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  1. How to create an elevator pitch that takes you to the top

    November 22, 2016 by Alison Hill

    ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘So, what’s your business all about?’ ‘Tell me about yourself.’ If you’ve ever stumbled over a response to these enquiries, you need to craft yourself an elevator pitch.

    It’s called an elevator pitch because it should take no longer to deliver than the trip in the lift (or elevator, as they say over there) ­from the ground floor to the boardroom ­– about 30 seconds or so.

    In essence, your elevator pitch is a brief, interesting statement about who you are and what you do that makes the recipient care and want to know more. Whatever your purpose, the steps to take to create your elevator pitch are the same.

    Define your goal

    Why do you want to tell people about yourself or your organisation? You might want to make a career move, explain your start-up idea or sell your organisation as a great place to work. You might want to pitch a great idea to an exec, meet like-minded people at a networking event or create interest in your new product. Being clear about what you want to achieve is the first step, because it will shape what you say in your pitch.

    Explain what you do

    This is the simple, most obvious part. ‘My company handles corporate insurance’, or ‘I am a social worker and I work with young people with a disability ’. However, this is only the start. The more interesting part comes next.


    TIP: Don’t use jargon or excessively bureaucratic language. You run the risk of sounding insincere, or of your audience not understanding what it is you do at the end of it.


    Explain how you do it

    To stand out from the other insurers, or social workers, or whatever it is you do – because you will most likely never be the only one – include your ‘unique selling proposition’ or USP, to use some advertising jargon. What makes you different? What is your story about why you do what you do, and how do you do it in a way that makes you unique? This is what will make your audience remember you, so include it in your pitch in a way that is memorable.

    Use words such as ‘I have a knack for…’ or ‘I’m an effective…’ in your USP. They convey your ability and self-confidence without sounding conceited (yes, many of us struggle with that).

    Engage the recipient with a question

    At the end of your 30 or so seconds, have an open-ended question ready for the other person, such as ‘How does that relate to what you do?’ Your pitch can then move into conversation mode. (Unless you really are in a lift, in which case stop there.)


    TIP: Keep some business cards readily accessible so that you can hand them to the person at the end of your pitch or conversation.


    Practise your pitch until it is perfect

    You might well feel a little awkward, but practise saying your pitch out loud. Do it several times over. Time it, and perhaps even record yourself, and make sure it is not too loud. Say it to another person who will give you honest feedback about both your content and your delivery.


    TIP: Be natural in your speech patterns and in the words you choose. Your elevator pitch should be an authentic representation of you. Watch your body language – make sure it reflects what you are saying. Telling people how compassionate you are in a stilted voice with your arms folded will not come across as convincing.


    This is a real example of a suggested pitch: ‘I’m currently working as Human Resources Manager at [insert company]. My supervisors frequently commend me for being able to weigh and consider multiple perspectives and negotiate conflicting perspectives.’ Would you really speak that way? If you would, that’s fine, but if not, rather say something like  ‘My bosses often tell me I’m good at weighing and considering a lot of perspectives  and negotiating in conflicts’.

    Be prepared to tweak your elevator pitch both for the occasion and as your skills and experience evolve. At the end of it, the listener should have a really clear idea of the value you can deliver. Perhaps most importantly, your fire and excitement as you deliver it should be obvious, and infectious. It could just be the 30 seconds that changes your life.


  2. How the best leaders become coaches: lessons from the field

    July 5, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Being a team player, touching base, big wins, level playing fields – not to mention  dropping the ball and getting it over the line –  are just some of the terms from the sports field that we use at work. So when we decided to address the topic of leadership coaching, we decided to ask a successful sports coach for tips that we could translate to the workplace.

    When Adam took over as coach of a club soccer team, they had come last in the previous season’s competition. They weren’t too discouraged, as they were mates who liked playing together, but they had no expectations of winning. Three months into this season, they have won eight games in a row and stand a good chance of winning the entire competition. So what’s changed? And how did they get there?

    As I spoke to Adam, the parallels between coaching a group of 16-year-old boys in football and leading a team at work became clearer. Last season’s coach/manager has moved on. The team is ready to play but not highly motivated. They lack some skills and resources, and above all they lack belief that they can achieve. These are the steps Adam took to turn the team’s fortunes around.

    1. Observe and learn

    For the first few training sessions, Adam watched the players, assessing their skills and attitudes and observing how they worked together as a team. He didn’t step in or change anything until he had this figured out. Adam then worked out what he needed to learn himself before he could support the team. He realised that he couldn’t teach them hard skills in the time available, but could suggest areas of improvement for each player and an approach to learning new skills.

    Lesson: The best coaches start by truly understanding the team they are working with before they rush in with solutions. They know that self-education has to come before teaching others, and empower their teams to be responsible for their own skills development.

    1. Plan and consult

    Once he had observed the team and was familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and how they worked together, Adam make a plan for tackling improvement. Upgrading skills was to be their individual responsibility, while teamwork and team culture would be his.  He consulted the team about their vision; what they wanted from the season and what they expected to achieve.

    Lesson: Involving the team in their own goal setting and making a concrete plan of action brings results. The best coaches know that setting achievable yet challenging goals motivates people.

    1. Set expectations and parameters

    Adam emailed each team member, outlining what was expected of them and what he would do for the team. This included attending every training session, showing total respect for teammates,  and encouraging team members who made mistakes or struggled with new skills. In turn he committed to 100% positive effort and the intention to win every game.

    Lesson:  Setting clear expectations for everybody in the team – including the coach – builds a respectful culture in which everybody is expected to do their best and support one another in an atmosphere of civility. The best coaches hold their team to high standards of personal conduct as well as professional skill.

    1. Advocate for the team

    The team’s culture of non-performance meant they were under-resourced and rather ignored by the club. Adam’s mission was to get the team the resources it needed to succeed, and he pressured the club to provide new training balls, bibs and cones. This motivated the team and they soon began to win games and catch the attention of the club’s hierarchy. A coach needs to ‘go in to bat’ for the team and get them the resources they need, as well as to be supported by the organisation, to be truly effective.

    Lesson: Whether it is better equipment, more time to complete a project or recruiting a star performer, a good coach tries their utmost to get the team what it needs. Their commitment to advocating on behalf of the team shows the team they are valued as well as providing them with resources  to maximise their chances of success.

    5. Learn from setbacks and failures

    When the team started winning, they were surprised by their success. They won a game, but then had a bad loss, crumbling under pressure. Adam reassured them that this did not confirm their fear that they were a poor team after all. He admitted that he had formed a false sense of their mastery after the previous week’s win, and thought that winning would be easy this time too. He asked the team why they thought they had lost, and how they felt about it, and together they recommitted to a slightly different training routine, moving players to different positions, and working harder at skills. They aimed for improvement, not perfection.

    Lesson: Progress is not always linear and there are bound to be stumbling blocks. Confronting these situations, learning from them and adjusting plans when they are not working makes for a better result. A great coach leads the team through setbacks and is not afraid to talk about the negative aspects of performance as well as the positive.

    1. Review performance and celebrate success

    At the end of each game, the team has a quick chat about what went well and what went badly, but Adam is aware that they would rather get home than talk about the game at length. He plans a longer, more formal feedback session for the next training time, where they can talk honestly among themselves – and when tempers have died down if necessary. He stresses that by this time he has had time to reflect on the game, which is crucial in setting the tone for a review. The players contribute their ideas, the team discusses them, and the coach acts on the good ones. He sets the rules for these discussions: no criticism of anybody in front of others; talk about the team, not individuals.

    In this team, success is not celebrated by singling out individual players for medals and commendations. The biggest celebrations are reserved for when a player who has never scored a goal before gets one, rather than for when the star player scores another one. Adam’s proudest achievement is that a player who has never scored in many years of playing kicked the winning goal last week.

    Lesson: Success belongs to everybody, and so does disappointment. The best coaches do not praise or criticise reactively. They reflect and plan before honest discussions about—–

    The parallels between coaching a sports team and a business team are clear – that’s why the sporting metaphors fit so well. Lead your team to success by being the coach who uses a consultative leadership style, plans before acting, and shows flexibility and a willingness to take considered risks. Then watch your ‘weakest performer’ score the next winning goal.


  3. How to move from a dead-end job to a fulfilling career

    September 15, 2015 by Alison Hill

    Disengaged Employee

    By Alison Hill

    The weather is warming up and the days are lengthening. It’s easy to feel that life is passing you by while you are stuck behind a desk. But before you chuck it in and take up a job in the great outdoors, ask yourself, Is it really time to change careers? Do you need to do something quite different to your present job? Or would some adjustments make you more satisfied? How will you know? And what will you do next?

    There are three things to look at to help you decide if a career move is right for you right now.

    The organisation you are in now

    Perhaps you like the tasks you do, but feel that you don’t fit the organisation’s culture. Its values might clash with your own, or the people you work with are very different to you. You might feel that you are at a dead end and that your skills are undervalued. You may be involved in ongoing conflict with a manager.

    The job you are in now

    You might feel bored, that you have stopped learning, and that your tasks are routine and repetitive. Your prospects may be non-existent, and you may not be earning what you are worth. Perhaps you are concerned that your role will be outsourced in the near future.

    External factors

    Sometimes both the organisation and the job are just fine, but something happens in your life to make you consider a shift in career. It may be the birth of a child, relocation for a partner’s job, or the need to earn more.

    Any of these may make you feel it’s time for a complete change, and they might be a sign that a career change would be beneficial. But maybe a smaller change would do the trick. Being dissatisfied in your current job is not the same as being unhappy with your entire career.

    A career change is a big decision, and may involve further study or taking a few steps down the career ladder. It helps to have a very clear idea of what you are looking for, and to spend some time getting ready for a change. Here are some steps to take to prepare yourself for a career change.

     

    1. Make a list of your transferable skills and note where you may need to upskill. Plan how and when you will learn new skills. You might enrol in an accredited course, take some short courses online, or find a mentor to teach you ‘soft’ skills.
    2. Build your professional network. Attend conferences and networking events, update your LinkedIn profile, join groups and follow up the contacts you make.
    3. Build your personal brand. Know your strengths and weaknesses and work hard at your professional reputation. Create a clear, consistent image of yourself, in person and online. Use social media to boost your profile.
    4. Set your goals and make a plan to reach them. Being clear about the career you want and how you will realistically get there is the difference between dreaming and reality.
    5. Take a career aptitude test and consult a career adviser. Particularly if you are unsure about whether to make a change, a test that reveals or confirms your strengths, skills and ideal career direction is hugely beneficial. You can find out about Challenge Consulting’s career guidance programs here.
    6. Keep your resume up to date. As well as recording your positions and achievements, emphasise your transferable skills (such as strong oral communication, negotiation, or problem-solving) and even your hobbies if they are relevant to the career you hope to have. You may need to use your resume sooner than you think.

  4. Spring clean your career goals and achieve more job satisfaction

    September 1, 2015 by Alison Hill

    by Alison Hill

    Challenge Consulting has some fresh ideas for you this September. It’s the start of a new season and the sun is shining. As well as being an excellent time to get outdoors for a lunchtime walk, Spring is a reminder that it’s a good idea to revisit your career plan and reconsider your level of job satisfaction.

    But if winter is still hanging heavily over you, start small. Take the first step towards job satisfaction by changing one thing to create a satisfying work environment for yourself.

    You may be just starting out in the workforce and wondering how to make career choices, or you may be in a leadership position and keen to improve your team’s job satisfaction as you progress your own career. No matter where you are starting from, finding the career and the role that brings you great satisfaction is a process.

    We all wish we could have a job that didn’t feel like work. One where the hours would fly past, and the bank account would fill up while we did what we loved. For some lucky people this is reality, but for most of us, work involves a fair amount of doing something a little boring (or a lot!), somewhat frustrating and that doesn’t result in rivers of gold pouring into our coffers. The reality of work for most of us is that we find satisfaction in a practical choice of career.

    Luckily, it is possible to create satisfaction in almost any career choice, no matter how unglamorous. In September’s newsletters we will look at some of the ways this can be achieved. From choosing a career to deciding to make a career change, we will bring you tips about spring cleaning your work life. We’ll look at values and meaning in work too as they are often a very important – and overlooked – part of job satisfaction.

    Work plays such a big part in our lives that it’s really worth taking time out to examine what makes us happy and productive, and what to do if we’re not feeling the love for our job right now. Even if you are not in your dream career yet, knowing what the key elements of job satisfaction are is the first step towards making the changes that will lead to feeling motivated at the start of each working day and satisfied by the end of it. The mix is unique for each of us. Take some time this month to work out what will bring you the most satisfaction. Whether it’s pursuing a high-powered financial services career or helping others, or even making money from your hobby, it starts with finding out your unique mix of ingredients for satisfaction.

    I’m off to pick a bunch of Spring flowers for my desk. What will your one small thing be today?


  5. What’s your motivation style?

    June 30, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Being motivated brings many rewards – it compels you to take action and pushes you to succeed. Advice about how to become more motivated is plentiful but if it’s not directed towards your personal motivation style, it might not be all that useful to you. When you know your motivation style, however, you can better direct your efforts.

    Your motivation style affects how you behave as well as how quickly and successfully you achieve your goals. Usually people fall into two broad categories – those who are motivated towards achieving their goals and those who are motivated by fear of not achieving their goals. Both styles are effective as long as you understand which is your style and how to work with it.

    Towards motivations

    If you’re the type of person who is motivated towards goals, you tend to spend time thinking about what you will gain by achieving them. You love goals that come with incentives such as a bonus, promotion or pay rise. You also like goals that give you a sense of accomplishment especially when it’s coupled with positive feedback from others or, better still, an award.

    As a towards motivation type you are an optimist and you usually see the world in a positive light. It’s a good way to be – just watch that you’re not spending all your time dreaming. Try to maintain a balance by making sure that you take the actions needed for achieving your goals.

    Away from motivations

    When you spend your time thinking about what will happen if you don’t reach your goal, you’re motivated by fear. It’s all about the consequences. Let’s say you’re studying to get a qualification. A towards motivation type might be thinking about graduation day and celebrating their academic achievement; you will be thinking about how disappointed you’ll be with yourself if you fail, and how embarrassing it would be to have to tell your family and friends.

    Although as an away motivation type you tend to be a little pessimistic, you can make it work in your favour. This is especially true when it comes to wanting to change. You’re so good at imagining what your life would be like if you stay where you are and being fearful of stagnation, that you work hard to make the necessary changes.

    The most important thing about understanding your motivation style is to use your style to its best effect. Once you do that, you open yourself up to growing both professionally and personally. Feeling motivated?


  6. Four top tips for reaching your goals

    June 16, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    FOUR TOP TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR GOALS

    It’s great to set some goals for the future – they give you a sense of purpose and a roadmap for where you’re going. But setting goals is just the beginning – you also need to achieve them. Here are our four top tips:

    1. Lay down plans

    Well-laid plans are well played plans. Break your goal down into milestones to give you a sense of control. Milestones are the steps to your goal and can be further broken down into tasks.

    Let’s say your goal is to find a new job. Ask yourself, what do I need to do that? You might decide to start with updating your resume – that would be your milestone. Then ask yourself, what do I need to do that? Maybe you can start making notes on some of your recent achievements or research on the internet for some tips on resume writing – they would be your tasks.

    Write down all of your milestones, their corresponding tasks and a definition for how you will know when you have completed them. Give yourself a timeframe for each and tick off each task and milestone as you go.

    1. Create new habits

    Very often the process for coming closer to your goal means doing a particular task on a regular basis – it’s like building up a muscle. Each day you work on it, it gets a little stronger. If you’re looking for a new job, a regular task might be to keep checking job sites and honing your skills in writing engaging cover letters.

    Make a habit of doing the necessary tasks. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit, so stick with it safe in the knowledge that it will get easier. When you’re starting out, put aside some time each day, then tell yourself that you only have to do your task for fifteen minutes and then you can stop. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that you’ll be happy to keep going.

    1. Focus on the process

    Research has shown that our brains tend to focus on the most difficult part of any task. Consequently, we’re often tricked into thinking that it’s all too hard and finding excuses for putting it off. And if we put it off for too long, we can give up on the goal before we even start.

    To help us, we frequently hear advice telling us to visualise having already achieved our goal. Unfortunately this type of visualisation often results in fantasising about a future and procrastinating about doing anything about it. Better, more motivating advice is to visualise doing the processes you need to go through to reach your goal.

    1. Commit to the weekly weigh in

    Each day ask yourself, what did I do today to get me closer to where I want to be? This question makes you accountable for your actions towards your goal and will help to keep you on track.

    Another way to make yourself accountable is to tell someone what you are going to do over the week towards your goal. Be careful who you tell though because some people won’t be interested. You need someone who will give you a hard time if you’ve procrastinated about following your goal plan.

    When you get to the end of your week, write a summary of everything that you achieved. If you’ve kept yourself accountable, you’ve probably achieved quite a lot and you’ll feel energised for the next week.


  7. Six winning goal-setting strategies

    June 2, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Do you love your job and want to get better at it? Are you thinking of moving into a more interesting role at your current workplace? Or are you looking for your new dream job? If you’re serious about making some changes in your career, stop thinking about it and start putting some goal-setting strategies together.

    Setting yourself a few time-bound, specific, challenging goals will give you the direction you need to find your way to where you want to be. Here are some strategies:

    1. Be specific

    Give yourself clarity and vision. State in detailed, specific terms what you want to achieve. This type of goal setting ensures you won’t settle for less and be tempted to convince yourself that it’s ‘good enough’.

    1. Make it difficult

    Make your goals challenging but achievable. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by making your goal too difficult, but you do want your goal to challenge you enough to stoke your enthusiasm for getting there. Remember, there is no such thing as an easy goal – if you never challenge yourself, you will never change.

    1. Set deadlines

    Deadlines are great motivators – they keep you committed to your goal because they make you focus on what you need to do. Deadlines help you to break down your goals into tasks and milestones that will set you on the road to reach your goal.

    1. Understand the why

    Understanding the why of your goal gives you the energy to persist when times get tough. It also gives your goal greater meaning and purpose, firing up your passion and inspiration.

    1. Prepare for the ifs

    Rarely does the journey towards a goal come without a few twists, turns and bumps in the road. That’s why people have ‘what if?’ plans. There’s almost always more than one way to reach a destination and, as all scouts know, it’s good to be prepared.

    1. Keep your eye on the prize

    Sometimes you need to close your eyes to see yourself. Try it. See yourself in your mind as being there already with your prize for reaching your goal. Breathe it in and let the feelings wash over you. Now go for it…




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