apology your behavior will reflect it.

Apologizing is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, a sincere apology is a sign of strength. It demonstrates that the apology giver is confident enough to admit their mistake and smart enough to know it was a mistake in the first place.

When an apology is due it is never a mistake to offer one. There is also no expiration date on an apology. Even if you’re way late in offering one for something that happened in the past, remember as with most things, better late than never.

Adjust Your Own Mask First

I spend a fair amount of time on airplanes. So much time in fact that I think I could do the pre-flight safety announcements from memory. In you’ve ever flown you may recall the part of the safety announcements where they say, “in the unlikely event of loss in cabin pressure oxygen masks will drop from a panel above you.” They also say to adjust your own mask before helping others with theirs.

Have you ever wondered why they say that? For instance, think it would be almost instinctive to put your child’s mask on before your own. Yet, the experts advise otherwise.

That’s because they know you won’t be able to help anyone if you’re not conscious to do so. You can’t go long without air so you must help yourself first. It somehow seems wrong to do that. It seems kinda selfish. But if you truly want to help others you must make sure you’re in a condition to help. Unconscious is not a very helpful condition to be in.

The same holds true in everyday life. You must take care of yourself first if you’re going to be in any condition to take care of others. That may seem just as selfish as putting your oxygen mask on first but the same principle applies.

The more caring and giving person you are the greater the danger that you’ll forget about caring for yourself. The problem is you wear yourself down to the point where you can’t help anyone, not even yourself.

So fight the instinct to put everybody else’s oxygen mask on first. Put yours on first. That means resting before you’re overwhelmed. That means carving time out in your busy schedule to do something just for you. That means understanding that you, and the world, deserves the best of you, not what’s left of you.

Just to be clear, I’m not recommending that you do less for others. I am recommending that you do more for yourself. Taking care of yourself is the surest way to be certain that your in a position to take care of others. Don’t forget that simple fact!

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

When talking about giving compliments I suppose I have to get this part out of the way right up front. “This part” is the part about when to give a compliment. I also suppose we have to talk about what to compliment…and maybe what NOT to compliment.

This has gotten much tougher over the years. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine works for a large medical device company. He has worked there for a number of years, he is a well regarded engineer and has a spotless employment record. Not too long ago he was suspended for complimenting a female co-worker on her appearance; specifically how she looked in a new sweater she was wearing.

The woman he complemented seemed to appreciate the compliment. His problem started when a person who was not even a part of the conversation overheard the compliment and was offended by it. They thought it was inappropriate and offensive that he was commenting on another employees appearance.

They thought it was so inappropriate that they complained to the HR department. After a short “investigation” my friend was suspended. That might cause a person to swear off giving compliments entirely.

Did I mention that the co-worker my friend complimented was also his sister? Did I mention that he had given her the sweater for her birthday a few days before?

Even though situations like that might cause some people to completely stop the practice of giving compliments I still recommend giving them.

But give real compliments.

A real compliment has two parts.

Part one is the compliment itself. “I appreciate the extra effort you put in to help that customer work through their technical issues.”

Part two is the evidence that supports the compliment. “The reason I say that is I watched your interaction with the customer. Many people would have become frustrated with and dismissive of the customer. You kept your cool and turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.”

Have you ever received a compliment that caused you to wonder about the motives of the person giving you the compliment? It’s likely that they didn’t provide evidence to support the compliment. That evidence leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the compliment.

Don’t give half a compliment. Always attach supporting evidence so no one has to wonder about your motives. If you can’t think of any evidence to support the compliment then ask yourself if the compliment is really worth giving. I’d suggest that it’s not.

In the politically correct world in which we now live I’d also suggest keeping your compliments focused on performance and abilities. It’s not “safe” to comment on things like appearance anymore and the reality is that in many cases it probably always was inappropriate.

But real compliments can change a person’s day. Maybe even their life. So look for real reasons to compliment others. As Dale Carnegie said, be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Be Better Soon

If you’re a leader then hopefully you know that one of your prime responsibilities is the development of the people you lead. Unfortunately not everyone in a leadership agrees with that thinking.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with two such “non leading” leaders. One told me that their sales team didn’t need any sales training and the other told me that their leadership team was “set” when it came to developing their leadership skills.

I wish I could say those conversations were unusual but they are not. Over the years I’ve had those types of conversations hundreds of times. Way too many people in positions of leadership do not accept any responsibility for the development of their people.

What makes that worse is the fact that I’ve had even more conversations with the people those “non leading” leaders are supposed to be developing. In those conversations the “un led” people say that it is not their responsibility to develop themselves. If their boss or company want them to grow then it’s the company’s responsibility to develop them. They won’t do it on their own time and they certainly won’t invest in themselves if it’s for the benefit of their employer.

So there is a whole bunch of people who have no one accepting responsibility for their development. That’s a shame because it’s never been easier to find information, online training or presentations that are very effective in helping people improve themselves.

There will likely always be people in leadership positions who either refuse to lead or think they are leading when they really aren’t. Maybe some of them really think that their team is “set” but I’ve never seen a salesperson or a leader who couldn’t get better.

If you’re one of the people waiting for somebody else to make you better then here’s some advice….stop making excuses. Start accepting responsibility for your own growth and the increased success that will come with it.

Do a bit of research to find a blog or podcast that focuses on an area where you could improve. Commit to invest a few minutes every day to learn something new. Always have a book nearby on a topic of interest to you and set aside time on a regular basis to actually read it.

Develop yourself for yourself. There is a reason it’s called self-improvement….you do it for yourself. There are far worse things in life than your employer benefiting from something you’ve done for yourself. Never allow the fact that your boss or company won’t invest in you stop you from investing in yourself.

Make 2020 the year YOU make the world a better place by making a better you. Start now and you will be better soon!

Earning Trust – Part Two

It’s not only an advantage to have the trust of those you would lead, it is essential. But trust doesn’t happen by itself. Trust is built over time and that time frame can be shortened if you take specific, intentional actions to build it.

I’m about to write about actions you’re already aware of. But awareness is not enough. Most people simply do not invest the time to intentionally build trust. They hope it will happen over time. It might. But hope alone isn’t a good strategy for anything. So while you refresh your memory with these suggestions ask yourself if you’re DOING these things or if they sit comfortably in the back of your mind.

First up is this…honor your commitments. I believe that when people commit to do something they intend to do it. The problem for most people, myself included, is that they hate to say no. So they say yes to more than they can do. That causes you to either not honor the commitment or to honor it in such a way that it’s almost as bad as not doing it at all. If your goal is to build trust then promise less and do more.

It is not an overstatement to say miscommunication has started wars. World War I began in part with a failure to communicate. Effective communication is critical to building trust. Never assume, if you’re not certain what was said or what was meant then ask.

Some communication will de difficult. No one, well almost no one, likes dealing with conflicts. But the most trustworthy people won’t dodge a conflict and the challenging communication that often results. They have the conversation that needs to happen and they have it in a caring compassionate way. They choose their words carefully and when they have to choose between telling the truth and offending someone they choose the truth.

Another way to build trust is to be helpful. Extend kindness to everyone you meet. The concept of “helpful kindness” means that you’ll be helpful to others with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

Some people may question the motives for your kindness but in time they will come to see that you’re doing what you’re doing only because it’s the right thing to do.

Lastly, always do the right thing. If you’re not certain what the right thing to do is then ask someone who you trust. But I’m willing to bet you know the right thing to do. You almost certainly know what’s wrong to do so not doing that increases the odds of doing the right thing immeasurably.

Even if what you do turns out to be the wrong thing when people know that your actions were guided by your values you’ll trusted more than someone who only acts in their own self interests.

You knew about all these trust building actions before you read this post. Now that you’ve been reminded of them the next step is to use them. If you want to build trust you will. If you choose not to use them then one can only assume that you don’t place much value on being trustworthy.

So what’s it going to be?