What it means to be strategic


I often talk about my leadership workshops and programs as helping leaders think and work more strategically.

I was recently talking to a group of middle managers who were eager for development and one brave soul asked me, “Can you define what you mean by ‘strategic’.”

In a nutshell, people who are leading strategically are always recognizing ways to improve, and leading the change to get there. They realize that not only do they have permission to do this, but that they need to do this.

People who are not working strategically tend to work very hard and wait for others to make new business plans and conceive of better ways to do things.

Working More Strategically

If you want work more strategically, take more ownership for thinking about what has the most value, and personally lead the change. Don’t wait to be asked.

I created this table below to describe and summarize the difference between strategic and non strategic behaviors. Let me know what you think.

If you’d like to learn more about my leadership workshops, contact me. I’d love to have a conversation about your business goals.

strategic4

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook.

And make sure to read her book
RISE…
3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

The answers to your career struggles and your next promotion are in it!

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download
Buy

8 ways to test if your executive communications are executive enough


SkyscraperWindow.main

Are you coming across at the right level?

Becoming proficient at executive communications is critical for every mid-level manager.

Many leaders are very comfortable communicating downward or with peers, but when it comes to talking with top executives they are not able to hit the right tone — it’s a very different thing.

Talking to executives can seem mysterious and stressful. They can get annoyed or impatient unexpectedly. I’ve seen so many leaders get blindsided when something goes amiss while talking to an executive. But the problem is often the tone more than the content.

I’ve come up with 8 simple check points that you can use grade yourself when you prepare and deliver your next executive communication or presentation.

1. Outside vs. Inside

I remember one time a group of mid-level managers were presenting a plan for a new project to an executive. They had a very nice presentation with slides showing what they proposed to build and why it would be useful. The presentation went on for some time and finally the executive interrupted and said, “I agree you have got the picture right, but the issue is that our competition has been doing this for months, why are you proposing this now?” They had no answer.

Make sure that you set your communications in the context of external reality. Talk to customers, talk to sales people. Find out what competitors are doing. Make sure you have incorporated that knowledge into your communications or your point of view will seem small and insular.

2. Short vs. Long

Get to the point. Please. I can’t tell you how many times leaders presented to me, where 46 minutes into a 1 hour meeting I’d have to say, “What is this meeting about?” If you are talking or presenting to an executive, make sure you can make your point in 1 page and/or 3 minutes. Use that brevity to earn more time.

Describing how fascinating and complete your research was before you ever get to the point doesn’t help you. I can tell you that have spent days filtering the content of an important executive presentation down to its core points so that I could cover it in 5 minutes. It was always worth it.

3. Meaning vs. Detail

Don’t make your executive audience do the work to process the detail to get the meaning. Instead of going through all the data you could say, “There is only one number on this whole spreadsheet which is of concern and here is why”. While some executives might want to drag you into detail or challenge you on facts, this does not absolve you of the responsibility to have an opinion on what the most important take-aways are.

4. Outcome vs. Activity

Check your language. Are you taking about important outcomes, or describing activities? All the things you are doing — all of your project plans, all of your travels, all of your meetings, all of your development — those are activities. So what? Did quality improve? Did pipeline grow? Did time to close sales get shorter? Did clients provide references?

Check your titles and headlines. Turn them all into outcomes. What happened? Why does it matter?

5. Plain speak vs. Jargon

Be easily understandable and relevant. Leave your jargon, your acronyms, and your project names back inside your team. When you get to talk to an executive, you need to create an entirely different communication tool to do the communicating than you use to manage the work. A communication tool that is in their language, not yours.

You can learn their secret language simply be being observant and listening. Listen for what they care about and the words they use to describe it. What they say becomes your allowable dictionary. Translate.

6. Story vs. Status

I have found that executives respond really well to stories, examples, memorable tag lines. Turn your information into an interesting story. Share how your project impacted the life of a particular customer or employee. Give them a story with a beginning a middle and an end with concrete elements. A good story is one that involves an actual person, a story that they can remember and repeat easily.

7. Proposing vs. Reporting

I was talking to a CEO one day about a problem the company was having in its business. I suggested that he assign one of the directors to work on that problem, and he said, “No, I don’t trust him to own and solve the problem — he is more of a reporter.” Ouch!

While identifying problems is important, and articulating them can make you seem insightful, check your language and make sure you are not just reporting problems, but taking ownership and proposing solutions to fix them too.

8. In Control/Calm vs. Defensive/Angry

Finally, one of the most important aspects of executive communications is to not get shaken up when you get confronted with something uncomfortable or upsetting. It might be a question you don’t know the answer to, or an attack from a peer, or subtle undermining comment about your team. These things happen to everyone.

Stay calm, stay in control. “That’s an interesting question, I’ll need to get the answer. That is an interesting point of view, I haven’t seen that myself, but I’ll look into it. Well the data shows this, but if you disagree, I’m happy to talk about that offline.”

I have found that not getting shaken by attacks, and in fact treating them with a level of calm seriousness, it makes the attacker more nervous than you are. They think, “oh crap, now I have to do actual work follow up this shallow attack”. They often shut up.

Here are some webinars that help improve your executive communication skills. Check them out if you are interested.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.

ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

What a manager must communicate…


Perpetual motion with light bulbs. Idea concept on gray background

Operation vs. Communication Tools

Your team creates all kinds of reports, spread sheets and slides to plan, run, measure, and report on what you are doing in your operation.

Of course you need these detailed materials to run your function — but please don’t inflict them on others!

Your “inside voice”

These reports are your Operational Tools. Your operational tools are created in what I refer to as your “inside voice” — the language you use inside your organization — a robust language full of detail, acronyms and functional jargon.

Your version may be a detailed project plan, a package of spreadsheets, or lengthy presentation full of charts and tables — you might keep it all in a binder.

Key point: When someone outside of your function asks, “What are you doing?” Never just hand over your binder!

No one will understand your plans

If you use your inside voice to answer the question “What are you doing?” your response will be a bunch of complicated stuff that doesn’t make any sense outside your team.

So you will be effectively saying, “We are doing a bunch of complicated stuff that doesn’t make any sense.”

Your “outside voice”

Create new and different communication tools

Know that you always need to create additional and different communication tools for your stakeholders in addition to your operational tools.

Invest the time and know the difference.

No matter what you are working on, know that you should always be doing the extra step of creating a communication tool to describe your priorities, your budget, and the outcomes you plan to achieve.

You should be able to describe what you are doing and why it matters in a simple and straightforward way.

  • Slide 1: These are my priorities and problems to solve
  • Slide 2: This is how the budget is being used (why it matters)
  • Slide 3: These are the outcomes we are working towards

Be More Relevant

It’s important to realize is that when you are communicating outside your function, if you find yourself educating people about what you are doing, you are not relevant.

If you have to educate. you are not relevant.

So, what is relevant?

What is relevant to your business stakeholders are the things they wake up in the morning already knowing, understanding, and caring about.

So before you set out to build your communication tools, you need to invest the time up front to learn what they truly care about. Then talk to them about THAT. That is how you become relevant.

Those topics, and their precise words describing what your stakeholders already care about, define your “outside voice”. They are giving you the dictionary that you can use to communicate effectively with them.

It’s a huge benefit. When you start the conversation with things they already know and care about, they are ready and eager to listen.

Since they believe themselves to be smart — and because you are now talking to them about things that they think matter — they will believe you are a smart person too.

Translate!

Always be translating into your “outside voice” when you are communicating outside your team or function.

If you put the effort in to create a separate communication tool, you have the opportunity to not only to share valuable insights that lead to the right actions, but also to take control of the messages about why your work matters.

Never pass detail up or out

In addition to language and jargon, another dangerous element of your “inside voice” is detail.

Whatever level of detail you deal with, it is your job to never simply pass it on.

If you simply pass on the same amount of detail that you work with, you are not adding any value to the conversation or the business.

You are not moving anything forward. You are just taking up a lot of people’s time moving detail around.

Create useful Insights

You need to analyze the detail, sort through and organize it, and find the insights that are most meaningful to the business.

Then you need to translate those insights into language that the business stakeholder understands.

Then you need to create a brief, easily consumable, action-oriented communication tool.

Master executive communications

It’s not that you should stop creating your binder full of data, you still need that to run your internal operations…. But when you report out to others – put your binder aside and invest in a new document whose sole purpose is communication.

Once you become a manager, creating these types of communication is part of your day job. This is one of the things I see people struggle with as they get promoted.

Mastering business, executive level communication is a critical skill. If you can’t communicate the value of what you are doing to the people who need to know, in a way that they can relate to, you work and your will remain unappreciated, and probably under-funded.

If you’d like some help improving your business communications, check out these webinars on Increasing Your Impact & Influence, and particularly this one on Mastering Executive Communications.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Visibility, Yes. Bragging, No.


casual people holding a white card

Invisible is not the high ground

I often hear people say something like: “I like to fly under the radar. I like to keep my head down and just do the work. It’s the work that matters. I don’t want to be one of those annoying, political people.”

I find that very often when people take this position, they believe that they are on the high ground — that they are somehow morally superior to those who are more visible. And that being visible is, by definition, a shallow, self-serving endeavor.

There are three issues with this.

1. First and foremost, if you choose to “fly under the radar, don’t be confused or upset when you get passed over for raises and promotions. This was your strategy — to make sure no one knows you are there!

2. You are missing the opportunity to do better, more effective, more valuable work, if you don’t connect with others to increase your access to knowledge, experience and learning from others.

3. You are withholding value from the company by not sharing what you have learned with others.

There is nothing political about communicating things of value and sharing knowledge. And when you do this, guess what, you are no longer invisible!

You shouldn’t opt out of communicating.

And pretending you are on the high ground by opting out of communicating is only shooting yourself in the foot.

Visibility and humility

Are you really taking the high ground based on humility? Or are you just avoiding doing something you find uncomfortable? Be honest with yourself.

What I advise people is to build their visibility and their credibility in way that is both doable and comfortable to them, even if they are shy or humble.

Humility is good. Invisible is not.

It’s Not Bragging

You can build your visibility and preserve your humility.

Here’s where I think many people get tripped up. I say, “Make sure your work is not invisible. Make sure others know what you doing and why it matters…”

But, for example, if your job is to complete an analysis and write up a report, when you finish the report, it would indeed be awkward to go around telling everybody, “Hey, I did this great analysis and produced this great report”.

…that was your job. That communication would come off as annoying self-promotion — as bragging.

But the other choice of completing the report, emailing it off, and starting the next one without communicating about it to anyone, is not the right thing to do either.

Communicate things of actual value

The trick to not bragging is to only share things of real value with others.

If you are wondering whether or not you should communicate about something you accomplished, ask yourself, “would others benefit from knowing this?”

If the answer is yes, here are some ideas for ways to communicate that will not sound like you are bragging in the least.

1. What I learned. If you used a new system or technology, or uncovered an item of general interest in your research, share something you learned. Don’t just keep new learnings to yourself. Point people to the useful answers and resources that you have found. “While I was completing the XY analysis, I learned that you could use Linkedin in a very interesting way…”

Sharing knowledge has the benefit of making you visible, without calling specific attention to yourself.

2. Why something matters. As you are working, always be thinking about why your work matters and who your work impacts. For example, In doing the research for the XY analysis, I discovered that these two groups were doing work that was overlapping. By connecting the dots we were able to change the process for the future to take the best of both groups’ work and eliminate the duplication of effort.

Sharing benefits of the work with others, actually helps them. It is not just about you.

3. Meet the next level up. When your boss asks you to prepare information to be presented to upper management, ask if you can go to the meeting with your boss and be the one to present it. (All bosses should do this for their top performers.) If your boss is not doing it they may just not have thought of it. I have seen too much work get “stolen”; merely because the people who did the work, voluntarily (or enthusiastically) opted out of being the presenter.

Don’t stay in the wings and always let others present your work (even if you prefer that).

4. Say “thank you”. Send a message to an executive stakeholder of your work and tell them that you really appreciate something they said or did. Let them know how it impacted you, what you did with the insight, and what the result was. Most executives get very few “thank you for doing a great job” messages. Don’t be lazy about this and make a vague gesture. Be concrete and specific, and connect it with what you accomplished.

It (and you) will stand out as long as it is sincere and well thought through, and connects to the real, actual detail of what the executive said or did. If it’s not sincere and concrete, don’t do it — then it would be self-serving and annoying.

5. Ask for advice. This is a great way to make a visible connection in a very genuine, productive way. Send your stakeholder a note and ask for 10 minutes of their time to get some coaching or input on your project. This is flattering. If you are very clear about what you are after, and make it clear you only want a short amount of their time, most people will be happy to help.

You will score points for being interested in them, and they will then know who you are. I have used this approach over and over throughout my career. Sometimes the best way to get positive visibility is to ask a favor of someone that is easy for them to give.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Marketing & Positioning Yourself


This month’s webinar was on Marketing & Positioning Yourself.

If you missed it, you can download the podcast!

MARK25

This is a useful webinar to download if you need to:

  • Prepare for a job search or interview
  • Go after a promotion in your own company
  • Prepare for your annual performance review
  • Build a compelling, go-to library of career-management materials
  • Be seen as your best, authentic self, more frequently and consistently

Free Download

If you are a member of Azzarello Group, you can download the webinar for free.

Purchase

If you are not a member, you can: purchase this webinar,

or you can become a member and get the webinar for free..

Get a 25% Discount on Membership — this week only!

Use code MARK25 at checkout.

You are more than a list of skills and experience

I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for management and executive positions. The ones who stand out are the ones who do not appear as trying to be impressive!

Instead they are the ones who are able to present their real, authentic self in a concise and compelling way.

And they are the ones who reveal something of themselves beyond their resume, so you come away feeling like you know them. You know what they stand for, what they care about and why, and you get a sense of how they will do the job because they share their experience in the right way.

If you want to advance your career, it is so important that you plan ahead and are able to communicate about yourself in a purposeful way.

Hint: When you authentically talk about something real that you are proud of, you show up at your best.

Create a plan and marketing package to show your best self

There are so many more facets to communicating about yourself and building confidence in you and your work than a resume.

We talked through how to create a plan and marketing package to present your best self consistently.

You need to add personal stories, thought leadership materials, and a clear definition of your offer and its value to each audience.

You need to think through your personal playbook, and use it create the right bio and elevator pitch.

And you need to present yourself online in a purposeful and thoughtful way.

What do you Offer?

It is also vitally important the shift your thinking from what you want to what you offer. In the webinar we talked about how to craft your offer so that you stand out among others who are merely “going after the job they want”.

Getting in front of the right audiences

Many people think that they need to change companies in order to get a promotion.

One of the reasons is because the interview process puts you in front of the decision makers at another company, and gives you a chance to sell yourself to them.

The trick is to get yourself in front of the decision makers in your own company — and be prepared to sell yourself to them.

We talked about how to get on the list of people who are considered for promotions and how to present your offer to them in the right way.

Here’s what the webinar specifically covers:

Learn how to present your best, authentic self more frequently and consistently – on purpose

Learn how to:

  • Think strategically about your career and yourself as a product to be marketed
  • Prepare the right marketing tools and materials to support your goals
  • Get really clear about your value, your playbook and your offer
  • Build your Best Stories to achieve specific outcomes with key audiences
  • Get in front of the right audiences the most compelling way
  • And more…

Worksheets included

The worksheets and templates for this webinar will guide you to build a great marketing package to present yourself in a clear and compelling way.

  • Finding and and defining your Playbook
  • Target audience analysis
  • Defining your Professional Offer
  • Basic Marketing Materials Checklist
  • Your Bio and Elevator Pitch outlines
  • Your Best Stories outline
  • Thought Leadership brainstorming
  • Getting on THE LIST

Get the webinar now

If you are tempted to purchase this webinar, that’s great.

But you might want to consider getting a membership to Azzarello Group — it’s a much better deal.

With a membership, for just $179 for a whole year, you can get access to everything in the member library.

Get a 25% Discount on Membership – this week only!

And if you join this week, you’ll get a 25% discount! Use code MARK25 at checkout.

So you’ll get your membership for only $134 this week!

BECOME A MEMBER NOW

As a member, just on this topic alone, you can also get related webinars for free on:

  • Personal Brand Tune-up
  • Maximizing Your Strengths
  • Confidence & Your Personal Brand
  • Professional Networking & Mentors
  • Mastering Executive Communications
  • So you might as well join and get them all for free!

    Additional benefits for members

    Take a look through the Member Library and see all the other great webinars and resources you get too.

    Plus, as a member, you get live coaching from me in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls where you can ask your own questions.

    Membership a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

    Become a Member

    BECOME A MEMBER NOW

    Other Options:
    Purchase only this webinar with worksheets and templates
    Purchase just the audio podcast


    ABOUT PATTY:

    patty blog image
    Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
    She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

    You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

    Rise_CVR_3D_300

    Free eBook Download