January 21, 2021 5 min read
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Twenty years ago, just before a speech I was invited to deliver for a major U.S. company, I discovered that one of the people I had learned from so much, Zig Ziglar, had given a speech there, and I sought his advice, asking two key questions:
1. What was the best thing you did in your speech for that company?
2. What mistakes should I avoid making, especially in front of this audience?
Ziglar told me that the best thing he did was using humor. I asked him, “Is it vital that they laugh during the speech?” And he replied, “Only if you want them to invite you again.”
In retrospect, I realized that he gave me one of the most essential pieces of advice I have ever received because, until that moment, I’ve had never dedicated an intentional effort to creating planned humorous moments.
The second thing Ziglar told me was, “Gil, find creative ways to demonstrate your messages. People learn, enjoy and remember much better when you demonstrate your messages.”
A week after the conversation, I sat at my work desk, poured a glass of water and stared at the air. “What kind of demonstration can I perform to deliver the message of focusing on a limited number of activities?”
Sometimes people tend to think that they need to perform many actions to succeed. My goal was to deliver a message that it’s preferable to focus your energy on a limited number of activities because you can’t do everything due to constraints of time, money and other resources.
So what can you do?
I watched as a glass of water slowly emptied, and then I felt like Archimedes discovering the laws of floatation. Only instead of running naked in the streets and shouting, “Eureka!” I whispered, “Water glasses.”
For my speech, I went up to the stage with seven water glasses and demonstrated how I poured water from a giant pitcher into the seven glasses until it emptied. I showed different pouring possibilities, pouring equally and pouring unequally where one glass received more water than the others. I also demonstrated a situation where not enough water remained for one of the drinks.
This demonstration helped me emphasize the important message of prioritization — how every executive should choose how much energy to dedicate to each critical assignment.
That’s one of the most important things you should focus on while planning the next year. Less is more. Focus. Would you like to share that concept with your team?
Here is what I did with a small group of managers as part of a workshop for managing personal effectiveness. I did it a couple of times over Zoom too: Each participant received a medium-sized water pitcher and several glasses of his/her choosing. The participants had to plan their goals for the next year and choose as many glasses as they desired. They attached every glass a sticker with the name of the goal. At the end of the workshop, they all poured water into their drinks, according to the attached goals’ importance.
This exercise stimulates a combination of mental learning channels of the participants: the visual medium, the kinesthetic channel and the auditory, and it creates a humorous atmosphere (“Whoops, be careful, you spilled some!”). All of this leads to the creation of magical and unforgettable moments, which, in turn, leads to improved performance.
Related: Never Zoom Alone
The idea of water glasses served me well when I consulted a client who told me, “You know, Gil, without anything related to what we did today, the thing I desire the most is to find a loved one and have kids. How can it be that I’m so successful in my professional life, but can’t make it in my personal life?”
I realized that on the one hand, she wants to find a romantic partner, but on the other hand, she doesn’t allocate enough to building a relationship. In this case, I used a demonstration that included two water glasses. One glass represented “working,” and the other one represented “personal.” I proved to her how she dedicated all her time and energy to working and not finding a romantic partner.
The choice was, of course, in her hands, and for the next two months, every time she drank a glass of water or any other drink, it was impossible for her to forget the message.
Today, she is a happy CEO and a mother to two lovely boys. Perhaps when they grow up a little and seek out their mom’s advice about career, school, sports, hobbies, family, community volunteering and other essential activities, she might even show them how to balance between the more essential glasses and the least critical glasses.
Pour water into the glasses that matter most to you. Focusing on the most crucial tasks is one of the core habits of highly effective people. Cheers to a new, better year.