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

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

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

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

But, bear with me.

I do believe writing helps us clarify our thinking.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

As one CEO said to me recently:

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



I hope that helps.

Warmly,
Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

4 ways to know if your message is powerful

4 ways to know if your message is powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davina

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

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

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

How thinking skills underpin your ability to present with confidence

How thinking skills underpin your ability to present with confidence

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

In both cases presentation skills were not the main issue.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>> Learn more here

Kind regards,
Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

INTERVIEW – Busting 3 Business Negotiation Myths

INTERVIEW – Busting 3 Business Negotiation Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because they leave you thinking small. They lead you to

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DOWNLOADS:

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

Click here to access >>

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

 

Kind Regards,

Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

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

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

What to do when stakeholders disagree with you?

What to do when stakeholders disagree with you?

I was recently asked a wonderful question:

 

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

 

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

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

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

  • Tell the same story regardless?

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

  • Ask someone else to present on our behalf?

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

  • Scrap the story and start again?


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


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

Cheers, Davina

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

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 and look forward to sharing one more insight with you before I head away for our summer break closer to Christmas.

Kind regards,
Davina


PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>> Register here

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

5 Business Communication Traps and how to avoid them

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

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

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

     

    Communicate with Clarity and Confidence

    CHOOSE THE LEARNING PATHWAY THAT SUITS YOU BEST … 

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

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

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

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

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

    Product Manager, Sydney, Australia

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

    Program Manager, Sydney, Australia

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

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

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

    Bojana

    Customer Experience Advisor, Sydney, Australia

     

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

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

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

    Michaela Flanagan

    GM Performance and Strategy, Insurance Industry

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

    Promoted because of communication skills

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Learn how Elle achieved this.

    Hear from other program participants

    HEAR FROM PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

    She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

    She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

    Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    One of our clients summed it up beautifully this week:

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

    Have a great week, everyone,

    Davina

    PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

    She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

    She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    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

     

    Is killing PowerPoint really the solution?

    Is killing PowerPoint really the solution?

    Many have called for the Death of PowerPoint as they are understandably under-whelmed by so many presentations.

    But given the many complex elements that make up a powerful presentation, it is too simplistic to blame the presentation tool. 

    It is, after all, hugely powerful when managed well and so widely used it is hard to kill off.

    So, the question remains: how do we create consistently powerful presentations with or without PowerPoint? 

    Two words: stop rambling.

    If the presenter gets to their point quickly they will engage their audience far better than dragging everyone through all the background detail and a seemingly endless list of irrelevant charts and diagrams first.

    Here are four ideas to help you stop rambling your presentations (using whichever tool you prefer):

    Firstly, the hard part: Identify the main point you need to make for this particular audience – your ‘so what' – and write it in a sentence.

    Yes, just one. Write it in 25 words or less, in words that are simple and clear enough for someone removed from the situation, such as your grandmother, to understand.

    Secondly, chunk your supporting points in a way that will work for your audience

    Work out if you need to persuade your audience that this is the right big idea, or whether they will want to know how to implement it.

    • To persuade, you will need to choose to engage them through their minds with analysis, or to engage them personally through narrative story.
    • To provide an implementation plan, step out the actions one by one in logical order.
    • To do both, use deductive logic to prepare an argument story, incorporating what you judge to be the right balance of analysis and story.

    Thirdly, create your PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Slides presentation) and get someone to help you with the visuals if they are critical to your presentation.

    Neil Young of www.ogcommunicationdesign.com is both fast and fabulous. With or without Neil, make sure you have one message on each page and a diagram to match, avoiding too many bullet points and using font that is large enough for your audience to read. Wherever possible, use more pages rather than less.

    As you have already worked out, there is quite an art to this.

    Gene Zelazny of McKinsey & Company fame provides outstanding counsel on this subject in his two excellent books: Say it with Presentations and Say it with Charts. Both are available from his website: www.zelazny.com.

    I take no fees from either Neil or Gene.

    Lastly, make like Winston Churchill.

    Wear a hole in the carpet as you walk back and forward in front of the mirror practicing until you get it right.

    There really are no shortcuts, either with making a good presentation or with getting rid of PowerPoint.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Davina StanleyDavina Stanley is founder of the Clarity First Program, which helps mid-career experts communicate so their good ideas get the traction they deserve – fast.

    Davina is a fan of PowerPoint (when used well) and of Neil Young who is a master information designer.

    Neil can be contacted at [email protected]

    Do facts change minds?

    Do facts change minds?

    Changing other peoples' minds is central to having influence in business, however in his new book Atomic Habits James Clear offers some new insight into this vexing challenge.

    He starts by referring to two notable minds which point in the same direction:

    J.K. Galbraith once wrote, “Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.”

    So true.

    Leo Tolstoy who was even bolder: “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” I hunch women behave similarly!

    So, if that is also true, how do we get any kind of progress in business?

    We must frequently persuade people to change how they think about things and, even harder, get them to change their behaviour.

    Here are six suggestions from James's new book to help in that regard:

    Understand why we hold our tongues when we know something is not true. He claims we don't always believe things because they are correct, but rather because they make us look good to people we care about it. This speaks to the power of the reward we all get from belonging to a tribe.

    Focus on friendship first, and facts second. Given this tribal nature, he suggests that people will hold onto false beliefs long and hard if that means they can sustain their membership of a group that matters to them. So, finding a way to engage people in a new idea, a new process or a new behaviour is best achieved when you have already built a relationship and when you can frame it in such a way that adds to rather than contradicts the beliefs of the community that people belong to.

    Find areas of agreement and build on those. If someone you know, like and trust believes a radical idea you are more likely to give it merit. After all, if you like them already, there is a greater chance of liking their ideas. So, use this to your advantage. Find your . friends who also have strong relationships with the people who disagree with you, and engage them in your ideas first.

    Where disagreement is likely, find a way to introduce the ideas without confrontation. Interestingly, James suggests providing people with something to read – he suggests a book, but in a business context a report or paper might do – rather than going first for a conversation. This provides people with an opportunity to absorb and reflect on the ideas in private so they can incorporate the information into their own view before having a potentially courageous conversation from scratch. In sum, warm them up gently.

    Avoid giving people opportunities to complain about things they don't like. This gives them an opportunity to talk about – and reinforce – their dislike for an idea, giving it more airtime than it deserves. James calls this Clear's Law of Recurrence: the more often something gets mentioned (even in a negative way) the more it is embedded into the psyche of the speaker and the listener. After all, how much air time does Donald Trump get? Instead, spend your time championing good ideas so they get the airtime they deserve and the others fade away from lack of oxygen.

    Be kind first and right later. Here he quotes the brilliant Japanese writer Haruki Murakami who once wrote, “Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.” Enough said.

    Click here to read the full article. And, no, I don't get anything from James Clear for blogging about his article. I just like what he says and thought you might too.

    Keywords: design your strategy, leadership communication, learning and development

     

    Please note, this post contains Amazon affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. This helps me cover the costs of delivering my free content to you.

    PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

    She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

    She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.

    Do emotion and business communication mix?

    Do emotion and business communication mix?

    I recently ran a webinar called Getting To The Point Without Being Blunt which included a Q&A time for the participants. One of the great questions that came out was about the use of emotion in business communication. Download this and the other five Q&As here, or read on.

    I made the point that emotion is not necessarily our friend. Too much intensity, particularly negative intensity, can come off as rude in person and worse in formal communication. this has actually been a topic in two recent coaching sessions of mine too.

    Webinar participant, Bea, rightly asked whether emotion should have a role in business communication, particularly positive communication.

    She is right: there are very good reasons to use emotion to engage our audiences, and here are three tips for doing so:

    1. Be positively contagious
    2. Focus on solutions rather than problems
    3. Be negative only with care

    I'll flesh these points out here one by one.

    Be positively contagious

    If you think about the people you know, and whom you LIKE to spend time with, you will probably agree they offer something positive to you. They engage in topics you like to talk about, smile and show interest. They seem to like you.

    Work is a social context, so to this extent, social rules apply to both interpersonal and formal communication. So, use positive emotions to your advantage and draw people in so they are more likely to listen to you and not be turned off by negativity, or a sharp tone.

    Focus on solutions rather than problems

    It is much easier to ‘say it as it is' than think diplomatically about how to handle difficult situations.

    However, I see many younger execs, particularly those from technical disciplines, struggle in this area.

    For example, last week I was helping a data analyst in her mid 30s who was frustrated that she was not getting the instructions she needed to do her job. She was inclined to say “I can't do this because your instructions don't make sense” rather than something like: “If I receive XYZ in the next couple of days I can finish the task you have asked me to do”.

    This can be difficult when you are close to a problem that is driving you nuts, but is worth the effort. This particular client changed her tone, involved her direct manager and got what she needed while building rather than damaging her relationships.

    Be negative only with care

    Sometimes it is not only hard to be positive, but it comes off as insincere or does not grab the attention you need. I do encourage you, however, to use ‘the negative' judiciously. If you can get the job done in a positive way: do it. If you can't, then do so with your eyes open and save it for real crises so that it has the effect you need.

    Download the rest of the Q&As here, and click here to watch the webinar recording. It will be available until 10 March. If you are reading this after the 10th, sign up to hear about future webinars here.

     

     

    PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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

    She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle.

    She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.

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

    Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.