Archive for April, 2013

3 things to ask before you begin typing

You’re sitting at your computer (or on the couch with your iPad), ready to start work on a long overdue memo, upcoming speech, or new Facebook post. You’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want to say, and start to type the first letter …

Like the song says, Stop right there

Before you begin, ask yourself the following questions. Your end product will be better for the extra 2 – 3 minute you take to ponder:

Who is your audience?
What do they already know — and need to know? Is the topic important to them? Are they friendly, hostile, or neutral?  In an earlier blog I stressed the importance of speaking to your audience, not at them. While you may be passionate about the topic, it’s wise to consider potential disinterest, perhaps resistance. Let’s say, for example, you have an update of a new, unpopular policy. Remember to show empathy for staff, acknowledging that the change may be difficult.

What is the best vehicle to reach your audience?
Too often we put the cart before the horse and choose a vehicle before deciding on the message or defining the audience. Before settling on a vehicle, look at your options — email, video, team meetings, posters, face-to-face conversations, etc. — and then decide which will be the most effective, given your audience and the message. Remember, the best option is often a combination of vehicles.

What are your key messages?
Your message should be clear, concise, and obvious. Too often, important messages are buried in the fourth paragraph (or closing remarks), and skimmed past by busy or distracted readers. I generally advise people to make their most important points upfront, then support or build on them. Think back to the terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon. Nearly every communication started the same way: Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Simple, direct, and clear. Details and background followed.

Your turn. What do you think about before beginining a communication?


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Keys to success? Start with relationship building

I was cleaning out some folders and ran across notes from a discussion about success with a director at a former employer.  I’ve always been intrigued by what makes a person successful, and found her thoughts enlightening.

Relationships come first
My director stressed the importance of building relationships, particularly important at that organization, L.L.Bean. First, because it’s the right thing to do — we’re all people, after all — but it also helps you in your job:

  • On a practical level, a good relationship helps builds your personal and professional credibility. That should enhance the credibility of your perspective and help influence the outcome.
  • Good relationships with co-workers make the work more enjoyably and productive.

Take people at face value
Yeah, you’ll run across people with questionable scruples, but start by assuming the best. With that as a foundation, build trust, and remember that everyone sees the world differently. Perhaps her most salient point: be open to disagreement with your point of view, and resist the urge to automatically push back against other views.

Be a learner
In this ever-changing world, it’s crucial to stay abreast of new techniques, technologies, and information. Be a constant learner: read about best practices, take classes, or development sessions. This helps develop your potential, and may even change your world view.

Your turn. What advice have you been given?

Related blogs:
9 things L.L.Bean taught me

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