From HBR: Always Use Meaningful Words


From HBR: Why You Need a Better Elevator Pitch

For decades, salespeople have practiced something called an “elevator pitch.” The idea was that they had to sell themselves and their product or service in the time it took to ride an elevator from the ground to the top floor. Every good salesperson had an “elevator pitch” and could perform it flawlessly at a moment’s notice.

Today, elevators are much faster and attention spans are much shorter, so you’ve got to amp up your pitch. You’ve got to have a 118.

The 118 Pitch is my modern term for the old elevator pitch. It’s based on the fact that 118 seconds is the length of the average elevator ride in New York City. The first 8 seconds are “the hook”—the time you have to get the “lean in” factor, to snag your prospect, to catch their interest.

Those first 8 seconds are the key. In researching the idea I discovered that the length of time the average human can concentrate on something and not lose some focus is as little as 8 seconds. Eight! (It’s true–I found it on the Internet!) Thirty seconds, then, was way too long for getting that lean-in factor for your pitch. You know how you hear something in a conversation and you lean in because you want to hear the rest of it? That’s what you want from your prospect in those first 8 seconds of the 118.

If you accomplish that in those 8 seconds, they’ll give you the next 110 seconds to drive your message home with no bull. It’s not about name dropping. It’s about what’s in it for the recipient of your pitch.

Your 118 must:

•Grab the attention of your prospect
•Convey who you are
•Describe what your business offers
•Explain the promises you will deliver on

You need speed and immediate relevance. A compelling, attention-grabbing 118 tells who you are, the value of what you do and sells that to anyone, internally and externally. Used correctly, it helps your business grow bigger. Your 118 should also describe the thing that separates you from everyone else that sells the same thing. I don’t care what businesses you are in or what other services you offer; tell me how you are different, your story and how that story connects to your prospect.

Leaders need to get away from bland pronouncements that say, “We do this” and focus on “what we do for you.” You’re supposed to understand not just what you’re selling, but what it offers to your prospect.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of 118 Pitches:

The Good: Mentions your product or service and tells how it will help your prospect. “In less than two minutes, I will tell you how the use of me, my company, or my service will grow your development department 115%.”

The Bad: Mentions what you’re offering, but lacks any reference to what it offers your prospect. “My name is Sam Maybe-Somebody, and my company The Hopeful-Who Knows wants to work with your company using our We Think Super Service.”

The Ugly: Makes no mention of your company or service and how the prospect will benefit. “My name is Sam Nobody, and my company wants to work with your company because we think we can help you.”

Eight seconds goes by in a heartbeat and you don’t have time for anything that’s flabby or ambivalent. Cut to the chase, make them lean in, and then don’t let go.

Start your 118 with a rough draft. Then, do another draft. Then, put it down for a while and come back to it. Does it still ring true? Repeat the process. When you finally arrive at a 118 that best suits your business, you’ll know it. The vibe will be there. It’ll feel good rolling off your tongue. You’ll wake up in the morning reciting it and go to bed at night doing the same thing.

You’ll believe it.

After all, if you don’t, nobody else will.


From HBR: Valuing Your Most Valuable Assets

Corporate leaders often proclaim that their employees are their most valuable asset. For many people, though, this is an empty platitude. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been polling at least 1,000 American adults daily since January 2008, shows that people have felt worse about their jobs this year than any previous year. Why the disconnect? In talking to employees, and analyzing nearly 12,000 daily work diaries we collected, we have identified at least one cause: Managers don’t know how to show people that they are valued. In fact, they often unwittingly do the opposite.

The work diaries revealed what we call the progress principle: Of everything that can get people deeply, satisfyingly engaged in their work, the single most important is simply making progress on meaningful work. Since publishing our findings two months ago in The Progress Principle, we have received a number of questions about its practical implications. One of the most important — and troubling — questions has to do with compensation. If progress is more important than incentives or other motivators, does that mean that managers needn’t worry much about compensating people well for their work — as long as progress supports are in place? In its most cynical guise, the question asks if the progress principle gives organizations a rationale to lower salaries and cut benefits. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As we see it, there are at least three reasons why people should be compensated fairly, even generously, for the work they do.

First, it is simply the right thing to do.

Second, it is in the best interests of organizations to compensate people well. There are two sides to the progress principle. Yes, progress on meaningful work leads people to feel great. But feeling great leads people to make more progress. We call this the inner work life effect. Inner work life is the continuous flow of emotions, perceptions, and motivations that each individual experiences when reacting to events at work. We found that, when people have positive inner work lives — when they are happy, feel intrinsically motivated by the work itself, and have positive perceptions of their work and the organization — they perform better. They are more creative, productive, committed to the work, and collegial. When inner work life is poor, performance suffers. Other researchers have found that, when employees in an organization have more negative perceptions of their organization at one point in time, the bottom line of the company is likely to be weaker in the future.

Inadequate compensation deflates inner work life. In fact, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 49% of workers said that insufficient pay was increasing their stress level at work. To the extent that people are distracted by their personal economic situations, they are not spending their mental energies coming up with creative solutions for problems in the work.

Third — and this is something most managers fail to realize — compensation is more than just a paycheck. It is a signal to the individual about his or her value to the organization. The interior monologue goes something like this: “If I am compensated generously, that signifies to me that I am valued, and so is the work that I do. If I am being undercompensated, then I question my value to the organization and begin to see my work as unimportant. Why should I go the extra mile for them when they do not value me?”

Here’s a vivid example from the diary of a high-performing software engineer, the day she discovered that her spun-off unit was going to be reacquired by the parent company:

Today we have been told that we (HotelData) are now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dreamsuite Hotels. I was hired by Dreamsuite 28 years ago. But, a year and a half ago, after over 26 years of service, Dreamsuite forced me to sign a resignation slip. If I did not sign, I would be fired; if I did sign, I had a job at HotelData, but the benefits they promised me 28 years ago were all taken away. All I had was a job … a rotten thing after 26 years of service. I now have spent a year and a half serving, as a customer, this company that threw me away.

When people feel undervalued, like this, they leave at the first opportunity that comes their way. And who are the most likely people to receive such opportunities? The ones with the most marketable skills and talents — a company’s best people — and the ones that companies can least afford to lose. Like many of her coworkers, this engineer had left for greener pastures within the year. The signals from her company had become too loud to ignore.

What do you think? To your mind, does compensation serve as a signal of value, and what are the implications?