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.

A trap to avoid when engaging senior leaders

A trap to avoid when engaging senior leaders

When we talk about deeply understanding our audience, what do we really mean?

Is defining our audience as ‘the board’ or ‘the senior leadership team’ sufficient?

If your issue is uncontentious, then likely yes.

However, more often than not, leadership groups not only bring different experiences but different perspectives that we must understand if we are to engage them.

This week I helped a senior group untangle their own engagement strategy for a board paper and an issue emerged that will help you too.

The team had missed an important nuance when thinking about their individual board member's attitudes toward their paper.

They had not thought deeply enough about each person as an individual rather than part of the group.

To learn more specific ideas about how to avoid this problem, register for the Clarity Hub  and visit the Stakeholder Management area.

I hope that helps.

Dav

PS – Here are some recent podcast episodes you can find either using the links below or by visiting your favourite podcasting player.

Recent episodes of Cutting Through

  1. Anthony Wilson – Risk Management = Change Management
  2. Richard Medcalf – Making Time for Strategy
  3. Damien Woods – Baking Learning & Growth into BAU
  4. Kerry Bulter – Helping Leaders ‘shift testing left' to derisk projects
  5. Daniel Musson – A Case Study in Digitial Transformation
  6. Carolyn Noumertzis – How to help a senior leader come back from a misstep
  7. Cerise Uden – How to hit the ground running in a big new role
  8. Adam Bennett – Communicating Great Change
  9. Lisa Carlin – TurboCharge your Transformation


Please do tell your friends and colleagues about them too.

How to know if your communication is quality

How to know if your communication is quality

Do you ever wonder if your papers and presentations hit the mark, or if your stakeholders are just being nice?

Today one of my clients laughed and said that at the end of our program, he now has a very different view of what good looks like.

After learning new strategies for clarifying the desired outcome for his communication and then how to structure a message that achieves that outcome, he sees the world differently.

So, I thought I'd share with you the top five questions that he and his colleagues now ask when reviewing their papers and presentations. Does the communication ….

S – Set the scene quickly by drawing the audience toward one insightful message?
C – Convey the right balance of strategic and operational detail?
O – Organise the ideas in a well-structured hierarchy?
R – Ready the audience for a productive discussion?
E – Engage the audience using a medium, style and tone that suits them?

This is one of the frameworks we'll focus on in my upcoming Board Paper Bootcamp programs.

I will host one for the European and American time zones during October and another for Australian and American time zones in March.

>> Learn more here.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS – You can learn more about this framework inside the Clarity Hub too.

Who to collaborate with on important paper?

Who to collaborate with on important paper?

When people learn to prepare papers and presentations for senior audiences they often focus on improving ‘writing' and ‘slide making' skills.

These are useful and often taught as though the paper or presentation is prepared by one individual.

However, in my experience this is often not the case.

Engaging senior audiences to make a recommendation or to update is a collaborative effort.

So, how to collaborate?

The first step is to decide who you should involve in the process, particularly at the initial scoping session.

I recommend inviting everyone who will have a role in preparing the paper, including more junior team members who may only focus on discrete sections.

You may also think a bit expansively to include people with these three Es:

  • Expertise: Are they familiar with the problem or have a usefully different perspective? Most likely they will have been involved in working on the issue, but it may be useful to think more broadly for higher stakes communication.
  • Evaluative ability: Do they think deeply about things, and are they a smart thinker? Sometimes it helps to have people outside of the context who bring raw intelligence to the effort. Involving them may be a useful way to help them learn more about the issue while also contributing to the communication.
  • Elevation: Do they have sufficient visibility of the strategic environment to help link your narrative to the broader business objectives? You may bring sufficient visibility on your own, or equally, you may bring someone senior into the session to share their perspective. It could be the person who commissioned the paper, someone who owns the relevant strategy or someone who knows the stakeholder group well.

In briefing the whole team, you will increase the chances of clarifying a message that hits the right notes with less effort from you all.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

PS – We will go into this and much more in my upcoming Board Paper Bootcamp. Learn more here.

 

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

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

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

It shocked some participant to silence!

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that helps.

Davina

 

Using peer pressure to skittle dissent rather than doing it yourself

Using peer pressure to skittle dissent rather than doing it yourself

How often have you presented a new capability or idea knowing that some stakeholders are not in your corner?

It is rare to have all your stakeholders championing your success so a common challenge to address.

During a coaching session this week, a client shared his clever hack which I thought would be useful to you also.

When showcasing a new product or strategy Fred leverages his winners to persuade his losers so he doesn’t have to. Let me explain the situation and then the solution.

The situation …

Imagine you are ready to showcase a new platform that your team has prioritised developing over the past six months. This platform underpins features for a host of other use cases.

In prioritising this platform, other projects have been necessarily delayed. This was the right decision given the risk of rework on other projects if they were built without leveraging this new foundational platform.

So, in the room you have winners and losers: Those who are excited about the prospect of the new features they can now access and those who have been delayed.

The solution …

Fred said that he deliberately invites both winners and losers to the showcase so long as the losers are not overwhelming in number or volume. This has a number of benefits. It

  • helps the losers have a better sense of perspective. The winners help them see that they or their own priorities have not been ignored, but rather ‘taken one for the greater good’.
  • means the losers are persuaded by their peers, rather than by him. Their peers are likely to have more credibility as Fred is the one who made the decision they didn’t like.
  • reduces the need for him to go one by one to showcase his product or strategy to either group.

I thought that was a clever hack and that it might help you also.

More next week.

 

Cheers,

Davina

 

How to hit the ground running in a big new role

How to hit the ground running in a big new role

Have you ever wondered how senior people hit the ground running in a new role?

I recently spoke with Cerise Uden about her strategies for doing that on the Friday before she started a new senior program manager role.

At the simplest level, we talked about preparation.

It got really interesting when we got into the detail, though.

Cerise shared her simple yet specific approach for quickly engaging and delivering for senior decison makers. We discussed how to

  1. Work out who to really get in front of early on (and when to do it)
  2. Fill any knowledge gaps you might have, particularly if the role covers new areas such as AI
  3. Nail down precisely what you need to deliver and to whom

You’ll find the episode on your favourite player and on our website here.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

RELATED POSTS

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.

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 reduce rework for high-stakes communication

How to reduce rework for high-stakes communication

Over the past two weeks I have shared two ideas to help you lift the quality of your own papers and presentations.

Today I share the third. It might seem like an odd one, but bear with me. It’s about velocity.

How quickly can you develop and deliver powerful insights that lead to fast, high-quality decisions?

In reading Colin Bryar and Bill Carr’s excellent book, Working Backwards, which describes Amazon’s secret to success many insights stood out.

The principle of velocity was one of them.

Amazon has gone to great lengths to maintain velocity in all areas of its operations so it can maintain its ability to execute quickly on innovative business lines.

Great effort is taken to remove bottlenecks and keep the teams on their ‘front foot’.

Communication is one of those areas. I see an opportunity to insert structure and discipline into the communication process just as you might any other business process.

Imagine this: Could board papers receive ‘minimal adjustments’ at each layer of your organization’s approval chain? Even better when the Board approves the idea the first time it is presented.

My client from the supply chain team at a large retailer, coined a term that I’ve borrowed: they call it the Gold Standard. Here’s how it works:

Someone prepares their highly structured one-pager either alone or with colleagues, before socialising that page with stakeholders. This triggers constructive debate around the big picture ideas and how they connect with the data. By socialising a one-page ‘message map map’ rather than a polished document at least four important things happen.

  1. Everyone in the process can review the message map and respond quickly with constructive suggestions to refine the thinking. One CEO client tells me he block-reviews papers and spends an average of 15 minutes on each paper. This is a marked reduction in the time he previously spent reviewing papers for the Senior Leadership Team and the Board.
  2. Everyone feels as though they have permission to debate the ideas. When someone receives a document that someone has obviously ‘sweated over’ they feel less comfortable about having the debate. It feels like a ‘correction’ rather than a ‘conversation’.
  3. The team isn’t wedded to unhelpful concepts and charts that ‘must’ remain in the document. As soon as we create a chart or write a section, we become wedded to it rather than the ideas it represents. We spend time trying to ‘fit it in’ rather than stepping back and looking at the overall message we need to convey.
  4. Less time is spent preparing prose and charts that turn out to be off point. Rather than focusing our energies on preparing polished drafts, we can focus on the messaging.

Once the ideas are locked in, the paper is prepared and sent up the chain for, hopefully, only minor adjustment.

In this model, teams focus on finessing ideas rather than tweaking words, fiddling with PowerPoint connectors or following a format.

This liberates you and your team from the awful game of ‘red pen ping pong’ so you can focus on higher order activities.

Our clients frequently see a 30 percent lift in velocity when drafting papers and presentations. This impacts both team members and leaders. Some teams, such as those outlined in the next section, achieve materially more than that.

Before establishing some concrete goals for you and your team let’s be inspired by what is possible.

Ask yourself: What do you need to change to get to the Gold Standard for you and your team?

I hope that helps.
Davina

PS. You can find the first two parts of this series on Communication Quality here:

  1. The most important measure of communication quality
  2. Is your communication insightful?

RELATED POSTS

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.

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.

Is your communication insightful?

Is your communication insightful?

Last week I introduced the most important metric for evaluating whether communication is of a high standard or not.  It’s not what you think.

If you haven’t read it yet, go here.

Today I move onto sharing my second ingredient for quality communication: quality of insight.

Let me ask: Do your papers deliver significant value to your project, team or organisation? Do they connect some dots to offer a new idea that adds value to the strategy, returns, processes or perhaps by reducing risk?

This relates to synthesis, which is where both the challenge and opportunity lie when improving high-stakes communication.

In his 2005 book A Whole New Mind best-selling author Daniel Pink commented synthesis as the ‘killer app’ in business in what he calls the new Conceptual Age.

 

“What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis – seeing the big picture and crossing boundaries, being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole”.

 

Or more simply, the formula we used at McKinsey is that synthesis is summary + insight.

SYNTHESIS = SUMMARY + INSIGHT

Without wanting to be too pointy about it, Daniel Pink was right. Most people can summarise. So can natural language processing tools such as ChatGPT, if given the right data set.

The real value we humans bring is to connect that factual summary with our own insights stemming from our understanding of the context.

So, to offer high-quality, valuable insights, you need to be technically strong and in touch with commercial and stakeholder imperatives.

This means that you and your leaders need to work together. You need a common strategy for tying together complex ideas to make them seem simple.

You need a structured way to collaborate when synthesising your message.

So, ask yourself about the consequences of delivering poor-quality insights. How well thought through are the ideas your team shares with you?

When it works, individuals and teams get the balance right between the import of the message, the value it delivers and the time they invest to prepare it.

And, as I mentioned last week, they do it with minimal rework.

This brings me to my third ingredient, velocity, which I’ll talk about next week.

Cheers,

Davina

 

 

RELATED POSTS

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.

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.

The most important measure of communication quality

The most important measure of communication quality

 

When trying to work out if your communication is any good or not, do you wonder what is the most important measure of success?

I have an unusual take on it.

When it comes to important papers, my hunch is that the single most important needle to move is the amount of time you and your colleagues spend reworking them.

If there is little rework, then they are fit for purpose. If there is much, it’s not a good sign for anyone.

That single measure may be enough. You may, however, like to dig a little deeper.

This week I’d like to offer the first of three measures you can use. Let me give you a preview and then dive into today’s topic: Clarity.

  1. Clarity – Can you glean the core messages within 30 seconds of opening a paper or presentation?
  2. Quality – How valuable are the insights?
  3. Velocity – How quickly can your team develop and deliver powerful insights that lead to better decisions?

Let me now dig into the first of these. Can you glean the core messages within 30 seconds of opening a paper or presentation?

This is where we ask whether the communication misses the mark. Are you  

  • Writing Agatha Christie reports that leave the big idea until the end
  • Asking your decision makers to conduct Easter Egg Hunts to find the insights or
  • Delivering papers that are either wafer thin or worse. They miss the point altogether.

We ask how well the messages jump off the page (or out of the mouth) so that your audience can grasp them quickly. How easy are they to find in the paper, presentation, discussion, email or other communication form?

Clarity helps us quickly see what the message is and check whether it does what is needed.

As one board director suggested recently, she would rather read papers that did not require him to conduct an Easter egg hunt. She does not enjoy hunting around ‘the garden’ of the paper to find where the insights are hidden.

She wants them to pop off the page so she can quickly skim the paper to decide how to read it.

Try asking how often a reader can glean the message within 30 seconds of opening the paper. You can also apply this to emails and other communication too.

While clarity is critical, though, it’s not enough. To quote one of my ‘crustier’ clients, the head of credit risk at a large bank:

“The team can now craft much clearer messages, which is very useful. But how do we stop them putting ‘rubbish’ in the boxes?”.

This leads me to my next dimension: quality of insight, which I’ll dive into next week.

Cheers, 

Davina

 

RELATED POSTS

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.

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.

Going from good to great

Going from good to great

Jim Collins coined the term ‘from good to great’ with his seminal book of the same title, which I am sure you are familiar with.

This is a challenge many of my mid to senior leaders wrestle with as we lift the quality of thinking in their major communication.

Here are some thoughts that emerged from this morning’s coaching session that might help you too.

Focusing on the gaps in the story particularly where the value is not well-synthesised is a quick way to shift from good to great. Here are three gaps we identified in our example:

Good is readable, but typically summarises more than synthesises. Synthesis is where the gold lies. This is where we go from saying ‘this is what the data says’ to saying ‘this is what the data means’ in this context to this audience.

This is good news, as the AI tools can (so far at least) only summarise. They can’t put the data into context. More on that another time.

Good has a small number of top-line points. This means the story isn’t an Agatha Christie hunt for the information. It’s laid out so you can find it fairly easily.

Good leaves value on the table. The story we reworked today missed several key ingredients, but most importantly it didn’t surface the reasoning. It didn’t explain why the recommendation was the right one to implement.

Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘why’ in your communication. It is often lacking in examples that cross my desk.

I hope that helps. More soon.

Davina

PS – Do you write papers for senior leaders and Boards? If so, I’d love to hear about your key challenges. Click here to share them.



RELATED POSTS

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.

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 too much background is a problem

Why too much background is a problem

A Board Director recently described his problem with Board papers to a colleague of mine.

He said: “He disliked feeling as though he was conducting an Easter Egg hunt when reading Board Papers.

“He would much prefer spending his energy evaluating the ideas in the paper than trying to find them.”

One of the main reasons this happens is that background sections are too long. Many paper-writers often feel the need to deliver lots of history, definitions and detail at the start of the paper.

The idea is that doing this helps the audience understand what the paper is about so they can understand the punch line.

Unfortunately, it has the reverse effect, switching most audiences off.

This is one of the key reasons why I encourage you to keep your context and trigger short, to no more than 15 percent of the length of the whole paper. Here are some thoughts to help you achieve that.

  1. Include definitions in an appendix. You can refer to it the first time you mention a technical term that you think some readers may not be familiar with. If it is a completely foreign idea to all, then define it at the point of reference, perhaps as a footnote.
  2. Use the context to introduce the topic under discussion only. You might, for example, think back to the last time you discussed the relevant topic with your audience and remind them of that.
  3. Weave history and detail into the story itself. This way you present ideas as they are relevant to the audience rather than out of context.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Davina

 

RELATED POSTS

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.

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.

Making time for strategy

Making time for strategy

Do you struggle to make time for strategic thinking?

Most of my clients tell me they do, and I also find it a challenge. It is so easy to be swept away by the ‘now', the urgent requests for things to be delivered.

The busyness can feel satisfying as we tick things off lists. However, it leaves us open to the risk of delivering more ‘stuff' and less ‘impact'.

In a communication sense, it leaves people reworking papers late at night because they haven't allowed time to think during the day. This is particularly so for those who lead teams and realise late in the piece that their team's papers need an overhaul before being fit for purpose.

My collaborator, Richard Medcalf of XQuadrant, has helped me enormously in this regard and I am excited to tell you about his upcoming book.

Making Time for Strategy offers deceptively simple yet ‘real world' achievable techniques that have shifted my perspective, my behaviour and my results.

In this latest episode of my new Cutting Through podcast I share my first of six interviews with Richard that share some of the insights from his book.

You can listen on your favourite podcasting platform, or on my website >>

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

Registrations Open:

Thinking Skills Workshop

December 14th

Learn how to connect the dots between complex ideas so you can prepare insightful and engaging communication.

In this 2-hour workshop I introduce the core thinking skills that underpin our ability to deliver insight rather than just ‘information'. During this interactive workshop you will

  • Learn the basis for structuring a compelling business story
  • Practice three core thinking skills that will set your communication apart from others
  • Leverage our seven most-commonly used story structuring patterns
  • Work in a small group to rework a short prose communication

Only 20 places are offered to allow me to answer everyone's questions.

RELATED POSTS

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.

When to not focus on the data

When to not focus on the data

I was sharing war stories with one of my collaborators this week. An interesting story emerged where ‘poor communication' cost a chief financial officer (CFO) his job.

Why?

Because he focused on the data.

Let me explain.

The CFO assumed his role was to provide regular and accurate numbers that the CEO and Board would not just read, but also interpret.

However, the CEO and the Board wanted insights about the company's performance.

This material disconnect cost him his job as the leadership did not see that the company was in major difficulty until late in the piece.

So, what went wrong here?

While I agree that a CFO has a responsibility to explain what the performance data means, I also see a systemic issue that goes beyond the CFO himself. This could have been avoided if

  •  The CEO and Board asked better questions inside and outside formal Board meetings
  • The company secretary clarified expectations that insights were central to the financial reports when the CFO took the role on years previously
  • The CEO and the Chair called out the lack of insight in the papers as a general expectation
  • The Board did not accept that poor quality papers are commonplace and too hard to fix

I offer this as a cautionary tale.

Quality governance and decision making requires insightful communication both inside and around key papers.

Assuming that the data is enough, or that poor quality papers is ‘par for the course' is not just a risk for you but also for the organisation.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

Cutting Through Podcast Now Live

Last week I launched my new podcast, Cutting Through.

My first two posts, a short intro and an interview discussing how to get around one of the biggest challenges when communicating about risk management.

My guest, Anthony Wilson from ABM Risk Management shares deep wisdom stemming from decades in risk and assurance.

He also offers his comprehensive risk management framework.

Listen on your favourite podcasting app or here on my website.

PS – Apologies to those of you who may tried to find it on Spotify, Apple and Google Play last weekend. The episode took longer to publish than we expected.

 

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.

New Podcast – CUTTING THROUGH

New Podcast – CUTTING THROUGH

I am excited to announce that I have begun a podcast.

Cutting Through interviews experts who have done just that.

They have cut through with stakeholders who do not share their expertise to achieve material outcomes.

This could mean …

  • engaging a multi-disciplinary group such as a leadership team or a Board in a risk management, technology, human resources or another kind of issue
  • motivating your team or perhaps your peers about a major change to the way they need to work, or
  • communicating to deliver maximum value in another professional setting.

Each of these situations offers its unique set of challenges and an opportunity to learn lessons to apply to our own communication.

Episode 1 with Anthony Wilson of ABM Risk Management offers suggestions for engaging senior leaders in thinking about risk management as change management.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable conversation. Anthony shares decades of wisdom as a senior leader and advisor to some of Australia's largest organisations.

You can find Cutting Through on your favourite podcast player or here on my website.

I look forward to bringing this and more to you over the coming months.

I hope you enjoy the episodes as much as I am.

 

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.

An idea to help you structure your communication

An idea to help you structure your communication

This week I reviewed a ‘boat load' of client communication to provide feedback.

A common theme emerged, which you may find familiar?

Just because communication includes well-formed sentences organised tidily into categories doesn't mean it cuts the mustard.

And, the categories can be the problem.


A category is not a message

A list of categories is not a ‘story structure'


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. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

Clarity First Intensive starts late September


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

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

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

We offer three learning pathways to choose from

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

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

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

>> Download the latest brochure here.

Get your ‘Pitch your boss' kit here


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

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

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

>> Download the latest ‘kit' here.


See what others say here

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

Click here to see what they say.

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

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.