Perfect Your “Elevator Pitch” with Poise and Polish

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

When you are approached by new acquaintances, individuals you haven’t seen for some time, or when meeting business colleagues you want to impress, how do you respond to common questions related to what you do for a living? Instead of choking or reacting poorly, perfect your “elevator pitch” by preparing and then delivering it in a clear, concise and confident manner.

The truth is, how we communicate and articulate our thoughts significantly influences the perceptions others have of you, your organization, and the services offered. Never again be caught off-guard! Learn and practice a flawless strategy to express yourself with poise and polish over endless and unclear pontification.

First and foremost, the hallmarks of spoken communication are represented by the “Three C’s”:

  1. Clear: A well-defined message that your listener(s) understands
  2. Concise: Key points that are stated succinctly and make sense for your listener(s)
  3. Confident: Command attention, maintain poise and be more persuasive

Speaking with greater clarity, conciseness and confidence begins with structure. When you prepare a message, talk or presentation, you should do so with structure in mind. And one of the most powerful structures I help clients with is called, “The Rule of Threes.” Believe it or not, people don’t tend to remember more than three things—it’s a reliable, basic structure that works incredibly well. But why?

“The Rule of Threes” is persuasive—meaning your audience is more likely to trust your reasoning with a three-part argument. It’s rhythmical by creating momentum—moving your listeners from point A to point B to point C. Additionally, this method is memorable, as it is far easier to remember three points over other numbers like four, five or six. If you’re skeptical, consider a few three-part examples from your childhood:

  • Three little pigs
  • Three blind mice
  • Three Musketeers

Here are some additional three-part structures that may sound familiar to you:

  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Knife, fork, spoon
  • Appetizer, entrée, dessert
  • Stop, drop, roll (fire)
  • Before, during, after
  • Red, yellow, green (stop light)
  • Elementary, middle, high school
  • Morning, afternoon, evening
  • Last year, this year, next year

Granted, sometimes using three points doesn’t pass the common sense test, like when comparing profitability figures for the four quarters of last year. Regardless, this rule is a highly effective guideline for identifying and structuring key points of a message.

The next time you are planning to attend a networking function—like an educational conference or a business meeting with some unknown faces—prepare for and practice how you can best answer a common question you can anticipate being asked: “What do you do for a living?” For me, I would communicate my “elevator pitch” by saying, “I love what I do for a living by inspiring and helping others as a:

  1. Keynote speaker
  2. Training professional
  3. Author

If the person is interested in learning more, s/he will likely ask a follow-up question such as, “As an author, what books have you written?” Because I will come prepared, I would then answer that question by sharing the titles of three of my most relevant books or group them by topic.

Speaking in front of others can certainly be stressful; however, it is a critical skill today. It literally shapes your audience’s perception of you, the organization you work for and the services offered. And each time you face the fear of speaking, you’ll gain strength, courage and confidence. But it takes practice.

Just remember…practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good; it’s the thing you do that makes you good.

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Start the Year Off SMART!

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

It’s that time again for making New Year’s resolutions. It’s a time-honored tradition all around the world. We hope for a better future—especially when the year we’re leaving behind has been a tough one. Unfortunately, researchers say about 60 percent of us make annual resolutions, but only about eight percent are successful in achieving them.

Do you want to know a secret? I never make New Year’s resolutions. Never. Why? Because I think it is important to set goals when it makes sense to; not just because I’ve changed calendars. And rather than announcing, “I resolve to…” I prefer to attach the symbolic acronym of S.M.A.R.T. to every goal I set to help me more easily achieve it (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, time-bound).

Instead of setting ambiguous resolutions for 2020, consider setting 1-3 SMART goals—like noted below. Then once you achieve them, set a couple more. The positive accomplishment and momentum will propel even greater success!

Resolution Goal
Exercise. Walk outside or on a treadmill for 15 minutes, 2x/week. After you’ve had success with this for a month or two, celebrate your accomplishment and then stretch your goal to 20 minutes, 3x/week.
Be more grateful. Before bed every week night, write a list of five things about that day for which you’re grateful. Some days you’ll have exciting things to note, and other days you’ll be jotting down simple joys. When you are feeling blue, read through your entries and reflect.
Bring more inner peace to your life. Don’t judge others. Worry less, especially about those things outside of your control. Smile and laugh more by watching comedy specials over negative nightly news at least 1x/week.
Read more. Start every morning by reading an inspirational quote or a short passage from an uplifting book. This goal not only increases how often you read, but it creates a positive way to start each day.
Learn or try something new. What have you always wanted to do? Play an instrument, scuba dive, roller-blade, connect with friends on Facebook? Commit to try or learning something new by 6/30/20. The possibilities are endless.

Every time my boys visit from Wisconsin, I work hard to think of one new experience that we’ve never tried before and that I think we will thoroughly enjoy. Last week when they spent time in Colorado for the Christmas holiday, we took up dog sledding! The tour was run as a relay, where we rotated between running the dogs, riding in the dogsled, and riding on a small passenger sleigh with the guide. It was an absolutely thrilling way to experience dog sledding and the Rocky Mountains!

Unforgettable fun as we mushed a team of Huskies in the Rockies, with Colorado’s two highest mountains only a couple of miles away!

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Heard, Respected and Valued over Isolated, Ignored and Invisible

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Do employees at your organization feel isolated, ignored and invisible…or included? People take jobs for a paycheck; they keep jobs when they feel a sense of purpose, appreciation and inclusion. In order to speak up for inclusion, we need to speak about inclusion.

Your organization’s leaders have likely recruited a diverse workforce that includes a range of ages, ethnicities, religions and differing viewpoints; however, diversity is only half of the D&I equation. Creating an inclusive culture requires another level of effort that may not be getting the attention and investment it needs. Alarmingly, only 12 percent of executives today believe their organizations are driving the right culture.

To create a culture in which everyone feels they belong and is comfortable expressing their uniqueness, adopt four key inclusive leadership behaviors:

Empowerment: Enable team members to grow and excel by encouraging them to solve problems, come up with new ideas and develop new skills. Rather than offering solutions when employees come to you with problems, ask them questions to try to have them come up with the solution themselves.

Accountability: Show confidence in team members by holding them responsible for aspects of their performance that are within their control.

Courage: Stand up for what you believe is right, even when it means taking a risk. As Brené Brown says, “You can have courage or you can have comfort; you can’t have both. They are mutually exclusive.”

Humility: Admit mistakes, learn from criticism and different points of view, and overcome your limitations by seeking contributions from ALL team members. This gets people engaged and sends a signal that everyone’s contribution matters. When done well, this creates openings for everyone to weigh in and, hopefully, inspire lively discussions and decisive actions.

An inclusive culture has many layers and millions of moments that define it. And as a leader, if you want to make a real impact and display an ongoing commitment to employees and colleagues, choose to adopt these four leadership behaviors and then take incremental steps to make your workplace a more inclusive—and likely more successful—environment right now.

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Don’t Get Scorched by Burnout!

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

The holidays are a time for added stress; there is no arguing that point. But what if the issue is more severe? What if you are charred by burnout? If a colleague, friend or perhaps you are dealing with burnout, stop and ask, “Why?” Rarely is it because they/you didn’t exert enough grit or demonstrate a positive attitude; those aspects are important, but aren’t the major reasons for burnout. So, what is?

According to Gallup, the top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

The list above clearly demonstrates that the root causes of burnout do not really lie with the individual; rather, in most cases, burnout is a leadership issue. Leaders could save themselves a huge amount of employee stress and subsequent burnout, if they were just better at asking people what they need and then doing something about it. Below are 10 low- or no-cost tips to reduce stress and avoid burnout:

  • Monitor and adjust workloads. Stop burying your superstars! Continue to give them the work you need your best people to do, but transfer some of their other work to others.
  • Demonstrate work-life balance rather than just talk about it. Help employees better fit work into their lives by increasing the flexibility of your time-off policies and consider increasing the time-off available. Maybe instead of an end-of-year bonus, consider a well-deserved hiatus.
  • Provide a helping hand. Rather than piling extra work onto already stressed workers, consider hiring temps or part-timers to help out AND get your hands dirty, too. Nothing helps develop teamwork better than seeing leaders roll up their sleeves and dig in.
  • Encourage everyone to completely unplug. Discourage check-ins by email or telephone during off hours and encourage everyone to use vacation time.
  • Cut the red tape. Do decisions and projects really need to go through multiple layers of red tape? Review and streamline complicated, time-consuming procedures and approval processes to decrease frustration.
  • Give frequent and consistent feedback. Lack of appreciation and recognition or lack of direction leads to frustration.
  • Reconsider where work can take place. Increase the availability of work-at-home opportunities, especially if commutes are lengthy or inclement weather ensues. If you don’t trust your employees to work when they are supposed to, there are bigger issues—like trust—that need to be tackled first.
  • Consider changes to the workplace environment. Review seating arrangements, noise levels, lighting and temperature to help reduce stress caused by an uncomfortable or unproductive environment. Not everyone likes Muzek pumped into their ears all day long, especially me.
  • Show appreciation. The number one thing employees need from their boss is a four-letter word—and it’s not “cash.” Employees need their leaders to CARE. Small acts of appreciation go a long way, especially during super busy times.
  • Reward hard work with a little time off. After a busy time has passed, consider offering comp time so employees can enjoy some free time they way they want to.

The tips just shared are savvy solutions based on what many stressed out employees want. But don’t assume these ideas are what your employees want or need. Don’t presume. Ask, then act.

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Blue is the New Black

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Today social media sucks our attention and is said to breed anxiety. We’re so connected, yet our relationships are suffering. The new normal is anything but calming, with change continuing to be a constant. I decided it was time for a change in my business, but I wanted it to be representative of something bigger.

Question: What is the color of the sky at dusk, a delicious berry and the most popular jean color? Blue, of course. In fact, blue is what color forecasters tout as timeless and is deemed both comforting and reassuring—offering the confidence to move forward together. This sense of strength, trust and confidence is what I want my brand to symbolize. I decided it was time to change and evolve.

Since I founded my business in 2008, I have transitioned from a color scheme that was red/gray/black to pink/black. And now, just like Pantone’s color of the new year was recently identified as classic blue (PMS 19-4052) that they call “the new black”, my business logo has now evolved to a beautiful blue hue, as well. This shift is exciting and fun—but also represents the immense trust and loyalty my clients have demonstrated by continuing to partner with me—allowing me to achieve my most profitable year ever!

A new logo, an entirely new website and a more targeted approach…are just some of the changes I’ve made. I’ve also transitioned my blog entries from my Blogspot to a new, more user-friendly platform, which I plan to post on weekly versus monthly. So rather than monthly ezines, I’ll be communicating weekly to my followers in a shorter, more focused blog format. None of us have time to read multiple articles in an ezine. Instead, short bursts of information will be offered to more easily digest the content and offer your comments. It also provides more time to disconnect and focus your attention on applying what is read.

I hope you enjoy the changes I’ve made. Please share your thoughts and comments.

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Choose to See and Be Grateful

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Are you lucky? Fortunate? Blessed? Deserving? Entitled? Or did you simply work super hard for the life you have? How you choose to answer that question is your prerogative. I look around and I see a world filled with pain and suffering, hardship and loss, and disappointment and regret. However, I also see a very different world; one that is surrounded by nurturing and love, beauty and wonder, and happiness and hope. How we choose to look at things can make all the difference between becoming jaded and cynical, or optimistic and resilient.

The truth is, we see what we’re looking for. Are you looking for the positive things in your life or the negative? What you choose to focus on becomes your reality.

Next week when you are seated next to a loved one at the holiday dinner table or conversing with someone special either in-person or over the phone, I encourage you to take a moment to feel a deep sense of gratitude for all you have versus all you don’t. Remind yourself of all of the many blessings in your life, as small or big as they may be. Rather than focusing on what you wish you had, feeling grateful for all we have is both rewarding and empowering.

What are you thankful for? Choose to see and be grateful today and always.  

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Do What You Do Best and Forget the Rest

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

In our fast-paced and fad-rich world we live in today, I see many companies (and individuals, for that matter) try “this” one week and “that” the next week. They attempt to be overly accommodating and then drastically different, in hopes of finding or becoming the next big thing. Being innovative, agile and trying new ways of doing things is definitely important and a skill we should try to continue to get better at; however, adopting “the latest hype” or going down an untested path can cause a considerable cloud of confusion. A lack of clarity is no small issue and can foster an abundance of uncertainly and a whole lot of stress—which can lead to decreased happiness, productivity, value and revenue, among many other unwanted outcomes.

For example, a colleague of mine wants to find a new job and decided to look for an opportunity in a specific industry she has worked in before, just a different role. Good idea! But then the following week, she decided to shift her focus to a completely new path, resembling the opposite of her strengths and even working knowledge, in an effort to “do something exciting and new.” Three months passed and still no new job offers emerged. Bad luck or bad strategy? I’d say the latter.

Focusing on doing what you do best is not only a valid personal strategy, but it’s also a sound business one. In fact, recently the biggest U.S. supermarket chain decided to scale back attempts to enhance sales with new products and renovated stores to be more competitive with Walmart and Target, which unfortunately led to 1000 job cuts last month. However, instead of continuing to do what they don’t do best, Kroger is reversing course on apparel, meal kits, etc. and getting back to what they know and excel at: selling groceries.

Hopefully this conscious shift works well for Kroger and the pendulum swings the other way. Some say the change took too long or wasn’t big enough; yet, others are very optimistic. Time will tell. I commend Kroger for deciding to now spearhead targeted innovative ideas but focus on doing what they do best. I hope this revised strategy brings them unprecedented success, as I know numerous people who are happily employed by that chain.

What do you do best? Whatever it is, you likely enjoy doing it, because we tend to love the things we rock at! 

Do what you do best and forget the rest.

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Prescription for Pleasure

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

If there was a magic pill to make you feel happier, what would you pay for it and would you take it? Many people would consider paying a lot of green to avoid feeling blue. In fact, providing your basic needs are met, happiness is said to be determined more by the state of your mind than by what conditions exist or circumstances happen. Therefore, my prescription for pleasure, or true happiness, can actually be achieved by reshaping our mindset, attitudes and outlook. Here are 15 recommended remedies to help prevent the pessimism, treat the tears, nip the nag, and cure the crabby:

Choose your thoughts. Every day, choose your thoughts the same way you choose what clothes to wear.

Express gratitude. Many of us could be a lot happier if we practiced gratitude for what we already have rather than focusing all our attention on what we don’t have.

Let go of anger. Holding a grudge or holding onto any type of anger won’t do anything but cause resentment. Dwelling on the past is only going to hold you back from having a better future. Hate is a very heavy bag to carry; let it go.

Forget perfect. Perfection is a fallacy of irrational thinking—the more we try to be perfect, the more disappointed we will be. Rather than shooting for perfection, aim for your finest, and you will rarely let yourself down.

Fight the disease to please. Resist being overly concerned with impressing, winning the approval of, or incessantly pleasing others, especially when it’s at a personal cost to you. Instead, pursue and set healthy boundaries by knowing what you like, need, want, and don’t want, and then making choices which are aligned with those needs and wants.  

Teach your lips to say no.  Understand that you are free to say yes or no. And, when appropriate, you should do so without feelings of guilt, anger or fear.

Be your authentic self. Try not to compare yourself with others. Everyone is unique in his or her own way. Embrace your features along with your flaws. Be the best you that you can be.

Smile. Turn that frown upside down. After all, smiling is infectious; you can catch it easier than a cold.

Challenge negative opinions others have of you. What others think of you should never outshine what you think of yourself.

Lighten your load. Unless you have a large red “S” on your chest, you likely don’t have super powers, which may be what it would take for one individual to conquer the evil, mile-long to-do list. Instead, ask for and accept some help.

Forgive yourself and others. Move on from past mistakes and difficult situations. Holding on to these negative feels is very burdensome.

Own accountability. When things go wrong, be accountable for your mistakes without pointing fingers at others.

Expect mutual benefit in relationships. Whether at work or at home, healthy relationships should provide value and benefit for both parties. It likely won’t be the same for each of you, but it should be a shared venture.

Welcome feedback. Some feedback is positive, and some is constructive. Understand the intent of the other person, and try to look past how it was delivered. Choose to learn and grow from feedback you receive. 

Refuse to take on the problems of others. It is admirable to help others through difficult situations; however, there is a big difference between offering assistance and accepting another person’s problem as your own.

Celebrate successes. Celebrate personal accomplishments by treating yourself to a movie, taking a vacation day to do what you want, indulging in a small treat, etc. Additionally, get in the habit of noticing and applauding the success of others. By recognizing another person’s achievements, you are demonstrating value and appreciation for their effort and results.

Respect yourself. Feel an inner confidence and assurance, independent of praise from others. Remember: nobody can make you feel inferior unless you give him or her permission.

Be respectful of others. Look for positive and honorable qualities in others.

Being happy is a deliberate choice; a choice we make every moment of every day. Don’t target the tumultuous; instead, focus on the fantastic and be happy!

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Do You Feel the Love at Work?

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Creating a culture where people feel respected, valued, appreciated, heard and included requires another level of effort that may not be getting the attention and investment it needs. If you want to work in a culture where you “feel the love”—where everyone feels a sense of belonging, connection and community—every employee needs to put forth effort to make that happen. And when you do, this feeling gets passed on to customers and results in more productivity and profit.

But is a lack of love actually an issue? Watch this short video and decide for yourself.

Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, here are seven strategies to help you create a more inclusive workplace culture today by personally modeling it and also sharing it up, down and across your organization:

  1. Leave your assumptions at the door. It is easy and often natural to make assumptions about others in the workplace, leading to misunderstandings, biases and often wrong conclusions. The next time you find yourself assuming something of someone—even if it’s as simple as “She’s probably too busy”—stop yourself. Instead, ask the question first of that individual. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have an informed understanding.
  2. Create a collaborative environment. Break down silos and promote organization-wide inclusion by promoting a collaborative environment. This includes a culture of behaviors and actions that inspire, model and align with your inclusive goals. Develop cross-functional projects or meetings between teams or create a random lunch partner program. This will allow your people to meet new coworkers and learn from one another, which ultimately will strengthen your entire culture.
  3. Change your workspace. If you can do it in your workplace, leave your desk and work in a different area of the office for a few hours. You’d be surprised at how it can really change up your perspective. You may have interactions with people you otherwise wouldn’t, especially if you put yourself where there is a consistent movement of people. This small change of scenery will allow for more collisions and spark new ideas.
  4. Offer a forum of expression. Having a voice by providing regular, optional “town hall” meetings to discuss anything from business decisions, business updates, department efforts or company wins will not only offer an open space where employees can voice their thoughts or concerns—but it also shows your commitment to your people and their value to the company as a whole.
  5. Demonstrate you care. Show your people you care by hosting regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and employees. Let employees know that it’s their place to openly speak their mind about what matters most to them — whether that’s about their professional development, a current project or if they’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked — start a conversation to support their journey.
  6. Rotate who leads meetings. Change up the dynamic by rotating who runs meetings. Give that individual the leeway to be creative, while ensuring you’re in alignment on the goals of the meeting. This gets people engaged and sends a signal that everyone’s contribution matters. When done well, this creates openings for everyone to weigh in and, hopefully, inspire lively discussions and decisive actions.
  7. Talk about something besides work. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job and not take the time to actually get to know colleagues in your office. Disrupt the status quo by having a conversation with a colleague you don’t normally talk to and engage them on a non-work related topic. This connection will often improve the ease of the working relationship and enhance overall communication.

Ultimately, individuals need to be recognized for their uniqueness but also feel connected to something bigger. An inclusive culture has many layers and millions of moments that define it, but in order to make a real impact and display an ongoing commitment to employees and colleagues, choose to take small and incremental steps to make your workplace a more inclusive—and likely more successful—environment right now.

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12 Methods to Make Meetings More Meaningful

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Why do some meeting facilitators excel at leading and managing meetings while others fail to maintain control, keep emotions in line, and can’t seem to enrich the experience so attendees are engaged and want to contribute?

If you struggle with this skill or know someone who does, don’t sit back and wait for the next meeting you lead or attend to be one of the 49 percent of office meetings that are found to be a “waste of time” (source: USA Today). Moreover, according to an online schedule service named Doodle, their recently published 2019 State of Meetings Report found that pointless and/or poorly organized meetings will cost U.S. companies a whopping $399 billion in 2019! Both alarming and sad.

Let’s consider some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized or facilitated meetings. According to the same report, respondents most often cited:

  • Poorly organized meetings mean I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%).
  • Unclear actions lead to confusion (43%).
  • Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%).
  • Irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%).
  • Inefficient processes weaken customer/supplier relationships (26%).

So before you reserve your next meeting space, take a few moments to consider why you need to gather this group together at this particular time, who should be invited and who needs to be present, what outcomes you expect as a result of the meeting, and what impact you hope to have. Additionally, apply these 12 methods, too, and watch your meetings become more productive, easier to manage, and more meaningful for all involved.

  1. Communicate the agenda and the meeting purpose with the meeting invitation.
  2. Leave devices at the door (or at least put them on silence).
  3. Set meeting expectations, including the length of each agenda item and overall meeting length.
  4. Avoid recapping for late-comers.
  5. Explain how ideas will be captured.
  6. Listen more, talk less, and welcome all ideas–not just those from “louder” attendees and/or extroverts.
  7. Communicate the desired meeting outcome beforehand and at the start of the meeting to ensure attendees have clarity in the goal and come prepared to articulate their points.
  8. One person speaks at a time without interruption.
  9. Welcome respectful disagreement/conflict; don’t allow disrespectful comments/tones.
  10. Set up the meeting room/environment and test all technology before the meeting starts.
  11. Jokes need to be appropriate or stopped.
  12. Identify who the note-taker will be and ensure s/he understands the facilitator’s expectations (capture all ideas and avoid using symbols for words).

Below is a comical illustration of the above points NOT being demonstrated well. Enjoy it and let yourself laugh a little. After all, according to, laughter is good for the bottom line—with 81 percent of the 100 Best Companies to Work For saying, “We work in a fun environment.”

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