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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How to make Review Meetings interesting in 5 simple steps!




Let me guess: your business does lots of Reviews – client reviews, staff reviews, quarterly business reviews (QBRs), weekly reviews and so on.

And let me guess again: they don’t add a great deal of value.

And they’re extremely dull.

Recently, a few of my customers have asked me about QBRs. Their criticisms have included that their current format is:

  • Pointless
  • Lengthy
  • Tedious
  • Time-absorbing
  • Energy-sapping
  • Unconnected to the previous QBR, so there’s no sense of building on last time
  • Emotionless – nothing exciting in there at all
  • Generally retrospective, with 90% of the time talking about the past, not the future
  • Generally negative, focusing mainly on what went wrong, instead of what went well

You might recognise some/all of these with the reviews you’re part of?

Here is a simple approach that eliminates all these problems:

#1 Interesting start

If you played Word Association and somebody said ‘review’, what word would you respond with?

Nothing positive, I bet.

So we’re already on to a loser – the title includes a word that everyone feels negative about!

So change it to something interesting.

Or if you absolutely must call it a Review, at least have an interesting subtitle containing the benefits to the audience of hearing it – “three simple ways to ensure next quarter’s even better than the previous one” etc

#2 Since last time…

Prepare a one-page summary of the highlights since last time’s Review. This four-column table works well:
  • Priority – list the business’s priorities in the left hand column
  • Actions – for each of the priorities, state the 1-2 main actions you took, to address them
  • Outcomes – for each of the actions, list the outcomes you got from doing them
  • Page ref – state the page number(s) where they can read the detail on each action/outcome if they want to

Why’s this work? Column #1 ensures they see why you’ve done what you’ve done, and that it relates to their key focus areas. Column #2 shows you’ve been busy. But, more importantly, #3 shows you’ve delivered tangible successes. Column #4 means they can easily find more detail if they want it. And, if they don’t want to… well, nobody ever minded a QBR meeting becoming shorter!

#3 Before next time…

Do the opposite of #2 – future, not past. Prepare a one-page summary of what’s happening in the next few months:
  • Priority – the business’s current priorities
  • Actions – for each priority, the action(s) you’re planning to take
  • Outcomes – for each action, the outcome(s) you’re hoping to get
  • Page ref – showing where to find supporting info

#4 Immediate, urgent actions

End by being clear what you are going to do next, and what you want the audience to do next

#5 All your usual stuff

After pages #1 to #4, put all the usual stuff you include in your Review.

To deliver your Review: quickly run through the four slides #1 to #4, then go back to slides 2 and 3, and ask where they want to focus first. That way, they set the agenda for what you talk about, rather than you just going through slide 1, 2, 3… 91, 92, 93…

Anything that makes it a two-way discussion about the past and the future; rather than a one-way monologue about everything you’ve done since last time.

(An added bonus: once you’ve done one Review like this, you’ll find future ones become shorter. After all, once you know where their main priorities lie, you don’t need to spend as much time on the less-important areas)

Action point


For your next Review, summarise your current content in the above four ways. Then, ask yourself whether it makes more sense – for both you and your audience – to start this way.

If it does, you’ve got a new approach which you’ll both prefer.

Even if it doesn’t, at least you now have a good Essay Plan to help you prepare for your meeting!


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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

2 steps to succeeding at something new





In the past week, four people have told me they’re starting their own business. All have asked how to build early momentum with quick wins.

So I thought I’d use this week’s Tip to share my two top tips about this.

Now, I realise you might not be starting a new business. But you’ll no doubt be doing something new soon – working for a new boss, in a new team, doing a new job, starting a new project… and these tips will help with any of these.

Tip #1: be crystal clear on the value you’re bringing

You have to know how others will benefit from this new thing you’re doing.

After all, if you don’t know, nobody will! And this’ll mean they won’t choose you.

So, ask yourself the who and how:

  • Who benefits from me doing this?
  • And how do they benefit?
The simplest way to do this is in a two-column table – beneficiary/benefits. For instance, imagine you’re opening a new nursery, you’d have:
  • one row for parents. So, on the left, you’d write ‘parents’; on the right, you’d list all the benefits for the parent of their child coming to your nursery
  • another row for the children
  • maybe one for nearby schools, etc

You then learn this table, so are able to say the relevant bits at the relevant times. For example, every time you’re talking to a parent, you’d bring out the relevant comments in your right-hand column, so they know how you’re helping them.

One extra benefit: you can use the table to help write your Elevator Pitch. Simply choose the main beneficiary/benefit and turn it into a sentence – ‘Our nursery gives our children the perfect start in life’.

Tip #2: get in front of the people you want to persuade/impress

There’s no point completing Tip #1 – and knowing the value you bring – and then not telling anyone about it.

So Tip #2 ensures you get in front of the people you want to impress.

There are many ways to do this – cold-calling, networking, and so on. But the quickest/nicest is to ask people you know for introductions to people they know. And the simplest way to get these is as follows:
  • get a list of your main contacts – I guess these’ll be in your mobile phone? Maybe on LinkedIn? – wherever you keep them all
  • give each one a ‘grade’ (I use A, B and C) for their ability to recommend you – it’s a high grade if they know lots of people in your target market
  • give each a second grade, this time showing their desire to recommend you – how much they like you/want you to succeed
  • group all the AAs together – all those who could recommend you, and would also love to do so
  • contact all these AAs, and ask them to recommend you...

…You’ll be surprised how keen they are to do this.

You’ll be equally surprised how quickly you’re in meetings with your target market.

And, when you then mention your Value Statements from Tip #1’s table, you’ll be even more surprised how quickly they buy into – and from – you.

Action point


For the next ‘new’ thing you’re doing, ensure you do both Tips #1 and #2. You’ll get in front of more of the right people. And you’ll impress more of them than you thought possible.


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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Rubbish, Not Rubbish or Great! How will people describe your next communication?



In 1959, psychologist Frederick Herzberg proposed there are two sets of factors that influence our levels of job satisfaction - hygiene factors and motivators.

A ‘hygiene factor’ causes job dissatisfaction. But – when removed – it only stops us being dissatisfied; it doesn’t makes us satisfied.

For example, you might feel dissatisfied if it’s too cold in your office. But, when they get the temperature right, it stops your dissatisfaction; but doesn’t motivate you (do you know anyone who’s buzzing with excitement, itching to go the extra mile, just because they feel the right temperature?).

It’s a good term for it; poor hygiene makes you ill. But excellent hygiene doesn’t make you super-fit. It just stops the illness.

A 'motivator' – on the other hand, motivates (surprisingly). So, things like the prospect of promotion, praise, recognition and achievement do make us go the extra mile.

So, a quick summary: hygiene factors take you from dissatisfied to neutral; motivators from neutral to satisfied.

And the relevance to communication?

Well, let’s be honest, a lot of it isn’t very good. This leads to dissatisfaction. And people tend to do two things about this. Either:

  1. Nothing – “We’ve held our weekly Update Meetings for years. And they’re terrible. Everyone hates them. And they always will because they’ll never change”; or
  2. Remove the hygienes only – “How can we make our Update Meetings less boring?”

The first of these two achieves…well, nothing.

And the second only removes the negatives, or hygiene factors. So the best outcome is neutral. So, the communication still isn’t great. It just isn’t as rubbish anymore.

Other examples:

  • Making a presentation? People often say “I’m nervous. I hope I don’t mess it up”. So that means your best outcome is that you didn’t mess it up
  • Writing a report? If you think “How can I pull this together quickly – I haven’t got time to make it good”. Well, the best outcome is something that’s quick but not good
  • Making a sale, but thinking “How will I avoid the dreaded price objection?” This means you focus too much on price, and too little on the value you’re delivering

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the heights of my ambition to be that one day, if I’m lucky, I might just become a bit less rubbish.

So, to improve your communication, ask yourself different questions:
  1. How can we make this meeting brilliant?
  2. How can I make this presentation career-changing? What do I need to say, and how must I deliver it, so that I wow every single person in the room?
  3. How can I ensure this report delivers great outcomes for both the reader and me? So they get the right information, so they can make the right decisions. And so I get the praise/endorsement I’m after?
  4. How can I focus all the conversation on the value I’ll deliver to the customer?

These are easy questions to ask. They’re often easy to answer too.

And, all of a sudden, your communication have more chance of being great, instead of only being “not rubbish”.

Action point


You know your next communication today? The one you’re about to make? Will it be rubbish, not rubbish or great?

What can you do to ensure it’s the latter?


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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

How to build your 'A-Team'




Mentoring is like running a race. For both, you have:

  • Start
  • Finish
  • Track
  • Hurdles

In other words…

Start: know where you’re starting from. If you begin from the wrong place, you’ll run the wrong race
Finish: know where the finish line is, or you’ll sprint off in the wrong direction. And, as the saying goes: “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else”
Track: know the path you’re taking, to take you from start to finish. What’s happening first, second, third…?
Hurdles: know – in advance – any hurdles you’ll encounter, and how you plan to overcome them. This is much more effective/pleasant than being surprised by a hurdle and having to deal with it with no prior planning

So, to become a great Mentor, you have to master all four. And each requires a combination of:

  1. Asking the other person good questions – like “what are you looking to achieve?”; and/or
  2. Guiding their thinking – like “in my experience, in situations like this, people are often thinking X or Y. Does that sound like you?”

For example:



1. Start – find out where they are now
  • Know your first questions, to start them speaking – “Are you having fun at work?”, “How can I help you?” etc.
  • Know your second questions, to uncover more detail – “Tell me more?”, “Why’s that exciting/worrying?”, “How do you know that this is the case?” etc.
2. Finish – find out where they want to get to

  • What are looking to achieve?
  • How will you know you’ve achieved it?
  • What value will it bring when you have achieved it?
3. Track – help them find the best path to take, to achieve their goals

  • What’s the best way to achieve these goals, in your opinion?
  • I’ve seen others achieve this by doing X or Y. Would either of these work for you?
4. Hurdles

  • What obstacles will you face, in achieving this?
  • How will you overcome these?
  • One thing I’ve seen work is X. Is that worth trying here? 

If you already have some good questions – ones that uncover the answers you need – great: keep using them.

But if not, invest time developing them, and practising them until they feel natural. Both you and your colleagues will be delighted you did.

Action point


For your next mentoring conversations, think in advance what questions you’ll ask, to find what you need to know.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

How actionable are your ‘Calls To Action’?




A recurring theme of our Tuesday Business Corner: the first step of preparing communication is to identify what you want your audience to do after it. In other words, start with your prep by identifying the Call To Action, and then create content that ensures they do it.

Obviously, these Calls To Action must be actionable.

But most aren’t.

Instead, they’re Rallying Calls: “Make 2015 our best yet!”, “Enhance our division’s reputation”, “get closer to our customers”, “be more self-aware”, “bring more value to our stakeholders”, “hit your targets”… They often leave people thinking “I’d love to. But how?”

One simple way to improve them is:

1. State the Rallying Call
2. Say “for instance”
3. Give examples of things they could do first, to get started


“Going forward, I want you to enhance our division’s reputation within the company. For instance, you could:

  • call key stakeholders, and ask how we can help them more;
  • think what’s been well received in the past, and do it again;
  • ask your peers how they’ve enhanced their reputation, and copy it;
  • identify other divisions that impress you, and learn from them”

These examples give your audience ideas they can use, or be influenced by.

It makes them more likely to act.

After all, when they know where to start, they’re more likely to start.

Action Point


Check your Call To Action in your next communication. Is it easy to act on? If not, incorporate some “for instances” to guide people how to start.

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