Today we’re sharing insights about the benefits of preparing tangible takeaways before heading into an exchange with a team member (or a colleague for that matter). We’ve recently come across several situations where we’ve helped leaders prepare for a variety of responses heading into a conversation. Invariably we’ve found that presenting visual materials or specific evidence to back up points or demonstrate intent has successfully influenced outcomes. Here’s how. You can listen to the podcast episode here or continue reading below.
Particularly during difficult conversations, being vague and unspecific is not the best way to make your point. What does help in these situations, is delivering physical materials or referencing actual facts to show you’ve thought things through and the matter is important to you. This readiness demonstrates a level of competency and professionalism that verbal feedback alone doesn’t always show. Whether it’s a draft outline of an idea, follow-up notes or a record of times, places and dates, furnishing the other party with something concrete moves the conversation forward and sets a path for them to follow.
Conversations don’t always go to plan, but it’s always important to have a plan. Recently, we heard from a manager who’d previously gone into tricky exchanges with only a few minutes prep work. After some coaching, she learned that a planned approach was much more effective at bringing her the result she was going for.
Previously, when she spoke to someone about a behaviour that had been reported to her, she had no details to hand when faced with questions about the where and when. She was vague in her responses and consequently, the conversation – and with it her point and influence – lost all impact.
The next time the manager broached the subject, she was armed with specifics. She’d checked with several third parties and knew where and when the behaviour had occurred. Presenting the details brought a level of gravitas to the situation and with the examples presented clearly, the other person was compelled to reflect on them. Prepared with tangible details, the manager’s influence was far more effective. Monitoring was set-up and she was able to achieve her desired outcome.
In another instance, a people leader and their manager were discussing why, despite coming up with such great ideas during one-on-ones, there was nothing tangible coming from them in terms of reports or outcomes. The people leader explained there had been many reasons why they hadn’t been able to follow through. But here they missed a valuable opportunity. Despite time restraints and ad hoc requests, a simple short follow-up summary would have demonstrated understanding and intent. Instead, the manager was left with nothing but excuses.
In a final example, one of our clients in a support function was struggling to deal with a request for materials. The problem being, the request was from someone without a clear idea of the outcome they wanted to achieve. This made the request impossible to implement. We suggested the support person give them an example of how other colleagues had supplied an outline structure, so they could walk through the process. Again, having a tangible example to hand is a valuable tool in bringing about the required result.
Preparing yourself with physical materials or fact-based evidence puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to communication. And it gives the other person something to ponder on. This ensures you have more than just fleeting conversations, more than just an exchange of words that get lost in the ether. It makes influencing the outcome much more effective.
What’s more, when we prepare and organise – for the day, for the meeting, for the conversation – we’re able to prioritise things in our work and our life. We can see what adds value or has meaning that’s valuable to us. This is one way of clarifying the multitude of conflicting priorities we all have in our lives. And it’s interesting to notice where in your life you’re organised. Dr John Demartini says, ‘Money flows to where it’s organised and appreciated’. We’ll borrow that saying and apply it to this context by saying, ‘Work will flow to where it’s organised and appreciated. People flow to where they’re organised and appreciated.’ So have a think about that and how being mindful about appreciation and organisation can help you in your personal and professional life.
Leaders - Specific evidence to back up points will successfully influence outcomes.