Monthly Archives: March 2011

22 questions to analyse your team effectiveness

What are the REAL keys to effective team work? Answer these 22 questions to find out and see where your team can improve.


High-performance teams need leadership, mutual responsibility, compatibility of competence, sharing of work and an agreed approach to achieving a common objective. Some teams create charters about how we should achieve these things (open communication, respect, decision making processes etc…). And then there is the REAL stuff that awesome teams deal well with…


Here is a list of questions that you can use to assess your own team-ability. When you have the answers, ask yourself: What can we do to have a positive influence on this within your own team?

  • How do we help people understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • How do we deal with team motivation?
  • How do we make decisions?
  • How does our leader function in the team?
  • How does our team deal with ambiguity and assumptions?
  • How do we create team interaction?
  • How do we evaluate our position as a team?
  • What happens when we are under time pressure?
  • How do we deal with frustration?
  • How are we creative as a team within our own working environment?
  • How do we deal with rules and processes?
  • What do we do when things are not clear?
  • How do we give each other constructive feedback?
  • How do we deal with (lack of) resources?
  • How do we create common understanding and a common vocabulary?
  • What do we do with incompetent people?
  • How do we encourage people?
  • How do we get everyone involved?
  • How do we react when things don’t go as planned?
  • What happens when we really want to win?
  • What do we do when our goals are not achieved?
  • How can we be proactive as a team?


There are many other positionning tools available for teams including, for example:


I hope this post has been useful. Feel free to add comments.

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10 tips for effective SWOT analysis

10 simple ideas to help you make the most out of a SWOT exercise. This blog post goes hand-in-hand with my other blog-post that contains my favourite SWOT questions.


Doing a good SWOT is about more than just asking the questions…  (a new post on THAT topic will follow soon). Follow these 10 tips to do it well.


Take the time to do it

Most people don’t. Do. It’s as simple as that! SWOT is a great tool for assessing your own position. Once you have outlined your objective/mission, answer each of the SWOT questions in turn. Give your spontaneous answers first. When you have done that ask each question again, really looking at each important word in your objective or mission statement.


Do it with other people

In training, I ask participants to do a SWOT exercise together – it’s amazing to see the different points of view on even the most simple questions.


Ask for feedback

If you want to know your own strengths and weaknesses, ask for feedback from people around you. (Which reminds me, one of my clients has asked me to complete a 360° for her….)


Read industry literature, go to conferences, training etc..

“S”+”W” are about your internal strengths and weaknesses. “O”+”T” are about the outside world. If you want look for ideas about what is going on around you, industry literature, conferences and training events are great ways to see what are the new trends.


Share best practices

And if you share your own best practices, you’ll be helping other people. We live in sharing culture and what goes around comes around!


Social networking: Linkedin, twitter, yammer, Facebook, etc…
I’m a big fan of using tools like these to find out what other are thinking. If you join groups on linkedin and create lists on twitter you can easily see what others are working on, what is new and what people see as opportunities and threats.


Be honest with yourself …and others

There is no point over-estimating your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest. This idea goes hand-in-hand with the idea that you should take good measurements to have a clear idea of what is good and bad. And when people ask you for feedback, be honest yourself!


Brainstorm for opportunities, using tools like 6 thinking hats

Brainstorming is a managed process of using creative thinking techniques to find new ideas and solutions for a specific topic, objective or problem. By doing effective brainstorming, you can identify new ways to tackle opportunities, but maybe even see opportunities that you didn’t see before. Follow training with me on how to develop and facilitate a brainstorming session or read a nice book like “6 thinking hats” by @Edward_deBono for ideas on how to “think differently” when doing your SWOT.


Find good strategists who can help you

When you have your answers to the SWOT questions, the trick is to identify the links between elements in order to underline strategic priorities: How can this strength by used to face a threat or opportunity? What are the links between different elements of the SWOT? What can we do to ignore, manage or build on a weakness? etc etc… Some people are born for this kind of strategic thinking and if you know people like this, use them!


Complement with other tools like PEST, Jo Owen’s Influence Grid (How to Influence), Johari Window…

SWOT is not the only tool for assessing your position – there are hundreds. Here are a few I tools I like:


If you have comments of ideas to share, please post them below.

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Why I see Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere and why you should care

When I worked for Logica, I drove a Renault Espace. Every morning, I would drive down the E411 between 6.45am and 7.30am. My eyes would pass by  thousands of cars during this time, either overtaking or just seeing them around me, or coming in the other direction. How many did I actually “see”? Not many.

When I decided to leave Logica, I had to buy a car. I spent some time looking around for the perfect answer to my needs: Not too small, 3 real kiddy-seat spaces, more-or-less economic (not the Espace again!). I decided on a Citroen Xsara Picasso. I hadn’t bought it yet, just decided…

The morning after making that decision, I jumped back in my Renault Espace on the E411 to drive to Logica (during my notice period). Same time of the day, same route, I suppose same number of cars (more-or-less). And what happened? Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere!!


I told this story the other day to training participants and they all smiled knowingly – many people can relate to this story. The funny thing is that even that night, driving home (in my Citroen Xsara Picasso 🙂 )  I could again see them everywhere. And I bet my training participants did too!

Why is this interesting? Because my Citroen Xsara Picasso story holds one of the keys to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…. Read on!


Humans cannot pay attention to everything. There is simply too much going on. At the moment, if I really pay attention, I can hear the sound of the door banging downstairs, I can feel the tips of my fingers on the keyboard, I feel hunger and my cold in my nose, I can hear a tractor in the distance, there is light on my screen and of course, my screen is filled with information.

These are the things that “pass before my senses” that I am aware of, but there are many more things going on that. Although my eyes and ears and other bits receive the sound or light waves, I don’t really seem to register them or notice. Despite being an excellent multi-tasker, I simply cannot pay attention to everything.


I have to “choose” what to pay attention to. If you and I were standing in Brussels Midi station right now and someone said the name “DAN” at a normal speaking voice, chances are you wouldn’t hear it. But I might! This is because it means something to me. And my brain pays attention to the things that mean something to me. I filter out everything else and let (filter) in what I care about, what I am interested in, what means something to me. In NLP, we would talk about physical, cultural and personal filters. My mother would call it “selective hearing” ….and she regularly accused me of this when I was younger!

This is the key to the Citroen Xsara Picasso story: The car means something to me. And until it did, I never noticed it!

So: How is this relevant to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…?


If you want people to listen to you, you have to say things that mean something to them. And if you want to get along with people, you have to be familiar. You have to be “on their wavelength“. If you want to “sell” something to someone, motivate them, get buy-in… you have to offer them something that is beneficial, that is: An advantage to them. If you want to get and keep my attention, you have to mean something to me.


So: What do I need to do to get people’s attention, to influence, to create rapport?

  • Find out what makes the other person tick, what turns them on, what they are interested in, their situation, values and needs
  • Find out how they process information, their VAK representation system, the words, phrases and example they use to explain themselves
  • Define what you have in your offer/product/message/request that might mean something to them: What elements will they recognise? What are the benefits for them? What might help them in their situation, with their values and needs?
  • Tune into and draw-on the way the other person thinks, acts and talks. If they say “BU” instead of “business-unit”, so should you. If they like golf, use a golfing analogy when you talk about your need for a pay-rise! If they talk fast, talk fast. This is known as “synchronising”.


If you do this, you’ll get reactions like “Oh, that sounds nice” and “Tell me more”. If you don’t, you’ll just pass by unnoticed like all the other cars on the E411…



Hope this help!

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Building proactivity

I received this reference by email yesterday from Sophie Kuypers, a previous training participant who also had individual coaching with me last year. I didn’t ask for the reference, so I am feeling very nice about myself 🙂


Ce midi, j’ai déjeuné avec une copine et elle m’a parlé d’une formation qu’elle a suivie dans le cadre de son travail et qui l’a beaucoup fait réfléchir sur des tas de choses. Elle m’a parlé des qualités du formateur qui en plus d’être compétent et dynamique, était psychologue avant de me donner son nom et… c’était toi pour “Building quelque chose“.

Très bon feedback. Continue à donner, c’est magique.

C’était le clin d’oeil du jour, un rien personnel  :o)

Make a presentation in 5 steps (5): Content

There are lots of different types of presentation content and its important to treat it all well. Focus on the minimum effective dose. This post explains how.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Develop content in order to deliver the minimum effective dose

Now it is time to create the content for your presentation – if you are like most people, this will either mean copy/pasting from previous presentations or putting in everything you know about the topic and then cutting out as much as necessary to make it fit into the time slot you have been given. Try applying the lessons in this blog-spot instead!


First of all: Don’t grab everything and then cut out in order to be on time or be less boring – you have to think about BUILDING your presentation up instead of cutting down from your 100% knowledge of the topic. Concentrate on the minimum effective dose!


The minimum effective dose is a concept I first read about in the book “The 4 Hour Body” from Tim Ferriss. This book has nothing to do with presentation skills! It is written by Tim Ferriss, the author of “4 Hour Work Week” which has some really great principles on lifestyle design and being effective. Tim has a great blog  site with lots of good information, links and references…

The basic principle of the minimum effective dose is this: The smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.

(If you want to read an excerpt from Tim Ferriss’ book on the minimum effective dose and its history in body-building and how it applies to getting a tan, read here!)


In your presentations (and everything else) anything more than the minimum  effective dose (of content) is waste. Adding more content willl:

  • Not create understanding and even detract from your key message
  • Create confusion by drowning people in details
  • Use time unneccessarily
  • Bore people


Note that there are 2 concepts at play here: “minimum” and “effective”. This means you must not have more than necessary and that what you choose to share must be (in itself) effective.

To avoid the problems noted above, ask yourself the 5 following questions in order to create the minimum effective dose of content:

  1. What must people understand in order to get the message?
  2. Which methods, media and ideas will be most effective in passing across the message?
  3. If I could only present 3 things to get my message across, what would they be?
  4. What have I included that is unnecessary?
  5. If I didn’t give all the details myself, what tools/references/resources could I point out so that the audience can continue without me?


The minimum effective dose can be applied to the speech you make, the slides you create, the way you talk to other people, exercises, content of training programmes etc etc…

I hope this helped. If you followed the 5 steps you should have a nice overview of how to build up effective presentations.

Good luck!


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Make a presentation in 5 steps (4): Structure

Your presentation structure will help keep attention, creating better understanding and recall of your message. This post outlines the fundaments of good presentation structure.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Build a structure that supports the message and is easy to follow

It is important to have a good presentation structure in order to:

  • Create fast ROI for the audience
  • Help your audience follow the message
  • Keep audience attention
  • Improve recall of your message


There are many different types of presentation structure and I will outline the possibilities in a future blog-spot. Today, I will show you the most classical structure, which I believe is relevant for most business presentations: The diamond structure.


The diamond structure is based on the “Pyramid Principle” from Barbara Minto – you can get more information here or buy the book on Amazon. For a visual representation of the diamond structure looks like, follow this link.

I have seen lots of different basic structures in presentations and the most recurring problem is this:

  • People give details before they make their point

Minto explains that this can leave the audience confused as they listen and search for the links between details, trying to understand “What is the point?” This will encourage them to switch off (and sleep) and they will be less likely to remember what you told them.


Here is how you should structure things:

  • Have a clear introduction that gives your message immediately and points to the structure that will follow (if you are not convinced about this, read Minto’s book or come to my training )
  • Develop the points of your message in a logical order in the body of your presentation
  • At transition points, refer back to your main message using the “Dora-the Explorer” and “Learn-to-drive” techniques described in training (to be published on a future blog-spot)
  • If you have a formal question time, put it before your closing section
  • To close, summarise what you said and finish by repeating your main message

..simple as that!


For the messages outlined on the blog-spot on creating a strong message, you can see the structure by following these links *:

* note: look carefully at how I applied the “message before details” principle at each level of the structure. If you are using PPT, this same principle should be applied to each slide, meaning that the titles of your slides will give the key message for that slide, before you give the details.


To help you create your own diamond structure, answer these 5 questions (write down your answers!)

  1. What are the key elements that must be addressed in order to present my message? (If you did a good job of creating your message, these will be clearly noted in the message itself)
  2. What is the natural order of things ?
  3. What must I tell first in order that what follows is best understood?
  4. How will I link 1 part of my presentation to another?
  5. Looking at any random part of my presentation, how does this follow on from what came before and lead to what is next?

Now its time to build the minimum effective dose of content


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Make a presentation in 5 steps (3): Define your message

A well defined message is the heart of a good presentation. This post outlines how to formulate a good presentation message.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Create a strong message: Link your objective to the audience and create a message with impact that the audience will recall

Many of the people I meet in training have trouble defining their message… …yet they seem upset and confused that the audience doesn’t understand and can’t remember their point!

Other people tell me that you can’t always define your point in one message. Recently, a training participant told me of a university professor who’s lecture was so complex it could not be summarised into one message – I believe this an indicator of one of the following things:

  • He didn’t have enough clarity to put things together into a concise message
  • He had too many messages
  • His presentation was not well structured (more on presentation structure here)


To improve understanding and to avoid the audience having to figure everything out for themselves *, we need to define a strong message. By doing this, we will also create long lasting impact and recall of our message.

* more on this later when we see the Pyramid Principle in presentation structure


When I ask people in Presentation Skills training what is their message, I get a lot of replies like this:

  • It’s about call-centres and how they work
  • I’m talking about pro-activeness in the workplace

..these are not messages, but subjects!


So I ask them: “So what is your point?” and they answer:

  • I want to show how our company helps calls to arrive in a call-centre
  • I want people to understand that pro-activeness is important

…these are not messages, but purposes/objectives!


So I ask again: “And what is your point?” :

  • I want to sell our services
  • I want people to take action

…again, more objectives (although admittedly more commercial/action driven)


A message is the thing you want to say, the thing you want your audience to understand during and following your presentation. If you did a good job of defining your objectives, you have probably already thought about this.

So I ask again and finally I get answers like these:

  • Our company can help you to install complete contact centre solutions
  • If you create flow in the organisation, people will be more likely to become pro-active

…now we have some messages! These are messages the audience will be able to understand and recall easily after the presentation. These messages are also now a road-map for creation of presentation structure.


To help you create a strong message, answers these 5 questions (write down your answers!):

  1. What is your point? Wat are you trying to say?
  2. If someone asked an audience member after your presentation “So, what did he say?” what should the audience member reply?
  3. What must the audience remember after your presentation?
  4. If you have several points to make, what is umbrella message that brings them all together?
  5. How can you formulate the above answers into 1 phrase, that is short, punchy and easy to remember?


If you answer these 5 questions, you will have something easy to understand, that has a chance of impact and lasting recall and that will help you to develop your presentation structure. Here are some examples of strong messages that we will revisit when we learn about presentation structure:

  • Use story-telling to create imagination, understanding and influence
  • Company X has grown in 10 years to become a leading provider of IT solutions
  • Build effective presentation in 5 steps
  • If you want to understand people, you need to listen to them


Hope this helped!

Now let’s see how to implement the diamond presentation structure


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Make a presentation in 5 steps: Overview

Trainees sometimes ask me: “What is the most efficient way to make a presentation?” Follow these 5 steps and you will know the answer… Objective, Audience, Message, Structure, Content !


The pages linked above outline what to do at each step – follow the links and follow the instructions and you will be able to make a great presentation.

Don’t cheat on these steps. The next time someone asks you to make a presentation, just follow one at a time… Don’t go adapting previous presentations and PPT documents you have already made, start from scratch…


…and even if you prefer other ways to make your presentation, you will still need to deal with 5 basic steps. I can tell you now that the most efficient way is not opening PPT and just getting started on your visual support! Design your presentation first!

NOTE: This is not about making nice PPT documents, but building the whole presentation. PPT is referenced in the entry on building content…


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Make a presentation in 5 steps (2): Know your audience

To make a good presentation, you need to define the audience well. This post outlines what you need to know about the audience and offers some questions to ask to analyse them well.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Define the audience: Who am I talking to and why do they care?

The audience is the key to how you will define your message, choose structure and content and get in style. Before you move to structure and content, think about who you are talking to. Again, answer these 5 questions (write it down!):

1.       What is the audience’s situation, what do they value and what do they need (from me)?

2.       How do I define the audience in terms of hierarchy, influence and group dynamic?

3.       What is the audience’s relationship to me and what is the impact of this?

4.       Why is the audience coming to my presentation? What is their objective? What do they expect from me? (this is key to defining the “WIIFM”)

5.       What can I do to motivate them to come, stay and listen?

Follow this link to see how I answered these questions for myself when creating a presentation on “Building proactiveness” for the Kluwer Meet+Greet in Gembloux in 2010


If you are ready, move on to defining your message…

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Make a presentation in 5 steps (1): Objective setting

When you make a presentation, it is important to first clarify your objective. This post outlines different types of presentation objectives and give ideas on how to identify them..

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Clarify your objective: Begin with the end in mind to know what you are working for

When asked to deliver a presentation, many people just jump straight in, open PPT and start creating slides. Those that are experts in their topics will dump everything they know into 50 slides and declare themselves ready to present. And not just the techny people – sales people do the same, as do Project Managers and corporate trainers.

Slow down and think. All time spent in this phase will not only increase your efficiency in the following phases, but also:

  • Give you a whole bunch of information to share with your audience when you actually start talking
  • Help you stay on target during both creation and the moment of presentation itself

As the British Army guys say….


In this phase, simply answer these 5 questions (Don’t cheat: Write the answers down!):

1.       Why have I been asked to present?

2.       What do I want to achieve? (Read more about presentation objectives here)

  • Will I try to inform?
  • Will I help the audience to make a decision?
  • Must I convince or persuade? Or impress?
  • Am I teaching something?

3.       How will my presentation support business targets or strategy?

4.       What personal goals do I want to achieve?

5.       What do I want the audience to know and do after my presentation?


Follow this link to see how I answered these questions for myself when creating a presentation on “Infinite Learning ©” for the Epsilon Salon in November 2010


When you have the answer to these questions, move on to defining the audience..


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