August 30, 2013
Reduce, reuse, recycle? Not always
Someone asked me the other day whether they could give the exact same keynote address written for one audience – a college community – to a completely different audience of high-powered business executives.
After all, a speech with examples, stories, statistics and anecdotes that resonate with the college crowd won’t touch the hearts and minds of seasoned business people in quite the same way.
When I delivered the closing address at a conference for human resources professionals at Edison Community College this month, every example, every story, every statistic, every anecdote was selected for one reason: its appeal to human resources professionals in particular.
Here’s the opening of that speech, entitled “Smart Leaders Ask Great Questions”:
I know a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources – a man with 40 years in the profession – who had an experience very early in his career that put him straight on a path to the top.
His name is Alan.
Many years ago, when Alan was an HR manager for a soft drink bottler, he walked into his general manager’s office and asked, “Sir, what is our profit per case?”
The general manager was stunned!
“Why are you interested in this detail?” he asked.
Alan said he wanted to calculate how many cases of soft drinks the company would need to sell to pay for an accident that had recently happened.
The general manager asked to see Alan’s loss control report. So Alan showed him.
And what happened next?
Alan said, “We spent the afternoon reviewing our accident history – and laying out plans for developing a safety program for training our drivers and equipment operators.”
Since then, Alan’s received many promotions in human resources. But, he says, “Each career stop included asking a similar question and applying it to the cost, problem or opportunity at hand.”
As a result, Alan said, “My seat seemed to always move closer to the most senior officer at the table.”
Alan showed his business acumen – the top critical skill for HR professionals today – and earned his reputation as a leader in human resources simply by asking questions.
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