How to keep your board on topic

How to keep your board on topic

Has this happened to you?

You have an important presentation to make to a senior leadership group and a big chunk of the time is spent talking about ‘background’.

The leaders ask every question under the sun about the history of the program, what you have done in the past and you find yourself repeating your last five presentations.

You use precious face time with them looking backwards rather than looking forwards.

This has been a hot topic with my clients lately so I thought I'd share my number one strategy for avoiding this conundrum.

Here it is: Get straight to the point to make your audience curious about what you want to discuss.

There is a tendency to assume that leaders need all of the detail so they can understand your main point.

In my experience this has the opposite effect. Leaders don't know how these ideas are relevant and so interrupt with questions that seek clarification.

Instead, I encourage my clients to introduce their main message very early in the communication.

This then makes your audience curious about the things you want to discuss, rather than setting them up to take you on a guided rabbit hole tour.

When done well, this sets your audience up to ask questions that invite you to provide the necessary background information.

It puts it in the right context, lifts the quality of the discussion and reduces the risk that you will be sent back with more questions rather than the decision you need.

I hope that helps. More next soon.

Kind regards,
Davina


PS – Can I ask a favour? If you like my emails and would like to learn more from me, follow me on LinkedIn.

I am setting myself up to become a LinkedIn course creator and need more followers to meet their criteria.

Thank you!

WANT MORE?

Free report-writing MasterClass tomorrow on Feb 26 – Part of Clarity Hub along with an extensive library of tips, tools, exercises and case studies. Includes weekly email with in-depth advice, including the takeaways from the case study I mentioned here and the full case study itself. 

One month free. Ongoing access is USD25 per month or USD250 per year. Learn more here.

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How to build trust with your senior leaders

How to build trust with your senior leaders

TLDR: The answer is to provide less information and more insight around a specific point of view.

Do you ever worry about a lack of trust between you and your senior folk? Perhaps these are the sorts of things that happen when you present?

  • You receive more questions than answers, with the worst of these meetings feeling more like an inquisition than a conversation.
  • The discussion gets lost in rabbit holes than focusing on the main game.
  • You leave meetings without the clarity and decisions you need to get on with delivering value.

It is easy to feel that these behaviours point to a lack of trust.

While that may be true, the real question is what to do about it.

In my experience, the best solution is to avoid requests for more information by providing greater insight in the first place. Here’s how.

  • Take the time to understand what you really need to provide to the leaders in that specific interaction to drive progress. This requires deep thought about your commercial reality as well as about your stakeholders.
  • Focus every communication around one single powerful point of view, no matter how complex the material. If you can't say it in a sentence, you aren't ready to convey it.
  • Declutter your communication by only including items that support that point of view. This will be a forcing device to confirm your point of view is the right one and that you are focusing on what together you must deliver for the organisation.

This requires not only courage, but extreme clarity about what is really needed to get the outcome you need to drive progress.

Learn more about how to go about this by:

 I hope that helps, more soon.

Davina

PS – Can I ask a favour?

I need to lift my profile on LinkedIn so I can become a LinkedIn course creator. I need to triple my followers to reach their benchmark.

Here’s my link.

As part of this campaign, I’ll be posting more ideas on this platform too, so there will be something in it for you also.

Thanks so much!

 

Do you really need to INFORM your audience?

Do you really need to INFORM your audience?

I write this to you having just wrapped up a coaching session where a perennial question arose.

My client suggested that the paper we were discussing needed to inform her peers.

But, did it really?

Why did she need to inform her peers about this particular set of facts?

It turned out the real objective was to build trust that the current efforts to increase the time employees spend in the office were working.

Once it was clear that trust rather than knowledge was the goal, we could make the messaging much more focused and engaging.

So, when you next think that you need your audience to know something, ask why they need to know it. Here are two steps to take

First, check why you need to inform your audience. Could it be to gain the following from your audience?

  1. Action: Undertake a specific task or set of tasks where your audience understands why they need to be undertaken.
  2. Implement: Put something into effect where you explain what to do but the audience decides how to do it.
  3. Support: Help to someone, potentially you, in undertaking an activity without undertaking the activity themselves.
  4. Trust: To have confidence in a situation.

If none of those fit, consider whether one of these ‘knowing' definitions fits.

  1. Know: Be aware of something so your stakeholder can factor this knowledge into their thinking and action.
  2. Understand: Fully appreciate something so you can then use that understanding to decide or act.

Sometimes it is true that your audience does ‘just' need to know something. I find however that nine times out of ten, there is another real reason. When we clarify that reason, the communication becomes more useful and the audience more engaged.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

PS – In my upcoming Board Paper Bootcamp we will cover strategies for discerning your real outcome so you can then be more effective at engaging senior leaders and Boards. Learn more here.

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

In last week’s MasterClass I shared ideas to help you make your updates more interesting.

One idea I shared is the possibility of having greater influence by NOT updating at all.

It shocked some participant to silence!

We are so accustomed to updating our leaders and Steering Committees that we often don’t think WHY we are updating them.

If, in some situations, you sent an email update rather than taking up everyone’s time in a meeting?

I share this and more ideas about how to get the most out of your routine updates in the recording.

Access inside the Past Events area within my Clarity Hub – Register here >> 

Members can attend these sessions live, or access the recordings, as well as make use of the growing library of case studies, tools and templates and the ever-useful Pattern Picker. Learn more here >>

I hope that helps.

Davina

 

Why length doesn’t matter

Why length doesn’t matter

Do you often wish other people's communication was shorter?

Or, perhaps you are asked to shorten yours?

This is a common request that I think is misguided.

Let me explain why.

Stakeholders don't ask you to make your communication shorter because it's hard to read. They ask because it is too hard to read.

So, when you use ‘TLDR' … which for those of you who aren't familiar with this term means ‘To Long, Didn't Read', try this one instead:

THDR – Too Hard, Didn't Read

To see an example and get some more ideas to help you with your communication, watch this recent workshop I ran.

>> Click here to watch

I hope that helps.

Davina

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

What to do with ‘pros and cons’?

What to do with ‘pros and cons’?

 I had a fabulous question this week: where do we fit ‘pros' and ‘cons' in our storyline?

That is a ‘ripper' of a question.

My answer is this: lists of pros and cons don't belong in your communication, they help you think through that message. 

Let me explain.

If we provide lists of pros and cons for an idea, we are providing information rather than insight. This matters, because in taking this approach we

  • Ask our audience to do the thinking work for us
  • Risk that they will misinterpret our analysis and draw unhelpful conclusions
  • Let ourselves down by not adding as much value as we could

If, instead, we do the thinking for our audience, we will deliver insights that emerge from our own analysis of the pros and cons list.

Although more intellectually challenging, this is better for us and our audience. We know more about the area than they do and we don't miss the opportunity to share our value add.

If your audience is explicitly asking for pros and cons lists, pop them in the appendix. Focus your main communication around your interpretation of that list.

Hopefully next time they won't ask for the list, but rather for your insights.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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.

I regularly 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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

How to avoid delivering highly detailed but meaningless communication

How to avoid delivering highly detailed but meaningless communication

In a one-on-one with one of my Foundation Members this week she highlighted the difference between using a topic-driven structure and a message-driven structure when preparing her program briefing.

I share this because I hear leaders setting their teams up to prepare communication this way only to complain that the resulting communication didn't hit the mark.

Let me demonstrate by using the topic-driven strategy here for this email so you can see why it doesn’t deliver a high quality communication.

Here is her original structural outline for her program briefing (which she gave permission for me to share … and which she quickly decided not to proceed with).

  • What it is and what it will achieve
  • Why we are doing it
  • How we are doing it
    • Past
    • Present
    • Future

Here is what is wrong with this approach. It

  • Buries the meaning underneath a lot of detail
  • Assumes you will read it all (which my experience and research suggests is unlikely)
  • Leads to repetition which risks you switching off, being confused and missing important information (and possibly the main point)

See what I mean?

  • You can’t skim it to work out what I’m saying
  • There isn’t one cohesive story, even though the points are related to each other
  • You are left to tie it together for yourself … assuming you are interested enough to do so
  • It's hard to repeat to someone else later, which means the author is making themselves work harder than they need to … they aren't turning their audience into their mouthpieces


Here's a challenge for you: the next time you go to sketch an outline for a substantial piece of communication try focusing it around messages rather than topics.

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

Kind regards,
Davina

Course: Clarity in Problem Solving

Do you ever realise part way through a project that you are not sure you are solving the right problem … or even that you are solving the wrong problem?

This then leads to a bigger problem because you realise – too late – that you don't have the data you need to communicate with your stakeholders.

In my Clarity in Problem Solving course I use my own experience using these techniques in my business as a case study, combined with a simple, high-level structure for you to follow in your own work.

The 7 module course includes detailed notes and exercises with solutions.

Learn more here.

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

How to use structured communication techniques to develop a strategy (not just describe it)

How to use structured communication techniques to develop a strategy (not just describe it)

Two of this week's coaching sessions shone a very bright light on how storylining is about much more than ‘putting words on a page'. It's about surfacing the ideas that we want to convey.

So, this week I will focus on how you can use a storyline rather than how you build one.

Let me give you the high level story first and then explain by way of example.

  • As you may know, a storyline is a tool for mapping ideas, which can also be described as a ‘thinking machine'.
  • The thinking rules that make the ‘machine' work provide an opportunity to use storylines to develop our strategies not just describe them.

As you may know, a storyline is a tool for mapping your ideas, which can also be described as a thinking machine.

​​One of my old colleagues went so far as to call it an ‘insight engine'.

This is true if we understand the rules that hold our ideas together and use them to test whether the ideas on a page ‘fit'. If they don't, we can use the rules to work out what is wrong and to strengthen or replace the ‘misfit' ideas.

This both pushes and guides us so we think harder and communicate more impactfully because our ideas are more impactful.

In the classic sense, we can use storylines to prepare our communication so we engage our audiences better.

The thinking rules that make the ‘machine' work provide an opportunity to use storylines to develop our strategies, not just describe them. This can be particularly effective when we collaborate with our colleagues.

This is where this week's coaching comes in.

In both sessions we needed to prepare a story that the participants would deliver to their senior leadership in our final workshop together.

The stories needed to be practical and focus on live problems that were substantive enough to engage their leaders.

The challenge for these two groups was that they were not in the midst of a natural paper cycle, and so didn't have anything big enough to share.

Our solution was to use our storylining session to address a problem that they had not yet thought through fully and come up with a solution.

In one case the team developed a strategy for fine tuning their recent organisational transformation to agile ways of working. In the other, they did two things. They

  1. developed a new business case template that enabled them to use a storyline to convey their case in two pages rather than the eight that the previous template had required.
  2. pitched and gained approval for the new template from their Tribe lead and CEO in the final Wrap workshop

It worked a treat, so I wanted to explain how we used the storyline as a tool to help them work out what their strategy was, not just describe it.

It has a deeper purpose which you can take advantage of once you really lean into the storylining rules.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina


PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

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 – Board Paper Bootcamp – For those who want me to guide their learning journey. Complete online modules in own time and join 4 x highly interactive 90-minute workshops to practice and master the approach. Typically run each quarter, learn more here >>

    2 – Clarity Hub – A self-directed option with access to a rich collection of resources, tools and templates as well as regular live working sessions and the ever-useful Pattern Picker. Join anytime here >>

    3 – My Books – With Elevate and Engage, my books will help you lift the quality of your board papers and communication without the endless reworks. I share my practical approach which you can implement straight away, learn more here >>

    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

    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

    I love what I do.

    I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

    This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

    I leverage 25+ years' experience including

    • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
    • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
    • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
    • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
    • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

    My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

    Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

    Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

     

    (*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

    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

    I love what I do.

    I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

    This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

    I leverage 25+ years' experience including

    • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
    • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
    • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
    • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
    • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

    My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

    Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

    Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

     

    (*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

    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.

     

    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

    Kick start your learning with the two-part Bonus Workshop Program

    > Get going immediately so you can see results straight away

    > Learn the basics so you have a strong foundation to build on

    > Complete challenges so you do more than ‘know the stuff' … you can start to ‘DO the stuff'

    The Introduction to Synthesis Part 1 Workshop will be held on 30 July at 8am and 6pm Sydney time.

    This will be followed by Part 2 on 1 September.

    Recordings will be available for those who cannot be present live, or who want to revisit the material.

    This bonus offer expires at 9pm AEST on 29 July.

    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 know when we are fooling ourselves?

    How do we know when we are fooling ourselves?

    It might shock you to know that our brains are quirky and more like Homer Simpson's than we realise.

    In Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes how we lie to ourselves just like Homer does.

    He suggests that we make up stories in our minds and then against all evidence, defend them tooth and nail.

    Understanding why we do this is the key to discovering truth and making wiser decisions.

    In this piece I lay out the overview of his argument and illustrate through a business example.

     His argument leans heavily on an evolutionary bug in our brains that critical thinking strategies can resolve

    He suggests there’s a bug in the evolutionary code that makes up our brains.  Apparently, we have a hard time distinguishing between when cause and effect is clear, such as checking for traffic before crossing a busy street, and when it’s not, as in the case of many business decisions.

    We don’t like not knowing. We also love a story.

    Just like with Homer did in this short clip, our minds create plausible stories to fill in the gaps in other people's stories to construct our own cause and effect relationships.

    The trick is to have some critical thinking strategies to help us evaluate other people's stories and our own. To help us avoid telling stories that are convincing and wrong.

    We need to think about how these stories are created, whether they’re right, or how they persist. A useful ‘tell' is when we find ourselves uncomfortable and unable to articulate our reasoning.

     A real life example brings his argument to life in an uncomfortably familiar way

    Imagine a meeting where we are discussing how a project should continue, not unlike any meeting you have this week to figure out what happened and what decisions your organization needs to make next.

    You start the meeting by saying “The transformation project has again made little progress against its KPIs this month. Here’s what we’re going to do in response.”

    But one person in the meeting, John, another project manager, asks you to explain the situation.

    You volunteer what you know.
    “After again failing to deliver on their KPIs, we recommend replacing the project leader with someone from outside the organisation who has a proven track record with transformation programs. The delays are no longer sustainable.”
    And you quickly launch into the best way to find a replacement team leader.

    Mary, however, tells herself a different story, because just last week her friend, the project leader, described the difficulty her team was having with two influential leaders who were actively against the transformation program.
    The story she tells herself is that the project leader probably needs extra support from the CEO and potentially also the Board.

    So, she asks you, “What makes you think a new project leader would be more successful?”

    The answer is obvious to you.
    You feel your heart rate start to rise.
    Frustration sets in.

    You tell yourself that Mary is an idiot. This is so obvious. The project is falling further behind. Again. The leader is not getting traction. And we need to put in place something to get the transformation moving now. You think to yourself that she’s slowing the group down and we need to act now.

    What else is happening?

    It’s likely you looked at the evidence again and couldn’t really explain how you drew your conclusion.

    Rather than have an honest conversation about the story you told yourself and the story Mary is telling herself, the meeting gets tense and goes nowhere.

    Neither of you has a complete picture or a logically constructed case. You are both running on intuition.

    The next time you catch someone asking you about your story and you can’t explain it in a falsifiable way, pause, hit reset and test the rigour of your story.

    What you really care about is finding the truth, even if that means the story you told yourself is wrong.

    Why am I sharing this story with you?

    In Clarity First we teach people 10 specific questions to ask when evaluating our communication that helps us to see whether our ideas ‘stack up'.

    These are incredibly powerful and help you ‘step back' from your own ideas to evaluate them critically.

    Take a look at the Clarity First Program to learn more.

    We help you communicate so your complex ideas get the traction they deserve.

     

     

    Keywords: #critical thinking #decision making #kahneman