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!

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Preparing Managers to participate in a Staff Reduction process


 

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It is a critical activity to perform correctly: staff reduction, mass employee lay-offs or a reduction in force. This is the situation where employees are laid off based on a declining workload or business instead of for non-performance reasons etc. Not executing this activity correctly can expose the company to many liabilities and potentially law suits. There are several steps to take in this process and in most countries there are specific requirements which may include employee and/or union consultation and involvement and some steps could also be subject to approvals by governmental organizations. In many countries there are very specific justifications that a company has to be able to provide to show that the process of selecting who to lay off was fair and equitable and that no discrimination took place.

When your staff reduction process calls for a manager or supervisor to conduct the employee notification meeting, this set of slides may be helpful as you seek to orient them to the principles involved, the process to follow and also to raise awareness of the human impact of such a lay-off process. Without proper preparation of the managers/supervisors before the notification meetings they are very likely to make incorrect statements or to forget to make important statements or they may act in ways that could be interpreted as discriminatory. The resource that I share will help you minimize that risk as you first orient managers/supervisors in a group and then have each manager/supervisor work with his/her HR Representative to practice how to conduct the notification meeting correctly during the staff reduction process.

Orientation for Managers to conduct Employee Notification meetings link.

Remember:

  • It is not only the impacted employees who are going to have an emotional reaction to the staff reduction, employees intended to remain at the company may be losing valued friendly connections with peers – even friendships. Be sure to reassure those whom you intend to stay with the company to stop them from looking around for other jobs during the uncertainty that is created in the workforce when a reduction in staff is planned or in progress.
  • It is very important to plan the notification meetings to take place very fast. The shorter the time of uncertainty and people waiting to be called in for a meeting, the better your chances of restoring the morale of the remaining employees and avoid retention risks.
  • During times like these is when your company’s values should drive decision-making and how you talk to employees. Your branding messages can claim honorable conduct and make promises of fair treatment, but it is during staff reductions that you get to prove that you meant it. Employees will remember how you conducted the staff reduction more than they will remember what is written on your posters about company values.
  • (HR/Office Manager) Remember also to check in with the managers and supervisors who conducted the notification meetings. It is tough to tell a number of people that their jobs will go away and watch them have emotional reactions to that.

The staff reduction process is tough on everyone and it is vital that you plan it and conduct it exactly according to the rules and laws of the country where the people are employed. Internally you also need to make sure your planning includes an orientation process for those managers and supervisors who have a role in the notification meetings. And most importantly, check in with those who will remain after the notification meetings are complete to ensure that your business activities can resume soon after.

 

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.

How to set priorities in an action plan


After a survey, a brainstorming session or a discussion it is often true that you end up with a long list of actions that should be put into an action plan. With many actions, a small number of people available to execute on those actions while also doing their normal day jobs and possibly low funds available for some of the actions this could seem overwhelming.  At such a time it becomes really important that you are somehow able to prioritize the list of actions to focus your limited resources and funds on the most important actions. But which ones are more important than the others?

The Priority Setting resource I am sharing with you contains a section where you can enter all of the actions you have in the text column – simply replace the example statements I have there with your own actions. The next column is called Ease of Implementation. Consider how many people you would need to dedicate to an implementation, how long will it take? How much do you need to spend/invest in order to implement this action? If it will take a lot of people working intensively and it may cost a lot to invest – for example in buying expensive licences to a software package/system – then you should score that action closer to a 1 for this column. The harder it is to implement the lower the score should be. Your scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

Priority Setting resource link.

The next column is called Impact Potential. This column requires a score for each action item in terms of how much will it improve your business or move you closer to achieving your strategies and business goals if you had this action completed? If the impact will be low then your score should be closer to 1. Low would mean that employees and customers would barely notice the difference after implementation. It could also mean you would not gain much strategic advantage, market share improvements, long-term positioning, synergies, major cost savings or any other business impact that would be noticeable. The scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

The graph with dots will be generated automatically on the electronic worksheet after you have put in your actions and the scores as indicated. The numbers appearing next to the dots are the numbers that correlate with your list of actions. Use the graphic below that to interpret your score results and understand which actions you should prioritize over overs.

prioritising actions legend

If your dots appear in one of the yellow sections, you have some questions to ponder. If you can solve the question in each case you may be able to move that particular action into a different “zone” by changing the score. This means you are able to for example make it easier to implement by solving an issue which made it particularly difficult to implement. Or it could mean you realize the business impact is bigger than you previously realized because the company could gain a competitive edge if you implemented that particular action.  Your final action plan for immediate focus areas should contain those actions which finally end up in the green zone on the legend.

Be sure to communicate the reasoning behind your high priority actions to the key stakeholders in the outcomes of the action plan. They may have additional insights to share which could further cause you to change the scoring of actions.

You can use the Action Plan posted here to capture the actions that you will implement, monitor status of and report on regularly.

Analyse your use of time Template


Gandalf “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ( J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

How you choose to spend your time is a good indicator of the activities and people who are most important to you in your life. It shows your priorities clearly. How well do your daily activities reflect your priorities?

Personal Development. It is possible that you have considered taking an evening class to improve on your education or skills levels, but you are not sure how you will find time for attending that class given your busy life.  Taking a closer look at how you spend the time that you do have may help you see opportunities for changing your weekly or daily schedule in order to make time to address your own development needs.

Leaders and managers have many priorities to manage and often feel there not enough hours in every day to accomplish the business objectives they have set for themselves and their teams. Taking a close look at how you spend every day and every week my yield some interesting insights. You may discover areas where you could refocus yourself or delegate activities to free up more time to maximize your own productivity in more important areas.

Performance feedback could be indicating that your supervisor/manager feels you are not using your time at the office in a productive way. This template can also help you discover where he or she may be right and whether you are actually using your time optimally to achieve the performance goals that you and your boss have agreed upon.

The tool I am sharing helps you to take stock of what you are doing with all of the time that you have available to you. I once discovered that 30% of my time was at my own discretion and I created a mantra for myself “make the 30% count.” Whenever I caught myself involved in an activity which I had labeled as of low value to me given my own goals and values, I would just remind myself of the mantra and shift my focus to a higher value activity.

Analyze your use of time template

Should you need more development in how to be more effective at work, I suggest you look for a class on time management tools. These classes typically focus on how to get better at email management, how to better plan your day to do the right type of activities at the right time of the day (energy management) and also how to get better at keeping track of your highest priorities and making sure that you are working on the right items at various check-in moments with yourself during the day.

I hope your efforts to take a closer look at how you spend your time has given you the awareness of how much time you have available to spend at your own discretion. Are you using your time wisely? Are you doing things that will get you closer to the goals you have for your life?

I found one has to repeat these quick checks on a regular basis – maybe every 6 months – to make sure you are still on the path you had set for yourself when it comes to being in charge of the time you have.

Planning Effective Meetings Template


meetin

One of the most frustrating elements of many managers’ calendars are meetings. If you ask people they typically feel there are too many people present, the meetings take too long, some individuals talk too much, many people are off-topic and unprepared plus there are no or few decisions made which leads to a general feeling that there is no clear agreed path forward. This tool I am sharing helps a chairperson to prepare for a meeting and communicate the specific objectives of the meeting and also for every agenda item.

Some of the meeting maladies mentioned above can be cured simply by creating and distributing an agenda before having a meeting. This tool goes further though – it also helps to create clarity around each agenda item’s purpose in informing participants or driving specific decisions to move a project or initiatives forward.

Planning Effective Meetings Template

The tool already contains an example to illustrate its use. Just replace the agenda items shown with your own meeting agenda items and then complete each column as demonstrated to clarify the person responsible for the agenda item, the purpose of each item, the allocated time and the expected outcome for each of the agenda items.  Do share the objectives, time available and expected outcomes with those who are assigned to each agenda item – it helps him or her be prepared to guide the conversation and discussion accordingly.

Even with an agenda and a well-planned meeting there may be times when things need to change as it becomes clear that an issue requires to be solved right-away.  Give yourself the leeway to abandon the agenda for a particular meeting to deal with such an important issue or set another meeting right after the planned meeting to address the issue. To continue with a planned meeting simply because it was planned makes no sense if everyone in the room knows that an important issue is not being addressed and there is no plan to address it urgently. Their minds would be on the other issue and you would most likely not have the level of participation you need to successfully go through your planned meeting.

Some successful chairpersons make use of meeting “agreements” or “ground rules” to further improve the quality of the meeting. Some have items such as “each speaker gets a maximum of 1 minute to make his or her point” and “we debate issues and we respect the opinions of others.”

To know if your meetings are getting better – get feedback from your meeting participants. Take a few minutes at the end of the meeting to ask what went well and what could be better in future – exactly how. Reviewing the feedback when you plan the next meeting can help you to be mindful of further improvements that can be included going forward.

I hope this tool helps you plan your next meeting and move closer to having productive meetings which helps you progress your project or initiative as you had hoped.

Employee Feedback Planning Template


feedback

Giving and receiving feedback especially around undesired behavior can be a daunting task. Not only is it typically hard for employees to hear corrective feedback, but it is also typically hard for managers and supervisors to give that kind of feedback. It nevertheless remains an important part of ensuring that performance expectations are set and met.

This template helps a manager or supervisor think through the important aspects of giving feedback to an employee and helps to plan the actual feedback meeting.

Employee Feedback Planning Template

The template and approach also helps plan positive feedback to employees. This aspect is often neglected, but equally valuable in helping employees understand what specific actions and communications are valued and should be continued.

Some reminders:

  • Never give important feedback via an email or sending this worksheet to the employee. It should always be done in person or at least by phone or skype – if you have remote team members.
  • The feedback should be given as soon as possible after the event to minimize surprises at the annual performance feedback meetings and to ensure the employee still has a good recollection of the situation or event that took place.
  • Do allow the employee to respond once you have shared the feedback to ensure that your message is understood and that you get an opportunity to understand any nuances which you may not have been aware of.
  • It is always a good idea to agree on a check-in moment at some time in the future. This is an opportunity to see if the employee may have further questions or comments at that time or perhaps he or she worked on improving a particular skill and may have some successes to share.