Go Outside and Ask

Even though you may be surrounded by people in your start-up, you as the founder may feel a bit lonely. Here’s an apt metaphor for a founder’s situation. Think of you, the founder, at the neck of an hourglass; you have the board of directors above you and your team below you. However you tilt the hourglass, the only perspective you get is the “insider” perspective. But, despite all this top down and bottom up discussion, you still may have doubts and questions about next steps and you want to make the right decisions.

Founders need to ask for help from “outsiders” − mentors, experts, customers and potential customers. Instead of playing the “I’ve got all the answers!” charade, muster up your courage and reach out to key people for feedback and advice. Your investors have greater confidence in a founder who is unafraid and open to seeking clarity and advice from knowledgeable outsiders.

Here’s a way to request a meeting.  Email your outsider expert (subject: “Request your advice” or “Referred by Jim Z”) or leave a voice mail message with a simple request:  Hello Ms. X, I am the CEO of Y business and I learned (from Jim Z) that you have much experience in this area. I would very much appreciate your opinion regarding a major initiative I’m looking to implement. Would you have 30 minutes to talk with me by phone or over a cup of coffee in the next couple weeks? If that is possible, please let me know what days and times work best for you. 

( if email) Best regards,

your name (include your credentials and website address)

If you get a positive response, agree to a time and place and thank them.To keep good mentors, prepare your questions and possible solutions before the meeting. Be on time. Encourage your outsiders to be critical and direct; you want to know what you may be missing. Don’t try to sell them anything, nor ask them to do any work for you. Do not expect them to meet with you on a regular basis either. Be ready to wrap up the discussion at or before the 30 minute mark. If they want to extend the conversation, let them know you appreciate the extra time. If you found their advice helpful, and if they appeared to enjoy the conversation, you might ask if they wouldn’t mind talking again sometime after you have implemented their advice. Whether they agree or remain cool to your request, immediately after the encounter, show your appreciation with a modest gift card or a thank you note.

Don’t be shy, “get the answer to the test” as I like to say. If you need help with difficult conversations, ask me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

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An Intrapreneur Asks: How Can I Be Heard?

Are you an employee of a start-up itching to play more of a leadership role in your company as an intrapreneur? If you are a founder, you can bet that there are a some employees deep in the trenches with an entrepreneurial mindset; they want to develop, manage and lead smaller, revenue-producing projects within the company. Do you make it easy for them to share their ideas? I received this query from a frustrated employee that said it all:

Dear Rebecca,

How can I share my ideas for making my company better? I work in the customer service end of things, and I have ideas for speeding up orders and retaining customers. When I have suggested ideas to my bosses in the past, they seemed to agree with me, but nothing ever came of it. How can I get heard?   

A Frustrated Intrapreneur 

Dear Frustrated,

Here are 5 steps that will make it easier for your idea to be heard by the right people:

1) Check with your boss or HR to see if your company has a process or a proposal format for getting ideas to the decision maker. Just throwing out half-baked ideas is a good way for others not to take you seriously, or for your ideas to go nowhere.

2) Does your idea fit with the company’s mission and values? Is there a need for your idea? Have you any data or documented customer feedback regarding the problem you want to solve?

3) Can you explain your idea in a couple different ways (Power Point, graphics, a flow chart, etc) that are concise, simple and easily understood? Perhaps you haven’t been heard before because you speak in generalities, digress or talk beyond the average boss’s attention span of 15 seconds (or less)? If so, see my earlier blog for “Getting to the Point.”

4) What are the costs associated with the development and execution of your idea? How would your idea positively affect the bottom line? Or, if your idea had been implemented earlier, how would it have saved time and money, retained customers, decreased stress, etc?

5) How would your idea affect others in the company? Can you get the buy-in from those who would implement it?

If you address all these points and present them with a good dose of passion, don’t be surprised if you get an invitation to the boardroom!

If you are an intrapreneur wanting more tips for “getting heard,”
contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com.

 

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What “Disorganization” Sounds Like

Let me share some thoughts inspired by a recent Shark Tank episode…

A contestant demonstrated a very unique product that piqued the Shark’s interest. When asked about his background, he listed numerous talents, brainy feats and escapades that led to the development of his new product.  Instead of his colorful past being a plus in the Shark’s eyes however, his history raised a red flag. One Shark called him “too disorganized” so she was “out.” (For those of you new to Shark Tank, “out” means not interested in the deal.) The contestant appeared perplexed and somewhat taken aback by her comment. What might have saved him? A statement or two, immediately following his list of exploits, conveying a passionate and enduring commitment to the success of the current product might have kept him in the running.

Perhaps “disorganized” was not the best word choice. To most people “disorganized” means a cluttered desk or misplacing your keys. The Shark may have chosen that word to represent a few less obvious concerns related to disorganization that can doom a startup. Founders, it’s important to know the less obvious ways that you can appear “disorganized” in the eyes of investors:

  1. As much as creativity is an asset to an entrepreneur, having many simultaneous and disparate activities going on are liabilities. It suggests you have difficulty focusing in on one thing that requires deliberate, consistent and sustaining dedication like a startup. Problem: An Investor will see herself doing all the work or exerting too much effort directing and monitoring you than it’s worth.
  2. Indirect and lengthy answers to simple questions suggest a disorganized mind. Or, perhaps you introduce ideas into the conversation that are unrelated to the main point. Problem: An investor may sense the need to constantly corral your attention to the topic or task at hand. Exhaustive repetition, interruption and re-direction is too great of an energy expenditure for a busy Shark.
  3. Do you engage in too much levity when there should be seriousness? Problem: You may be a nice guy or gal and fun to be around, but when it comes to spending other people’s money and getting things done, joking around is a waste of time.
  4. Is your presentation delivered in a logical sequence? Problem: Potential backers do not want to work harder than you to figure out your plan from start to finish.

The bottom line: Examine your sales pitch and presentation. Make the changes necessary to avoid being perceived as “disorganized.”

Do you need an expert set of eyes and ears to identify the red flags that could discourage customers and investors from wanting to work with you? Contact me for Core Four Coaching Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com   

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5 Steps For Getting to the Point

Time is a constraint for you and those you’re trying to persuade.

The hour of yesterday is the 20 seconds of today. While you prepare to be heard, keep in mind that the average attention span 20 seconds or less!

1) Know your Objective, don’t just start talking! Research shows that in the first 7 seconds people make approximately 11 different judgments about your worthiness to be heard.

Ask yourself – What do I want to achieve? Why do I want to have that conversation? Have one objective in mind – stick to one objective only. Don’t sidetrack to other related topics or you come across as unsure, unfocused and wishy-washy.

2) Write down your bullet points first in simple and direct language. Now, create a brief sentence with each major talking point. Listen to yourself and edit out redundancies, empty words like “really, great, stuff, uh” and other fillers. Edit out repetitive words like “like, I, really, right,” etc.

3) Use a Good Hook is a headline that grabs attention.Ask yourself, “What is the single best statement or question that will get me to my objective?” A hook is a statement that satisfies a need, one that is  contrary to common experience, a worry, or is the best interest of the listener:

Beets cure insomnia

Did you know reading the wrong way can make you stupid?

What is the best kept secret of Fortune 500 companies?

What is the most unusual, exciting, dramatic, humorous part of your message? That will help shape your hook or opening line.

4) If you’ve hooked your listener, they will want to hear more.  The Body of the message should build a case. It should answer – Who, What, When Where, Why, and How. No more than one sentence for each.

5) Ask for the Action you want them to take in the Closing. It’s your bottom line. What do you want your listener TO DO? Set up an appointment? Get some time off? Invest in your company? Buy your book? Is there a time limit? “The deadline is 3:00 this afternoon,” or “Our sale ends tonight at midnight.”

Crisp articulation, a pleasant sounding voice and vocal dynamics give power, certainty and charisma to your message. Annoying vocal/verbal tendencies (hoarseness, mumbling, too soft or too loud, an unintelligible foreign accent, etc ) can distract a listener from your content.

Practice your “20 second or less” commercial. Start with your main point (one sentence hook or idea in a nut-shell) and support your point with 2-3 main supporting facts. Have more facts ready, if folks want to hear more. Rehearse and record your 20 second message. Try it out on a friend. Get feedback.

Need help getting to the point? Contact me at RebeccaShafir@gmail.com to set up a personalized 30 minute phone training session. 

 

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A Down Day? “GOOD!” says Jocko Willink

Are you a fair weather worker? Can you only be productive when the sun is shining? I have many clients who dread a gray, overcast day. Perhaps there are other gloomy things going on in your life – oversights, lost opportunities or rejection?

Here in West Newbury it’s 29 degrees and cloudy. As I get older, I find my moods are tainted by the weather too. Living out here in the countryside the weather is right in my face big time; no tall buildings to obscure the truth.  It’s my challenge then to open doors, make the calls, send those emails, write a chapter or two for my manuscript and do my workout. So, when I look outside and see the fog and drizzle, before I let the weather color my world, I follow the advice of Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer, author of the awesome Discipline Equals Freedom — I proclaim a loud, resounding “GOOD!” I feel an immediate physiological change – I feel taller, lifted, I’m smiling and ready to take action. If you shout “BAD” instead, notice how terrible that feels! Language is very powerful in this way.

So, when things aren’t going so well, when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed shout  “GOOD! Now, let me take a step back and see how to solve this situation.”  This moves you right to problem solving mode before you slip into the slow, low doldrums of hopelessness. Speak aloud your solutions and intentions of the day too! Turn that bad mood on its head. Got it? GOOD!

What do you think? Try it out and let me know! Together, let’s power up your Core for 2018! Read about my Core Four Coaching at www.MindfulCommunication.com

 

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