Michael Piperno

Two people in a coaching session having coffee

Top Talent Needs Leadership, Too

Everyone deserves to feel that their work matters and to get feedback, both positive and constructive, so they can grow. But you know what? Some people don’t want to grow or are simply too checked out to care.

Therefore, leaders who are also good coaches can get caught in a trap. They can spend 80 to 90 percent of their available coaching time investing in people who don’t want to be coached. Now, I’m not saying you should give up on people too easily, but if you’re doing the hard work of coaching people who are not responsive to it or who are consistently not improving, I challenge you to flip the equation. 

Instead, dedicate the bulk of your coaching time to your top performers.

It’s easy to think they don’t need your feedback or coaching. That’s wrong. Just because your top performers are good at getting things done (and making you look good as a result) doesn’t mean they don’t need encouragement, praise, or constructive criticism. 

Remember, silence sends a very strong message. Don’t let it convey to your top talent that you don’t care about their achievements, growth, development, or well-being. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Woman composing emails or text messages on her phone.

Setting Each Other Up for Success

When you craft your next email or text message, ask yourself, “Am I writing this to be read by me, or by the person, the human being, who I am addressing it to?” 

Chances are you’re writing it in a style that works for you, and not necessarily them. 

If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops or training programs, you know that the first rule of any communication is to know your audience. This is true for every piece of communication you send throughout your work day — and your personal communications, too. When we are intentional about the way we communicate with each other and respectful of our differences, there is a much higher chance that the results will be more positive.

For example, if you know that Alex never responds to all your questions in your emails, then don’t send him emails with 15 questions embedded throughout several paragraphs of text. Send an email with a brief introduction, and 1 or 2 questions (bulleted out) that he can scan and reply to quickly. Voila, you’ve just set him up for success. He can move fast, like his job requires, and still give you what you needed because you considered his needs as well.

Here’s another example. Let’s say that your boss, Janelle, has been losing track of your emails and Teams chats because there is too much on her plate this week. Instead of firing off 8 different emails during the day on a variety of topics that don’t need immediate responses, collect your questions or issues and batch them into 1 email that she can respond to later. Or, if responses are not needed by the next day, scheduled time to sit down with her and talk through your items. You’ll likely get all the answers you need with no additional emails in her, or your, inbox.

These are just a few examples. You get the idea. 

Here’s my challenge to you. During your day today, pay special attention to 3 pieces of communication you send to someone else. With each, whether over text, email, Zoom, Teams, or in person, consider this question: 

How can I set this person up for success?

It will make your communications more productive, I promise. The bonus is that you’ll save time and reduce frustration on both sides. 

Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash
Grow Good Leaders

Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way

You’ve probably heard the famous quote, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” It’s used a lot in business and has been attributed to several influential individuals including Lee Iacocca, Ted Turner, and even Thomas Paine. 

The quote is an either-or proposition. You either lead, you follow, or you avoid interfering with those who have stepped in line and are playing their respective roles.

But leading well also means knowing how and when to follow — and knowing when to get out of the way

How can you help someone you’ve trained and developed take the lead?

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
Know Your Strengths

MORE, MORE, MORE…

There will always be someone who is more than you:

  • more educated
  • more careful
  • more talented
  • more risk tolerant
  • more… you get the idea.

The fact that someone is more [insert word here] doesn’t make you any less. Plus, there are a bunch of other people out there looking at you right now thinking you’re more [insert word here] than them.

Focus on the value you bring, the reasons you do what you do, and the specific talents, strengths, and abilities you bring to the table. That’s your zone, and there are plenty of people there who you can help.

P.S. It’s okay if your zone morphs over time — go with it.

Photo by Miguel Orós on Unsplash

Lost and Found

Every time I veer from my purpose as a teacher and coach with a passion for helping others be better communicators, I get lost. 

It seems easy to look back and pinpoint exactly where I’ve gone off course in the past. Reflection is powerful, isn’t it? There were times when I was making a decision based on what I thought was the “right” move but that was not necessarily what was true to my purpose, or vision for my future. Sometimes I even made decisions based on what other people wanted me to do. We’ve all done that, I know. The problem was that I couldn’t clearly articulate my purpose to myself, let alone others, until I did the work to define it clearly. Then I was able to stay on course more easily. 

Nobody’s path or story is straightforward. One of the only things we can guarantee in life is that things will change. However, your path might feel quite haphazard at times. Mine did for years.

When you find your purpose, your path has a guide that keeps you on track even if the track changes.

Finding Your Purpose and a Clearere Path Forward

If you feel a lack of purpose, or if it’s been elusive and you can’t quite define it, I encourage you to start by writing a few things down and pondering them for a bit: 

  1. Your passions
  2. What you value
  3. The value you bring to others
  4. What you really want in life, and in your career

Do you see any common themes? Is there a thread that keeps emerging? 

I know the feeling of being lost so well that I can see it coming from 30 miles away. The good thing is that now, I can get back on track without missing a beat (most of the time — I’m still human).

Do the work to find your purpose and claim it. If you need help, I’m here for you.

Conver-Speaking

When I led a brand communication agency, I had to do a lot of pitches. In preparation for each pitch meeting, my team and I would craft a presentation that would tell the prospect a story that we thought would resonate with them. It would include an assessment of their situation, our proposed approach to solving their problem, and samples of previous work and the results they created. Then, I’d rehearse the presentation to death. I was always confident and ready to present it by meeting day.

80 percent of the time, I would not present it as planned — and that was by design

My goal when walking into the room was always to get my audience talking first. If I could do so, the meeting would naturally become a conversation — an opportunity to share experiences, pain points, and potential solutions as real people genuinely interested in collaborating. Would I use the slides we had prepared? In most cases, yes. But I would jump around and bring up examples as the conversation warranted. It all depended on how the conversation went. A few times, not a single slide was shown and we still won the work.

20% of the time, the people in the room needed to see the traditional pitch, and I would give it to them. Still, I would try to treat the presentation as a conversation, getting them involved along the way as much as possible, and trying to make it a two-way dialogue instead of a monologue.

Next time you need to present, think about your audience and what they need to hear from you — and also why you both are there. Then consider how to make it more of a conversation than a speech or presentation. It’s not always possible, but when it is, a two-way dialogue will make it easier for you to build a stronger relationship from the start.

Packaging Design, Pushing Boundaries, Soup, Toys, and Friendship with Amanda Miles

Convey Podcast Michael Piperno & Amanda Miles

My friend Amanda is one of those people I can call after months have gone by, and it’s like time never passed. We can jump right into the conversation with a 5 second runway and we’re laughing and chatting like we were back in high school.

I asked Amanda to be a guest on Convey because she is a master visual communicator. The work she does as a packaging designer for some of the world’s biggest brands sells products without uttering a word. Now, that’s what I call visual stopping power.

In this episode you’ll hear how Amanda approaches her work — it’s a story about listening well, truly understanding your audiences, pushing boundaries, and standing out through good, thoughtful design. 

Listen here on my website, on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAnchor.fm or anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.

Learn more about Amanda here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ammiles/

Check out this episode’s sponsor, Darianna Bridal and Tuxedo: https://www.dariannabridal.com

Learn more about your host, Michael Piperno: https://www.michaelpiperno.com

Pitch Follow-up Strategies

Falling Down on Follow-up

I’ve coached a lot of professionals on pitching to clients, investors, and virtually every other type of stakeholder. Much of the time I spend with clients is on helping them tell a clear story — one that will resonate with their audience, and that will make a clear case for the investment opportunity at hand.

The Initial Pitch is Only the Beginning

When my clients pitch, they are fully prepared with a compelling presentation that looks great, and that they deliver with brilliance. 

But the fact is that you rarely get a “yes” from an investor the day that you pitch. You often hear, “Sounds great. Keep us updated…” or “Thanks for the presentation. We’ll be in touch.”

Staying in Touch

This is where a lot of people lose momentum with the pitch process. You must stay in touch. You can’t assume that your pitch presentation will be remembered three weeks from now. You also can’t assume that you persuaded the audience fully from that one meeting. You need to do the work to stay in front of them, and to ensure they understand that they are going to miss out if they don’t get to a “yes” soon.

The Art and Science of Follow-up

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to follow-up. However, you must ensure you’re not coming across as pushy or obnoxious. 

I believe your follow-up strategy needs to be customized to the individual, so you can develop a real relationship that they value. Doing so requires the right balance of frequency and content.

I can help.

An Example of an Overloaded PowerPoint Slide

Can One Slide Deck Really Do It All?

When you give a presentation, your slides should be simple and clear. They should support you as you convey your messages, whether you’re persuading, entertaining, inspiring, or educating. They should never cause your audience to have to read or decipher too much information. If that happens, then you’ve lost them. They are no longer listening to you.

I teach people how to create and deliver powerful and engaging presentations. Part of that training is focused on the right balance of text and graphics on slides. It should not be a lot, and 95 percent of the presentations I see in the corporate world are too overloaded with content.

Often, the reasons for such jam-packed slides are:

“I need that content on the slides so I don’t forget.”

“The slides have to tell the whole story if I’m not there to present the deck.”

“I have to send the slides out as a pre-read before my presentation.”

“My audience needs to see all the data. I can’t omit anything.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Here’s why:

  • If you think you’re going to forget things, use slide notes instead. And rehearse more.
  • You are there to tell the story when presenting. If you need the slides to tell the story without you, it’s no longer a presentation. You need a separate slide deck or other leave behind that does that work.
  • Pre-reads are pre-reads, not presentations. You need a separate slide deck or another prepared document for the pre-read.
  • Your audience needs you to make your points as clearly as possible. If they want to see more data, they’ll ask for it, and you can have it ready as backup.

Sounds like you might need more than one slide deck.

More work? Yes. Worth it? You bet.

A presentation is not about you. It’s about your audience. If you want to truly achieve your goal of persuading, entertaining, inspiring, or educating, you must make sure your presentation is engaging, compelling, easily digestible, and memorable.

You can’t do that by asking your audience to listen to you while also slogging through overloaded visuals at the same time.

Originally published at https://www.wearecomvia.com on February 8, 2021.

Investing In Others

I received a nice compliment yesterday. A client said, “You really invest yourself in other people. You’re always fully there; truly wanting to know about me and also hearing what I have to say. Thanks for that.”

What a kind thing to say. I’ll admit that I am a guy who really wants to help others unleash the power of their strengths. I see the good in people, almost to a fault. And I know the power of good communication — especially listening.

The truth is that the investment I make in my clients is done with the goal of helping them invest more in themselves. Often the work I do as a coach is about reflecting back what I see (and hear) in my clients. 

But his compliment got me thinking about how little we really invest in each other when it comes to doing the hard work of making others feel seen and heard in the workplace. Even at home, for that matter. My work is about giving people a safe space to express themselves and explore their strengths, blind spots, and challenges so they can improve their own performance as leaders and professionals, as well as their relationships both personally and professionally. Yet there are times that I fail to do so when I’m “off the clock” and spending time with my family. I’m going to change that.

I encourage you to invest in yourself. Always. Let’s also make sure to invest in those around us who matter most by giving them the attention and support they need to reach their potential. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be heard. We simply need to take the time to make that happen.

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