Category Archives: Thursday Night Flight

TNF #113: Don’t break the chain

Welcome Professionals…

…today is Thursday again, time for the next Thursday Night Flight post. It is close to my bedtime and I have no idea, no clue for this post. I don’t feel like writing today.

Whatever – there is no way I am going to break the chain.

Two years ago, I took the deliberate decision to write one post every Thursday and have kept my sequence since then. I will not skip an edition just on a gut level. If I quit, it is due to a deliberate thought process.

chain

When I started this series it was clearly an experiment in digital marketing. I had never written a blog before. English is not my native language. I knew that I would struggle and that I would make plenty of mistakes. I decided to go for it anyway. To embarress myself in public and to acknowledge my shortcomings.

I have the sincere goal to pass on helpful experience on best practices for top management consultants. As I do this, I learn a lot for myself. I make myself aware of tips and tricks as I write them down. I practice writing a blog. And after all, I also take an exercise in self-discipline.

This is why it is so important to never break the chain!

Job done!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #112: Idle time for the brain

Welcome Professionals…

…I definitely find myself guilty of this. I am not giving enough idle time to my brain as I should. In order to increase productivity and make the most out of my time, I am tempted to schedule out my full day with conversations, problem solving time, writing and so on. I even use commuting time or workouts for listening to audio books or taking online skills training. This is generally very rewarding because of a feeling of high efficiency. However, it can turn out to be highly ineffective when the balance of idle time gets lost.

I have discovered that my best creative ideas happen in idle time. I find solutions to problems that have been bugging me for days at times when I am not actively thinking about a solution. I make decisions or new plans when I let my mind wander without any clear directions.

idle time

While – thanks to our smartphone – it is difficult for anybody to shut of distractions these days, it is especially challenging in top management consulting. Huge amount of information and data to process with tight deadlines, excessive meeting time, solutions to be found for pressing problems, and on top of all this: deprevation of sleep.

Even more so, it is important that we as top management consultants make our minds wander from time to time. The job requires creativity, intuition and judgment – traits which will increase enourmously by taking some deliberate idle time exercise.

When did you recently have one of these idle times:

  • taking a walk or a slow run without listening to music or other distractions

  • looking out of the window, gazing at the landscape while on a train ride

  • standing and watching people pass-by while waiting for a client appointment

Enjoy these times for the sake of higher effectiveness!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #111: Puzzle observations

Welcome Professionals…

…When I recently came into the room that I use as my office at home, I discovered that my 8 year old daughter had layed out a jigsaw puzzle on the floor. I think it consists of 500 parts and she had just got started with the frame.

Puzzle

I could not resist to take a look at the puzzle parts every time I passed them, trying to find at least one additional fitting piece. Although it is absolutely not my business and my daughter will probably be angry with me if I make some visible progress, I just had to give it a try everytime I gazed the pile of parts.

When I finally left the room, a couple of observations occurred to me:

  • I seem to have a natural drive towards finding solutions for problems, even when they are clearly not my business.
  • It helps to get started with the big picture!
  • It helps to form a hypothesis which puzzle part is going to fit next before looking at the big pile of parts!
  • As a rule, I will not find the puzzle part I was looking for, but come across another part that will make a good addition to the big picture along the way.
  • Trial and error is a necessity to make progress.
  • The process is more fun than taking pride in the end result!

I leave you with this and wish you great fun in puzzling out the problems of your client!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #110: At your best

Welcome Professionals…

…Do you do checkup calls with target clients sometimes? Calling clients you haven’t worked with for some time to see whether they have a current need that could be turned into your next assignment? I do.

Doing a call is always much more personal than sending an email. We will also be able to gather much more information in a two-way conversation instead of an interchange of emails. In a personal phone call, we are able to submit much more meaning behind the words and bring across our personality.

at your best

On the contrary, the spoken word may reveal our current state of mind much easier than a written text. This can be a disadvantage sometimes. I used to do these kind of checkup calls one after another when I was desparately looking for the next project. Not a good idea! Too much pressure and anxiety will be transported in that client conversation. It is an unconscious setup for failure.

Instead, we want to do business development calls when we are at our best. Maybe when we have just won another contract or when we have had another success. This is actually the best time to make such a call. It seems counterintuitive to ask for more work when you have just received an assignment, but psychologically it makes sense. We want to feel confident and relaxed.

If a current success story is not in reach and you still want to make this calls, at least get yourself into a good mood. For example, I go for a walk in the sun while doing the phone call instead of sitting in the office starring at my computer screen. Try it, it makes a huge difference!

Wishing you lots of new client

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #109: Too early is also not on time

Welcome Professionals…

…This week I was surprised by a very unusual case of bad timing.

At the premise of my client, we were expecting a candidate for a presentation, that was the follow-up meeting to a first job interview.

The exact time schedule had been shared and confirmed well in advance. The plan was to arrive at 4.15 pm and get an introduction to a task, work on the task from 4.30 pm for 30 minutes, and then present the results at 5.00 pm.

ON TIME

The candidate showed up at 1.30 pm – more than two and half hours early. The staff at the reception was a bit overwhelmed. They finally placed the candidate into an office at the end of the floor, hoping he would not run into other candidates for the same job that were expected for an earlier slot.

You may say: rather too early than too late. But this is actually not true. As a professional we want to be on time. Neither too early nor too late. Being too early is just another way of not being on time. It sets business partners under pressure who might feel an obligation of changing their schedule because they do not want to make their guests wait. It can have other stressful implications like in the case above.

Entering the office 5 to 10 minutes in advance is fine. For everything beyond that – go grab a coffee outside.

Now it’s time for me to shut up,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #108: New size = new product

Welcome Professionals…

…I was writing an article for a newspaper recently. The editor advised me that the article had to have exactly the size of 3,500 characters (including spaces). I had a document that was about 13,000 characters and I thought I would just cross out some paragraphs, condense some lines and it would be finished. Wrong!presentation

I ended up writing the whole text all over again. I was able to use the material I had as a collection of content and I was able to use the main conclusion. Everything else had to be redone for this new edition. I needed a new story line, some new examples and it turned out to be much quicker to rewrite the article than altering every single sentence. It seems so obvious when you think about it. If you take some paragraphs out of a text, the text will not make sense anymore.

The same applies to presentations. A convincing presentation is always geared towards objective, audience and timing. When we face significant changes in one or more of these three dimensions, we have to rewrite the whole thing! I have seen so many case teams shuffling old slides into new presentations. It usually does not work.

It gets especially frustrating when case teams start producing slides while the person who knows the audience and will have to hold the presentation is not even in the room, yet. This leads to rather unpopular night shifts.

Wise presenters plan upfront and have their material crafted on individual requirements!

Hope you can skip the night shift this time,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #107: Respect the gatekeeper

Welcome Professionals…

…Every VIP needs a gatekeeper. Everyone attracting a lot of attention and unsolicited business offers needs somebody filtering out the spam. They call them reception desk, personal assistant, or deputy, let’s call them gatekeeper for now.

Many people try to get access to VIPs directly. They ignore the gatekeeper and use tools and methods to bypass them. This is a mistake. For someone who installed a gatekeeper it can be very annoying to get unfiltered messages by email, text, whatsapp, social media and so on. For the gatekeeper it is annoying to be treated like an obstacle.

gatekeeper

Gatekeepers are usually a person of trust for VIPs. They have a lot of power to decide who is allowed to reach them, who receives a time slot and when. It is much wiser to respect their powerful role and collaborate with them. I remember a salesman that I met 12 years ago. He was from Germany and made a business trip to the US every year for two weeks. He only had these two weeks to meet his most important clients. How did he manage to meet everyone of his VIPs in only two weeks? He revealed his method to me. He had special gifts for the gatekeepers. On every trip, he brought an article of virtu – I think it was a specially designed espresso cup. The personal assistants were keen to receive the next collector’s item. This was his secret trick, he explained to me.

Actually I think the real reason for his success was something else. I do not believe in the pursuasive power of espresso cups. As a matter of fact, I perceived the salesman as someone who treated every person with the same level of respect. He was not only charmign – which he certainly was – he wholeheartedly loved to talk to people and did this with a true interest. I can imagine that he took the same interest into the lifes of the gatekeepers when he handed over his espresso cups. Honest interest and attention cannot be denied by no-one.

Treating every person with respect should be a self-evident virtue. It especially works well with gatekeepers since they get to deal with rude requests quite often.

Try it in your next call,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #106: Buffet of opportunities

Welcome Professionals…

…I am currently spending a week of vacation in a hotel with an all-inclusive offer on food and drinks. The supercharged buffets inspired me to write this week’s blog post. In this hotel you can eat and drink all around the clock. Since everything is paid for already, you just have to reach out for something and have it right away. Besides the three main meals in the restaurants, you get access to a host of snack bars which are spread across the hotel and pools. Before I even realized it, I found myself overeating on fastfood, softdrinks and ice cream.

buffet

I discovered that it takes quite a lot of will-power to go to the lunch buffet and just have a salad and some grilled fish despite of all the fragrant temptations. It takes a long term target (health), some core principles (skip sugar and fast carbs) and a mid-term plan (eat light to be mobile enough for the tennis match in the afternoon) to make wise food choices. This has quite some parallels to our business life it occurred to me.

In business we have a host of opportunities to fill our day. Before we know it, our day will be spent with checking emails and sitting in ineffective meetings. Emails and meetings are the sugar and fast carbs of business. For the short term, they make us feel busy, but there is a great risk of missing our long-term target if we indulge in them. Our days will be crammed with ballast and we will feel reactive and unflexible.

Only a clear long-term target, some derived key principles and a mid-term plan will enable us to withstand the distracting temptations and focus on deep work. I personally have made good experience with re-visiting my long-term targets once a month in a planning session and putting the mid-term plan into my calendar. My key principles are always with me in on a notes page in my briefcase. I shared them with my assistant so that she can operate in line with them when booking my time.

What is your sugar in your business day? How do you stay focused on your business targets and away from the temptations? Let me know.

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #105: The art of rehearsal

Welcome Professionals…

…Winston Churchill did it, professional musicians and actors do it, TED talkers do it – so why don’t we do it? In TNF #104 we discussed the power of rehearsal. A good rehearsal – when done professionally – will boost the effectiveness of your presentation by magnitudes!

So what is key for a professional rehearsal? Here is a checklist:

  • Plan a decent amount of time for a rehearsal. You may need some extra time for modifications to your presentation after the first dry-run and then do it again!

  • Get the team together when more than one presenter is running the show. Band members may practice their part alone, but every band has to practice together before entering the stage!

  • Rehearse with a proper audience. Get some critical minds who will give you constructive feedback. Don’t just do it in front of the mirror, this is not the same!

  • Remember your words. You must always know the first and last sentence of your presentation by heart! The intro and outro have be fluent and to the point. You can improvise with words inbetween, but never allow yourself a weak start or ending.

  • Keep your technological support idot-proof. At least plan a backup procedure in case something goes wrong.

  • Practice eye-contact on your most important lines, also practice accentuation!

  • Practice how to work the room. When moving during the presentation, set your steps deliberately. Who will you turn to, who will you engage with?

  • Don’t be too hard to yourself. Every dry-run will feel a bit awkward and never close to perfect. You will rock the show when lights go on and adrenalin kicks in!

Taking the rehearsal seriously will get you to a completely different level.

Knock on wood!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #104: The power of rehearsal

Welcome Professionals…

…As top management consultants, we deliver most of our work in presentations. From the proposal pitch throughout sharing first hypotheses and intermediate results, convincing stakeholders up to giving a presentation on final conclusions and recommendations to a steering committee. All of these are presentations whether we use a formal slide presentation or free speech, whether we talk to a group or one-on-one.

A good preparation of these presentations is key and everybody knows that. Yet, I see a lot of effort put into the content while the power of a rehearsal is untapped. Only few teams and individuals acutally take the time for a proper rehearsal.

Of course, good content is the foundation of every presentation. Deep analytics, rigorous problem solving, creative thinking, and logical conclusions are crucial to every presentation. This work has to be done professionally without any doubt.

rehearsal

Once the content is clear, I see presenters spending a lot of time and effort in structuring the presentation, choosing the right words and graphs, adding pictures, polishing colors and so on. This is also quite important. While the polishing often goes on to the last minute before the presentation, a proper rehearsal is skipped in most cases.

This is a great mistake. While content, structure, and appearance are certainly tablestakes to every presentation, there are some additional elements of equal importance. These include

  • good connection between presenter and audience
  • projection of self-confidency
  • fluency and flawless execution (esp. when more than one presenter is involved
  • projection of a positive attitude

The above are most important elements for building a trustful atmosphere to move and convince the audience. This is why we do a presentation in the first place, otherwise we could just pass on a written document. Achieving these features takes a lot of general training and experience. It does also require specific training for the individual presentation. This is done by a proper rehearsal.

I will cover the key features of an effective rehearsal in next week’s TNF.

Stay tuned,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!