You’ve done it. You’ve scored the big meeting you need to push your project through – the key stakeholder, executive, customer conversation… and you know with their approval, your project is going to change the world – or at least your piece of it.
We recently talked with a senior leader in a development group that was complaining about a meeting with her company’s CFO. She was surprised at the CFO’s reaction to their plan as he asked them a lot of questions about the costs of the program and the amount of time this would take away from their focus on work. Our client was astounded and upset at his reaction. How could the CFO be so clueless about the importance of her project?
Preparing for every meeting and presentation often doesn’t take place. Like this leader, we assume things about our audience and adopt the “I’ve done this a million times before”, or worse “They LOVE me” approach. It’s helpful to remember the four elements of the communication model: you, the speaker, your message, your audience and the plan for putting it all together.
You, as the speaker, are a critical part of the process. Asking yourself the following questions helps you focus on your intention: What do you want out of the meeting? How do you create the environment to achieve that goal? What makes you the right person to be making this presentation? What’s at stake – for you, for the project and for the organization?
Next, focus on your audience for THIS conversation. Consider what they know about the subject of your meeting or presentation. What do they need or want to know about the topic? What do they know about you? How have you investigated their position on your meeting topic to prevent any surprises? In this example, a CFO is going to want to understand the costs and risks of anything… so have those numbers ready! And for other conversations, reassess these questions for each stakeholder.
You then must craft your message to be heard by your audience. Make sure that your message is memorable, succinct and that you are clear about what you want your audience to do. What action do you want them to take, like approving your course of action? Even just making them aware of a particular plan you can ask for their support with others – status alone is usually not worth their or your time.
Once you consider yourself, your audience, and your message, you craft a plan for your communication that will help get you the results you want. Write it down – think about the opening, the key questions you want to ask, and what you are going to ask this person to do for you.
As we talked about these elements, our leader realized that she and her colleagues had forgotten these basic communication tenets….they were the right people, they knew what he would want, they could have crafted a message, and with a plan, they would have gotten what they wanted. If this becomes your practice in every conversation, you will be sought out by everyone not just for your PM skills but also for your outstanding communications.
Mark House is an executive coach and leadership development professional with a proven record working at senior levels of Financial Services (Fannie, Freddie), internet and mobile/cell based systems (VeriSign), and product organizations such as IBM and MERANT.
Maureen Q. Blackwell is an executive coach, instructor, facilitator and organization development consultant with over twenty-five years of leadership, coaching and management experience. She has executive coaching experience in public, private and non-profit organizations. During her IBM career (1980-2006), Maureen held leadership positions in training, consulting, marketing, manufacturing business development, financial and product planning.
Maureen and Mark are both adjunct faculty members in the Innovation MBA Program at James Madison University, as well as executive coaches for the MBA Programs at UVA’s Darden School of Business. Both are certified coaches with the International Coach Federation, and active in the mid- Atlantic region.
empoweringLEADERS leverages coaching and executive experience to help individuals and teams to develop and leverage outstanding leadership skills to drive business results.