A few years ago, I was in Manhattan for an early morning meeting with the CEO of a major financial services organization. We were in the elevator alone on the way to his office on the 44th floor. At one point, the doors opened and a young woman entered the elevator. She looked at the CEO and said “I know we had a Board meeting last week and given the challenging business environment, I’m sure it was not easy. How did it go?” They had a nice exchange about the meeting and I could tell that the CEO genuinely enjoyed the exchange. When she exited the elevator a few minutes later, he looked at me and said “she’s one of the most talented young analysts in this organization.”
I remember thinking – she didn’t really say anything.
What she did during that short elevator ride is what almost no one does – she made it about him - what’s important to him and what is occupying his mind. People like to talk about themselves and what is important to them. It creates a connection that is unique. That’s why the concept of an “elevator pitch” is so misguided. It encourages people to use unique opportunities to babble on about how important or talented they are. Imagine if that young woman had used this occasion to highlight her recent accomplishments. The CEO would have tuned her out.
- Making small talk in a large group or investing in expanding our network
- Finalizing a sale
- Negotiating an acquisition
- Delivering difficult news to an employee
- Coaching your team