Archive for January, 2009

writing presentations

January 30th, 2009 No comments

This week I watched people stress over an executive presentation.  Here are some of the simple guidelines that I follow when writing a PowerPoint presentation.  The key with writing a presentation is that the presentation is supporting the message that you are going to be deliver.  The presentation is not the messenger, you are!

use templates

general guidelines

  • keep the text on the lines short as possible
  • use spell check
  • no full sentences
  • no periods at the end of lines
  • don’t do repeats
    • if you are talking about toothpaste, don’t put it on each line, just put it in the page title
  • minimum font size = half the age of the oldest person in the room
    • do not do it by eye – use the font properties of the text box
  • communicate on three levels (data, emotion, me) as covered in this post

If you are concerned about people being able to use the slides for reference after the presentation, there are two simple options for this dilemma.

  1. create detailed notes for each slide – this does have the downside that people need to see that there are notes as part of the presentation bt it does work well for printouts.  Remember to spell check.
  2. create a separate slide deck that is specifically written for reference purposes

Book: The Leader’s Voice

January 28th, 2009 No comments

The Leader’s Voice: How Communication Can Inspire Action and Get Results!

1st edition
Authors: Boyd Clarke, Ron Crossland
ISBN: 1590790162

2nd edition
Authors: Ron Crossland
ISBN: 1590791525

A manager is only as good as their communication with people.  After all, managers need to achieve results through the actions of others and therefore communicate is critical to their success.  I give all of my directs this book and I have read it 4 times.  Hopefully one of these days I will be able implement the behavioral changes needed for me to master communication.  Here are the key messages that I took from the book.


I have been told numerous times that the numbers speak for themselves and if this statement was true everyone would be able to read a balance sheet….  That being said, the data is critical because it provides the quantitative information that is needed to convince people of your perspective.


We humans are emotional beings, even though some us like to deny it.  Think of messages delivered by people that you liked. Or disliked.  I ask this because I believe that how we feel emotionally affects how we receive the message.  If you do not know the person then the emotional connection needs to be created during the dialogue. This is why sales people try to connect with us emotionally by asking us questions about sports, kids weather, etc.


This one is simple.  What is in it for me?  There has to be some form of reward or value.

1st Edition

2nd Edition

Categories: Books, Communication Tags: ,


January 22nd, 2009 No comments

I recently had a discussion with one of the folks in my org regarding conflict and his perception was that conflict was negative.  During our conversation it became very apparent that we did not classify conflict the same.

To me, conflict is a necessary evil for a healthy environment and that it is necessary for success.  I believe that open and respectful communication about a point is good because this dialogue ensures that all of the various point of view are shared.   Often this respectful airing of opinions stimulates new perspectives that are superior to the ones originally brought to the discussion.

Back to my discussion, it turns out that he in fact did not have an issue with conflict, rather he had an issue with not being treated in a respectful manner.  In particular, he was perfectly happy with the decision as long as he felt that someone had listened to his opinion.

In his book Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni defined conflict as “Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved”.  He defined it far better than I every could have and therefore I have adopted that definition and added  “in a respectful manner” to create my own definition.

“Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved in a respectful manner”

Categories: Emotions, People Tags: , , ,

moving into management

January 13th, 2009 No comments

One of the common questions I get about moving to the next level via the management road.  i.e.  should I move from an individual contributor role into management ?  Or should I move into a 2nd level management position from a 1st level management position?  To help highlight the difference, here is how I see the differences.

Individual Contributor

  • deliver the results
  • role skills – the skills are task related
  • communication skills definitely help
  • realistic work forecasting is a significant benefit

1st level manager

  • care about the people on the team
  • deliver the results as part of the team
  • still have the role skills – not only for IC deliverables but also for coaching employees
  • IC recruiting
  • communication skills
  • start to understand how to grow people
  • need to do work allocation for the team
  • responsible for the well being of the team
  • work forecasting needs to be done for the team
  • soft skills to deal with people (down, peer and up)
  • delegation – most difficult one – how to delegate work to the team

2nd level manager

  • people
  • deliver the results through the work of others
  • people growth
  • manager recruiting
  • succession planning
  • communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills
  • realistic work forecasting needs to be done for the team
  • need to deal across groups, ideally joint objectives
  • soft skills to deal with people
  • budgeting
  • manage team visibility

Please let me know if I missed anything.

Vinod Khosla talk

January 8th, 2009 No comments

I recently listened to a talk given by Vinod Khosla from Khosla Ventures I was struck by how frankly he answered questions and by the depth of his knowledge on the subject matter.  Very impressive.

Then he said something that really struck a cord with me, mainly because I have a similar opinion and therefore it is always good to get some personal reinforcement:

Try and fail but never fail to try

This is very similar to my personal mantra

you cannot win the race if you are not in the race

Overall, if you ever get the opportunity to hear him talk I would highly recommend it.

Categories: People, Quotes Tags: ,

change and stress

January 6th, 2009 No comments
change stress distress graphic

impact of change on us

Based on my experience of dealing with people across the globe, I believe that change always has an impact us.  The actual change event can be fairly small, the impact on us manifests itself as stress. In the change-stress-distress graphic, the black circle is the actual change.  The perceived impact of the change will cause stress, which is shown in green.  The stress level is still fine because it has not crossed our tolerance level, shown in red.  This is key because when the stress expands to more than our tolerance level, the stress becomes distress.

when the stress becomes distress



As you can see in the graphic on the left, all that is visible is the red, which means distress.  For people in this situation, it is now a rescue situation where the first priority is to rescue the person from the distressful situation.



.Unfortunately just because the person is no longer in distress, it does not mean that we can work on the change yet.  Looking at stress graphic on the right, we still cannot see the change and therefore we cannot work on the change.  We still need to get the stress under control and only then can the change be addressed.

lesson learned: always assume positive intent

January 1st, 2009 No comments

I had a manager that always told me -  “always assume positive intent”.   Normally this was when we were discussing an issue that was controversial or emotionally charged.

Implementing this lesson in my day-to-day dealings, I find that as long as I approach the situation with an “assume positive intent” mindset, I am generally able to overcome most challenges much quicker and with far less conflict.

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