The wrong way to write

The wrong way to write

Podcast host Elizabeth Bachman asked me an excellent question today.

Why do leaders rework papers at night and weekends?

The short answer is that reviewing dense drafts takes thinking time, and such time is hard to find during regular hours.

Let’s unpack how that works, why it matters and what to do about it.

I began by asking Elizabeth what she does after opening a dense email from someone.

Her answer was simple. 

 

“I take one look, realise it’s too much and park it for later … .”

 

In other words, it is too hard to read.

Yet, leaders regularly find themselves making sense of dense drafts on behalf of their teams.

And this often happens at night and on weekends.

There is not enough ‘thinking time’ during the day.

It is also signals that both leader and team are working at least one level below their pay grade.

Here’s the alternative.

  • Start you and your team thinking early about the very specific outcome you need from your communication.
  • Set yourselves up to iterate on the high-level messaging so you can easily ‘see’ and iterate on the message.
  • Don't prepare the actual paper or presentation until you are (mostly!) clear on the messaging.

The conversation with Elizabeth will be out in the middle of the year, but you can catch the key ideas in my latest episode of Cutting Through.

Dan Musson and I discuss how to get out of the quagmire that can be preparing papers for leaders and boards.

You’ll love it.

Check it out here on my book info page, or on your favourite podcast player.

I hope that helps. More soon.

Davina

 

 

My new book, Elevate, is now on Amazon

Elevate helps leaders set their teams up to prepare papers and presentations that they don't need to rework.

Dan and I talk about it during the podcast episode I mentioned above.

>> Learn more here.

PS – Order during May for 6 months' free access to the Clarity Hub.

How to be human when communicating with senior leaders

How to be human when communicating with senior leaders

A couple of situations this week reminded me of the importance of differentiating between ‘content’ and ‘context’.

On the one hand I was listening to a fascinating podcast where Lex Fridman interviewed Yann Lecun, Chief AI Scientist at Meta about the abilities and limitations of AI.

On the other, I was reviewing communication to provide suggestions to participants from one of my corporate board paper writing programs.

What fascinated me here was that much of the communication I was reviewing was ‘content' that lacked ‘context'.

This bothered me because placing content in the right context is not only central to our uniqueness as humans, but essential if we want to engage senior decision makers.

And yet, I see teams frequently skipping this foundational step in the rush to finish their paper.

I get that thinking feels slow and that ‘writing' feels like ‘doing', but it reminds me of a comment made by an old boss of mine. “activity does not guarantee impact”.

With the right inputs, AI can deliver lots of content.

So far (!) we humans are the only ones that can take ‘content' and add ‘context' to have impact.

Let’s be human.

I hope that helps.

More soon.
Dav

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The wrong way to write

The wrong way to write

Learn a better way to write for senior leaders that won't result in reworking papers at night and on weekends.

How to deliver better board and SLT papers more quickly

How to deliver better board and SLT papers more quickly

 How often do papers come together in a scramble just before they must be submitted for review? Perhaps you …

… left it to the last because you assumed you only needed to tweak a few details in last month's paper, only to realise that this particular board presentation required more?

… received an ambiguous briefing and delayed your preparation because you frankly didn't know where to begin?

… waited for quite some time to receive stakeholder feedback, which turned out to be substantive and required you to burn the midnight oil to finish?

These are just three collaborative challenges that limit not only the speed of preparation, but also the quality of insights they contain.

Why?

Delivering papers that are both insightful and useful leans more heavily on collaboration than many realise.

In my experience, teams that prepare their papers with minimal midnight oil result from leaders driving the process that:

  • Readies their teams early so they appreciate why the paper is needed and what it needs to achieve.
  • Iterates the messaging around a highly-structured one-pager to ensure everyone can contribute quickly and substantively to what really needs to be said.
  • Settles the document to check that it reflects the agreed messaging before it is delivered.
  • Embeds the learnings from preparing and delivering the communication to ensure the team can grow together.

Here is how I visualise a process that consistently elevates the quality of thinking in my client's papers while slashing the time they take to prepare them.

I hope that helps, more next week.

Davina.

PS – This is the framework that underpins both of my new books, Elevate and Engage. I'll be sharing more from the book in the coming months as we finalise each one

 

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The wrong way to write

The wrong way to write

Learn a better way to write for senior leaders that won't result in reworking papers at night and on weekends.

Is your paper really for noting?

Is your paper really for noting?

 

I had a terrific question from a client recently that highlighted a common strategic challenge.

How do we structure our messaging for a ‘paper for noting’?

Adrian's was concerned he didn’t have a ‘big insight’, but that ‘noting' felt wrong.

He wanted to prepare his board to hear a business case in a couple of months’ time.

So, what to do?

We landed seeking endorsement for his plan to prepare a business case as the best way to give the paper purpose while raising visibility of the problem. Here’s why we made that choice:

  • Asking them to ‘note’ that we have a problem without any indication of what the team was preparing to do about it seemed lacking. The team wasn’t ready to deliver a solution, but this option would leave the Board empty handed.
  • Asking permission to prioritise preparing the business case to find a solution to the problem was unnecessary. Adrian had full authority, particularly when supported by the Senior Leadership Team, to prepare the business case without asking for permission. So, we landed on a third path.
  • Asking the Board to endorse their plan to prepare a business case gave the paper purpose and raised visibility of the problem. This strategy let the Board know that a problem existed, demonstrated early that the team was taking action and provided clarity around the next steps.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Davina

 

 

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The wrong way to write

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How to keep your board on topic

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 you keep your board on topic next time you present.
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!

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The wrong way to write

The wrong way to write

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How to build trust with senior leaders

How to build trust with 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!

 

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The wrong way to write

The wrong way to write

Learn a better way to write for senior leaders that won't result in reworking papers at night and on weekends.

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.

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The wrong way to write

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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

 

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The wrong way to write

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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 AND deliver your strategy

How to use structured communication techniques to develop AND deliver your strategy

TLDR. Developing strategies is hard. Structured thinking can help.

Two of this week's coaching sessions shone a very bright light on how structured thinking is about much more than ‘putting words on a page'.

It's also about clarifying those ideas in the first place.

Today I'll focus on how you can use a structured message map rather than how you build one.

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

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

Pyramid Principle 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 test whether our ideas are organised according to the structured thinking ‘rules'.

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.

In the classic sense, we can structure our messaging to prepare communication so it engages our audiences better.

The structured 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 prepared a story that participants would deliver to their senior leadership in our final workshop.

The stories needed to be practical and focus on real-life 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 coaching session to structure a communication for a solution, even though they had yet to identify that solution.

In one case, the team developed a strategy to fine-tune 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 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 workshop

It worked a treat. I thought these were great examples of how thinking through a ‘communication' was much more than that.

In both sessions we developed new strategies to solve new problems while practicing our ‘communication skills'.

Structuring your messaging has a deeper purpose, which you can take advantage of once you really lean into the Pyramid Principle's rules.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina


PS – To learn more, try my free 10 Minutes to Better Emails course, or check out my latest books.

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. 

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.



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.