2 Critical Ingredients for Making Complex Stories Look Simple

2 Critical Ingredients for Making Complex Stories Look Simple

Last week I mentioned that I have been working on some huge stories lately, and that these have been instructive in many ways.

One of the most comforting is that even huge stories look simple when they are done: it's just that the process for getting there isn't so simple.

By trusting the process and the structures and continuing to ask ‘Why?' when it didn't look right, we landed a super simple story that packed a powerful punch.

Here are two key takeaways from our experience:

Trust the storylining process and structures together with your instincts to land the story
Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience

On the surface, these two ideas appear simple too. Trust me when I tell you that our heads really hurt after our session even though our story looked incredibly simple too.

 

Trust the process and structures together with your instincts to land the story. If I reflect back on why we were able to land a simple and clear message for the $1bn savings story, it was because the stakes were too high if we did not.

The team could not afford to have the Minister ‘unpick' the messaging given they wanted a major shift away from the Minister's preferred approach for prioritising investment initiatives.

So, the challenge was to find a high-level structure that resonated and to deliver it with precision and skill, listening both to our instincts as well as our structures.

We chose a Close The Gap deductive structure, and relied heavily on the finer detail within the deductive modules supported by The So What Strategy and the Ten Point Test to bring it home.

While it took a while to agree on the high level structural pattern, it took much longer to make it ‘sing'.

 

Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience. The key that turned the lock for us was the answer to the age-old ‘dumb question': Why?

Why was the team's approach better than the approach that the Minister was wedded to?

This proved challenging and took quite some time to articulate as the team was so close to the problem and to their solution, which highlights a common challenge we all face.

By the time we write our stories, we are ‘sold', so we want to move to how we will deliver the new program / project / or whatever we are discussing.

However, our audience isn't there yet which means we need to shift our own heads back in time to surface our own reasoning.

This is why it was so hard to say that ‘the greatest chance of successfully improving X system while cutting expenditure is ensuring that the division heads ‘own' the approach.

On the surface that is so simple it's almost silly. However, trust me when I tell you it wasn't easy to get there.

I suspect you are familiar with the challenge, which is why I thought it might be helpful to raise it here.

So, in terms of next steps for you: I encourage you to think about opportunities within your own communication where you need to persist to articulate the ‘right why'.

Wishing you a great week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

Keywords: deductive storylines, Close the Gap

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

New job offer after ‘Best Ever’ Presentation

Brendon was offered a new job on the back of a ‘best ever’ presentation

 You might also like to hear how Brendon was asked to repeat his interview presentation so it could be used as a training video.

They said it was the best presentation they had seen and, of course, offered him the job on the spot.

Brendon landed here having been a lateral hire into a Big 4 firm who needed to catch up on the sort of training that longer-tenured consultants had received. 

Clarity First filled the gap for him, and many other senior consultants who want to polish their skills so they can level up their careers.

Hear it from Brendon…

 

 

Learn how Brendon achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Promoted because of communication skills

We are always delighted to hear success stories like this from our participants.

Elle was recently promoted because she improved her communication skills after just 3 months in the Clarity First Program.

Naturally she was delighted to move from director to senior account director. She had been in her role for a bit over a year and was ready.

Her boss told her that to move to the next level, she had just two things to conquer and that Clarity First was ‘all she needed’ to get over the line.

 

Hear what Elle has to say about how Clarity First has helped her succeed… 

 

Learn how Elle achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

A BIG week indeed …

A BIG week indeed …

You know your stuff.

You have been working on it for a long time.

You have been promoted.

But now you need to deal with more senior stakeholders and nobody seems to be able to articulate what they need from you.

And, in looking at your predecessor's communication you can tell it's not how you want to communicate.

But … how do you communicate to your new leaders?

So, what if you could go from here to:

  • Nailing two major approvals in one week (involving millions in funding)
  • Getting fast and consistent ‘yesses' from leaders
  • Being awarded for overall excellence in your role

But, enough from me. 

Cerise should tell her own story.

First, the email then the short video.

 

Learn how Cerise achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

Shop Co Case Study

During these times of uncertainty clarity in your thinking and communication is vital.

This case study of a communication sent to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic offered an excellent way to illustrate the need for top down and bottom up thinking, a topic we have be discussing regularly of late here at Clarity First.

This rich case study encourages you to:

  1. Take more time to think about your strategy before you start
  2. Work top-down to build your story, testing bottom-up
  3. Anchor everything around a storyline

Click the play button below to learn more and here to download the handout and here for more program information and here for information for your manager

Introduction to synthesis bonus expires 29 July

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This will be followed by Part 2 on 1 September.

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This was the best course I have done. I was always confident in my reasoning but not as confident with presenting it, particularly to audiences that were not on my wavelength.

Davina has shown me how to organise my high level messages which gets me a better response from my audiences.

In fact, when I used the approach to present to the sales team last week half of them came up to me individually afterwards to compliment me on my presentation. That has never happened before!

Bojana

Customer Experience Advisor, Sydney, Australia

 

Clarity First was incredibly useful for me as it has provided a framework through which I am able to structure my initial thoughts quickly and easily.

I have always been OK at delivering communications, but the tools Davina has taught me will not only make the communications clearer and more concise but the time taken to get to the end point has reduced greatly.

I recommend the course to anyone who wants to make existing skills even better or for those that want to create the foundations for great communication.

Michaela Flanagan

GM Performance and Strategy, Insurance Industry

Keywords: ShopCo Case Study, workshop, free

How do we build trust with an audience that does not trust us?

How do we build trust with an audience that does not trust us?

In my recent webinar I asked for questions from the audience and Claudia asked about a great topic: trust. As she mentioned, if your audience doesn't trust you, you will be lucky if they will open your email or meet with you, let alone respond in a helpful way to what you have to say. So, how to build trust?

 

Focus on identifying and dealing with the root cause before you move forward – carefully. Here are a few ideas for doing that:

 

Identify the root cause

 

If someone doesn't trust you, there is no point trying to make progress. You need to understand why they don't and deal with that first. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

 

  • Who don't they trust: you, your team or your organisation?
  • What happened that led them to stop trusting?
  • Did they have a bad experience, did the last project you work on fail, are they concerned about honesty?
  • Is it a relationship issue or a performance issue?

 

Deal with the root cause as a separate issue

 

Once you know what has caused the lack of trust, if at all possible, deal with that as a separate issue so you don't contaminate the main ‘thing' you want to progress.

 

If you only have one opportunity to communicate with the person or people in question, then deal with it first. Here are some ideas to help with that:

 

  • Ask someone who knows the other party well to learn more about what matters to them and where there are common interests.
  • Ask someone who has good standing to help you work through the problem either for you or with you.
  • Don't be afraid to ‘hug the elephant' and raise the problem with honesty, integrity and without blame while also taking responsibility for any part you have had in causing the problem.
  • Explain how you will act differently in future and deliver on it.

 

Move forward carefully

 

Once you are comfortable that you have made sufficient progress in resolving the trust issue, consider moving forward with the thing you need to communicate about.

 

When doing so, be mindful of addressing any concerns they may have, listen and watch VERY carefully while also over communicating and over delivering.

 

Their trust will be much harder, if not impossible, to earn back if you lose it again.

 

REFERENCE: Building or rebuilding Trust, by Michael Hyatt. https://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-build-trust/

 

Keywords: building trust

 

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Getting email feedback ‘just right’ is essential (and easier than you think)

Getting email feedback ‘just right’ is essential (and easier than you think)

It is easy to go to extremes when giving email feedback: either so harsh that your recipient is upset and is either so offended or angry they ignore your suggestions or so soft that they miss the point altogether.

This can be because we are either too cautious about upsetting someone and too aware of the limitations of the medium or because we are in a rush and don't realise the impact we are having.

A short article from Fast Company by Sara Marco of The Muse provides a simple formula for getting the balance right: not too hard but not too soft either: just right.

When providing feedback to your team members as they start to use storylines, Sara Marco's approach will work brilliantly.

It provides an opportunity to highlight what your team member has gotten right, and also what they can improve.

Without this level of consistent feedback, your teams are unlikely to stick with the approach and give you the results you need: less rework for you, more great ideas being approved by those higher up.

And, what I love even more about this article, it is written using a pretty solid grouping structure.

Click here to have a read and see what you think.

 Keywords: emails, leadership communication, leadership skills

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.