June 2006

Thank you for reading the June 2006 L’Epée Coaching & Consulting Newsletter.

Because spring is usually a time when the cold, gray days of winter transition to the warmth and sun of summer, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share my views on transition within the workplace.

A transition can entail something as significant as the restructuring of a company or something as benign as working with a new office assistant in a department. Whether you are a managing director or an office assistant, your behavior in adapting to new changes within your organization can make the difference between a positive transition and a negative one.

Let go!

People begin any transition by letting go of something. On paper it may seem simple, but on a psychological level, this can take some time. If you are a manager, remember that a new vision for an organization may need to be reiterated several times before your team begins to embrace the change. At the same time, anyone directly affected by changes within an organization must remember that changing one’s behavior takes a lot of time and planning.

Acceptance

During the course of any transition, a period of acceptance inevitably occurs. This “neutral zone” occurs when new methods and structures begin to take a foothold, but old habits still haven’t completely fallen away. This period is critical since it is at this stage where change is either adopted or abandoned.

Adaptation

If a transition has been properly managed, people at every level of an organization will feel comfortable working within the new structure that has been implemented. They understand their new roles and responsibilities and see how it benefits both themselves and the organization. A poorly managed transition, on the other hand, can leave everyone involved feeling trapped in a kind of organizational limbo.

“Coaching Across Cultures” workshop at the Coaching Conference Prague June 7, 2006

Having worked as a business coach for the past eight years and having had the privilege of living and working in three very different countries on two continents, I have long been eager to integrate my experience as a coach and my knowledge in cultural interaction into one learning program.

My upcoming Coaching Across Cultures workshop will examine the fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to interact effectively with colleagues and clients from different cultural backgrounds.

Using concrete examples to illustrate some of the most common cultural dilemmas, participants will learn to communicate effectively and appropriately in any cultural context. In a world that is becoming increasingly smaller, being capable of communicating across cultures is an invaluable skill to have.

The event, which is part of the Coaching Conference Prague, will take place at the Corinthia Panorama Hotel at 11:30.

For registration information, please visit kouchinkcentrum.cz. Be sure to also download a PDF copy of the conference program.

Calendar of events and activities

June 5 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
June 7 “Coaching Across Cultures” Coaching Conference Prague 2006
June 27 Leadership Challenges Power Lunch: Managing Diversity
July (date to be confirmed) WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
July 25 Leadership Challenges Power Lunch: Creativity and Innovation

Communication Tip of the month: A great presentation is all in the preparation

Very few people enjoy presenting in front of their colleagues and peers. And though it is a skill that anyone in business must eventually learn, many of us often overlook the preparation that goes into giving an engaging, informative and convincing presentation.

Rather than speak about those elements of presenting that one should avoid, I would like to use a friend of mine as an example. Pierre recently gave a very successful presentation to his company’s European management board. Thanks to meticulous preparation, he was not only able to give an informative and engaging presentation, but he also successfully raised his profile within the company in the process. His success holds several lessons for anyone finding himself having to make an important presentation.

As the general manager of the newly established Czech subsidiary, Pierre knew that this presentation would be a crucial opportunity to gain the trust and support of his superiors. As a result, he was determined to pull off his presentation without a hitch. Well aware of the exposure he was certain to receive at the meeting, he had spent long days carefully preparing his presentation and was eager to show his colleagues and bosses the positive results his team had already achieved on the Czech and Central European market.

Identifying the goals of a presentation

The first thing Pierre did after agreeing to deliver the presentation was to write down exactly what he planned to achieve.

Naturally, his primary aim was to highlight the success his team had had since the Czech subsidiary had been established. Pierre was also eager to let his colleagues know a thing or two about the market he was working in, how exciting it is and where he hoped to take the subsidiary in the future. This information represented the core of Pierre’s speech and he noted it down as one of the short-term goals of the presentation.

Knowing however that a well delivered, convincing presentation would gain him the good faith of the people he worked for, Pierre was also quick to realize the effect that this opportunity might have on his career, in the future as much as now. This exposure meant that Pierre was doing more than just preparing a presentation; he was securing his future with the company and considered that the long-term goal of the project.

Pierre’s final goal in this presentation was personal rather than professional: He simply wanted to feel more confident in front of people and knew that this wouldn’t be the last time he would find himself in front of an audience. Even before he knew exactly what he would be presenting, Pierre had already invested a lot of himself into the presentation.

Approaching an Audience

Though he had clearly defined his short- and long-term goals, Pierre was still not ready to sit down at his computer and begin putting the presentation together. He realized that the ultimate success of the presentation depended on his ability to identify both the people he would be presenting to and their expectations. To ensure that his presentation would be well received and his message understood, Pierre needed to know whom he would be addressing and what they would expect to hear.

For example, knowing that he would be speaking to a European audience, Pierre felt it necessary to keep his presentation in line with some general European cultural expectations. His German colleagues would expect some very specific and detailed information. The English members of the audience, on the other hand, would certainly expect a well written and presented speech, where as the French would appreciate a sign of intellectual understanding and a little bit of flair. Catering to the expectations of such a diverse audience wouldn’t be easy, but fortunately, Pierre had a very good idea of who he would be speaking to and was ready to begin crafting his message appropriately.

An Excellent Grasp of the Material

Now that Pierre had identified his goals and had carefully determined the character and expectations of his audience, he was now ready to decide on what exactly would make up the core of his message. To fully persuade his audience of the success that he and his team had worked so hard to achieve, he had to have a very good grasp of the material he would use to support his case. Namely, Pierre needed to focus on those aspects of the business that he knew intimately, presenting only those topics that he was most familiar with while staying away from any areas he didn’t feel certain of. To achieve his goal of gaining the trust of his audience, Pierre could not afford to have his credibility fall into question.

Finally, when choosing and structuring the material he intended to use, Pierre had to pay special attention that the essence of his presentation was above all clear and to-the-point. Because he would be addressing a linguistically diverse audience, Pierre was aware of the danger of being long-winded and pedantic and made sure that all the information he intended to impart was delivered as concisely as possible.

The value of enthusiasm

After days of preparation and practice, the Pierre was finally ready to catch a plane to the meeting and deliver his speech.

While thinking about all the various elements that are involved in delivering an engaging and informative presentation, Pierre knew that the way he delivered the presentation would be his strongest suite. Aside from having done his homework, and adapting the presentation to suit the needs and expectations of his audience, Pierre knew that his natural enthusiasm for the business would be the one thing that really grabbed the attention of his colleagues and superiors.

As a result of his passion for the subject, Pierre was able to connect with his audience within the first half-minute of the presentation. This enthusiasm, along with his thorough knowledge of the subject, allowed him to create a feeling of trust and understanding with the audience. The time he had invested in analyzing his audience allowed Pierre to develop a rapport with the people he was addressing and speak to them on both an emotional and a rational level.

Summing it up

After finishing his presentation, Pierre knew that he had just achieved a resounding success. Not only had he realized the short term goal of highlighting the success of the Czech subsidiary, but he found himself well on his way to achieving his long term goals when the company’s CEO later asked him to attend the annual global conference and give a similar presentation for all the company’s subsidiaries.

With both the speech and the support of his bosses behind him, Pierre was able to congratulate himself on the positive outcome of the presentation and even began looking forward to the next presentation he would make. And he started on it immediately; making notes of what went well and analyzing the factors that made this presentation the success it was. After all, his excellent preparation is what helped Pierre deliver a successful presentation and raise his profile within the company.

This article was written for the Prague Club Magazine: http://www.clubmagazine.cz and published in their January 2006 issue.

Yours truly,
Karin