Are you settling for average?
As we welcome 2024 into our lives I’ve noticed an alarming trend in the corporate world in Australia. In the last six months (July – December 2023) some people seem to have lost the will to be better – to strive and to achieve. Have you observed this too?
Achievement is one of my highest values, so I’m personally worried about this trend, it doesn’t sit well with me at all! And as an expert in persuasion, I’m also worried about this trend because the body of knowledge in influence and persuasion tells us that there are lots of people who won’t listen to you, won’t be persuaded by you, unless they deem you to be an authority and/or expert in your subject matter. If we’ve slowed down and chosen to be average (for whatever reason – working from home, lots of online meetings, pressures of living in the modern age) we may end up losing our expertise and authority and therefore our ability to persuade and influence the people around us.
Case Study 1 – Don’t wear your pyjamas to work – Jill from banking and finance
My colleague Warwick Merry delivers our Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass as an online course across industry. If you’re keen to know more, please reach out! In this masterclass businesspeople learn the three phases to presenting in business plus the differences between live and online presenting. Jill was a participant in this masterclass, and she wore her pyjamas to the session. When did it become OK to wear your pjs to a work event that wasn’t fancy dress?
We did wonder what Jill’s colleagues thought of her choice of outfit and we mused on whether it could negatively affect her personal brand at work. After all, it was a corporate training attended by nine of her senior colleagues. Did they care? I’ll never know. Would you care? Maybe not!
The literature on influence and persuasion tells us that being well-groomed suggests you’ve got self-respect; you are disciplined, and you pay attention to detail. These are all qualities that are generally admired by others. When you don’t take charge of your grooming, it can be distracting and off-putting to others.
What I do know as a fact, is that we take lots of screen shots of people in action during this online training. The delegates know we are doing it – we often ask them to pose – which they do willingly! The photos are then included in a comprehensive report that goes to the client. The report summarises the feedback that each delegate receives during their presentation and the photos help the client to appreciate what happened during the training. They love looking at the photos of their colleagues! Then the client distributes our report across the business to their senior leaders so everyone knows about the ROI from the training.
As a rule, I’d suggest saving the pjs for bedtime! You can’t possibly persuade your colleagues that you are a credible, valuable, and committed member of your team if you turn up for work in your jammies! In this example pyjamas equals average. Average is not a winning approach.
Average is the enemy of persuasion!
In 2022 I released a book called How to Persuade: the skills you need to get what you want. It delves into the art and science of persuasion, offering practical insights, strategies, and techniques to enhance your ability to influence others effectively.
In my world, mastering the art of persuasion is not just about getting what you want in life. In fact, mastering persuasion is about committing to becoming a fully functional human.
This is because the skills (and micro skills) that you need to be persuasive, that is, the ability to articulate a clear message, demonstrate credibility, connect deeply, and enthuse people, are the same as the skills to be a good and happy person.
So even if you have no interest whatsoever in being a more persuasive person, if you are seeking fulfilment in life, with positive relationships and a sense of ease, then it’s a fact that taking steps to dramatically improve your ability to persuade and influence the people around you is paramount!
What’s wrong with average anyway?
If we have ‘given up’ on being better, more competent, more masterful, may I suggest that we have settled for average. Average is not the key to either business or personal success.
Settling for average is akin to accepting a life less than your potential. In a world teeming with opportunities and possibilities, choosing mediocrity means missing out on the richness and fulfilment that life can offer. Average is the comfort zone, a place where risks are avoided, challenges are evaded, and growth is stunted. It’s an alluring trap that lulls us into a sense of security, and it stifles innovation, ambition, and the pursuit of excellence. Average is common in companies that fail to succeed, in businesses that struggle to stay afloat, and in people who don’t quite achieve their potential.
You have potential!
Yes! Every one of us possesses unique talents, skills, and capabilities waiting to be unleashed. I’ve trained thousands and thousands of people over the last 3 decades and I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t become an awesome business communicator. Everyone excels when working with me. You can too! Settling for average means leaving your gifts untapped, depriving yourself and the world of the extraordinary contributions that you could have made. Yes, embracing your full potential does require courage, a willingness to step beyond the ordinary, and a commitment to continuous improvement. When you embrace your potential you will be excited by the rewards! I’ve seen it thousands and thousands of times with my clients.
Case study 2: Life’s too short to be nervous – Jenny from the pharmaceutical industry
Jenny attended my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass. In her introduction to the group, she explained she hated public speaking. She was frequently so nervous she could barely breathe. She admitted to us that she hadn’t even been sure she would be able to walk through the front door of the venue where my masterclass was being held, much less sit in the actual training room. And then Jenny paused. It felt like quite some time passed. We all waited respectfully for what she was about to say next.
Jenny took a big breath and then she explained, ‘I’m just so sick of everyone one else being promoted ahead of me, taking credit for my ideas, and essentially “stealing” opportunities from under my feet because I am too scared to speak up and own my work, my ideas, and my achievements.’
Wow! Powerful stuff, hey? Average was not working for Jenny, and she realised it. And three cheers to Jenny! Good on her for being so brave, attending some training and embracing her potential.
Don’t let someone else ever take credit for your work because you didn’t know the presenting formulas to follow so you can speak up and influence people!
On returning to work, Jenny applied the winning formulas, expressed herself beautifully, and was rewarded by an almost instant promotion for her efforts. Forget average and embrace mastery for yourself – life is too short to give everyone else a leg up first!
Sometime average equals failure!
If you settle for average you may find that it’s enough. Maybe staying in the same job on the same pay, with the same levels of power and authority is enough. Or, like Colin in the following case study you may find that average feels like failure.
Case study 3: Excellence in the pitch – Colin from the information technology industry
I did some pitch coaching with Colin from IT. Colin’s role was to pitch his company’s products and services to the financial services industry. He was often part of large pitch teams that worked on really big deals in the many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Over the years I’ve seen some winning pitch teams who thrive in each other’s company and, yes, frequently win big deals. And I’ve also been involved in some truly toxic cultures where an ‘excellence mindset’ is not rewarded or expected (but sales results are) and people are left feeling sad and worthless because they frequently lose deals due to average performance. In the later organisations, they often don’t make budget month on month, they are chastised, then they are warned, then they are moved on. In these companies, morale is low, and churn is high. Average is simply not a winning formula.
Colin came to me because he was not winning deals. He was not meeting his targets. He was under pressure from his managers. Colin’s typical approach was to submit the tender response and once awarded the chance to pitch in person, he’d work diligently on his pitch for a roughly a week leading up to the product demo.
This is not excellence! This is average! Average is not enough!
I helped Colin to see that it was worth putting off his next pitch for an extra couple of weeks and really nailing his key messages, his visual aids, his delivery. We even convinced some of his colleagues to get involved in aiming for presentation skills mastery.
Colin and his colleagues learnt there are three phases to persuasive presenting in business: analysis, design, and delivery. He learnt the importance of preparation and rehearsal. I even convinced Colin and his colleagues to run some practice pitches to a panel of colleagues which is a really important part of preparing to win!
Yes, Colin and his team won the next pitch. The value was $360 million. This is mastery. This is what winning looks like! Boom!
If I’ve stirred something in you, maybe you are excited at the chance to break free from the ordinary and the average.
If perhaps you feel like it might be awesome to dramatically improve the way you present, communicate, and persuade in life so that you get more of what you want and feel good about yourself, please reach out to me.
If there is someone in your team who needs you to inspire them to reach further, achieve more and be brilliant, I empower you to do so.
You know, the world is in constant flux, and what may be considered excellent today may become obsolete tomorrow. By settling for average, you risk becoming irrelevant in a rapidly evolving landscape. Innovation, success, and personal satisfaction often lie beyond the boundaries of average. Striving for excellence not only propels you towards your goals, it also positions you as a contributor to positive change. In essence, rejecting average is an assertion of your agency to shape a more meaningful and impactful existence for yourself and the world you live in.
© MICHELLE BOWDEN 2024 Michelle Bowden is an authority on persuasive presenting in business. She’s run her Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass over 980 times for more than 13,000 people over the past 24 years and her name is a synonym for ‘presentation skills’ in Australia. She’s a multi-million-dollar pitch coach to her client list that reads like a who’s who of international business: banking and finance, IT, pharmaceutical, retail, telecommunications plus many more. Michelle is the creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile®, a world-first psychological assessment tool that reports on your persuasive strengths and weaknesses at work, the best-selling internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting live and online (Wiley) and her new book is called How to Persuade: the skills you need to get what you want (Wiley). Visit www.michellebowden.com.au