1. I’ve often heard that I need an elevator pitch? How short does it need to be and what advice do you have for creating one?
Nowadays you need to realize that people have really short attention spans. So short that some of you may have already given up reading this post.
Research shows that human beings may have shorter attention spans than goldfish. We certainly spend less than a few seconds judging whether to stay on a website or click elsewhere. That’s your bar. So in any short interaction, you need to come up with pithy points on why you are the best hire for a job, project or business.
A good benchmark would be to think of yourself as a telemarketer who has under 30 seconds to make a point before the other side hangs up on you. If you have followed my advice in previous columns, you should have been practicing your pitch! Practice makes perfect and you should be trying out your one storey “elevator pitch” on your friends, family, and even your pets.
As a reminder, think about what makes you unique. Then get straight to it. Unlike movies, we all want spoilers when someone is pitching us. Don’t tell me some long story unless I’m in the mood (which in many cases I am not). Get to the point!
2. What’s the difference between managing from the top-down or bottom-up? What are the pros and cons?
Top-down management is a traditional approach most of us have experienced. The boss sets the company’s direction and everyone executes. In an extreme case, employees do tasks quickly and consistently. No questions asked. This is very common on Wall Street where everyone knows what needs to get done and stays within their guard rails so nothing gets screwed up and no one goes to jail.
Bottom-up management is the opposite. Ideas about tasks and projects are funneled up by the employees to the boss. There is feedback and discussion. In Silicon Valley, this is very common where companies are young, speed is paramount, and implementing market feedback quickly into the product can mean life or death of the business. In an extreme case, employees follow their own rules and focus on their own interests.
As all things in life, balance is key. I have found that a blend of both approaches is always necessary to be the most effective manager. The main pros and cons of each are as follows:
- Top-Down Management:
- No ambiguity because decisions are clear and centralized
- Faster execution because less debate or discussion
- Best for militaristic industries where freewheeling can have serious repercussions
- Without bottom up feedback, the wrong decision could be made
- Less creative and responsive to market and customer feedback
- Could disenfranchise employees or lead to low job satisfaction
- Bottom-Up Management:
- Greater employee empowerment and engagement
- Could unearth great ideas and employee feedback
- Makes the company more responsive to rapid market changes
- Leads to disorganization and lack of accountability
- Employees may not have the experience or knowledge to make best recommendations
- Leads to loudest, most politically astute employees having the most input
3. How do you know who your real friends are and who’s just using you?
“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies.” — Winston Churchill
Even though there is dispute as to whether Churchill actually said this quote, I believe it is good advice for work (and life). Personally, I believe the best way to determine someone’s true intentions is to observe what they do, not what they say.
With this backdrop, if you want to know who your real friends are, see what they do. When you need an ally at work, do they step up? When it’s 2 a.m. and you need help to finish a project, do they come to your rescue? When there is a big promotion, do they advocate for you?
Finally, when your fame and power wanes, are they there for you or do they ghost you? In the darkest times is when your real friends shine through.
About the Author
Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.
He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history. As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.
Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.