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Fraud Prevention Tip #25: Resolve or Refer Suspicions

Uncertainty Makes The Elephant Anxious (and Gets in the Way of Better! Results) – Better! Results Tip #20

In their wonderful book “Switch: How to Lead Change When Change is Hard” (PLEASE go buy it right now!), brother-authors Chip and Dan Heath put their personal spin on the analogy of a rational rider attempting to lead a huge elephant in a new, unfamiliar but Better! direction. They teach us:

“Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”

 Ever wonder what makes the elephant nervous and default to comfortable low-results practices? One word: uncertainty.

Baby elephant bathing in the river, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

And that’s true whether it’s a six-ton pachyderm or the tiny elephant in our heads.

Yes, that’s right. We all have an elephant in our heads. The mental elephant is all of the inefficient and ineffective habits we’ve built over the years. The patterns of behavior we don’t even think about. The prejudices and irrational fears. It’s the knee-jerk reaction we have to uncomfortable situations we encounter as part of life – meeting new people, tight deadlines, trying new food, attempting new solutions to old problems, traveling to an unfamiliar location. Even electing a new president we know virtually nothing concrete about. The elephant wants to go with the rest of the herd – its peer group – to what it believes is a safe place even though it may know little about where the leader of the herd is headed.

Again from Switch:

“The Elephant’s hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider’s strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment …”

 To which I respectfully add, “to think beyond the sound bite to research the facts.”

Depressed handsome man sitting in office

These are times of great uncertainty. Politically, economically, even spiritually. People are anxious, nervous and downright scared. Many are angry as well. Angry that they aren’t heard. Frustrated about the daily lies from so-called leaders. Scared of people who are ‘different’ from them with their different languages, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and even different expressions of love.

Result: there are anxious elephants all around us, and we’re all at risk of getting trampled.

So what does the informed, self-aware, loving, giving human who is interested in Better! Results do? (That’s you, by the way.)

You bring calm to emotion-laden situations. Your bring truth based on researched facts to conversations. You allow that uncertainty makes us all nervous, but you embrace the role of leader and help others think Better!, decide Better!, and then act Better!

Above all else, you lead by example. The example of calm, informed, confident action every day.

Do these things, and then look over your shoulder. You’ll be leading the herd of anxious elephants. In a Better! brighter direction.

Fraud Prevention Tip

Manage Your Energy (Because People Can Read It) – Better! Results Tip #19

Charlie let loose with a world-class yawn. Right in the middle of the meeting. And we all saw it.

“What”, he said. “I’m soooo tired.”

Which was apparently soooo true.

Handsome businessman working in the office

But it wasn’t anything new. We all knew Charlie was always tired. We ‘saw’ it every day in his work, his pace, his attention to detail, his suggestions, and especially in meetings when he thought no one was watching.

About 20 years ago, I listened in on an interesting presentation. It was about the ‘energy signature’ we all leave. The lesson of that program was simple: be more aware. People notice.

One of the foundation principles of Better! Results is the conscious elimination of barriers to our success. You know, those little and not so little habits and other things that we put in the path of our progress. And unless we have a medical condition, are working two or more jobs, or are raising one-year-old twins, it’s very possible that we have more control over our energy level and resulting signature than we believe.

So here are a few ideas to lean us all towards Better! Results through Better! Energy.

One, turn off the TV and get an extra 30 to 60 minutes of sleep each night. Such a simple step with extraordinary potential results.

mix fruit and vegetable salad

Two, eat Better! Food is fuel. Bad food, bad fuel. Real food, good fuel. We wouldn’t dream of intentionally putting bad fuel in our $30,000 car. But most of us put bad fuel in our bodies every day. Does that make any sense? It’s that simple.

Three, watch the sugar intake. A 12-ounce can of ‘regular’ Coke or Pepsi has about 39 grams of sugar. I was never very strong on the metric system, so I had to look it up. Conversion is 4 grams per teaspoon (a measure even I can understand). So a 12-ounce can of pop has about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Result – a raging sugar high followed by a hard sugar crash. No wonder they call it ‘pop’!

Watch out for the hidden sugar as well. Ketchup, tomato sauce, processed breakfast cereal, yogurt, condiments, processed meats, and bread. Plus the bagels, donuts and pastries that seem to be required at too many business meetings and training events.

refined sugar cube

Just so we’re clear, I love sweet treats. (So you can skip the protesting email.) And I have to watch out every single day. But I know from experience what the hidden and not so hidden sugars can do to my energy level. All I’m suggesting is a little conscious thought and modest adjustments to intake. Find that elusive middle-ground between sugar-pleasure and Better! sustained energy

Become that person everyone wants on their project. Bring the energy that inspires confidence in your work. You’ll think Better!, perform Better!, and feel Better! And others will notice – especially your boss.

Say P-B-E – Better! Results Tip #18

I sat in the meeting and watched with wonder as results coaching client Kate delivered the script exactly as we had designed it:

P with X and Y, then B with E.

young business woman giving a presentation in a conference/meeting setting

You see, Kate is a talented professional in her chosen field. She has a deep background in research and on-the-job experience. But due to the mainly technical nature of her work, she’s had few opportunities to stand and present findings and recommendations. She knew if she could just get past those first few minutes of panic when speaking publicly, she’d be fine. And that’s where the short script came in.

Here are the three simple statements she delivered to start.

  1. Purpose: “The purpose of this presentation is (help X do Y)…”
  1. Benefit: “The benefit to you (or the organization) is…”
  1. Example: “An example of how this worked from another organization just like ours is…”

P with X and Y, then B with E.

Sorry. Too many letters. So let me break it down.

P = Purpose

When we state Purpose in any communication, we are telling the listener or reader exactly how to think about what they are about to witness. People’s thoughts are naturally scattered. All of us have a constant buzz of distractions from emails, deadlines, pre-meeting conversations and a long list of other variables.

Clearly stating “Purpose” brings focus to all present. It answers the critical question “Why are we here?” – a question that often gets missed or misunderstood if not stated clearly.

In it’s simplest form, simply fill in X and Y. “We’re here to help X (you, our customers, other stakeholders) address/solve Y (statement of need, problem, job requirement, frustration).

Now everyone understands exactly what we’re up to – our collective Purpose in that very moment.

B = BenefitPeople Meeting Communication Corporate Teamwork Concept

Every listener or reader has one thought in common: “What’s in this for me?” It’s not a selfish thought; it’s just the way we’re wired as listeners. And it’s such an easy question to answer. Just tell them how they personally will benefit. With as much precision and clarity as possible.

“The benefit to you is a possible increase in free cash flow of 15 to 17 percent in the first 60 days”

“The benefit to us is full compliance with federal lending regulations and the avoidance of additional penalties”

“The benefit to you is fewer hours to complete the required tasks – and more time available for whatever other tasks are on your plate that day.”

Did you notice that in each example, I clearly say the words, “The benefit is.” Again, we’re telling the listener or reader exactly how to think. Not because we’re smarter than them or trying to manipulate them. Just to save them time and mental energy by providing a clear path to what’s important – TO THEM!

E = Example

In my live seminars, I say that the two most powerful words in business communication are “For Example”.

Examples that illustrate the benefits of our ideas make arcane business metrics like cash flow, ROI, customer satisfaction ratings and a thousand other commonly used measures come alive in the listener’s or reader’s mind.

Metrics become visual as the listener or reader can ‘see’ the results obtained by others just like them.

“For example, our western division started using this idea earlier this year. After 90 days, their results exceeded expectations by 200%. And as our top performing division, their year-end bonuses reflected that major jump in results!”

Here’s a hint just for you. Use an example that shows a clear, measurable transition from their prior results to the potential Better! Results. 200% improvement catches every listener’s ear and every reader’s eye.

Wonder why? Because transition stories sell. (Just watch 3 or 4 commercials on television or a past episode of the Oprah show, and look for just how powerfully visual transition stories engage the brain and hold attention).

Better! Results Challenge Hand writing Results with blue marker on transparent wipe board.

I have a simple formula for any new idea: “Try B4 Toss”.

At your next meeting, try the script outlined above. Create your own tailored version, and definitely practice out loud in advance. Work it over and slim it down. Once you’re comfortable with the purpose, benefits and example statements you’ll use, it should only take about 30 to 45 seconds to deliver.

After the meeting, use a few minutes of quiet analysis to judge if this technique helped get your message across. More important, judge whether listeners paid better attention and were more focused on solutions.

Let me know if it works for you.



Pie chart of eighty twenty rule drawn on white paper

Use the 20/80 Rule – Better! Results Tip #17

Most of us are familiar with the 80/20 Rule of Time Management. Simply put, this rule suggests that 20 percent of our efforts will account for 80 percent of our results (*). I’ve never tried to measure the accuracy of this rule, but I’m comfortable enough with its basic premise to allow it to influence how I plan my work time each day.

Only recently have I been exposed to what I’m calling the 20/80 Rule of Action. And here’s how this one works.

When addressing any issue needing our attention – for example, anything where we are seeking Better! Results (my MAJOR theme in these articles and my work) – we invest 20 percent of our time in analyzing the issue and its causes, and 80 percent considering and pursuing solutions.

For Example

Time, clock, timer, stopwatch 60 minutes

You have a 60-minute meeting with a work team on an important issue. Applying the 20/80 Rule of Action would prompt you to track the time in the discussion for the first 20 percent (roughly 12 to 15 minutes) before ‘pivoting’ the discussion to focus on possible solutions. The pivot occurs from a short statement like, “OK, I think we have a rough idea of the issue and possible causes, now let’s brainstorm about what we might do about it.”

In short, the 20% mark is where the conscious directed shift or pivot occurs.

I’ve been asked if I’m really that rigid in my timekeeping. And the answer is yes and no. Yes, because I do keep an eye on the clock in my meetings so I’m more mindful of our progress against the time commitment I’ve requested from others. And no, because I see the 20/80 breakdown as a target rather than an absolute. Most days I find 50/50 is pretty good. Much different from the 90% problem discussion/10% solutions discussion I see in most management meetings.

Businessman presenting to colleagues at a meeting

David Rock’s “Quiet Leadership”

In his interesting book Quiet Leadership (currently my favorite business book by far!) author David Rock goes deep into this concept. He says, “It might sound obvious that to transform people’s performance we need to focus their thinking on solutions, rather than problems. Yet it’s surprising how little we do this in practice.”

Rock refers to discussions of problems as interesting, where discussions of solutions are useful. Interesting v. useful – hmmm…

Application in Real Life

I’ve taken Rock’s ideas and begun to apply them more consciously in my work. I’ve seen Better! Results immediately. Here are a few quick examples from recent consulting and coaching engagements:

Example one:

Why did this happen? (20% of discussion)

What do we (or you) need to do to achieve here? (80% of discussion)

Example two:

Why did you do that? (20% of discussion)

What should you do next? (80% of discussion)

Example three:

Why isn’t this working? (20% of discussion)

What do we (or you) need to do to make this work? (80% of discussion)

Problem solving aid mind map business concept

Two Foundation Lessons

I’ve now read Quiet Leadership three times in four months. Each time I pick up new insights and ideas. But there are two foundation lessons I’ve highlighted and hopefully learned:

First, focusing on problems leads us to the past. Focusing on solutions leads us to the future.

Second, problems disappear into the background as solutions develop.

Agree? Let me know – especially if you don’t!

But if you’re not sure it will work, why not try it and then form an opinion. That’s what I did. Now I KNOW it works.

(*) – for fascinating insight into the origin of this concept, do a quick search on  the ‘Pareto Principle’

Find Time to Opt-Out – Better! Results Tip #16

In this era of overwhelming Internet contact and its evil cousin SPAM, we’ve all become familiar with the concept of ‘opting out’ and ‘unsubscribing’. You know, that little hot-link button at the bottom of email offers and electronic advertisements.

One click and whoosh, gone forever. (At least in theory…)

So here’s the deal. Why not adopt the same practice in our cluttered daily business and personal behaviors?

Here are a few examples to consider.

  1. Look at your work space. What piles of documents and file folders have sat untouched for six months or more? I just went through every shelf and drawer in my home office with that benchmark in mind. Have I touched this document in the last six months? Do I really need to keep it? I took just one hour and gave every document and file a quick once over. With each, I made a quick decision to either keep or toss it right then. Result: a two-foot stack of paper, magazines, professional journals and other documents straight into the recycle bin.cluttered desk
  1. Look at your home. That’s the place where clutter takes root and grows until one day you seem to wake up and notice it for the first time. Doubt me on this? Next time you go away for a few days or a week, as you open the door on your return pretend you’re entering someone else’s home and seeing things for the first time. What do you really see? And should some of it be taken out before you get too used to it again.cluttered storage room
  1. Most important of all, look hard at your daily work and personal habits. We all have them. Those routines of how we start our day. The time and direction we drive to work. How we spend that first hour when we get there. Whether we focus our best energy on what’s most important today, or squander it doing minor busy-work tasks just so we can feel like we’ve accomplished something to cross off our list. What work habits should you ‘opt-out’ of right now? And what’s holding you back from doing it?Pushpin on calendar with busy day overworked schedule.
  1. For those very brave souls among you who want to go really deep, what relationships are draining your energy and holding you back? I’m not suggesting tossing them out, just giving each a few minutes of thought about why and how maintaining those relationships could be handled. And to be completely honest, as we grow we may encounter others who simply want to hold us back. They prefer the old you; not the newer more-authentic version you’ve worked so hard to become. Opting-out of relationships can be painful. Be careful, but firm if necessary.Displeased couple sitting back to back on couch in living room

Better! Results Challenge

At a recent conference on personal results, the keynote speaker included the instructions,

“Surround yourself with what you want –the people, conditions, thoughts and actions

that drive you forward toward the goals you’ve set.”

Start with the little things. The safe things. Work and living space. Daily inefficient habits.

Opt-out where appropriate to make room for Better! Results.







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