How to Deliver a Winning Pitch

Interpreter ServicesYour syntax was convoluted.

It was November, 1980 and our new high school Bible III teacher, Dr. Bahnsen had just finished delivering a scathing analysis of the first essays we had written in his class, ending with the above critique.  What promised to be a fun Junior year at Newport Christian High School went quickly south as our former teacher, an affable guy named Mr. Smyth was fired and replaced by this taskmaster with a PhD in ethics from USC.  Bahnsen was brought in to up the ante in academic rigor and he delivered.  I had him for two classes and barely passed.

And yet I still had no idea what a syntax was nor what it meant to be convoluted.  Bahnsen had lots of knowledge but just couldn’t express it in a way that this 17-year-old could understand.  The message was lost in translation.

I recently watched an episode of Shark Tank where these two crazy smart scientists invented a really neat technology that they pitched to the investors.  The valuation of the company was at $40 million which extraordinarily high for the show.  The inventors tried unsuccessfully to communicate in their language (science) to the Sharks (who speak money) about why this product would change the world and would be worth the valuation (the language of regular people like me.)   They did not get an investment.  Even after multiple prompts from the Sharks, they couldn’t explain the product in any other language than science.

All of us have a mother tongue.  Mine is English.  We also have a conversational preference.  Some speak science.  Others data.  I speak story, simple story.  If we want to convince others of something, we need to use their language.  Since much of our success in business depends on others “buying in,” it’s important to follow some important steps to getting our point across.

  1. Figure out what you want to communicate.  This is key.  What are you pitching?  Is it a new idea, product, service, or concept?  Is it tangible or theoretical?  Is it brand new or a variation of the old?
  2. Figure out who you need to communicate the idea to.  Who is the decision-maker?  Who are they influenced by?
  3. Figure out what you want from that audience.  Support?  Buy-in?  Money?  Resources?
  4. Figure out the language of that audience.  Do they speak science or emotion?  Money or relationship?  Pragmatism or enthusiasm?
  5. Develop your pitch to encompass all the above information using the medium they prefer.

In a perfect world, everyone would speak and understand as we do.  They don’t.  Dr. Bahnsen probably realized this as our graduating class commenced in 1982 nearly half the size it was at the beginning of our Junior year, with none of us, as far as I could tell, any better at resolving ethical dilemmas or biblical truth than we were before he taught us.  The entrepreneurs on that episode of Shark Tank are probably working extra hard now to really quantify their idea in greater scientific detail to convince other investors.  It’s not going to work.  Unless they find some really rich, PhD-carrying investors.

Our ability to speak the language of others is the only way we can influence.  This week, take some time to re-think who you need to influence and look at better ways to communicate.  It’s the only way you’ll get your important points across, even if you do manage to unconvolute your syntax…

How to Achieve Your Dreams

Smart goal setting colorful letters on grungy blackboardI recently watched a special on NATGEO on the life of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In case you didn’t know, he went from an immigrant who could barely speak English to a bodybuilding champion, actor, and governor, all in the span of about three decades.  People who know him well note that each year, he sets 5 goals for himself, then goes about achieving them.

Arnold’s story is impressive and inspiring.  It also shows that the one-two punch of goal setting and persistence can work for all of us.  As we go into the home stretch of this year, maybe it’s time we start setting up this pattern for ourselves.


I think we all know the importance of setting goals.  A goal gives us a target and the motivation to hit it.  There are several ways to do this, but one of the most common is the SMART format:

S:  Specific

  • I’m going to grow my business this year

M: Measurable

  • I will sign 5 new clients per month
  • I will speak at 4 conferences this year
  • I will deliver 2 lunch and learns per month

A: Aligned?

  • Yes (part of my strategic plan)

R: Realistic?

  • Yes (if I get off my lazy ass)

T: Time-bound?

  • Yes.  Progress will be tracked each month

By using a methodology like SMART, you take a nebulas idea and develop a path for action.


Here is where it becomes difficult.  Persistence is your ability to follow through on these goals.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  In the case of growing a business, it means dealing with cold calls, speaking in public, rejection, marketing expenses, and general discomfort.  The good news is, if you’re persistent, your inability to accept “no” for an answer will get you the breakthroughs that others won’t be willing to work for.

Arnold Schwarzenegger succeeded not because he had a great physique and a whole lot of luck but because he refused to quit.  He didn’t allow the opinions of others and naysayers influence his choices. Because he did it, so can we.   All of us have equal opportunity for success next year because we can set goals and be persistent.

What will you achieve next year?

Bitter, Thankful, or Grateful?

It’s that time of year where families sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and tell each other what they’re thankful for.

Being thankful is a good thing.  Being grateful is a great thing!  Being bitter, well, that’s a terrible thing.  What’s the difference?  Here’s my thoughts.

In 1983, I joined the Navy in order to attend dental laboratory technology school.  I had a certificate from a civilian school but needed experience to get a job.  The Navy recruiter promised me dental lab school, but first I had to attend dental assisting school.  Dental assisting was awful.  I was ok though since I knew I had lab school to look forward to and then a short career in the Navy, away from patient care.   Except that the convening dates for the lab school didn’t match my assisting school graduation.  I was instead sentenced to 5 years as a chairside dental assistant at an overseas command.  I was bitter.

I was more bitter when I reenlisted to at least get back to the U.S. and was again assigned chairside.  That ultimately meant 8 years chairside when most dental techs did 18 months. I reenlisted yet again and pushed myself to get BS and MA degrees in order to apply for the Medical Service Corps Inservice Procurement Program.  I was turned down 3 years in a row.  Some of those who were selected barely had a BS degree.  I was bitter.  I was bitter that I served under a succession of emotionally unintelligent bosses.  I was bitter that my Navy career was the complete opposite of what I expected.

So I took my bitter self out of the Navy at the 15 year mark.

And I was thankful.  So thankful that on my last afternoon in the Navy I tossed my uniforms in the dumpster in full view of the staff of Naval Dental Center Northwest, scraped my DoD base access sticker off my windshield with an ice scraper, and gave everyone a two handed, one-finger salute before screeching out of the parking lot.

I was thankful that I was free.  Thankful that I could dress like I wanted and say what I wanted and could freely disagree with anyone I wanted.  Life was good.  Or so it seemed.

Until I realized that being thankful was just the feeling of not being bitter anymore.  It wasn’t really all that satisfying.  And while I wasn’t bitter in name, in spirit I still was.

Then I realized that to be truly happy, I needed to reset my goals.  I focused my attention on what I could do, not on what I didn’t get.  I built my business and it grew.  My bitter, that turned to thankful, was now grateful.  Grateful for what I had, not for what I had not.  And ironically, once I made that shift, I was able to return back to my military roots and serve, really serve by teaching transition classes, coach and mentor transitioning sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines, and shift into a semblance of gratefulness for my Navy career.

Yes, this is a long story and it’s not one you hear from military veterans.  But it’s a good lesson on what to focus on.  So, this Thanksgiving, learn to separate the terms:

Bitter:  I’m pissed at the world and all the terrible things that have been done to me (victim).  “Everyone is out to get me.”  “I’m always on the outside looking in.”  “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”

Thankful:  I’m glad I’m not miserable anymore. “Be thankful you have a job” or “be thankful you have Brussel sprouts to eat…after all, there are starving kids in Africa who would love to have those right now.”  (still kind of a victim…sort of)

Grateful:  “My career is everything I’ve always wanted.”  “My relationships are SOOOO fulfilling.”  “My pet goldfish gives me great joy!”

Grateful comes from seeking what you really want.  Thankful comes from not having what you hated.  Bitter just acknowledges misery.  All three are choices.  This year, sort these out for yourselves and choose wisely. I’ve done enough of the first two.  I’ll be going for grateful.  I hope you’ll join me.

Happy GratesGiving!

How to Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

career-map“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the easiest question to answer before the age of 12.  After that it starts getting difficult.  High schoolers are pressured to answer it before picking a college.  College grads often wrestle with it after graduating.  Adults at midlife are plagued by it.  Old people become reflective about it.

As I’m preparing to deliver a career planning workshop at my daughter’s high school, I know that many of those graduating seniors are dealing with this.  Their parents are pushing them to decide and frankly many of them haven’t a clue.

If you know my story, you know that I couldn’t answer that question until October 11, 1996. Life before that was a series of false starts and dead ends.  It was endless weeks of dreading Monday and living for Friday and vacation days.   On that day however, life changed.  That was the day I nearly took a swing at my boss while in the Navy.  That moment brought a sense of clarity that has guided me ever since.  I had to wait until age 33 to get the answer. If you’re younger than that, let me save you some time.  If you’re older than that, there’s still time.  Here is the formula:

Figure Out Your Life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  For me, I realized it after wisely opting to let my moronic boss keep his front teeth (and keeping me out of jail).  I knew at that point my mission in life was to develop the next great generation of managers.

Find the Career that Supports Your life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  In my case, I knew I’d have to finish up my graduate degree in Organizational Leadership (a degree I selected simply because it had no math in it).  Then, to be able to influence on a grand scale, I’d have to start my own consulting company.  To do that, I’d first have to start by getting out of the Navy and get a job.

Find the Job, in the Career that Supports Your Life Mission, Purpose, or Passion.  This meant starting out working as an internal consultant and trainer in a couple of HR departments.  I spent nearly 4 years doing this before starting my business.

That’s the formula that I used and it works.  Having a sense of clarity makes life’s often arduous journey very rewarding.  It’s what I want for you.

How do you begin?

Figure out the goal.  If you have a passion for ending world hunger, that’s great.  Now let’s figure out the path.

Find the Career.  You can either raise money to buy food (meaning that you need a career that will net you lots of cash a la Bill Gates and Microsoft) or figure out a way to mass produce food (meaning a career in food science, agriculture, etc.)

Find the Job that Supports the Career.  This might mean interning at a large company, taking a lower position in a company, finding a mentor that’s a tech mogul, or simply enrolling in the right college program.

The three steps are pretty simple but they require great focus and dogged determination.  There is no easy path to a truly grand vision.  I’ve been at it pretty hard now for nearly 20 years and while I am creating lots of great managers, I’ve barely made a dent.  I’m not giving up however.  Neither should you!




How to Handle Your Post-Election Hangover

I voted sticker2It’s almost over.

After over a year of debates, controversies, attack ads, memes, posts, and commentary, the election cycle of 2016 comes down to the final vote on Tuesday. Nobody knows what Wednesday will bring. Speculation runs from the candidates contesting the results all the way to the losing candidate calling to congratulate the winner. No matter what happens, each of us will have to go about our business on Wednesday morning and function regardless of how we feel.

The earliest election I can remember being interested in was between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. My parents broke rank with their traditional Republican leanings and voted for Carter. The morning after the election, I remember as a 6th grader how my mom gleefully told me I should put a peanut on the desks of my classmates all of whom seemed to pull for Ford (Carter was a peanut farmer in Georgia) as a way to rub it in their faces. I didn’t. It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

People say this cycle has divided America but I think it’s always been divided, we just have social media to make our points known to more people. It’s certainly been the case this cycle.

Which brings us to what should happen on Wednesday.

It’s possible you’ve been quiet politically and if so, Wednesday just means you have the choice to just continue on quietly. But if you’ve been vocal, you WILL have some choices to make. May I suggest the following?

Your Side Lost. If your candidate lost, remember it was THEM that lost, not YOU. By coming to work pissed off, letting everyone know about it, and dragging your ass around all day in a funk, your credibility will instantly be impacted. Your boss doesn’t care that you’re mad, they want you to get your job done. Your customers don’t care that you’re mad, they want to be taken care of. Your candidate doesn’t care that you’re mad, they have their own future to worry about. Bottom line: Nobody cares that your candidate lost so don’t make it your business to make everyone miserable. Be professional and get back to work.

Your Side Won. If your candidate won, remember it was THEM that won, not YOU. By coming to work dancing for joy and spiking the football in everyone’s face, your credibility will be instantly impacted. The victory dance belongs to the winning candidate and the voters who voted them in, but doesn’t mean you need to bring it into work. Any disruption that causes friction between co-workers earns you the evil eye from the boss and probably your customers too. Bottom line: Be professional and get back to work.

If you’re reading this now, you still have some time to set up post-election Wednesday for a win. You might need to.

A few years ago, my mom, an avid Baltimore Ravens fan came over with my dad to watch the Superbowl game. My dad and I were 49rs fans from way back in the 1980s but my mom loved the Ravens, to the point of obsession, to the point of taunting her officemates on how the Ravens would smash the 49rs. For three quarters she annoyed the hell out of us. Then the 49rs came alive scoring 17 unanswered third-quarter points to cut the Ravens’ lead, 28–23, and continued to chip away in the fourth quarter. My mom quickly grew silent knowing what she’s face Monday at her office. When the Ravens managed to pull away with a 34-31 victory, she was ecstatic. I would have loved to see the office dynamic if the 49rs won.

If you’ve been busy running your mouth this entire election season, take the next couple of days to tone it down. Trust me, if your side loses, you’ll face a lot less ribbing. And if they win, you can be the bigger person by just keeping quiet.

As for me, I’ll look forward to having the political ads over with and maybe some semblance of peace for a while. Because I keep my politics to myself, I’ll have nothing to be nervous about on Wednesday. What about you?

Have You Earned Your Work/Life Balance?

Work life balance concept, 3d render, white backgroundThis past week I had the privilege of hearing a CEO address his workforce before I delivered one of my Lunch and Learn performance management talks.  He talked about the next year and what would be required of each of them to be successful.

Then he talked about work/life balance.

That’s a hot topic isn’t it?  It all started back during the Great Recession when those who were fortunate enough to HAVE a job pulled the weight of what used to be a fully staffed company.  It meant long hours and the sacrifice of family time.  As the economy improved, people still felt this imbalance and the outcry for more balance is deafening today.  Good performers continue to put in long hours and stay connected to the office in the evenings, on weekends, and even on vacation.

But not EVERY employee does this do they?

I heard an interesting stat claiming that American workers only put out about 67% of their full effort at work and yet 97% of them see themselves as top performers.  Admit it, you’ve seen your coworkers slack off and not “play until the whistle.”  Maybe you’ve taken more than a “rounds” off in your workweek.  Work/life balance then isn’t an entitlement, it’s earned.

Which is the point the CEO made to the group.  He had no trouble with people taking off early for appointments and other important events.  He DID have a problem with people not making up that time or not putting in effort when they were working.  I found that refreshing and important for all of us to think about.

Work/life balance is nice but it’s not free.  As a small-business owner, I know that any time I take away from work costs me something.  On the rare weeks I’m in town, I love to attend workouts at the Title Boxing Club in Clarksville, TN.  This means however that I need to leave at my house at 2:30 to make that 3:30 class which lasts an hour.  Then I drive that hour back home arriving around 5:30. My workout (Life Balance) eats up 3 hours of my work day.  That time needs to get made up sometime or I won’t adequately service my clients or gain new ones.  Thus my habit of waking up at 4:00 AM most mornings.  Work/life balance comes at a cost but I’ll pay it.

So what about you?  Are you lamenting a work/life balance-less life?  If so, make your request known to your boss.  If you have that work/life balance, are you “playing until the whistle” each day?  You’re paid for a full 40 hours.  Be sure you’re doing your part before asking for balance.

Get Off the Dead-End Road

deadendA few weeks ago I was flying home through the Orlando airport and noticed some major renovations to the food court.  An old favorite of mine, the Kafe Kalik restaurant looked like it was being replace by something else.  It was kind of sad, for that place was a solace for me at one dark period of time in my business career.

For a two –year period, I did some subcontract work for a client in Orlando.  The client was great.  The contractor I worked with was an absolute pain in my ass.  It didn’t take long for me to realize the project wasn’t a good fit, yet it paid really well and I got no sympathy from my family or friends for my misery.

Aside from a couple of people on the project, nearly everyone I worked with managed to rub me the wrong way.  For the first time in my life, I doubted my ability to lead a workshop.   Each time I left for one of these gigs, I was tense, stressed and one time actually became physically sick.  When the two-day workshop ended, I’d limp into the airport and park myself at the Kafe Kalik to de-stress with several beers and prepare myself to get home and recover.  It was a very unpleasant experience.

Finally I agreed (with myself) to do one last project with this group.  When finished (and after I got my check), I was planning to drop out of the project.  The contractor beat me to the punch, dropping me and a bunch of the other instructors from the project.  I was sad, only because I didn’t get the satisfaction of quitting, but elated that I was now free.  I vowed then never to take on any work that would stress me out that way.

What’s the lesson?  If you’re in a no-win, dead-end situation, get off that path and do something else.  I can’t tell you what I did with the large sum of money I earned on that project, but I do remember every stressful moment:  every incidence of wanting to smack one of my co-trainers over the head.  Each time where the contractor went out of their way to make me feel small and incompetent.  The sick feeling I felt on Sundays, waiting to board that flight on a Monday.  The fact that arriving in the Orlando airport didn’t have fond memories like it did when we brought our kids through there to Disney.

Life’s too short to tolerate misery.  I can tell you that now with 20-20 hindsight.  Why experience it for yourself when you can take my qualified word for it?



The Proactive Approach to Time Management

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.When we lived in Maryland, we seemed to make regular trips to the ER at Walter Reed National Capitol Medical Center (formerly, and properly named Naval Hospital Bethesda!).  All of managed to get ill or injured outside of normal clinic hours so we’d often head to the ER out of necessity.

The ER was the last place I wanted to be.  Normally it’s packed and the wait time to get seen is at least 2-3 hours.  Then you wait another 30 minutes or so to get your drugs from the pharmacy.  I always packed my Kindle, iPad, and MacBook and prepared myself for a long wait.

Occassionaly though, we got seen right away.  Depending on the patient load, we were triaged in quickly.  Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.  So if I go in with a sinus infection, I’ll be bumped down the priority list by someone having chest pain (I guess that’s fair) but it also means that it’s pretty hard to ever plan out your evening if you’re an ER staff.

One of the most requested classes I get is anything related to time management.  I’ve long advocated that you can’t manage time, only your reaction to it.  There is no magic solution for time management either since different personalities seem to all approach it in a unique fashion.  Maybe the best way you do it is by apply the principle of proactivity.

The ER is by definition a reactive entity.  There’s no predicting what comes through the door.  You can’t plan, only react.  When multiple patients come in, the triage process helps you sort out what’s most important, then of course that lineup changes if something more urgent comes in.

Proactivity can best be likened to a wellness clinic.  Wellness clinics work to treat proactively by encouraging healthy diet, lifestyle, and preemptive medical examinations.  By scheduling appointments at regular intervals, a person could possibly prevent conditions that would send them into an ER.  This would then allow ERs to care for only the most urgent illnesses (not my little sinus infection) and victims of trauma.

So how does this apply to time management?  Be proactive!  At the beginning of each day, visualize the outcome you’d like at the end of the day.  Some folks use a “to-do” list and put the steps down.  Others tend to follow a looser structure.  Regardless, by determining what’s most important early in the day, you can take deliberate steps throughout the day to get it done.  The alternative is to live out of your In-Box and by whoever calls you first.  Your day will be filled with emergent matters followed by down time trying to recover.  At the end of the day, you’ll still have those unfinished priorities but be completely exhausted by the reactionary approach you took to the day.

Outcomes in an ER aren’t always successful and they always cost – time, money, and sometimes more.  Proactive care may take time on the front end, but it’s possible you’ll gain much more later on.

This week, think of some steps you can take to be more proactive.  It might be more effective than how you manage yourself towards time now.  Who knows, it might even save you a trip to the ER!

A (Perfect) Day in the Life of a Manager

Smiling warehouse managers talking together in a large warehouseWhenever I talk with managers, I get the sense that their day consists of putting out fires, mediating problems with employees, sitting in endless meetings, and answering email.  Oh yes, and most of the time they’re still involved in the very technical tasks they were promoted to management from.

I often see them with that “1,000 Yard Stare” and sense their mental and physical exhaustion.  Sadly, in spite of that, most of them aren’t particularly clear on what their actual job in “management” really is.  That lack of clear focus and purpose wears on them.  It’s a whole lot of activity with no real sense of accomplishment.

What if that could be turned around?

One of my clients has a very elaborate labor-tracking system they use.  When I met with them recently, one of the managers mentioned that for managers, there is an actually time code that represents what a manager is supposed to do.  They refer to it as Management Oversight.  It’s the only time I’ve actually seen a company designate time to “management.”

Identifying WHAT to call the time is a good start.  What needs to get DONE in that time is important.  I have three suggestions.

  1. Develop Your People.  This is job #1.  When you focus time on building rapport, assigning goals and tasks, giving feedback and coaching on those tasks, and engaging an employee in planning their career both inside and out of your organization, it’s a safe bet to say that work will get done!  I know it sounds counter-intuitive when you’re used to running around like your ass is on fire, but take the time to develop your people and you’ll find that work will get done much more efficiently.
  2. Stabilize Systems and Processes.  Most managers will feel comfortable with this task.  It’s the closest thing to their previous technical job.  It doesn’t mean working in those jobs though.  A manager has to ensure processes are stable and efficient.  Systems need to be aligned with corporate goals and those metrics and targets met.  Finally, any flaws, impediments, and breakdowns in the systems need to be fixed.  The manager has to identify those and assign staff to repair.  Yes, this gets done WHILE developing people.
  3. Protect the House.  Managers also need to ensure their department, people, products, and services are in compliance with all regulations.  This requires them to be HR experts, lawyers, auditors, and inspectors (but of course they aren’t so they need to know where to get that expertise).  This means taking and not sleeping through those HR briefings on FMLA, ADA, OSHA, and other acronym-laden areas.  Legal experts have already determined that a manager should or should-have-known where there are violations.  Better that you actually know and address these!  Yes, this also gets done while developing people.

I know it sounds like a lot but really, if you get your people developed and trained, much of protecting the house will happen automatically.  You’ll also have fewer systems and processes to stabilize because your people will know how to do things right.

Management Oversight is one of the most valuable gifts you give to your organization.  Be sure to identify these as tangible tasks and let your superiors know exactly what your roles and goals are as a manager.  Managing with a purpose will give you that specific, rewarding credibility that you seek!

How to Develop a Success Strategic Performance Management System
Presented by Mack Munro, Founder/CEO, MACK Worldwide

If you are looking to bring a strategic edge to your organization, a robust performance management system is a key component. This presentation will show the importance of balancing performance management, strategic goals and initiatives, wants and needs of employees and managers, and tight budgets while working to implement a culture of performance improvement.

In this session, participants will learn to proactively initiate (or adeptly respond to a request for) a “performance management system or initiative” Specifically, they will learn techniques to identify need, gather relevant data, leverage performance management, and communicate findings to senior management. They will learn key areas to consider and standard traps to avoid falling into. Finally, they will learn how to keep a program energized and permanently ingrain it into the organization’s culture, all the while communicating its success in the language of business.


Date: October 20, 2016
Time: 7:00 - 9:00 a.m.
Event: Wilson County SHRM - How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Topic: How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Venue: Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Location: 565 S Mt Juliet Rd
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.