Give Your Message Context

Have you ever left a meeting where you discussed a new strategy or restructuring issue and thought, “That was nice, but where do I fit in?” It happens often and demonstrates why a leader’s communication can miss its mark. The problem is that the communicator is focusing on what management wants and not on what the audience needs. If individuals do not have their questions answered, they have little reason to take goal-oriented action. As a leader, the first thing you should do is create a context for your message. Start by giving people a reason to listen and make sure they identify with it. Everyone should understand why it is important for them and what they will get out of it. Once you have engaged their personal interest, move on to the intellectual reason or business rationale for what you have to say. Many leaders make the mistake of starting with the rationale, launching into details about market changes and the need to increase revenue. This will not win over an audience. Next go on to the “how” part, detailing the process and action points that the team must now implement. Finally, cover the expected outcome, showing what the future holds and how the team assesses its rate of progress. By focusing on the “why”, “what”, “how”, and the “outcome”, and by explaining their relevance, you will establish a personal connection with the audience. Any talk at the water cooler or in the lift will be about what you said rather than about what you did not...
Choosing the Right Coaching Style

Choosing the Right Coaching Style

Last week we wrote about understanding the individual’s skill and will, as well as preparing to adapt your coaching approach to the situation. This week we will cover each of the four basic coaching styles in greater detail. Directing This works best when the person being coached has a low level of motivation and comparatively little drive. They may have little real interest in their job or for taking on more responsibility. In such cases, the best coaching method is a command-and-control approach. Tell the person what to do and when. This way you can ensure your recommendations are acted upon in a timely manner. However, be careful not to appear domineering when using this approach because it can make people feel unappreciated and frustrated. Therefore, getting results requires a degree of sensitivity and showing the right amount of empathy when interacting or giving instructions. Guiding It is best to use this style when coaching people who have a desire or passion to succeed, but who do not necessarily have the skills. A typical case would be someone who has recently been promoted. Avoid giving direct advice about what to do, but focus instead on asking questions. The aim is to involve the other person as much as possible and get them to come up with the answers. Typically, you might ask something like “What else could you try?” Make it clear that you are ready to advise, if needed, but do not forget that people develop self-confidence and new skills more quickly when they realise they can find their own answers. Exciting When individuals have the skills but...

Understanding the Coachee

It’s not difficult to make the case for coaching your team. Successful coaching increases motivation and helps team members to do their jobs more efficiently. This frees the manager from having to supervise closely, correct repeated mistakes, or keep explaining to staff what has to be done and why, allowing more time to focus on strategic issues. A key factor in successful coaching is how well the approach is personalised to the coachee. Before going into a coaching situation you should be clear about two things: the individual’s skill and their will. Identifying Skill and Will A person’s skills relate to the experience of doing a specific type of job, as well as the technical competencies and soft skills needed to perform effectively. For instance, a manager’s skills in the finance department would include the ability to use accounting software. For a salesman, it would cover knowledge of the price parameters and of all the key product and service features. Another way of looking at people’s skills is to see how well they understand the bigger picture. For example, staff might be new to a job but they still have the ability to get ahead, perhaps because of their background or because they know where to seek advice. You often see this situation when an experienced salesman changes jobs. The individual may not know all the product details or internal reporting procedures but will be well-versed in building rapport with customers in discovering their needs. Therefore, their skill level can be considered high. The other determining factor – the person’s will – depends on his or her motivation and...

Influencing Through Writing

In the today’s business world, teams are often spread around the world. An inevitable result is that more and more information sharing, collaboration, and influencing for buy-in happens through the written word. When delivering effective emails and business documents, it helps to remember the following simple tips, which help ensure that written communications are direct and efficient. Tip 1: Key Information Up Front When reading a murder mystery novel, we appreciate the steadily building drama and suspense that lead to the final revelation of the culprit. The basic structure of business writing is different. Readers have neither the time nor patience to wait until the final page or paragraph to learn about your conclusions. Do not make the mistake of leading them logically through all points and arguments before stating your recommendation. The detailed background information is probably of limited interest to the reader. Therefore, the usual structure for any report is to start with a short summary and the key results, then to tell the story. Tip 2: Know Your Audience Before writing any business plan, memo, proposal, or email, spend time thinking about your likely audience. Consider what they already know, the information needed, and give thought to their expectations. Try to figure out how they will respond to your message. If you believe the reaction might be neutral or negative, then think again if your aim was for the positive. Tip 3: Cut Out the Jargon Have you ever received a memo from someone stating that in their previous job a new colleague had “developed mission-critical cross-platform communications products for multinational corporations” (or something similar)? This...