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.

 

Career Planning Workshop Materials


roads2People of all career-stages have talked to me over the years about their careers and how they thought it was going. Very often it would become clear that the person ended up in a role or position which he or she did not really choose, but rather “it just happened.” Apparently many people never took the time to consider, analyze or dream about the options and pathways available to them as career options and then used that to make clear choices about next steps based on that knowledge or dream.

The materials I am sharing today can help you, the facilitator, put together a starter workshop designed to give participants the opportunity to reflect on conscious options to consider or analyze in terms of career planning. I am sharing multiple exercises and it would be up to you to decide what to include given the time you have available for the workshop.

From an attendee perspective this workshop could help participants from any age  (over 14) to get some clarity. Those who are already in steady careers may find it helpful to perhaps fine-tune their own roles in areas where they are not yet fully contributing and adding value according to their own interests and preferences.

Workshop outline:

career-workshop-1

career-workshop-2

Career workshop Slides   Click on the link to view the slides you will need for the workshop.

The exercises that are mentioned can be facilitated using the worksheets in this document.  Just click through to find it.

This workshop works well in non-profit settings, school or open university settings and can also be used in companies where career planning is initiated as a focus area to help employees develop further skills and set development goals.

 

 

Existing Team Renewal Exercise – the journey


journey

Existing teams often go through phases of renewal, which requires that new team members and existing members come together to create a new or changed vision and way forward. Elements that can hold the new team back include existing members holding on to the past too strongly and new members not understanding why some things are done in a certain way within the team. Lacking the background and context of the past and a shared vision for the future the team could easily remain divided between the “new comers” and the “old timers” who know everything.

Shared Resource Exercise for renewal of Existing Teams

This exercise has two parts and helps to make the past easier to understand especially in terms of how it may have shaped the current belief system of existing team members – i.e. what they believe works and what does not work. The second part of the exercise helps new teams map out the new way forward together, which helps all team members be a part of what they plan to achieve and do going forward.

Tips/Comments:

  • This exercise does not replace any classic team chartering activities i.e. crafting a new or changed purpose statement, or reviewing/creating new roles and responsibilities going forward or agreeing on key team performance indicators. This exercise forms more of a bridge towards renewing the team and its activities and path forward. This exercise can best be followed by some more classic team chartering activities and exercises.
  • Monitor the communication process closely during the first part of the exercise: the sharing that happens has to remain constructive vs existing team members slipping into defensive behavior and/or new team members being overly critical of the lessons learned from the past.
  • This exercise has also sometimes been used as an ice-breaker to start off a one- or two-day team-building activity. It would be good to schedule this just before a natural break to allow team members to spend unstructured social time together as an aftermath of this exercise.

Starting right – new manager/leader and team


new team leader

A new leader or manager has to quickly connect with the team and understand the objectives and issues around the team and their tasks if he or she wants to be effective in the shortest time possible. At times the team may know the person promoted to be the new leader or manager. The new leader or manager may also be a hire from outside the company or someone who joined the team from a remote part of the organization where there had previously been very little to no interaction with team members. In all cases the team members may have concerns and wonder how the new leader or manager will help the team and them as individuals succeed going forward.

The resource I am sharing is a series of slides which can be used to facilitate a group session with the new leader/manager and the existing team. The focus of the session is to help them accelerate the connection and learning that needs to take place for the team to maintain momentum and reach their goals under new leadership. The session helps the team get to know the new leader/manager and voice their concerns. The new manager/leader also gets to know quickly what the team issues are and how the team feels about progress and possible team obstacles to success, which enables him/her to more accurately set the team’s priorities and focus areas for the next few months.

Starting Right for new leaders/managers link here

The purpose of the group session is :

  • Clarify expectations of manager and expectations of the team
  • Clarify team vision and objectives
  • Identify highest priorities for action and assign owners to resolve and report back

The resource includes some instructions for setting up the activities and also some timing estimates. The slides contain a basic ice breaker/check-in exercise at the start of the session. Consider whether to change this activity for something that better fits with the group/team that you are working with.

Depending on how many issues the team has, the size of the team and how much they already know about the new leader/manager the entire session can take anything from 2 to 4 hours. If you are the facilitator you need to watch the time. Sometimes the first group discussion can take much longer than expected – when they share their answers. This means you need to plan up front : If they go over the planned timing for that portion of the agenda, will you let the discussion continue and defer the rest of the activities to a later date? Or what will you change to ensure you stay within the contracted time with the group while reaching the goals and objectives for the group session?

If time allows I strongly suggest that you include a team meal at the end of the session. This would allow for some informal social interaction between the new leader/manager and the team members, which further solidifies interpersonal relationships within the team and helps the new leader/manager have a good start with the team.

 

 

How to do a talent audit


How many leaders are we developing for future leadership roles? Where should you be spending your employee development efforts? What is the best way to spend your training budget to contribute to the company’s ability to produce desired results? You may benefit from doing a talent audit – review your team and your leaders to get to a thorough understanding of the needs of each individual and the capabilities of your entire team/organization.

The most common rating model that is used for employees and leaders is shown below – note how well they are performing in their current roles and then compare that to how much potential do they still have to move up a level or two in the company.  performance vs potential

The vertical axis is where you rate the performance of the employee and the horizontal scale is where you rate his or her potential to reach higher levels of leadership in the company if you develop him or her.

The green star example would be a leader who is performing exceptionally high and who also still has the potential to move up more levels within the company – maybe 2 or 3 levels more in the next few years.

The red star would represent a leader or employee who is not performing according to expectations at all and who has not shown any signs of being capable of or motivated to move up any levels in the company.

Link to Performance and Potential rating sheet here

The resource I am sharing today is a tool to help you determine where your current employees and leaders would fit on the model shown above. All you need to do is answer yes or no to the questions shown. When you get to the bottom count the number of times you answered yes and calculate the % yes score (total yes answers divided by number of questions). That could be an indicator of where your employee/leader could be plotted against each of the axis shown in the model above. (Imagine the top end of the scale is 100% and the “low” part of the scale is 0%). Alternatively you can use the next figure (see below) to plot the employees. Review their latest performance review outcomes against the vertical scale: Exceeds Expectations, Meets  Expectations and Below Expectations. Looking at the employee’s motivation, mindset and capabilities – does he or she have the potential to move up some levels in the company? Plot that against the horizontal axis.performance vs potential legend

To ensure a good perspective of the employee pool that you are reviewing, ask various executives/senior managers who have regular contact with the employees to complete the list of questions in the resource. Combine all the answers to arrive at the final plot on the graphic for the employees/  leaders. Always perform a sanity check before you complete the final plot – employees must have the motivation and interest to advance in their own careers and have great interpersonal relationship skills before you can plot them towards the middle and right side of the horizontal scale.

Once you have the employees plotted as stars or markers on the diagram you can move towards planning next steps. Here is how you can look at the numbered areas above:

  1. These employees are able to grow to the top of the organization. Accelerate their development and make sure they have stretch-goal assignments.
  2. These employees are good performers who need to be recognized and you should keep them engaged. Retention is the word, especially if they possess key skills that are hard to find in the market.
  3. These employees need training,  coaching and a structured approach to improve on their skills and competencies. Since they have the motivation, ambition and ability to move to higher roles in the company, the gap between future role requirements and current performance assessments should be driving the development actions needed.
  4. This group needs to be addressed fast. Or you can coach/motivate this employee to improve performance or you need to let them go. They are taking management energy away from growth and are not contributing to the company’s success. (If their below expectations performance is related to health issues – manage according to the local laws and agreements with unions etc.)
  5. The performance of these employees has to improve. There are several reasons why someone could be plotted in this group. a) some executives/managers see potential here, but the employees’ own motivation or ambition may not align with that – move the employee into the correct group – towards the left; b) personal or interpersonal issues may be at work here – try to resolve; c) employee does not understand what is required from a performance perspective – ensure clear goals and expectations are set and train/coach and review regularly to ensure that performance does improve.

This process is not static and you should review your plots at least once a year. It is possible for employees to move into other areas of the graphic after they get the promotion they worked towards or their home situation changes and it changes their own motivation and ambition at work.

This annual review is an exercise that should include the executive team or management team for that location, because it is important that the senior team understands the talent and leadership potential that is available at that location. It is also important that multiple views are incorporated and discussed during the review sessions. It all starts with doing the first talent audit though and these tools will hopefully help you do that.

 

Checklist for Team Leader on International Project


table final

Leading and managing a group of people at a single location is not an easy task and managers often tell me it is the people-side that wears them down. When your team is very diverse and located at different remote locations instead of at one location, the challenges and risks of the team not reaching goals multiply. The resource I am sharing today is a checklist for team leaders or managers/supervisors of remote teams and it focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the the people-side.

Checklist for Team Leaders link

The resource lists a number of items to consider when you are leading a dispersed team. This may be a useful check for team leads or project managers to ensure they are taking into account the additional challenges that remote teams bring and are taking the appropriate actions and precautions to manage the interpersonal and communications aspects on such a project.

The checklist items are grouped by the following main topics:

  1. Critical Skills for Supervising International Project teams
  2. Setting Goals and Expectations
  3. Giving Feedback and Coaching
  4. The team
  5. Communication
  6. Establishing a Good Start

Working with international team members can be very interesting and it can be fun to learn about other cultures and other perspectives. However, those same interesting differences can make teamwork frustrating and difficult. The checklist shared here can go a long way towards helping you, as the team leader, take advantage of leading a diverse team while successfully managing the harder part of leading teams.

 

Organizational Strategy Framework


framework final

Setting a strategy for an organization is not a simple process mostly because of the several dependencies from various aspects within and outside of the organization. You analyze the data you can find and then you set your target on where you want to move towards to grow the company, improve your profitability, increase effectiveness or move closer to your vision for the organization. The resource I am sharing can help you align some of the most important internal (to the organization) aspects with your strategy to improve your chances of successfully executing on the strategy.

Most organizations can navigate through the process of setting a strategy and many of them find that execution and implementation of the strategy is the hardest part. I believe this is mostly because they may not have paid enough attention to the various internal aspects that would impact how well the changes (in focus or direction) as required by the strategy, is accepted and implemented in the organization.

Organizational Strategy Framework link

The framework helps you by being a type of checklist to review how you need to engage, involve, inform and consider various internal aspects in terms of your strategy to ensure that every aspect reinforces and helps you move towards implementation of your strategy. There is a question or questions behind each of these areas that you should answer in order to know what to do, change or put in place in order to achieve alignment with the strategy.

The areas to ensure alignment are:

  1. Company values and culture
  2. Leadership (behavior and mindset)
  3. Workforce capability
  4. Organization structure
  5. Organization processes
  6. Systems (Automation)
  7. Performance Management and Metrics

The sequence would always be to first select a strategy you would like to pursue with the organization and then use this resource to plan the implementation portion of the activity.

Setting strategies is often an iterative process as changes from inside or outside of companies require an adjustment in approach. Remember to check the impact of further changes on the same checklist (see above) to ensure you maintain the strategy alignment.

 

 

 

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.

Ice Breaker for international teams


all hands2

In our globalized world it is very common for employees to have regular contact with people from other cultures and at other international locations. When you are executing projects on a global scale it increases the importance of ensuring that communication and collaboration go as smoothly as possible in order to meet your project objectives. You may be surprised to learn that even seemingly basic project concepts could have different interpretations across cultures and sub-cultures. This exercise that I am sharing with you focuses on intercultural aspects of international teams and can help by clarifying assumptions and expectations at an early stage of your project.

The ice breaker for international teams resource link.

The ice breaker  can be a good item to include in a project kick-off meeting or when you are adding a few more people from a different office/location. This exercise also works well when you have team members who are from the same country, but participating from a different office. (It is not uncommon for offices/locations to have slightly different approaches). When I think of cultures I also include sub-cultures such as between different regions in the same country or different functional groups in the same company. (This link can provide context if you want to look at cultures more closely.)

The resource/ice breaker that I share lists several project-related scenarios which can be used to explore differences in approaches and mindsets within your project team. You may also choose to use the topic as an on-going exploration within your team where you could select one of the topics at each of your meetings instead of trying to cover all of them during a team-building event.

Early exploration of different mindsets and assumptions among team members can be a valuable foundation to ensure smoother relationships and better collaboration on your project.  Feel free to suggest additional important scenarios to consider for discussion after you have reviewed the attachment I shared in this post.