Why small steps matter

Why small steps matter

If you could do just one thing to elevate the quality of your communication, what would it be?

This is a variation of a question I was asked last Sunday.

The sentiment is helpful.

Rather than procrastinating about a big hairy audacious goal, what is one concrete step we could take toward that goal?

How to move closer rather than daunted by its very audaciousness and the associated ambiguity?

For some, the idea of being a great communicator is an audacious goal. They know they need to take big steps.

For most, the idea of becoming a better communicator is ambiguous.

Using that C word at work, do we mean …

  • Writing?
  • PowerPointing?
  • Visualising ideas in diagrams?
  • Having challenging conversations?
  • Demonstrating empathy?
  • Telling stories?
  • Getting to the point?
  • Preferencing micro communication, eg chat threads over email?
  • Pitching ideas?
  • Being strategic about messaging?
  • Managing stakeholders?
  • Running meetings?

All of these things, and more, can fall into the communication bucket.

We can all get better at all of them.

But how much better is necessary? How soon?

And, how do we know, given few of us receive genuinely helpful feedback on our communication?

So, what small step will you take this week?

Here are three ideas (two of which are free!):

  1. Complete my free 10-minute email course. It shares the same principles that underpin great papers and presentations, which you can use anywhere.
  2. Untangle a difficult stakeholder situation with this decision tree. Do you understand why your stakeholder is being difficult? Is it your message, your engagement strategy or your proposition that needs to shift for you to make progress?
  3. Sign up for Clarity Hub. Log in and pick one thing to do.
    – Read a post about stakeholder management, engaging boards, or another topic that is relevant to you right now
    – Find an exercise and do it
    – Watch a MasterClass recording. Yes, you can fast-forward through it too. There are half a dozen options in the Past Events area.
    – Try the Pattern Picker. See if it can help you think through your needs and fast-track you to the structure you need for your next communication.
    – Email me with a challenge you face so I can share my thoughts via the weekly email or perhaps a new MasterClass

So, what step will you take this week?

I hope that helps.

More next week.

Warm regards,
Davina

 

Do you score your communication 7/10?

Do you score your communication 7/10?

I have been very much enjoying the preview version of Richard Medcalf's draft book, Making Time for Strategy.

As always, Richard turns common ways of thinking on their head. He will then offer a super simple strategy that does what his tagline says it will do: multiplies my impact.

Let me share one example with you.

He says we should never score ourselves as a 7, which he aptly describes as a ‘meh' number.

It's safe yet meaningless. It's not terrible, yet it's not great either.

I mention this because I have been shocked at how many people joining my programs play it safe and score their communication as 7.

So, how do you score your communication without being a 7?

Here is a way to think about the scale from ouch to outstanding:

  • 1 to 2 – ouch! You don't get the decisions or actions you want. Your written and verbal communication misses the mark around substance, story and presentation.
  • 3 to 4 – interpreter needed. Your leader reworks most if not all your major pieces of communication. It is too hard to help you, so they do it themselves. Others help during meetings by interpreting what you are saying so your audience understands you.

  • 5 to 6 –  passable. Your leader reworks some of your major communication. They provide suggestions for less critical or less complex pieces, but largely leave you to complete them. You can convey your messaging verbally fairly well, but receive some clarification questions from your audience.

  • 8 to 10 – outstanding. Your leader provides minor improvement suggestions only. They trust you to deliver a high quality insight in a professional and effective way. Most presentations and meetings focus on making progress rather than clarifying your point. You get the job done.


If your honest score is 6 or below, I invite you to explore Clarity First.

We can help you engage your decision makers in complex ideas.

Registrations close next week.

Kind regards,
Davina


PS – Here are some other places to go for more information.

  1. Download the latest brochure here
  2. Watch the latest Q&A video here
  3. Grab a draft letter to help pitch your manager for financial support

Clarity First Registrations Now Open!


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

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

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

We offer three learning pathways to choose from

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

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

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

>> Download the latest brochure here.

Get your ‘Pitch your boss' kit here


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

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

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

>> Download the latest ‘kit' here.


See what others say here

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

Click here to see what they say.

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

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

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

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

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

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

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

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

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

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

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

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

But, bear with me.

I do believe writing helps us clarify our thinking.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

As one CEO said to me recently:

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



I hope that helps.

Warmly,
Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

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

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

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

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

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

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

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

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