Labels: , , , ,

The Tuesday Business Corner: impactful structure - three easy ways to order your content





Structure is important.

If your communication has a clear one, it might work.

If it hasn’t, it definitely won’t.

Other people must be able to follow your structure. But, if you communicate your content in the same order that you developed it, you’re probably taking them on a journey they didn’t need to go on – yours.

Instead, here are three ways to create an easy-to-follow structure:

#1: The 5Ps (ideal for making a persuasive, logical argument)

I like this one. It’s easy to remember (everything begins in P!); and helps you create a compelling story:
  • Position – ‘our world is currently like X’
  • Problems – ‘and X is causing us problems, because of Y, which means Bad Thing Z’
  • Possibilities – ‘given this, we only have three viable options, which are…’
  • Propose – ‘I recommend we do the second option, because ...’
  • Please (Call To Action) – ‘therefore, please can you…’

#2: “Why Vision Act?” (great for leaders communicating to their teams)

This one starts with the leader creating the need for change. She then gives clarity and direction by focusing on the (long-term) desired future. The final step is to close with the (short term) actions necessary to achieve it:
  • Why – why change is needed
  • Vision – the long-term future vision is for us to look like...
  • Act – therefore, the next steps are that we should start X, stop Y and continue Z

#3: Walloping (can be very impactful when presenting to senior teams)

Most senior teams I’ve spoken to don’t rate the presentations they see from their reports. They’re too long, un-structured and without a clear Call To Action. What a waste… both of the Execs’ time, and all those lost opportunities for the presenters.

This Walloping Structure below is quite polarising – it certainly isn’t appropriate in all cases. But, when it is, it’s very impactful. And it’s a great way of getting yourself heard if you’re delivering a short presentation in the middle of a full-day board meeting:
  • Wallop - hit them with a big problem - ‘did you know, we’re needlessly wasting €4million every month’
  • Down - make the wallop worse, to build the pain - ‘that equates to nearly €50million a year. Every year. A couple of years from now, this is going to be around the €100million mark’
  • Up - bring them back up by explaining your proposal, and the impact it will bring - ‘we have an opportunity to stop this. It’s …’
  • Please - as with the previous two structures, finish with a Call To Action. This will be they endorse your proposal, plus maybe 1-2 other actions you also want them to take

These three structures work well, though your best option depends on the situation of course. But, whichever one you choose, always create content by starting with the structure, and then adding the flesh later. It’s easier for you. It’s easier for the recipient. And, when it’s easier for you both, it’s much more likely to work.

Action Point


Review your diary. Which imminent communications would benefit from a good structure? Then, identify which of the above three - or another - technique will help you create something of value for your recipients.

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :)

0 comments
Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Song of the day: 60's



1) Watch the music video

2) Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics


3) Read the song lyrics


4) Read the song lyrics whilst listening to the music video at the same time




Jackie Wilson - (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher




Your love, lifting me higher
Than I've ever been lifted before
So keep it it up
Quench my desire
And I'll be at your side, forever more

You know your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on lifting (love keeps lifting me)
Higher (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)
I said your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on (love keeps lifting me)
Lifting me (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)

Now once I was down hearted
Disappointment was my closest friend
But then you came and it soon departed
And you know he never
Showed his face again

That's why
You know your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on lifting (love keeps lifting me)
Higher (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)
I said your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on (love keeps lifting me)
Lifting me (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)

[Instrumental Interlude]

I'm so glad, I've finally found you
Yes, that one, in a million girl
And now with my loving arms around you
Honey, I can stand up and face the world

You know your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on lifting (love keeps lifting me)
Higher (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)
I said your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on (love keeps lifting me)
Lifting me (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)

Now sock it me


0 comments
Labels: , , , ,

The Tuesday Business Corner: My Top Ten Communication Errors, and how to avoid them





The quick version
Here they are. Don’t do them.

  1. Back-to-back meetings
  2. Pointless communications
  3. Too irrelevant
  4. Too boring
  5. Too long
  6. Too selfish
  7. Wrong channels
  8. Wrong person
  9. Rubbish cascades
  10. Onerous pre-reads

The slightly longer version

Here are the ten Communication “Errors” that I see most often. Do any feel depressingly familiar?
  1. Back-to-back meetings. When there are no breaks in between, when exactly are people supposed to prepare or follow-up? I guess there are only two answers: ‘at home’ or ‘never’
  2. Pointless communications. You know all those comms – all those reports, meetings, conference calls, emails – that achieve nothing? The ones that nobody would mind if they stopped?
  3. Too irrelevant. Sometimes, unlike the previous point, you do need to have a certain communication. But even these can contain content you just don’t need – pointless agenda items, unnecessary chapters, too many background slides etc
  4. Too boring. Ever been on a conference call that was tedious? A meeting that dragged on? Presentations where the presenter read their wordy slides to you?
  5. Too long. Preparation isn’t finished when your communication is as thorough and long as possible. It’s finished when it’s as short as possible
  6. Too selfish. You know the type of thing… ‘Here’s my content, with all the detail I care about.My time is so important that I haven’t had time to remove the slides you don’t need. And now I need you to do X. And I mean right now’ 
  7. Wrong channels. People often email when they should chat. They hold big meetings to discuss topics that should have been done 121 etc
  8. Wrong person. When Person A wants to impact Person B, they should speak to her directly. Asking Person C to act as a middle-man is rarely as good. It dilutes A’s passion and clarity; plus, B’s questions are rarely answered as well/at all (We’ve all known for years that this doesn’t work - remember the teenage years of a middle man saying ‘my mate fancies you’? Not good)
  9. Poor cascades. One exception to the previous point: middle-men can be good for cascading info from on high. But only when the middle-man adds something to the message – their own experiences, personalising it for his team etc. If he adds nothing, he serves minimal purpose in the chain. In fact, he can make things worse if he does something as dismissive as “FYI – read this”
  10. Onerous pre-reads. Giving people too much to read for a meeting is… well, too much. The pre-reads are supposed to enable decisions, not be a rant about everything – background, the work done so far, rationale etc

Does your company force any of these ten on you?

Do you force any on others?

If so, fortunately, the solutions are simple:
  1. Back-to-back meetings – stop having them. Finish at 10.45, not 11.
  2. Pointless communication – stop creating yours. Stop reading others.
  3. Too irrelevant - when preparing, ask people ‘what content do you want me to include?’
  4. Too boring – always ask ‘what can I do to make this more interesting?’ and include it (you’d be amazed how rarely people do this)
  5. Too long – put detail in the Appendix and irrelevancies in the bin
  6. Too selfish – look at your communication through the recipient’s eyes. If you don’t think they’ll like it, they won’t
  7. Wrong channels – think ‘what’s the best channel for this communication?’; not ‘what do we normally do?’
  8. Wrong person – go to Person B, not through Person C (and, whenever possible, don’t let other people use you as a middle-man)
  9. Poor cascades – don’t include/be a middle-man unless the middle-man adds value
  10. Onerous pre-reads – strip them right back. Aim for one page; two as a max. Remember: they’re not just reading yours


Action point


The great thing about having ten possible actions is you have loads of choice. The downside? It’s not always clear where to start.

Why not choose the one that you could implement most quickly, easily and painlessly?

Even better, do one of them today. ;)


Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :)

0 comments
Labels: , , , , , , ,

Song of the day: 50's




1) Watch the music video

2) Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics


3) Read the song lyrics


4) Read the song lyrics whilst listening to the music video at the same time

 



Little Richard - Long Tall Sally

Gonna tell Aunt Mary 'bout Uncle John,
He claim he has the misery, but I know he's having fun
Oh baby,
Ye-e-e-eh baby,
Woo-o-o-oh baby,
Havin' me some fun tonight.

Well, long tall Sally she's
Built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need
Oh baby,
Ye-e-e-eh baby,
Woo-o-o-oh baby,
Havin' me some fun tonight. 


Well, I saw Uncle John with long tall Sally.
He saw Aunt mary comin' and he ducked back in the alley.
Oh baby,
Ye-e-e-eh baby,
Woo-o-o-oh baby,
Havin' me some fun tonight.

We're gonna have some fun tonight,
Gonna have some fun tonight.
We're gonna have some fun tonight,
Everything will be alright.
We're gonna have some fun,
Gonna have some fun tonight.
We're gonna have some fun tonight,
Gonna have some fun tonight.
We're gonna have some fun tonight,
Everything will be alright.
We're gonna have some fun,
Gonna have some fun tonight.



0 comments
Labels: , , , ,

The Tuesday Business Corner: Achieve all your Q2 resolutions



So, that’s three months of 2014 gone already…

And how’s it gone for you so far? Well, I hope.

And, how are you doing with your 2014 objectives you set in January?

And, even if they’re going well, how are you faring with your New Year’s resolutions?

It isn’t easy to achieve goals. Despite our best intentions, things can get in the way – life, busy-ness,habits.

So, here’s a useful technique to maximise your chances of achieving your Q2 goals:

Do NOT do a 30:60:90 day plan

When you do one of these, you start by focusing on the nearest time to you – 30 days from now. That often makes it all-to-easy to make your 30-day goal not stretching enough, in that it can be too similar to your current situation.

Instead, do a 90:60:30 day plan

So, work in reverse, as follows:
  • Identify where you need to be in 90 days (if it helps, think OMG):

                     Objectives: what are your goals for the quarter?

                     Measures: how will know you’ve achieved them?

                     Gain: what value will they bring when you do?

  • Now, identify where you need to be in 60 days, to make sure that you achieve your 90-day plan. In other words, if you haven’t achieved XYZ by 60 days, there is no way you’ll be where you need to be by 90. So what’s XYZ?
  • Similarly, establish where you need to be after 30 days, to make sure you aren’t late for your 60-day target
  • Then, keep going, halving as you go: what must you have achieved within 15 days so you hit the 30-day target; then in 7 days to hit the 15; then in the next 3-4 days; then today/tomorrow

When you do this, it encourages big action quickly. Why? Because you quickly realise there are certain things to get cracking with over the next 1-2 days, or you’re already doomed to miss your 90 day target.

Lose the ‘Q2 mindset’

A final thought about having an effective Q2: the England rugby team once realised it didn’t feel the same running out for the second half of a match as it did for the first. There was no national anthem, the crowd was quieter, all the players’ shirts were dirty, and so on.

So, the team decided to pretend there wasn’t a second half; instead, there were two ‘first halves’. For example, they changed into new shirts, to get them back to the mental space they had at the start.

And the relevance to you? Well, if you’re one of those who doesn’t really like Q2 – you know the type of thing… it just feels like a rubbish quarter: the early year drive’s gone, you’ve got tons to do to hit your 2014 targets, it feels ages till the summer holiday (or Christmas!)…

…well, don’t think of it as a Q2. Instead, pretend it’s a second Q1. Put your new rugby kit on, set your new resolutions, and know exactly where you need to be in 90, 60, 30, 15, 7… days’ time.

Action point


If this is the sort of technique that will work for you and/or your team, diarise time to create your plan (this exercise definitely won’t fit around your diary appointments. It needs to become a diary appointment!)

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :)

0 comments
Labels: , , , , ,

SIGNIFICANT DAYS: April Fools' Day





(Sometimes called All Fools' Day) is an informal holiday celebrated every year on April 1. It is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated in various countries as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other, called April fools. Hoax stories are also often found in the press and media on this day.

Origins:

Precursors of April Fools' Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held March 25, and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held December 28, still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus, the passage originally meant 32 days after April, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "March 32", i.e. April 1. In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.
In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".
In the Middle Ages, up until the late 18th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation) in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of January 1 as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.


United Kingdom Customs
In the UK, an April fool joke is revealed by shouting "April fool!" at the recipient, who becomes the "April fool". A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, excluding Australia, the joking ceased at midday. A person playing a joke after midday is the "April fool" themselves.
In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person), although this name has fallen into disuse. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile". The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.

April Fools' Day pranks
In 1957, the BBC pulled a prank, known as the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest prank, where they broadcast a fake film of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a prank on the news the next day.



0 comments
Labels: , , , ,

The Tuesday Business Corner: don’t be in the bottom half




Last week, I asked what you wanted me to cover on future Tips. A big thank you to all who replied. I’ve got over 100 new topics to cover now! So, let’s start with one that came up a lot: how to stand out above your colleagues…

A cheery thought for a Tuesday morning…

…half the people you know are below average

Sad, but true.

Similarly, half the people that your contacts know are also below average.

So, here’s a question for you: when it comes to communicating, are you in their top half or bottom half?

I’d imagine that everyone would say “top half, of course”. Unfortunately, for everyone to be in the top half … well, that’s mathematically impossible.

So here’s how to ensure yours are in the top half, such that others find them easy to read, and to act on.

#1 Have a clear Call To Action

If you want someone to act after reading your document, you need a call to action. So, write one. Put it in an obvious place where they can’t miss it (by the way, ‘FYI’ is not a Call To Action)

#2 Write an interesting start

Write a compelling title and/or sub-title. “Update” isn’t compelling. Neither is “Miscellaneous” nor “2013 review”… nor virtually any of the titles in your inbox (don’t believe me? Have a quick look when you’ve finished reading this Tip).

To create an interesting start, think why the recipient will be better-off after reading it, and put this benefit in the:
  • Title - like the book “How to win friends and influence people”; and/or
  • Subtitle - for example “2013 review: ensuring 2014’s even better” and/or
  • Intro - “The purpose of this document is to help you to X”

#3 Have a clear, interesting structure

There has to be a logical flow to your content.

A quick self-check for you: review the Contents Page of one of your documents, and ask yourself “when the recipient reads this, will they instantly understand the flow? And will they care about what they’re about to read?”

This simple exercise will probably lead to you doing some/all of:
  • Changing the order, so it flows better
  • Changing the headings, so they’re more interesting (examples of titles that people rarely love: “Background”, “About us”, “Our X” and so on)
  • Moving some sections into the Appendix. Or the bin

#4 Make it easy to read

If in doubt, think short. Short document. Short paragraphs. Short sentences. Short phrases.
  • Paragraphs should be a maximum of 4 lines long. So, press the “return” key more
  • Sentences should be short. This makes it easier for people to remember your key points. And it helps reduce waffling. A simple guide: no sentence should be more than 1-1½ lines long. If yours are, they’re probably 2-3 shorter sentences joined by words like “and”, “but”, or “so”.
  • Use shorter phrases - so, don’t say “prior to the commencement of”; say “before”. To see whether your phrases are too long, read one of your documents out loud (or get someone to read it to you). When you hear it, it helps you identify where you’ve used clunky phrasing

How to be ‘above average’

This is one of the tips where you could think “I do most/all of these”. And, if you do, great. But the average document doesn’t.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to be at least average! I don’t ever want to be in someone’s bottom half.

Action point


A couple of options - look backwards or forwards:
  • Backwards: review a recent document in light of the four points above. How could you improve it next time? And/or
  • Forwards: identify the next important document you have to create. Can you approach it differently, to make sure it’s better than average?

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :)

0 comments
 
Web Statistics