Organize your message


speechMany of us have heard about the power of three items or 3 key messages, but most people have not been shown how to use this in practice. While it is easy enough to make a list and restrict it to 3 items, picking 3 items that make sense from a logical perspective takes a little more thought. Our minds are highly responsive to patterns. Knowing that we will hear 3 key points and then having somebody deliver the 3 points in a logical fashion is something we are more likely to remember afterward. It comes across as more credible when we are able to recognize a pattern in the delivery of the key points.

Maybe you are coaching someone on how to deliver more impactful messages. Or perhaps you are preparing your own answers to questions in a group setting or you are planning a short speech on an important change initiative or project update? This resource can help you. It aids in formulating your thoughts in a logical way, which enables you to deliver a message that is easy for your audience to interpret and remember.

model org message

 

Click on this link to download the model and also some examples.

The three key ideas you wish to communicate or the three top reasons why you suggest a certain course of action cannot be random or they may still fail to be memorable. The 3 key concepts should be structured in a way that would make sense to others so that they can easily be recalled after people hear them.

Grouping the 3 points in a logical way:

  • Three linked ideas like quality, time, money/costs; good, bad and ugly (see the specific example in the downloaded document )
  • Forward or backward motion – tell the story sequentially either from the present into the past in 3 steps or from the past into the future in 3 steps. For example: in the past, we used one process which worked, but since then many things changed to where we are today (with challenges and in need for things to change) and in the future, we will have additional challenges which simply requires us to make changes now. (You can fill in the details of your own message to explain the situation when you choose a structure that moves forward or backward in time).
  • Perspective – the 3 concepts move from a big idea to a small idea or from small ideas to big ideas/reasons. For example (out of) from this small team which will be impacted by the change to the bigger team and then to an even bigger group of people who may be impacted. (see the specific example in the downloaded pages)

 

org message structures

Use the practice sheet or template to learn this approach. It helps you to become more familiar with using this way of organizing your message or your answer to a group of people. Once you get used to how it works you will no longer need the template and you should be able to organize your thoughts while you are in the meeting or in transit to the meeting.

organize your message template

Some ideas of where to use this approach:

  • You are in a meeting and they are going around the table collecting everyone’s thoughts on a proposal (You take a moment to quickly organize your own response using this method.)
  • You have been asked to provide an update at a meeting, which starts in a few minutes. (Remembering this approach you are able to jot down your initial thoughts, choose a structure and then revise your points to fit your chosen structure of 3 points to make.)
  • You are attending a conference and have to introduce yourself or someone else (Using the structured way of choosing 3 key aspects to mention, your answer is memorable to the conference attendees.)
  • During lunch, some colleagues ask you why you support a particular proposal. (You easily recall the structured options and formulate a response consisting of 3 key thoughts to share after you have swallowed the food.)

Listening to long unstructured answers in meetings or trying to make sense out of facts presented in a complicated way in a meeting can be a confusing experience. Using a simple structure with only (no more and no less than) 3 key points, makes it much easier for you to avoid the same mistake. Instead, you can use this approach to deliver a message that they will easily understand and remember.

Let me know how this approach works for you or the person that you are coaching!

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Creating an Annual Communication Plan


Unless you are in a senior role in the communications group or department you comm plan graphicprobably never had to make an annual communication plan before. Recently I  was asked to help two people (working in mid-sized or small companies) who never had to make an annual communication plan before but were expected to create one now. Perhaps you are also tasked with making one? Or maybe you are asked to comment on one?

The basic idea behind an annual communication plan is to ensure that someone is planning to address targeted communications activities to various groups of people across all the available platforms that are used by the group or organization. The plan should typically include specific mention of dates, details of the intended contents of messages or specific focus areas, and be specific about who is responsible for each of the actions. That way everyone involved in executing activities from the communication plan is aware of his or her role and when deliverables would be due. Planning to communicate is not the hard part of the assignment as most people are quite creative during brainstorming sessions related to what we can do and how to do it. The hard part is to write it all down so that we all know what will actually happen after we leave the meeting or brainstorming session.  And the next hard part is to apply self-discipline to execute according to the plan and update and review the plan on a regular basis.

The Annual Communication Plan template that I am sharing (click on the blue link to open the template), shows various aspects to consider when you look ahead to a year of planned communications. Of course, we know that plans are subject to changes happening around us on the project or changes in the company or in client needs. This means the plan is not static and you should review the plan on a regular basis to add or change items as needed. Remember to share updates you made with other team members who have activities assigned to them.

comms plan first columnThe first column in the template contains a few communication channels to consider as you look at the messages you want to share and the intended target groups that your messages should reach. Ensure that you are using the right communication channels that you know to be in broad use by your intended target group of readers. And each of the headings could have multiple options for example meetings could be global meetings, regional meetings and local meetings where you would like the same message or a different version of the main message to be shared.

coms plan headers left side

The columns across the top of the template are mainly there to document who is doing what by when and when you are ready to publish and have published or delivered the message. This helps you measure progress on planned activities and shows where you may need to apply special focus to avoid delays.

The published date is important, not only to ensure that your intended actions were completed but also to measure the success of your communication activities after the activity has been completed. comms plan measures.JPG

In this simple template, the only measure shown is based on the number of people reached. There are many more ways to measure the outcomes and success of your communication actions including:

  • How many people took a further action after reading or watching (if video) or listening to (if podcast) your message (i.e. liked it, clicked on the button for “more information etc),
  • How many people used it as a reference or highlighted it by linking to it, sharing it or tagging it,
  • How many people visited your website right after you have published or shared a new message?

Add additional columns to your plan (as needed) in order to capture any other important measures that you wish to track per message, date and communication channel.

General tips which may help you as you use this template to create your annual communication plan:

  1. Plan to share the same message in many different ways to optimize the number of times and ways that your intended audiences receive the message during a relatively short timespan.
  2. Not every communication message can be forecasted and planned over a 12-month period but without at least a guideline of topics that you would like to share over a 12-month period, the chances of missing opportunities to impact your intended audiences are bigger. Remember, you can always update and make changes when unplanned events occur while you progress through your plan.
  3. Experiment with a mix of ways to communicate – create messages to be shared face-to-face with credible speakers and follow up with something online and perhaps also a film on your website.
  4. Do use metrics to track results against your goals. It is the best way to know what works and what needs to be improved. Having proven successes also adds credibility to your communication plan and activities.

 

When tasked with creating an Annual Communication Plan, you may never need to become an expert at creating this kind of plan, yet it is still in your best interests to capture your thoughts about planned communication activities, responsibilities, deadlines, and metrics in a concise way. This template is only one way to achieve this. Once you have created the plan in a structured way people can review it, comment on it and manage to it and it ensures alignment within the team as you make progress with your communication objectives.

 

Change Management – Setting the scene with senior leaders


change-mgt-overview-blog-pic

Before any organizational change is launched there has to be meetings with executives and senior leaders to ensure alignment around the reason(s) and main principles of the change initiative. Meeting objectives would also typically include getting their support for executing change activities and to help them understand expectations of them as executives and senior leaders during the change period and beyond.

Resource shared – slides in pdf format

The resource I am sharing is a deck of slides in pdf format. These can be used as a basis for creating your messages to senior leaders and executives. There are slides that help explain how change will likely impact the organization and the people plus slides explaining how leaders can help by being role models and also by actively addressing resistance and other signs of low engagement in those around them. I would suggest using this resource as optional examples to help communicate the specific messages that makes sense for the change management initiative that you may be leading and the meeting participants/audience that you will be facing.

Here are the steps I would suggest you follow:

  1. Be clear on the reasons that your change initiative need to be implemented and how the changes will improve on status quo. (Business case or burning platform)
  2. Did you get executive buy-in from one or more sponsors before your presentation? (Highly recommended – in fact, do not proceed until you have it!)
  3. Consider the presentation you will be doing – who will be there? What do they know and what do you need them to know, understand and do once they leave the presentation?
  4. What impact will the planned changes likely have on the employees at your company and how do you think your targeted audience can help and should act/behave given the change process and desired outcomes?
  5. Review the slides in the resource I am sharing and determine if any of them could help you and support the messages that you would like to communicate to the audience that you will be facing.

Of course these slides are not going to substitute the preparation work you need to do before starting a change initiative, but they may be helpful to use as background or to explain some of the specific change management aspects that may be of particular importance to your audience.

 

Tips for new Facilitators


picture2Working with a group of people to accomplish structured outcomes previously agreed with a manager can be a daunting task. This is especially true when there are strong opposing views or a lack of communication (and listening!) in the group. I used to facilitate many sessions for a large global company and worked with a few colleagues who did similar work in other regions. The resource I am sharing contain tips received from my colleagues when I got started as a facilitator years ago. In turn, I have made it available to other new facilitators that I have encountered over the years. Now you can also benefit from this. (see inserts below)

Some assumptions made for these to be relevant:

  • As facilitator your workshop/session is part of a process. The session includes exercises designed to produce outcomes that would benefit the team. There is at least one (could be more) manager who have a vested interest in a successful outcome and who will also attend your session. These same managers are aware of the team and session process and have provided input to you in terms of their vision and needs from the process. Note: there may be more than one manager if you are facilitating a group process involving members of a client organization too and which may also be attended by the manager from the client organization.
  • Your role is to facilitate the agreed process and to re-agree next steps should the process somehow not be able to continue as planned or new information/changes trigger you to recognize that a change in timing/agenda should be considered.

TIPS for Facilitators:

tips-facilitator-1

tips-facilitator-2

tips-facilitator-3

How to stimulate participation by session participants?

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Do a poll – where by raising hands people have to vote for one idea vs one or more other ideas
  • Count to 10 or more before you speak, let them bridge the silence with participation
  • When there is a question to you or a comment, defer it to the group – how does the group feel about this topic/question/statement?
  • Ask direct questions to specific participants whom you know (be sure) have experience in an area or on specific subject matters.
  • Summarize the points raised and ask the group to respond – agree or disagree? Correct or ..?
  • Divide them into pairs for a short discussion on a topic that pertains to what you just covered. (Gets them active after a period of perhaps monologue or exclusive dialogue.)
  • When the group seems lethargic consider an unscheduled short break
  • Do an impromptu energizing exercise (always have two or three of these in your back-pocket to employ when you see the need.
  • Expect some sluggishness in the period right after lunch for about an hour or so. Ensure your session design contains activities for this period – small groups etc.
  • Call it – sometimes a group is unresponsive, because everyone is thinking about an elephant in the room – some topic which should be discussed or settled which may not be on the agenda., but it is occupying the minds of everyone. If you know what it is, ask “Is ….. something we should discuss at this time?” if you do not know ask “Is there another issue that we should be covering at this time which may not be a scheduled topic?” [You would need to check in with the manager to ensure he wants to do it right away or later -schedule a specific date and time when he will deal with it. So call a short break if they tell you that something needs to be settled. To determine the”how” with the manager involved.)

These examples are not exhaustive, but they did help me out during those early years of facilitating sessions with groups and teams. I do trust they will do the same for you!

Team building – Define individual roles and responsibilities


blocks final

When your team comes together for the first time there are several items you need to discuss with them including the main commercial terms of the contract, the agreed project scope of work for the team, the agreed and approved budget, the schedule etc. The next step, which flows from these basic project aspects is to establish who will be responsible for managing or accomplishing each of the key project outcomes.

The resource I am sharing here describes a process you can follow as part of an early team-building activity to clarify and agree team roles and responsibilities down to individual levels.

Team-building Activity – defining individual roles link

Additional thoughts:

  • You can use this activity after first running a sub-group responsibility definition activity which defines project interfaces or relative responsibilities for decisions and processes by functional or other sub-groups on the team. (see Defining team interfaces) Using this sequence means you drive home how the overall project outcomes are managed by sub-groups on the team and then right down to individual roles in those same processes.
  • This exercise can also be used when there is a change in phase or focus on the project or the composition of the team changes greatly. At those times it is important to keep the team’s momentum going by ensuring that roles and responsibilities remain clear throughout the changes.
  • Clarifying individual role and responsibilities also supports the performance management process. When individuals receive feedback regarding their performance it is important that they already understand what performance and role expectations are.
  • Having individual roles documented can also support bringing new team members up to speed fast. It helps explaining expected team functioning and who they should talk to while making their contributions to successful team outcomes.

Project teams simply function better when everyone understands how he or she is expected to contribute to the team’s goals. This activity does help greatly in clarifying expected individual contributions. I do suggest you distribute the final agreed pages with the team for reference purposes.

Team Activity – Defining Project Interfaces


Most projects are made up of several sub-groups of people. These sub-groups of people have interfaces with each other whereby they exchange and share information, documents and outcomes. They also provide and request support from other groups to start,complete and execute a project process. Most of the time project inefficiencies occur across the interfaces with other sub-groups on a project.

The best way to ensure efficiency and effectiveness across project interfaces is to increase transparency around assumptions that people within the various project sub-groups may be operating under and to test whether they are accurate and understood by others on the project.

Note that project interfaces can also refer to processes that involve others within the home office environment or the company structure. These “external” groups to the project may be setting high level processes and goals, which creates the environment that the project team needs to operate in. The diagram below shows how interfaces can be seen from a project perspective. The overlaps shown in the circles below indicate areas or processes where two or more project sub-groups have to participate in order to successfully complete the process.

team interfaces diagram

The Team-building activity that I am sharing helps various interfacing groups understand differences that may exist between how they think they should be interfacing with other groups and what the actual expectations from other groups are.

The Team-building activity to define project interfaces resource link.

This activity can be used in many different ways:

  • Clearing up interface issues among geographically dispersed groups working on the same processes or projects;
  • Clarifying how different functions should interface with other one another on a project, a work process or any other initiative/objective they are working towards;
  • Clarifying any differences in perspective among cultural groups or different shifts of people in the same function working on the same tasks as that function interfaces with other functions to complete specific work processes; (in this case it is a function checking itself for consistent execution of the same work processes performed at different locations or during different shifts.)
  • Getting clarity on how projects should interface with each other and/or the corporate groups they work with in order to successfully execute processes with multiple interfaces.

The reason that interfaces with other groups tend to be where delays and frustrations occur is because it is common for people to analyze and optimize processes only for the portion that they are responsible for. This perspective means they often overlook how their efforts impact others or how the efforts of others impact them and they fail to take the bigger picture into account. This activity will support efforts to improve the outcomes of inter-group processes as you work towards greater successes on your projects and initiatives.

Team-building Activity for non-homogeneous project teams


 

colored circles

Your project team is very diverse and you are concerned that this may impact how your project will be executed – will you be able to achieve your overall project goals or will there be a lot of internal strife, misunderstandings and disagreements? Will they work against each other and have the wrong assumptions about each other and the project goals and metrics? If so, this team-building activity may help.

The resource I am sharing is a team activity you can use to help project team members understand that different groups of people can have different views on the various aspects of running a project and also the relative importance of key project processes. This activity makes those possible disconnects transparent which helps you lead clarification discussions with the team/group. While the activity itself is quite simple, the discussion that comes after the initial assignment is where the value lies and that will take up most of your time.

The resource link for team-building activity, non-homogeneous teams.

Further tips and ideas:

  • You can segregate meeting participants in various ways related to the most important diversity aspects you wish to highlight within the team. As a variation you may choose to run the first part of the exercise more than once and each time segregating the group of participants in a different way. Options include: cultures, locations where they are from or live, level of life experience, function etc.
  • There are several topics listed for discussion towards the end and it would be wise to prioritize them for your own convenience, as a facilitator. If you are running out of time towards the end you can then ensure you are covering the most important topics during the time you have available after the initial portion of the exercise.
  • Be sure to stress that diversity is a plus for team creativity and finding new solutions. The objective of this activity is to help work out some of the downsides of diversity without marginalizing any one or group or impose judgement.

Non-homogeneous teams may be tougher to manage than homogeneous teams, but the pay-off in creating new and innovative team solutions coupled with individuals learning new skills and perspectives from other team members can be very rewarding. As a team leader or facilitator you just need to make sure you have the right tools, such as this activity, available to help non-homogeneous teams succeed.

Negotiation Preparation Worksheet


 

arm wrestleNegotiation skills is something that most people can always improve upon. There are several training vendors who offer training and coaching solutions in this regard and each of them offer their own tools and tips to further development. The resource that I am sharing is more generic – it has evolved from own notes taken during several training classes and has been modified and added to over the years.

The Negotiation Preparation Worksheet can help both experienced and new negotiators to organize their thoughts and prepare for a negotiation. Having your notes available during the negotiation discussions can help keep you focused and help you avoid distractions and knee-jerk reactions during crucial moments and stages of the discussion. The resource is shared in a format that is easy to modify/improve so feel free to add your own additional considerations to support your own planning process.

The Negotiation Preparation Worksheet resource link.

Uses:

  • Preparing for actual negotiations.
  • In training sessions to train participants on how to prepare and demonstrate the importance of this planning during a role-play later.
  • Prepare for discussion with supervisor/manager on salary increase.
  • Document your thinking going into a negotiation to support a post-negotiation lessons-learned reflection later which can help you and your team to continuously improve upon your past performances.