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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. Six tips that will help you grow a strong professional network

    May 24, 2016 by Alison Hill

    There’s more to networking than a free glass of wine while you meet some new people. Effective networking – getting together with others with the aim of building a strong set of connections – is an art that can be learned.

    A strong professional network can lead to new clients, business deals, connections with great people, finding the perfect employee or getting a great job offer. But first, you have to build your network. As marketing strategist and author Dorie Clark writes, those are side-effects of relationship building.
    1. Attend the right events
    There’s certainly a place for social media networking, but we have all probably relied on it to the detriment of networking in person. Get back into attending organised networking events through professional associations, business chambers, conferences, alumni associations and through Meetup groups. Then connect with the people you meet through LinkedIn or other networks. Using in-person networking to enhance networking on social media, not the other way around, leads to more powerful and authentic connections. The exception is where the events have a social media channel set up for attendees to connect beforehand. If that’s the case, use it to research people with whom you have something in common and those who you would like to meet before the event.
    2. Build common ground and a personal connection
    Be prepared. Read the news, think about what you might say about a book you have been reading or somewhere you have visited recently – a trip, a cafe, a gallery, a sports match all make good and genuine conversation starters.
    I read a ‘tip’ that said one should ‘network for net worth’. And yes, they meant financial worth. My first thought was that I wouldn’t want a person who thinks that way in my network. Everybody is worth more than their bank balance. Making a genuine connection with people you meet will lead you to the kind of people you want to interact with in future. And remember too that not everybody will like you – and that’s okay.
    3. Ask questions and listen to the answers
    Starting off with your ‘elevator pitch’ or a marketing statement for your brand can be off-putting. A better approach is to ask genuine questions that you are interested in hearing the answers to, and to listen – really listen – to the replies. Don’t be looking over the person’s shoulder in case somebody more important turns up. Give them your full attention, and be aware of what you can add to a discussion. When it’s time to end a conversation, do so gracefully, making eye contact and telling the person it’s been nice to meet them.
    4. Give more than you ask for
    You’ve no doubt heard it said that you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals in your professional life. We can’t say it enough: building relationships takes time. Go into the session with the mindset that you are there to help others, not to find ways to promote yourself. Think you have nothing to offer? How about introductions to others in your network, publicity for a person’s new venture, an offer to share their blog posts with your network or to promote their product on your pages?
    5. Get out of your comfort zone
    It’s a networking event, so don’t spend all your time talking to the three people you already know. Get out and work the room, meeting and talking to as many people as you can. Everybody is attending with the same purpose, so there’s no need to feel awkward about approaching a total stranger.
    Your body language says heaps about you before you say a word. To look approachable, your stance should be open, your hands at your side, and your body turned towards people who are moving towards you.
    6. Don’t forget to network within your own organisation
    Making new connections in your own organisation can help you to get things done innovatively in your present role through understanding what others do, and ultimately can help you to progress within the organisation. Don’t confine it to drinks and seminars; getting out and getting fit is also a great way to network with your colleagues. It’s also a good, non-threatening environment in which to practice your networking skills, making you more confident, improving your listening and questioning skills and revealing new insights from the people you meet.


  3. How to use No to boost your chances of success

    November 10, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    You are in your one-on-one meeting with your boss, and she asks you to take on a project. You hear yourself say, ‘Sure, I can do that’. And then the voice in your head says, ‘I’m already overloaded. How will I fit in one more thing? Maybe if I work back all week. Oh no, I have to do that other thing too. Why did I say yes?’

    Sounds familiar? It seems we all have an inbuilt desire to please, and that means we often say yes when we really should be saying no. The project is just not a good use of our time right now. How do we say no to those up the hierarchy without sabotaging our prospects? We want to shine, to be noticed, to get that promotion. Can we learn to say no in a way that makes us look better than saying yes?

    Do the groundwork

    Work to your goals. It’s no good saying yes to everything that comes along until your plate is full, and then regretting that you genuinely have no capacity to do that one thing that will really help you to shine. You should have a good understanding of your personal, team and organisational goals. If what you are being asked to do is not in accordance with those goals, you need to say no.

    Say something like, ‘That sounds really good, but it’s not in line with my priorities right now’.

    Use the power of no to gain respect

    Think about when you have offered somebody an opportunity and they turned it down. The chances are that if the refusal was polite and unambiguous, you respected the fact that the person was busy, and didn’t say yes and then fail to deliver. It’s a far better situation for both parties. The person asking for your time is not left frustrated when you delay or do a sub-standard job, and you free up your time to focus on the tasks that are aligned with your goals.

    Say something like, ‘Although usually I would jump at the chance, right now I have too much on my plate to do it justice. But another time I would welcome the opportunity to do it.’

    Keep your options open

    If you really are saying no because you don’t have the time, say so. Goals change over time, and perhaps you will be able to work with that person or take on a similar project at another time, so don’t close the door. If a project is irresistible, ask your manager to go through all your tasks with you and see if some could be delegated to another person or put on hold while you work on the high-priority project. Your ability to plan and prioritise will be appreciated, and you may be surprised at how flexible you both can be.

    Say something like, ‘I would really value the opportunity to work on the project. Do you think I could make a list of the tasks I have to do in the next [week/month/quarter] and go through them with you? I’m hoping you can help me to reprioritise so that I can fit this in
    as I really want to do it.’

    Stop and think

    Last, but perhaps most important: stop and think before you answer. It’s okay to say, ‘Can I get back to you on that?’ Give a deadline;  be it in 15 minutes or by the end of the week. You gain respect by giving your considered answer rather than saying yes and then backtracking. It shows that you have thought about not wasting the other person’s time too. Your answer can be ‘not now’ rather than no. But remember to get back to them by the deadline, demonstrating that you value their time and that you are able to manage your own.

    Say something like, ‘That really appeals to me. Can I check my schedule and get back to you
    by the end of the day?’

    Do you have an example of when saying no worked out really well for you? Let us know in the comments below.


  4. Creating virtuoso virtual teams

    August 18, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    Technological change and the globalisation of business mean we will probably all work in a virtual team at some time. Well over half of us already work in virtual teams.

    While the debate goes on about whether virtual teams are more or less productive, efficient and responsive to customer needs, what is certain is that they’re here to stay.  While nothing can quite replicate face-to-face contact and the behavioural and emotional interaction and learning that comes with it, leaders are working hard at creating a different experience of the workplace that promotes efficient teams that are also happy and productive, innovative teams.

     

    Technology has made collaboration across borders of time and geography relatively simple. Enterprise social networking software, screen sharing, document sharing, collaboration tools and online meeting platforms provide the means to create a sense of community. Making them available is a good start, and ensuring that they are extremely well supported is vital. Many will have experienced the frustration and time-wasting of virtual meetings hijacked by technical glitches. Excellent tech support and training for all users is non-negotiable for effective virtual teams

    Whether being part of a virtual team means working from home a few days a week or managing people dispersed across the globe, there are challenges in communication, collaboration and leadership. Sharing information, integrating knowledge and achieving team cohesion are undoubtedly more difficult than in a face-to-face team. Simply using technology well won’t solve these issues. There must be attention to the interpersonal dimensions of a virtual team.

    In a healthy team, conversations are encouraged and knowledge is shared. Expectations are clear and roles are made explicit. Team members feel heard. This may be a little harder when some members are at home or in another city or country, but it can be done. From simple things like sharing photos of the team and their locations, to drawing up and agreeing to rules for virtual meetings (no multitasking, give everybody a turn to speak, turn webcam on at all times, for starters) to hosting virtual team building sessions, work at it.

    Leaders must:

    • focus on both technology and interpersonal competence
    • encourage respect for other cultures and languages
    • promote diversity as a strength
    • build trust between team members
    • build trust between themselves and their team members
    • ensure technical support is available
    • facilitate training in technology and people skills
    • recognise and reward efforts and results right across the team.

    Team members must:

    • dial in to meetings and events on time and respond to chat and requests for collaboration
    • be aware of body language – slumping, eye rolling and smirking are just as impolite and destructive in a virtual meeting
    • observe the same manners as in a face-to-face situation – don’t get up and walk around, check Facebook, or make a phone call
    • ask for advice and help from your dispersed team members
    • be ready to learn from one another, not just about the mechanics of the job but also about values and attitudes
    • celebrate diversity, for example by learning about one another’s public holidays, religious festivals, birthday traditions and so on.

    While work might be geographically dispersed and asynchronous, it is still happening in a team. Virtuoso virtual teams will value working and learning together, each contributing fully to its success.

    Have you worked in a virtual team? What is your experience of working remotely? Let us know how it is for you.


  5. Three great ways to share what you know

    July 14, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    If you’ve been working for a while you will have amounted a healthy set of skills and a level of professional expertise that you can be proud of. You didn’t achieve it all on your own though – many people helped you along the way by sharing the gift of their knowledge either through formal training or less formally on the job.

    Now it’s your turn. Share what you know with less experienced colleagues and discover that, it’s not only the recipient who reaps the benefits of shared knowledge, you do too. Here are three great ways it can be done:

    Brown paper bag lunches

    Brown paper bag lunches are a wonderful way to share what you have learned during your working life with your co-workers. The way that brown paper bag lunches work is for a group of co-workers to get together at lunchtime with their take-away lunches at regular intervals – say weekly or fortnightly.

    Each time the group meets with their lunch, one member in an informal, relaxed way, shares something they have learned that others may not know about. Let’s say it’s your turn. You may have been reading up on something interesting that could be applied to a work situation, or you may have attended a conference that featured an interesting speaker, or maybe you have used a piece of technology that others haven’t and you think that they might find it useful.

    You can share information from a past position or something that relates to your current role, it really doesn’t matter so long as it potentially helps your co-workers in some way. Brown paper bag lunches are also ideal for getting to know people at work better and promoting collaboration.

    Lessons learned

    Lessons learned is a retrospective process traditionally used in project management. It’s designed to capture both the negative and positive lessons that were learned during the execution of a project. A project can be anything from implementing new technology systems and creating training programs to organising a conference.

    The point is that during any project some things will have worked well and others may not have. Sharing lessons learned with others who are about to undertake similar projects helps the new team to avoid some of the pitfalls of past projects and to leverage on some of the positive aspects. If you’ve worked on any type of project, you can share your lessons learned in this way.

    Mentoring

    One-on-one mentoring can be immensely satisfying for both the mentee and mentor. The mentor–mentee relationship is essentially a conversation between two people. Because everyone comes to the table with their own set of professional and life experiences, as mentor you’ll soon realise that your mentee isn’t the only one who is learning in the relationship. As you progress with mentoring your colleague, your knowledge will expand, deepen and become more ingrained.

    Mentoring is also a great way to establish your reputation as an expert, demonstrate your leadership skills and advance your career. What’s more, mentoring can be a lot of fun and many mentoring relationships have been the start of long-lasting friendships. So look for opportunities to mentor others because the benefits to you are tenfold compared to the time and effort you put in.


  6. Five awesome ways to love your job more

    June 23, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    ‘The secret to great work is being passionate about your job’, said Steve Jobs. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to keep the passion alive. So what can you do when you’re faced with challenges like conflicting demands on your time and energy, internal politics and a general lack of job satisfaction? Quitting is an option, but not always the best one. Another option is to take action to ignite your passion using these five awesome techniques:

    1. Look for meaning

    We all want to feel like we’re doing something meaningful that will make a difference but sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of why we’re there. The secret to finding meaning in your work is to align it with your values. Write down your top five values. Here are mine – family, good health, challenge, creativity and curiosity. What are yours? How does your work help you to live according your values?

    1. Do more of what you like

    You might not like every aspect of your job, but you probably like parts of it. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do more of those parts you like. Do you enjoy helping others learn new skills? Are you a natural organiser? Do you like working with words to make something sound just right? Build more of anything you like and see how your job suddenly becomes more interesting.

    1. Learn something new

    To be happy at work you need to find the sweet spot between being under challenged and over challenged. If you feel that your job only needs half your brain then you’re bored and it’s probably time to learn something new. Challenge yourself by learning more about the industry you work in and learning new skills. You’ll not only quell your boredom but you will also be adding to your worth as an employee.

    1. Get clear about expectations

    If you’re faced with conflicting demands, ask your boss to clarify priorities for you. Be upfront early about the possibility of not completing a task on time because another task has taken up all your time and attention. You don’t want to be faced with having to tell people that you didn’t complete the task by the due date, so flag obstacles early so others can plan ahead.

    1. Keep away from the moaners

    Are you hanging around with the cynics and whiners at work? Negativity breeds more negativity. Work will never be perfect, but when you spend your time with people who love to hate the workplace and most of the people in it, you won’t be happy. Seek out people with more balanced views and you’ll find that your views about work will shift dramatically.


  7. What to say in a performance review

    June 9, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Performance reviews are an opportunity to get some feedback on your work over the past year, but they’re also your chance to have your say on how you think you could become a better professional. Here are eight ways to do so:

    1. What you like about your job

    Tell your boss what you like about your job. It helps them to understand who you are and how to keep you motivated and happy. Happy employees are more productive and contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

    1. What you want to learn about

    Let your boss know what you’re interested in learning about. It helps them to plan where you might fit in a growing company. Employees who are continually learning continually increase their value in a business.

    1. What you would really like to work on

    If there is an upcoming project that you want to be a part of, tell your boss about it. It shows your interest in what is happening in the business. Employees who work on projects that they are interested in are more passionate about their work.

    1. Where you see yourself in the future

    Tell your boss where you see yourself in the future with the company. It shows that you are goal orientated and are keen to be a part of the business in the long term. Employees with a vision for the future are motivated towards achieving their goals.

    1. How you would like to contribute to the company’s success

    Let your boss know what you would like to do to contribute to the company’s success. It shows that you are a team player and that you’re dedicated to common goals. Employees who want to contribute have a high morale.

    1. What support you need to do your best work

    Tell your boss what support you need to do your job well – be it training, new technology, better communication, an extra pair of hands or anything else. If you don’t tell them, they may not think to offer support. Employees who speak up about what they need are more likely to get help.

    1. What isn’t working

    Be honest about what isn’t working – be it a process, procedure or a type of technology. Managers who aren’t working with the systems may not be aware of inefficiencies and appreciate insights from the ‘trenches’. Employees who give feedback can help to streamline business processes.

    1. What ideas you have for improving practices

    Suggest solutions for what is not working. It shows that you’re creative and insightful. Employees with ideas for improving practices show their leadership potential.


  8. Keeping motivated when you are a Leader

    May 19, 2015 by Jenna

    Leadership takes on many responsibilities; it can be very busy and even tiring at times and therefore motivation levels can fluctuate. However, in this role you need to be able to keep yourself motivated because in turn it keeps the rest of your team motivated and thriving in the business.

    It starts with keeping in check your own personal motivation – your passions, continuing to challenge yourself with various projects and remembering why you committed to these goals in the first place. What you are trying to achieve?

    Sometimes the quickest way to lose motivation or even exhaust your level of motivation is to spend all of your time and energy trying to motivate and please the needs of your team. The truth is motivation is personal and you cannot force it upon others. Instead, leading by example through your own motivations, you can inspire others to motivate themselves and drive them to perform better. It’s showing the way towards success.

    Methods for self-motivation can include:

    • Learning new skills – What is needed for your current role? Where can you obtain these skills? Is there anyone who you can consult with for direction or advice?

    • Taking appropriate leave breaks to relax & rejuvenate – Clearing your mind of distractions (and resting), taking the time to find out more about yourself or pursuing a personal goal or hobby.

    • Spending time developing a self-improvement plan and setting goals – Where do you see your role developing in line with your business goals? Where do you see your team going and what do you need to do to help guide them there?

    • Investing in courses and training that can lead to growth and development – Are there any conferences within your local area that are providing information on areas of development? Have you looked into local educational institutions and what courses they provide? Are there any online resources that you could review outside of business hours?

    Building your own motivation by developing our skills and abilities also provides the knowledge and insight to pass on to others. If others within your team are seeking your advice or direction, you can provide recommendations and information on what you have looked into previously, helping direct others toward their future success.

    Make sure to also keep following up on your personal progress and what motivates you, whether it is every month or six months. That way you can help keep your motivation levels consistent and on track.

    If you are currently in a leadership role, what motivates you? More importantly, in what ways do you keep your drive and motivation consistent?


  9. Bad Habits Leaders Should Avoid

    May 12, 2015 by Jenna

    When you look up the term ‘leadership’ or ‘leadership roles’, you will find many articles on what to do to become a great leader. It is also important to be aware of bad habits that can hinder progress.

    I know I have been guilty of at least two of the items listed below, but the first step is being aware of these habits so that you can find the ways to improve your leadership performance:

    1. Taking credit for others’ ideas and contributions – We all know the famous term, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’. It is very exciting when members of your team make a contribution that takes the organisation in a positive direction. However, the biggest failures one can make as a leader is to neglect to recognise and acknowledge individual and team contributions. If you are taking credit for someone else’s work, chances are you will start to notice your team working against you and not for you because they do not feel appreciated or valued.
    2. Using a position of power to control and intimidateothers — This autocratic style of leadership will often leave the team with a low level of autonomy. This can prevent creative ideas being presented as team members feel they do not have the right to contribute.
    3. Blaming others when things go wrong – It is important to recognise with the team when mistakes are made and that they have negative consequences in order to assess better solutions for the future. However, singling people out, pointing fingers, or making others carry the full weight of the failure is not reaction a leader should take. A leader needs to stand by their team no matter what, accept responsibility of when things go wrong, keep track of team members and progression, and have an ‘open door’ for team members to approach if they are experiencing struggles on tasks.
    4. Clinging to traditional methods and old ideas –In order to thrive in society most leaders need to think outside the box, take risks when needed and use innovation to be one step ahead of competitors. While traditional methods may have worked in the past, if you find you are constantly using the same strategy when the rest of the world is changing, you may fall behind. This includes those that refuse to learn new skills and tools to keep up with today’s market. If you are not trying to learn and adapt, you will fall behind.
    5. Failing to keep promises – Leaders who make promises but do not follow through risk loss of personal credibility, trust and the goodwill of others. If you have let down your team more than once, it can often take a long time to earn that trust back.
    6. Actingalone – Leaders who do not consult, collaborate or solicit input from others often fail to make enlightened decisions. Leaders also need to make sure they delegate tasks within the team appropriately so that they can stretch their teams’ abilities.

    Failing to effectively manage issues – Leaders who dismiss the need to address, manage and resolve issues, place themselves and their organisation at risk.

    What are some of the experiences you have learned in a leadership role? What were the learning curves that you have experienced?


  10. Tips on how to effectively lead teams

    May 5, 2015 by Jenna

    Leading teams requires great commitment and looking outside of yourself to meet their needs. We have provided some tips below to help set you on the right path to a great leadership experience: If you are new to a leadership role they might help guide your way and if you have been at it for a while they may serve as a useful reminder.

    1. Brush up on Your Communication Skills. Having clear and precise communication is important, and being honest and open with your team helps build a level of trust. Making sure all staff understand what the goals and expectations are and giving them the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas for feedback is important.

    2. Be Committed to Your Goal. Not only should you be explaining the importance of the company goals to your team, but you need to show by example that you support the goals as a leader. This involves setting out the tasks, having follow-up meetings and making sure that your team is on track with what needs to be achieved.

    3. Give Verbal Recognition. Verbal recognition for efforts and praise show your support towards the staff member’s accomplishments. It also boosts morale and positivity that encourages a mutual support among team members.

    4. A Team Leader Should Lead by Example. A great leader is someone who shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty or dig in to help when the team requires additional support. Someone who can encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do.

    5. Invest in Staff Careers. To ensure your staff are up to date with the skills they need for their role, you may need to invest in training, invest time mentoring or finding the right mentor, invest time to discover what they really need and want in order to do a great job.

    6. Resolve Conflicts. Any conflict within the workplace needs to be handled promptly and assessed by leaders as soon as it arises. Appropriate measures need to be taken to find resolution or negotiate a mutual agreement. Whether it is conflict in a task or between co-workers, leaders must step up to the plate to take action and problem solve the best way that they can.

    7. Teach Adaptability. The effective team manager should teach adaptability and flexibility to all their team members. This results in better communication, a greater sense of empowerment among staff and a faster exchange of information.

    8. Build Pride in Your Team. Positive reinforcement on success is a proven way to keep staff motivation high and build pride in your team. It will increase productivity amongst the team and encourage drive towards goals. You are also creating a positive working environment that employees are happy to be a part of.

    9. Give Your Staff New Responsibilities. Just as you have developed into your role of leadership, your team are looking for development opportunities. It is important that you help them by giving them the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as the opportunities arise.

    Have you lead teams during your career? What were your first experiences when it came to leading teams? What did you find was most successful? What did you learn from the experience?




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