Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Presentations and Memory Boxes

Recently, I ran a ‘Presenting With Presence’ workshop with the senior NZ leaders of a pretty recognisable international brand. One person had a very common issue presenting: they wrote a script and tried to memorise it. One slip up and they were toast.

This is fraught with peril. If presentations are a stressor for you, on top of everything else, that stress is likely slow down or shut down your brain’s logic centre when you need it most.

For normal people who aren’t natural storytellers or who lack the time, I’ve been working on a hopefully happy medium between winging it and robotic rote.

With feint acknowledgment to the memory palace idea, we trialled ‘Memory Boxes’. My person last week put their 3 key points into 3 distinct boxes visualised in ways suggesting the content within. They knew their stuff so once they chose to open a box’, they spoke to what was inside. The boxes provide a logical flow and an aide memoir without the rigid impossibility of memorising. (Though I think I came up with this, even cursory research tells me this is a basic element in Maori culture, though with ketes not boxes). Turned out they were a great presenter and it showed once memory was removed as a potential problem.

It’s a bit more than I can cover in a post but if you’re interested in this for your people who need to present but who aren’t naturals, let me know.

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Writers Should Do The ‘Heavy-Lifting’ For their Readers

I know what the writer of the sign above meant when they thought the thoughts they ended up writing. But, it is now the shortest example I’ve found of how, in business-writing, uncertainty and ambiguity are the enemy.

(Hint: “empty” can be both a verb and an adjective.)

In the workshops I run on this topic, I use the term ‘heavy lifting’. We desire the readers of our writing to actually read it, understand it, and do it. The fewer obstacles in the way, the more likely our writing achieves our objectives.

Writers should do the heavy lifting for their readers. One of my 8 principles in my business-writing training is ‘uncertainty and ambiguity are the enemy’. How can we do this heavy lifting for our readers? Test it. Not all writing but if it matters, it matters, so get some fresh eyes on it.

Or, you’ll end up with something like an ice cream billboard I saw promoting a flavour that was “97% fat-free & gluten-free”.

#businesswriting #businesscommunication

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In my previous blog post, I teased this idea of ‘fist-to-five’ – a means by which to quickly assess the feelings of a group on a topic. It might be the extent to which people agree or understand or support or rate. If you’re a facilitator, change-agent or leader in a meeting or presentation and you’re at a crossroads or decision-point, it’s an option for you.

I introduced it the other day to a group of jewellery sales people. Before we got to any actual contentious decisions or feelings they had to express, I used as an illustrative example the topic of… chocolate cake. “On a scale of fist to five (five being 100% strongly in favour and fist being 0%), how do you feel about chocolate cake. 1, 2, 3, GO!”

Simultaneously, everyone expresses their opinion in an instant gesture. Whatever the topic, the leader can visually assess the general vibe of the room on the topic and decide to proceed more formally or to grind out more discussion if needed. The bulk of my group were 4 or 5 on chocolate cake with a couple of 3s and a single fist. If this was a more serious topic, I would commit to those folk to have an offline chat about their concerns. It’s not a voting system. It’s an accelerant. Isolated views should not end up becoming isolated people.

There have been the odd exception but I’ve found this a great way to get overt expression from introverts who otherwise might not have participated so publicly.

Let’s flashback to my last blog post where I was referring to using this technique in the context of a brainstorming session, where the group has captured a bunch of random ideas for possible projects and are wanting to rank and prioritise them efficiently and inclusively.

Pick a post-it note at random. Read it aloud to the group and place it on a wall so it’s visible to all. On the count of 3, everyone is to vote by simultaneously showing a number of fingers on one hand on a scale of zero to five. (Hence, fist-to-five). It is important that everyone does this simultaneously so people don’t hold back to observe others’ voting influencing their own vote. Assign someone to add the votes and average them out. Mark the post-it note with its score. Repeat for the remaining factors. Pause for discussion if there are widely opposed views for strong feelings. Readjust the post-its on the wall to create on the fly a rankings ladder with the highest scoring factors at the top, descending to the lowest at the bottom.

When completed, the two columns of post-it notes are your first draft of your force-field analysis. In sketching or designing your final draft, it’s more impactful if the size of the arrows is to scale of their relative scores. That is to say, the highest scoring arrows not only go on top but are also the biggest. This way, it’s not just a ranked list, it’s a weighted list. For example, there might be ten drivers but the top two far outweigh the others meaning the skinny arrows could be ignored and the effort you might’ve applied to them gets reassigned to the ones that truly matter.

Forcefield Analysis

Force-field analysis is a structured way of aggregating and collating investigations, discussions and brainstorming around proposed changes into a simple, easy to understand format that supports decision-making and communication, as well as making it simpler to retrospectively justify decisions.

Think about when a change is proposed. It might be a thought you have to yourself, a decision within your team , a project proposal at work, or even a large-scale change for society. There will many factors supporting the change and many working against it. Not all such factors are of equal weight or importance. Force-field analysis seeks to balance those opposing forces (called ‘drivers’ and ‘restraints’) and rank or prioritise them in descending order of significance. You can see in this graphic above the bare bones of how one might look in near-finished form.

But how do you get from a random mess of thought, notes and research into a simple one-page, colour-coded, histogram? This is particularly challenging when issues are subjective and not necessarily easily measured. I suggest using post-it notes and a group-voting technique called ‘fist-to-five’.

Assign one person to coordinate the assessing of the content you’ve created in your investigations and discussions. They produce an unordered list of the drivers and restraints. Transfer those onto post-it notes individually. (One factor per note). Use two distinctly different colours to distinguish the drivers from the restraints. Then get the group to vote, briefing the group on how ‘fist-to-five’ works if they are not yet familiar with it. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the subject of my next blog post…

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The PESTEL Grid: Prompting thinking about workplace culture

Your plans are more likely to achieve success if you’ve looked at your situation as broadly as possible. PESTEL analysis is about looking at these same issues from different perspectives as deeply as necessary.

PESTEL stands for politics, economics, society, technology, environment, and law. You can apply a PESTEL analysis within each grid of a SWOT analysis. So, you would seek to understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, each from the perspective of politics, economics, society, technology, the environment, and law.

Here’s a sample PESTEL grid with a few examples to illustrate.

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Being smart vs doing smart

This week, I worked with a couple of groups of highly qualified people and the discussion cropped up around mindset and how it can hold us back or propel us forward. AND, that, ultimately, it is a choice.

Smart is not like height, something we’re stuck with due to luck and genetics. For those of us trying to lead and influence others, this belief might be one of the most important to instill in them.

The WIIFM Grid

Kahneman and Tversky won prizes for their work around motivation. I like to strip such scholarly wisdom (which I highly recommend) down to nuts and bolts tools for practical application at the coalface of leadership.

I’ll sometimes use this WIIFM grid (What’s in it for me) as an actual fill-in-the-blanks worksheet but, more often, it’s just in my head as a coaching conversation prompt.

It’s one of my go-to tools, my WIIFM grid, combining both the push and the pull, and guiding people to work it out for themselves. This improves the odds that they will buy-in and stick with it. Whatever ‘it’ is…

Learning From Our Mistakes (& Successes)

Purposeful Reinvention

Getting In Our Own Way

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