The Day of the Speech

Coaching people for public speaking opportunities is one of my favorite elements when it comes to professional development. There is nothing better than seeing somebody positively influence an audience, generate energy in a room and possibly even change lives for some of the attendees.

During speech preparation process, my job is to answer questions while creating minimal anxiety.  Most importantly, the day of the speech the less advice, the better.  Before somebody steps on stage, the hay is in the barn – time to block out all distractions and execute!

An hour before the talk I recommend three things:

  1. A confidence-building activity that gets you a little winded such as wind-sprints, shadow boxing or pushups.  This will raise your heart rate and then allow it to smoothly recover.  You don’t want your heart rate to elevate for the first time when on stage.
  2. Deep breathing and meditation. Block out everything and focus on the way you’ll take the stage and the first words that will come out of your mouth.
  3. Your first sentence.  I don’t suggest memorizing speeches except for the first line.  Stick the landing on the first line and you’ll flow from there!

Integrity & the cover of The New York Times

I was once told that if you are making an ethically difficult decision you should ask yourself if you would be comfortable  with that decision being printed on the front page of the New York Times.  I call this the Times Cover Principle.  While few of us are influential enough for the Times to use our likeness in the effort to boost circulation, the sentiment is a good guide for decisions both in and out of work.

The Times Cover Principle helps you gauge a few things.

  1. At the time this was shared with me, the NY Times had a very broad circulation. 
  2. Readers of the periodical span all walks of life and many have large and influential networks.  
  3. Journalists who write for the Times are historically not sensationalist but rather want to share a balanced story with the readers.

If your possible course of action doesn’t measure up well to this scrutiny, it is probably a path not worth taking.

Challenge Yourself

Do something hard for the sole sake of the challenge!  It will be uncomfortable, but embracing that discomfort and not the outcome that is the exact reason to do it.

Hard challenges open new learning opportunities.  You’ll likely meet new people as you gather information related to execution of the task and maybe even join a group of people who have similar objectives.  Undoubtedly, you’ll gain a skill and grow as a person.  Most importantly, you’ll get outside of your comfort zone and learn how to succeed when things are tough. 

And when you succeed, you will have earned a feeling of success but this is not the reason to do it initially.  Preparation, living through the struggle and willing your way to succeed are the rewards for this venture!

Scheduling Life with the Eisenhower Matrix

This year I implemented a prioritization tool that has proven very useful.  It is called the Eisenhower Matrix as it was either designed or made famous by US President Dwight Eisenhower. 

The purpose of the matrix is to determine which tasks you will do yourself, delegate, schedule or eliminate from your responsibility set.  This is done simply by putting items in one of four camps related to importance and urgency. 

I’ve found three elements imperative in using this matrix:

  1. Communicate when items are urgent versus important, both when you request that somebody executes them and when something is asked of you.
  2. Limit the items in each box to no more than eight.  This includes both professional and personal items.
  3. The items that are neither urgent nor important should be placed in the appropriate box only if their priority could be changed later when time frees up.  When anything is moved into the bottom right box, inform stakeholders that you have no intention of executing that deliverable so they can reframe their expectations, demonstrate why it should be in a different box or look for another path to have the task handled.

Are You a Connector or Separator?

A connector is somebody who freely makes and takes introductions.  A separator is somebody who actively tries to drive a wedge between relationships. 

Connectors broker relationships because they intelligent discourse among smart people.

Everybody wants to view themselves as connectors as it feels magnanimous, friendly and congenial.  But how many introductions have you made this month? How many unsolicited recommendations have you written and done so without demanding credit for it ? Connectors do what they do to make the world a closer knit and open place.

Conversly, do you speak negatively about people not around to defend themselves?  Do you try to discredit people?  If so, you are likely a separator and the world needs less of your type… but the good news is you can change. 

The next time you’re asked for an intro between two people with whom you have respect, make it.  Set up a mentoring session for somebody in your organization. Make a connection between people who have a common interest.  People will remember it and will at some point repay the favor to the world.  Even if they don’t connect you to somebody, they will be more likely connect two people down the road.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

On Monday I attended a lecture put on by the Horological Society of New York.  The lecture was delivered by independent watchmakers Richard (formerly of IWC) and Maria Habring who traveled from Austria to share their perspective on creating a fully integrated supply chain to develop an inhouse watch movement. 


  • Originally they used movements (the guts/heartbeat of a watch) from Swatch owned ETA.
  • In 2012, ETA cut them off from all movements and even the components to fix their prior models.
  • They had two choices, give up on their business or find a way to make their own movements. If they gave up, they would never be able to service prior customers.


  • Developed a new movement and all components to not only to service prior models but also build new models.


  • Intended: Saved business, serviced prior movements and built brand and credibility.
  • Unintended: Created a separate business to sell components to small watchmakers.


  • Back to basics as Richard said with a “keep it simple stupid” approach.
  • They stayed humble and consider themselves lucky that they were in the right place at the right time.
  • This is a four person company, so if you call them you have a 50% chance of speaking with somebody who has the same name as the company (Habring).
  • When asked about Marketing budgets, they said their plan to serve customers which is the best way to develop a strong brand.

This post went a little over 200 words but had to do the Habring’s story justice. 

Embrace the Suck – It’s Good Practice

Work, sports and relationships challenge us periodically, sometimes with more trying issues than others.  These situations create varying levels of stress that will impact or determine the way we handle the issue. Prioritization of issues is important but asking the most basic questions can help in creating a plan to attack. 

Will anybody die or face grave danger based on the outcome of the decision?  If the answer is yes, I’m not the right person to provide advice. 

If the outcome is anything less dire, it is helpful to ask trusted advisors for a point of view.  A different vantage point can lend perspective on the importance of the problem and a variety of ways to address.

Lastly, these challenges, as annoying as they can be, will serve as good preparation for the truly life changing struggles we will inevitably have in life.  Embrace the challenge – It is good to practice working through difficult decisions with slightly less significant topics to build thicker skin, coping mechanisms and decision processes that will help when bigger stakes are on the line.

Design is How it Works

Steve Jobs once said:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

This quote is not only a perfect fit for objects such as iPhones, watches (both digital and analog) but also for organizations.  A perfect watch design and movement makes the complications flow without friction to the gears, creates the longest life/power reserve, serves a purpose for the user and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye adhering to certain design principles that may not guarantee acceptance but greatly increase the likelihood.

Good org design cannot be focused only on appropriate spans of control and minimization of layers but it needs to address interaction between humans, the speed information can travel, optimization of learning and development across an organization and reduces friction where possible.   Recreating an org structure is equivalent to building the movement of a watch.  If done right, it perpetuates momentum. If done wrong, it is an expensive waste of time and money.  

Get Back to Your Baseline, Reset

Improvement, achievement and success are great motivators. Inevitably, there are times when we face challenges.  Projects with longer time horizons lead to mounting challenges that become overwhelming. This can take place around both physical objectives and those of the intellectual nature.

An example for a marathoner is a nagging IT band or slight hamstring pull.  While we want to continue our training to accomplish our goal race time, doubling down when an injury persists is rarely the best solution and may create more serious setbacks.  Similarly, if you are working through a difficult project at work without the necessary support and a positive outcome seems nowhere in sight, you may tempted to soldier forward disregarding your well-being.  This approach could lead a stressful breaking point where the anxiety itself reduces your chance of success.  

In both cases, continued attempts at forward progress can be detrimental in the long-term.  Even creating an effective plan when experiencing heavy stress can be difficult. It is important to get back to your baseline, recover, reset mentally and recalculate your course. A short recovery period will allow you to develop a clear and unclouded path to success without adding greater risk to your project’s outcome.

Appoint an Antagonist

From the archive:

Recently I enjoyed a working dinner with a brilliant entrepreneur. He has a young but growing business, is enjoying successes in the press and has no problem attracting great talent. He is not encountering most of the startup issues normally experienced during this phase. Instead he is facing a challenge normally reserved for more mature companies.

He asked me “how can I tell if my team is giving me the best feedback possible or simply acquiescing because they fear my reaction?

If this difficulty exists today, it will undoubtedly compound each day ahead. Worse yet, there is little this founder can do to mitigate this specific risk without direct attention. As the company continues to chalk up wins, he will earn more and more credibility in the eyes of the market, his board and the company’s employees. If it hasn’t already happened, there will be a day when he will be unintentionally surrounded by bobble-heads acquiescing to all recommendations coming from the C-Suite. The senior advisers will be afraid to publicly debate in the event that their POV is seen as dissension.

Read full article on Linked In Here.