On being a ‘human dartboard’…

On being a ‘human dartboard’…

There haven't been many times in my career when I have felt like a ‘human dartboard' but teaching one group of lawyers most certainly felt that way.

In a good way!

There is something fantastic about helping people who are engaged enough to actually test me.

They pretty much litigated every idea I shared with them as a form of sport. Not only was the workshop loaded with fun and banter, they helped me fine tune the quality of my ideas.

This is one of the many things covered in a recent podcast interview on the Investing for Life podcast with Douglas Isles from Platinum Asset Management.

We discuss a diverse range of topics including:

  1. How it all started on an 800-acre potato farm on the Victorian border, before continuing in Adelaide as a teacher
  2. Shifting gears in Hong Kong to join McKinsey and – at one point – across four countries in 12 months with two children under three
  3. Setting up in Australia to establish Clarity First, Clarity Thought Partners and write The So What Strategy.
  4. How I think about professional communication.

This is less serious than most professional podcasts, and one I hope you find enjoyable.

>> Click here to listen or visit Investing for Life on your preferred podcasting app.

More soon.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS – Look out for news about my own communication podcast, Cutting Through, which will start in the coming weeks.

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

A tip or a trick would not have fixed this

A tip or a trick would not have fixed this

Twice monthly at Clarity First hold live working sessions.

Participants join these to collaborate on real, live communication challenges.

This week's session was a ‘monster' which required advanced structuring and synthesis techniques to solve.

The challenges we faced reminded me why a ‘tip or a trick' won't help when faced with complex communication challenges. ‘Cracking' this one required at least five key ingredients:

  1. Familiarity with the business context and the project in question. We clarified this by brainstorming and asking questions
  2. A solid understanding of the stakeholder environment. We unpacked this using our 5 key ‘understand your audience' questions
  3. An agreed way to capture and structure our ideas in the shortest possible time, which focused around our storyline structures
  4. A powerful ability to synthesise a message out of complexity, which relied on our top down and bottom up thinking strategies
  5. Advanced understanding of how to ‘flip' storyline patterns and test them against first principles. We used these to draft an accurate and persuasive change request.


Do you also find it challenging to ‘wrestle' complex ideas into clear, high-quality communication?

If so, it's time to join Clarity First.

Doors open on 11 September and will close at 9pm AEST on 21 September.

Learn more about the program here or go straight here to register for your desired pathway.

  • Intensive – limited to 20 extra places (10 already taken)
  • Classic – learn at your own pace, unlimited places  
  • Foundation – get extra 1-1 help from me, 2 places only 


I hope to see you in the program.

Davina

Clarity First Registrations Now Open!


In Clarity First we introduce structured communication techniques to help you engage decision makers.

We go beyond platitudes like “keep it short” and “give me less detail” to teach you how to turn your information into high-quality insights.

Here are some resources to help you learn more about the program:

We offer three learning pathways to choose from

Intensive – for those who want structure and focus so they can move through the material and build their skills in 3 months. Includes 6 interactive workshops + online pre-work + copy of The So What Strategy + access to small group coaching. 30 places max. 12 already taken.

Classic – for those who want to learn in their own time and enjoy small-group coaching. Join on monthly or yearly subscriptions.

Foundation – for those who want more. Enjoy everything in the Intensive as well as the Classic pathways + 4 x speed coaching sessions + 6 x email feedback on your own work. 2 places only available.

>> Download the latest brochure here.

Get your ‘Pitch your boss' kit here


If you want your manager to invest in your development, you need to do your homework before you have the conversation.

Your manager will want to know exactly why this is the right program for you and how it will help the team and the organisation.

We have provided a brochure, a draft script and some steps to follow to help you prepare for your conversation.

>> Download the latest ‘kit' here.


See what others say here

A number of program members have shared their experience of Clarity First – warts and all.

Click here to see what they say.

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

Invitation: Thinking Skills Workshop

Invitation: Thinking Skills Workshop

It’s tempting to think that preparing papers and PowerPoints is a low-level skill mastered early in your career.

And in part that is true.

If you are a mid-level executive, you most likely have had some success in explaining how your project is progressing and seeking approval for more resources.

You will likely have improved on the examples your predecessor used to get there. You will also have added a few tips and tricks from the business writing and presentation skills training programs you have completed.

You may have engaged Board members in big decisions too.

But perhaps something is still niggling you?

You can see that you haven’t quite nailed ‘the magic’. Perhaps you are

  • spending too much time out of hours preparing your communication
  • gaining approvals only after answering endless (obvious?) questions from stakeholders
  • being promoted more slowly than you would like?

At Clarity First we are confident that the missing ingredient is the ability to synthesise complex ideas into a single high-quality message.

Here's what that means:

  1. Knowing your audience intimately so you can deliver a message that doesn't just explain what your data says, but what it means to that specific audience
  2. Having a structured and repeatable process to work out what that message is (ie synthesise it)
  3. Crafting a well-structured and engaging narrative that will get you the results you need as quickly as possible

Here's what this does not mean: Learning how to …

  1. Write better prose
  2. Create more beautiful PowerPoints
  3. Feel more confident when you stand in front of a room

These things are a consequence of ‘nailing' your material and your message.

They are not the main game.

I invite you to join my August Thinking Skills Workshop to learn more.

>> Learn more here.

Warm regards,
Davina

PS – While away on sabbatical I caught up with two long-term clients in person. One of them thanked me. He said :

Lots of people say they do what you do. But in my experience, none of them actually deliver on that.

Your process works. I can do it every time and I get the results I need.

I wish I knew about it earlier in my career.
It would have made such a difference.

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

I was reminded this week of why thinking and writing don't mix if you want to deliver impact at work.

It's great if you want to keep a journal, write a novel or perhaps some poetry.

But, bear with me.

I do believe writing helps us clarify our thinking.

But I also think writing to think inside a doc or a deck makes for poor business communication.

Communication quality is further reduced by socializing your document with others.


Let me offer three reasons why I believe ‘thinking' into a document leads to cluttered communication that takes far too long to deliver value.

Clarity of messaging is compromised as we seek useful input from others. In today's busy world, messaging must jump off the page the minute someone opens an email, paper or PowerPoint.

Asking stakeholders to review lengthy docs or decks leads to a mess of track changes that focus on the minutiae rather than the substance.

Quality of insight is hard to coalesce into a cohesive argument. If you draft your ideas inside an email, a doc or a deck you will naturally wander all over the place. Your thinking will evolve some here, some there as ideas form. The structure of your story and the quality of your messaging will wander likewise.

Velocity is nearly impossible. By velocity I mean the speed with which you can create your communication, with which your audience can digest it and then make a decision. When my clients skip using a one-page storyline they frequently see at least three problems. They see extensive rework, delayed decisions and lots of last minute scrambling to ‘fix' their docs and decks.

As one CEO said to me recently:

“We chose to introduce your storylining method as it offered a system we could replicate across the business.”
“Iterating 16 times around a Board paper just doesn't make business sense.”
Now I receive a stack of one-pagers and spend 15 minutes reviewing each one before offering substantive feedback to the team.”
“The team then uses this to finesse their messaging before they quickly prepare their documents.”
“Our Board and SLT papers have improved out of sight”.



I hope that helps.

Warmly,
Davina

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

Do you get lost in the detail too?

Do you get lost in the detail too?

Are you so close to your work that you lose sight of what it's all really for?

It's interesting to me how I for one forget the obvious.

I move forward forgetting that what is obvious to me is often not obvious to others.

I was again reminded of this today in an advanced workshop with one of my government clients.

We were using a ‘pattern flipping' technique, which involves some fairly sophisticated mental gymnastics.

We play with storyline patterns to create new ones that better frame the story we need to tell.

This is more helpful to this client than most because their stories are huge and incredibly complex.

So, here's the thing.

To make ‘flipping work', I have to see storylines as a thinking machine that helps me work out what my message is. They are not a template to fill in.

To me this is pretty ‘ho hum'.

Of course they are! I use them all day every day.

But to see the light turn on in my clients' eyes around this was magic.

Here's what happened. They did five things …

Stopped being so literal and started to think. They began focusing on how to tweak a pattern so it suited their purpose, rather than taking a quick look at the favourite seven and saying ‘that'll do'.

Began to lean into how a storyline structure can highlight thinking problems. They could find and fix thinking problems by testing the ‘rules' that hold the ideas together.

Went beyond ‘clarity' to deliver ‘insight'. They started drawing out powerful and insightful messages rather than delivering something accurate and on topic but not impactful.

Saw how much faster they went if they started slow. Although storylining can be time consuming and mentally taxing, they saw how much time they saved by slowing down enough to think at the start.

Realised how much more value they could deliver. Less time reworking papers, speaking to people who don't respond to emails or don't ‘get' the message they are conveying. Better clarity of message. Greater quality of insight. Greater velocity of business.

I hope that helps.

Warmly,
Davina

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

4 ways to know if your message is powerful

4 ways to know if your message is powerful

We talk a lot about the clarity of communication. To me that means how easy it is for a person in our audience to grasp what we are saying.

This is, I suggest, only ground level for powerful business communication.​

The next level is to deliver a high-quality message. By my way of thinking this is a message that is not just clear, but which delivers significant value.

In most situations this requires a good degree of synthesis, and I thought sharing four key questions we ask might help you assess the quality of your own communication.

To test the quality of our messaging, we ask ourselves what level of message we have used.

  1. Level 1 – Is this a piece of data? A piece of data is a fact. For example, '10 widgets'. This is not a message, but rather a stand alone piece of information.
  2. Level 2 – Is this a topic? A topic is a category, eg ‘Options'. This explains what you are discussing, but not what you are saying. On its own, it is not a quality message.
  3. Level 3 – Is this a summary? A summary is useful when explaining what you found in some analysis. For example: “We sold 10 widgets more last week than we have sold over the past year”. It is an observation and tells you what your data set ‘says'.
  4. Level 4 – Is this a powerful message? A powerful message delivers the most value of any. It synthesises, which means it draws an inference from the information and says what it means. It involves taking a risk and is where the value lies.

I encourage you to review the three most recent pieces of communication you have prepared and assess what level your communication was at.

If you find very few level 4 messages ask yourself why and see if you can level them up in your next piece.

I hope that helps and look forward to bringing you more next week.

Davina

 

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

How thinking skills underpin your ability to present with confidence

How thinking skills underpin your ability to present with confidence

This week I received two requests to help with presentation skills, one for a finance professional and one for a group of about 80 analysts.

In both cases presentation skills were not the main issue.

In my opinion, they were just ‘tip of the iceberg'.

The real problem lies in synthesising findings into a clear, insightful, outcome-oriented message.

Let me explain with a diagram and then the back story.

 

 

From what I could see, the issue that I was being asked to solve: ‘standing with confidence' and ‘projecting their voice', were the least of their problems.

In both cases, presenters lost confidence when they received the wrong kinds of questions that led to the wrong kinds of discussions … and slow or no decisions.

When messages are not well synthesised decision makers ask questions that help them understand the message. This often involves diving into minute detail as decision makers attempt to do the thinking work themselves.

I see this most when recommendations are buried among a long series of facts. It forces decision makers to connect the dots between the facts, which leads them to lose the thread. This in turn leads them to ask questions to clarify the message rather than discussing the issue.

Conversations become convoluted, at times feeling more like an interrogation than a discussion. They also rarely lead to a high-quality or fast decision.

This is frustrating for all concerned and why I prioritise thinking skills.

I teach you to connect the dots into a well-synthesised message, so your audience doesn't have to.

Later this month I will hold a Thinking Skills MasterClass to uncover the skills essential to synthesising powerful messages.

This will then help you receive the right kinds of questions … and enjoy greater confidence when presenting your ideas in any forum.

>> Learn more here

Kind regards,
Davina

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

Clarity of communication = clarity of skin

Clarity of communication = clarity of skin

This is an unusual post but one I hope will help.

I just responded to a post by an old friend, Dr James Muecke who happened to be Australian of the year in 2020 for his work fighting sugar.

Look at how well he simplified and shared the message ….

Great (cheeky?) use of humour – Zits away …?

Demonstrates credibility – This recent systematic review concludes that “high glycemic index, increased glycemic load, and carbohydrate intake have a modest yet significant proacnegenic effect.”

Simple and visual summary – In other words, sugar => pimples

Clear takeaway that had me thinking about the young people in my own family – This might just motivate your kids to reduce their sugar intake …

Although I would have reordered these points for greater impact, I was thoroughly impressed by the simplicity and the timing (given many of us are about to binge on chocolate during Easter!).

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS – I am hosting five MasterClasses during May: one introductory level one, and four others for people with more experience using the Pyramid Principle or our framework, The So What Strategy.

>> Click here to learn about my May MasterClasses

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

INTERVIEW – Busting 3 Business Negotiation Myths

INTERVIEW – Busting 3 Business Negotiation Myths

I came to Friday's interview with Matt Lohmeyer a bit selfishly. Negotiating has often made me nervous and yet he seems to thrive while discussing and doing it.

So, I wanted to learn how he gets great outcomes while actually enjoying the process.

If I am to interpret Matt correctly, the ‘insight' is to explore ‘possibility’ and seek out ‘opportunity’ rather than be driven by the fear of being cornered by a win/lose proposition.

Here are three fear busters that I took away that I hope help you also.

  1. Deal with the hairy beasts first
  2. See popular techniques as tools rather than the main strategy
  3. Avoid saying no

Let me now give you some more detail about these before offering the video recording and two powerful and free tools from Matt.

1 – Deal with the hairy beasts first. By that, Matt suggests dealing with the most difficult issues of a negotiation first. He recommends agreeing the negotiation strategy at the beginning as a way to build rapport, rather than dealing with small items. An example might help.

At the beginning you might ask the other person (note, I am deliberate in not saying ‘the other side') to identify their biggest concern. You might even suggest that you think item X is going to be the most difficult thing to resolve.

This gives them an opportunity to agree or to indicate that item Y or Z is a bigger deal for them. Taking this approach offers many advantages. You

  • Enter into a collegiate discussion about the way forward that builds rapport
  • Gain insight into their situation
  • Work out quickly whether this negotiation will go far or not, so that you can avoid wasting time and resources if it is unresolvable
  • Hold onto valuable bargaining chips that could help you address the hairy beast rather than trading them away to solve lower level issues

2 – See popular techniques as tools rather than the primary strategy. Matt suggests that emphasising win-win solutions or splitting the difference results in mediocre outcomes. Why?

Because they leave you thinking small. They lead you to

  • Being adversarial which can put you back in the fear corner'
  • Trading items tit for tat around micro elements of the deal
  • Taking energy away from finding a really great outcome that neither party may have considered at the start of the discussion.

3 – Avoid saying no, and frame your response as a possible alternative. This doesn't mean NEVER saying no as Matt was quick to point out, but rather avoid saying it.

To give an example. Instead of saying ‘No, I can't have coffee with you tomorrow afternoon', say ‘I could have coffee with you at 9am tomorrow at a location near me'.

This then puts the onus back on the other person to decide whether they will make the extra effort to make that time and location work.

This is a simple example, but a powerful principle that empowers me by offering a constructive way out.

These are just some of the gems that Matt shared. You can visit the recording below as well as download two powerful resources he has for us all.

 

DOWNLOADS:

1. A diagnostic to help you calibrate your personal blend of preferred negotiation strategies with the norm group of over 2,500 other executives. How do you actually negotiate? To unlock this tool, you will need to use the password Mythbusters.

Click here to access >>

2. A generously detailed PDF full of negotiation strategies for you to employ – register below to receive access to Matt's eBook:

 

Kind Regards,

Davina

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

What to do when stakeholders disagree with you?

What to do when stakeholders disagree with you?

I was recently asked a wonderful question:

 

How do we communicate with a large group that includes stakeholders who disagree with us?

 

The client and I had a terrific discussion and I mapped the outcome as a decision tree to share with you all.

The tree offers a series of decision points that we must navigate if we are to deliver a story that gets the result we need.

In this particular case, the issue centred around around a common problem, which was how to handle ‘the story' when key stakeholders don't agree with it. Do we ….

  • Tell the same story regardless?

  • Edit the story to accommodate that person (or those people) only?

  • Ask someone else to present on our behalf?

  • Create a separate story that deals with the objector's specific concerns?

  • Scrap the story and start again?


There are lots of alternatives, each of which might suit a different situation but none of which suit all.


Hence, the decision tree. I hope you find it useful.

Cheers, Davina

 

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

Well, Bill certainly did not disappoint in this morning's interview!

Bill shared career insights that are hugely relevant to all of us, no matter where we are in our careers.

He gave me a new idea for addressing current challenge and judging by the chat messaging others found the same.

I encourage you to take the time to watch the recording below and to consider working with him further. There are three ways to do this:

#1 – Grab a copy of his new book Building a Winning Career, which launched today. He is offering the Kindle version for about $10 for the coming two weeks to make it affordable to everyone, as well as physical copies which Australians can order directly from him, or those overseas can access via online book stores.

#2 – Learn more from him in our two coming Clarity First sessions. The first will be a book discussion and the second a working session to help those present. Clarity First registration is open until 9 December to allow you to join early for the February program.

#3 – Receive a free copy of Bill's book if you are one of the first 10 people to join Clarity First this week.

>> Register here

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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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 and the occasional graduate.

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

5 Business Communication Traps and how to avoid them

Complexity is at the heart of the challenge when communicating at work.

In this workshop I address five of the common traps that make it difficult for us to engage others in complex ideas and offer ideas on how to solve them.

    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.

     

    Communicate with Clarity and Confidence

    CHOOSE THE LEARNING PATHWAY THAT SUITS YOU BEST … 

    1 – INTENSIVE – For those who want me to guide their learning journey. Complete online modules in own time and join 6 x highly interactive 90-minute workshops to practice and master the approach. Starts 22 September 2022, 8am AEST. 

    2 – CLASSIC – A self-directed blended learning program supported by regular live working sessions. During the working sessions we close the gap between knowing and doing. We address specific questions, build communication together ‘live', rework examples and more.  

    3 – FOUNDATION – Access everything from the Classic and Intensive Pathways as well as 1-1 coaching and document feedback.

    REGISTRATIONS ARE NOW OPEN AND CLOSE 28 SEPTEMBER 2022 AT 9PM AEST

    Hi Davina
    I did your course last year. I found it extremely userful and continue to use the So What framework. I find it's a bullet-proof method for communicating anything!
    I am now in a new role and Execs hae noticed a difference in how I communicate ideas – that they are clear, succinct and actionable, thanks to you!
    I am softlly pushing to my manager (the COO) that we should get the execs and leads of the business to take your course so we can uplift the quality of our communication and way of thinking. He is interested to hear from you.
    Let's arrange a time for a call.
    Regards,
    Bianca

    Product Manager, Sydney, Australia

    Hi Davina
    It’s s funny to listen to myself 🙂
    Perfectly happy for you to use however you would like.
    FYI – I also got an award for my great work today.  Nothing big but still, the recognition was nice.  I feel like much of it was thanks to the work I’ve done with you!
    Thanks for creating such a great program.
    See you next week!
    Cerise
    PS You can go here to hear Cerise's story along with that from several other program participants
    Cerise

    Program Manager, Sydney, Australia

    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: Art and Science of communicating complex ideas, workshop, free

    How to correlate your effort with your end game

    How to correlate your effort with your end game

    Do you wonder how much effort to invest in different pieces of communication?

    Do you prioritise according to …

    • who your audience is
    • the type of document it is (email, paper, PowerPoint?)
    • how much time you have to prepare it, or
    • the business impact it will generate?

    Let's use two routine examples that emerged in my coaching work this week to think about this and refine how we think about each of them using a simple framework.

    First, two routine examples to set the scene

    Imagine you have two emails to prepare today:

    Example 1: A 250 word email seeking leadership support. You need your five-person leadership team to agree to change the course of your project in light of complications caused by an unexpected technical glitch.

    The change doesn't require any extra budget but does require your team to change their priorities which will lead to deprioritising another important project.

    Example 2: A 150 word email to 3,000 staff. You have discovered a new security vulnerability in the latest Google Chrome release and need the whole organisation to manually update their browser immediately.

    The steps that each of the 3,000 people need to take are simple but critical and you are aware that many of your employees are not ‘tech savvy' and may need explicit instructions to complete the update.

    So, how do you decide how to proceed?

    Next: a simple framework to help you prioritise your effort

    By thinking about two important dimensions: impact and size of audience, we get to a different conclusion.

    This allows us to correlate our effort and our end game by prioritising our effort according to a balance between the impact the communication will deliver and the risk of slowing the organisation down (or worse) if it goes wrong.

    And … a counter-intuitive conclusion

    Both of these examples need ‘proper' investment but using this approach we would pay more attention to the Google Chrome vulnerability email. Here's why:

    Although the email to all staff seemed fairly simple, the risks and potential time loss were both higher than that for the leadership email.

    If the staff email was poorly done, the cost to the organisation would have been substantial

    • The steps for updating the Chrome vulnerability were easy if you were ‘tech savvy', but could be time consuming if not. In the real situation it proved to be easy to convolute the steps confusing colleagues and leaving a real possibility that they would give up. Aggregate this over 3,000 people and the cost to the organisation of getting it wrong is pretty big.
    • The current risk of being hacked is also intense for this organisation, making the risk of not updating the browsers higher than normal.

    If the leadership email was poorly done, the cost would have been less significant

    • The cost to the organisation of the ‘hourly rate' of these leaders taking time to ask questions to clarify the message is less than the potential time cost of the staff email
    • The risks to the organisation are minimal as no extra budget or skills were required and time lost could be caught up in other ways if the project needed to return to the original schedule
    • The project leader is likely to have other opportunities to put their case in the not too distant future should there be confusion stemming from the email

    I hope that provides some food for thought this week and look forward to sharing more ideas with you next week.

    Kind regards,
    Davina

    ‘Pitch your boss' kit to help you this budget season
    If you want your manager to invest in your development, you need to do your homework before you have the conversation. Your manager will want to know exactly why this is the right program for you and how it will help the team and the organisation. We have provided a brochure, a draft script and some steps to follow to help you prepare for your conversation. Clarity First opens again in September

    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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    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:

    1. Trust the storylining process and structures together with your instincts to land the story
    2. 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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    How to Communicate the Right Amount of Detail

    Clarity has never been easy.

    But as we discuss in this workshop, we have a number of great techniques to make it achievable in your everyday work life.

    We look at three simple steps to help you communicate the right amount of detail:

    1.  Know that being shorter isn't always better
    2. Be crystal clear about your purpose and audience
    3. Learn how to synthesise

    We explore our ‘So What Strategy' framework which provides you with a roadmap each time you prepare a communication.

    We also explain how Clarity First can help you consistently create clear and powerful communications that give your audience the information they need, so you have the best chance of getting the outcome you want.

    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

    HEAR FROM 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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

    Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

    Have you noticed how easy it is to spot the tiny errors in communication, particularly when it was prepared by someone else?

    When our stakeholders read our paper, watch our presentation or lose the thread of our message when we speak, they focus on the things they can understand.

    This is, I think, why feedback often doesn't help us much.

    We are asked to improve things that are easy to fix but sit on the surface of our communication: our ability to write, prepare charts or to find ways to become more confident in front of the room when presenting.

    Feedback around the substance comes in the form of generalities that are hard to pin down such as ‘be more strategic' and ‘focus less on the detail' without specific advice on how to do that.

    The challenge is to work out how to communicate so you get fewer:

    • Clarification questions
    • Requests to meet and discuss
    • Requests to rework your presentation

    My number 1 suggestion for combatting this is to spend more time than you think you need to in clarifying two things before you prepare your communication:

    Your purpose: What do you want to achieve with this specific piece of communication?

    Your audience: Who are they really and what information do they really need from you to get the outcome you seek?

    These two areas are foundational in nailing your messaging so you get less of the wrong kind of feedback, deliver more value … and enjoy your work more.

    One of our clients summed it up beautifully this week:

    “The magic about storylines is that they don't often get noticed or stand out unless you've made a mistake and it is harder to make mistakes when you use them”

    Have a great week, everyone,

    Davina

    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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

    The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

    This is what happened to Chad.

    Chad is a software developer at a trading firm.

    Although fluent, English is his second language and this makes him nervous about his communication abilities.

    He has also had feedback that his communication can be too aggressive, which has heightened his anxiety.

    However, when I meet with him I find a warm, engaging and enthusiastic person who does not seem the least bit aggressive.

    So, what is going on here?

    To illustrate, I will first outline the situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain, then offer our before and after emails before offering two questions you can ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position.

    The situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain

    When Chad and I worked through an email chain between him and some overseas colleagues, the issue slowly became apparent.

    His communication was polite and detailed.

    But it missed one critical ingredient.

    Instead of explaining why something needed to be done, he jumped straight into how the overseas colleagues needed to do it.

    This, in turn, led to a ten-email chain debating the details of the task, with a heavy overtone of ‘do it yourself’ from the overseas team.

    Let's have a deeper look at the issue by reviewing the original email and an alternative.

    Our before and after emails

    Even though the information is technical, I think you’ll see what I mean when I show you the original (sanitised) ‘so what’ message versus the revised one:

    Original – We need your help to come up with the implementation that supports System A in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

    Revised – Given our own ABC filtering mechanism leads to a configuration that is hard to maintain, we need your help to implement ‘System A’ in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

    Interestingly, the rest of the email changed dramatically too. 

    It no longer consisted of a list of reasons why the suggestions from the overseas team were wrong, it included a list of reasons why he needed their help.

    On reflection, he decided that if he had drafted this email in the first place the whole chain of about 10 emails would have been avoided.

    And the problem would have been fixed much sooner.

    So, how to avoid this happening to you?

    Two questions to ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position

    This experience raises an important issue for me that I hope will help you also.

    Before ‘smashing out' your next email request ask yourself these two questions so you are sure about your audience's situation:

    1. Are we certain that the people we are asking to help us know why we need their help, not just how we want them to help?
    2. How much time would we get back each week if we routinely slowed down and stopped to think about our audience's situation before we hit send?

    I hope that helps.

    Have a wonderful week.
    Davina

    Keywords: strategy, emails, ESL

     

    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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    Clarity and insight are not the same thing

    Clarity and insight are not the same thing

    This week in Clarity First we have been having lots of discussion about things that are both core to communication and on the fringe of it.

    One big ‘aha' moment came during Thursday's Accelerator Workshop.

    ‘This isn't just about communication. It's about negotiation', said one new participant.

    This was a magical penny drop.

    The same penny drop occurred in three other corporate workshops I ran. 

    To craft a clear message is a critical and useful thing to do.

    To crafting an insightful message is not the same – and frankly harder to do.

    It involves both doing and not doing a number of important things.

    Crafting insightful messages requires you to do many things, including the following five:

    1. Be crystal clear about your value-adding purpose. This is where negotiation skills start to play a role.
    2. Understand your audience deeply. People skills, stakeholder management, business acumen as well as negotiation are key here.
    3. Summarise the right data accurately. Critical thinking plays a key role here
    4. Draw out useful insights. Ditto here, along with synthesis and again business acumen. Think carefully as to whether your message will hit the right notes at the time it is delivered.
    5. Tie all of those things together to craft one single, powerful, insightful message that packs a real punch.

    All of this means avoiding, at a minimum, the following three things:

    1. Creating meaningless titles in Word and PowerPoint that look like this: Finance or Sales or Risks
    2. Blindly filling in templates without constructing an overarching narrative for the whole communication
    3. Holding back from sharing a point of view.

    I hope that helps. Have a great week.

    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 where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

    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 and the occasional graduate.

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    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

    HEAR FROM 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.