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Review: Rise – 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader and Liking Your Job

This review first ran in the Oct. 22 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Rise: Three Practical Steps For Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader and Liking Your Job

By Patty Azzarello

Ten Speed Press


Ask how my day’s going at work and I’ll tell you that I’m living the dream.

Now some folks think I’m being sarcastic. But it’s the gospel truth.

At the midway mark in my career, I’m in a job that lets me play to my strengths, be in the company of great people and make some meaningful contributions.

So how about you?

Are you a happy camper at work?

Or has your career stalled? Are promotions passing you by? Are you overwhelmed with work and burning out? Do you have a nagging and foreboding sense that there should be more than this?

Do you spend all your waking hours and sleepless nights trying to find a way of spinning  your favourite hobby into your dream job?  After all, we’re constantly told that if we do what we love, the money will follow.

Don’t tender your resignation just yet.

“It’s just plain bad advice,” says author Patty Azzarello about the follow your bliss mantra. “The number of people who make a lot of money doing what they love is so insignificantly small that it’s an unrealistic and useless thing to model. The most unfortunate thing about this is that it makes people feel like they are failing when they don’t achieve it.”

Azzarello says that when you do the thing you love full-time, the effort to make it a viable business that keeps a roof over your head quickly turns your labour of love into nothing but hard labour.

“They end up turning their love into a job they don’t like, one that generally doesn’t pay very sell. They end up not loving life after all. And they waste time that they could have spent earning money.”

So here’s the alternative work / life strategy Azzarello recommends to her clients.

“Do what you love for free. Work for money. Change how you do your job to feel less tortured about it – and maybe even feel pretty good about it. Spend the money you make on doing the things you love when you’re not at work.”

So how can you feel less tortured? Start by recognizing that your job description isn’t a life sentence. You can change it. Find the sweet spot where you what you enjoy most and do best overlaps with the biggest business needs facing your employer.

“It’s up to you to tune and renegotiate your job over time to better suit your strengths,” says Azzarello.  “If you simply leave this to the natural course of events, it will not happen. Jobs don’t rewrite themselves just to suit you. It’s a negotiation. Figure out how to align your strengths with something the business needs and then make it happen for yourself over time.”

If you want to move up the ladder of success, you need to appreciate the critical difference between outputs and outcomes.

“When you are a manager, the value you add to your company is no longer based on the hours you spend at work,” says  Azzarello. “It is based on the value of the outcomes you create.”

While it may be tough to hear, know that no one really cares that you work 16 hour days and haven’t taken a vacation in four years. Workhorses don’t get promoted. Career advancement goes to those who find and deliver more effective, efficient and productive ways to get the most important jobs done.

To focus more time on value-added work that’s good for you and your employer,  Azzarello  recommends setting ruthless priorities. Chances are, everything on your forever expanding to-do list seems really important.  But with each task and project, ask how bad it would be for your organization if you failed to deliver. The handful of tasks where you absolutely must succeed become the ruthless priorities where you devote most, if not all, of your time and attention.  Do that and your superiors will also start to pay attention to your potential and future career path.

All of these strategies are part of Azzarello’s three steps for advancing your career, standing out as a leader and liking your life. Step one is about doing better and producing exceptional results. Step two is about looking better by building your personal and professional credibility. Step three is about connecting better with a broad base of supporters who can offer you a ton of help on your road to success.

You’ll find a wealth of common sense and some  counter-intuitive advice in this book. Azzarello , who was 33 when she became the youngest general manager at Hewlett-Packard,  35 when she ran a billion dollar software business and 38 when she became a CEO, shares all her secrets and lessons learned. This is essential reading for anyone looking to join or move up the management ranks.


Review: Small Message, Big Impact

This review first ran in the Oct. 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Small Message, Big Impact: The Elevator Speech Effect

By Terri L. Sjordin

Portfolio / Penguin


Pick a Hamilton hot topic that gets you fired up.

Maybe you’re passionate about two-way streets, casinos or the fate and future of the eight young women at Lynwood Charlton Centre.

You’re passionate about these issues. But are you persuasive?

Can you win people over? Or do you just preach to the converted, do character assassinations on nonbelievers and anonymously rant and rave to yourself on social media?

Imagine you have three minutes to privately bend the ear of a key decision-maker or opinion leader.

Would you know what to say and how to say it? Would you throw a strike or a ball? Would you be bold or boring? Compelling or confusing? Could you win a longer meeting with a larger audience?

Too many of us succumb to what author Terri L. Sjordin calls the data-dump syndrome. We bury our audience in facts and stats. We cite study after study. If we’re lucky, we inform and educate. But we never persuade and inspire.

What we need is a well-crafted, knock-it-out-of-the-park elevator speech. It’s a brief presentation that cuts through all of the noise that so easily distracts our audience. Sjordin says the purpose of an elevator speech is to “intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.”

Sjordin’s put together a speech outline that starts with a clear introduction followed by a set of three key points, a succinct conclusion and a powerful close.

“As with building anything worthwhile, structure is essential when developing a presentation,” says Sjordin. “Structure helps you stay on point or get back on point if you wander, and it helps you tell your story. Without it, you’re flying without navigation.”

Your introduction grabs attention. You let your audience know where you’re going and what you hope to accomplish in the next three minutes.

The body of your presentation makes a persuasive case with three main points supported by strong arguments and illustrations.

Your conclusion summarizes what you’ve just said and then leads to your call to action. What is it that you need and want your audience to do?

So what separates good from great presenters? Sjordin says the great meet three benchmarks:

  •  They build solid, persuasive cases and employ clean, logical arguments that support their messages.
  •  They’re creative in illustrating their talking points, blending thoughtful analysis with storytelling to win both hearts and minds.
  •  And they deliver their messages in authentic voices. They speak with rather than at their audience.

“Truly memorable, impactful, persuasive and effective speakers and presenters hit all three benchmarks,” says Sjordin.

Ronald Reagan is regarded as one of America’s best presidential speakers. Sjordin learned a little known fact about the Great Communicator from John Fund, an award-winning political writer for the Wall Street Journal.

“Ronald Reagan basically had a three-minute elevator speech card for a variety of different subjects,” Fund says. “There were times when you could literally see Reagan reach into his pocket and pull out index cards and slide them onto the podium. Depending on where he was going and who his audience was, plus how much time he had to present, he would look over a small stack of cards and select the subject and issue cards that were most relevant and timely for that group.”

Or consider these words of wisdom from former British prime minister Winston Churchill:

“If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for 30 minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.”

So if there’s a topic you’re passionate about, spend three weeks working with Sjordin’s outline. Craft yourself a compelling and persuasive elevator speech on an issue or idea you care about.

Practise, practise, practise. And then seek out opportunities to make your pitch and argue your case with the people who can help you make a difference.