Developing a ‘plan-do’ attitude

Matt Guarente, Partner at Bladonmore, welcomes a bit of old-fashioned preparation.

Good communications coaching is based on a simple idea: prepare well, then deliver what you prepared. Unfortunately, if the notion is simple, the execution is not.

How do you prep effectively? There are two common issues for many senior executives that we work with – first up, they are incredibly busy; and yet, when they communicate with important audiences, the stakes are often very high. The latter makes preparation key, yet the lack of time available makes it challenging.

Find a system

In such a situation, you need a system. Our ‘IMEAN’ process gives executives the tools they need for preparation – but preparation at pace.

Here’s how it works. It fixes clearly what you want to get done – your Intent. When you know your Intent (win a client, raise money, launch a product, communicate strategy) then you can more easily select the Messages you need to get it done.

Messages on their own – such as ‘We are customer-centric’ – are the things that we would like people to believe. What will make them more believable is great Evidence – and we spend a lot of time on this in our sessions. It’s more than numbers and facts. It’s solid foundations and back-up.

Of course, you may well need to adapt how you express this story to different Audiences. Regulators or colleagues? Investors or customers? Our advice is to make the story consistent across audiences – nothing is ringfenced in this digital world – but find the right way of expressing it and tailoring it, considering who is listening.

Finally, think about any Negatives or challenges to your story long before you get in the room or on the phone. We tell people to work out the likely issues – and then give them processes to be authentic and nimble around the ones that come from leftfield.

One other key tip about being prepped and ready – and it’s more of a delivery issue. Actors will tell you to start when you have your breath, and when you have your moment. Only start talking when you have both. You’ve prepared what you’re going to say; prepare to deliver it, too.

Check your facts

Now consider this – three famous quotes about preparation:

“If I have five hours to chop down a tree, the first two hours I will spend sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

“The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” – Thomas Jefferson

“This letter is longer than I would have liked; I did not have time, or leisure, to make it shorter.” – Blaise Pascal

Unfortunately, lovely quotes that they are, only one of the above is accurately attributable to the author that everyone thinks shared the thought. (It’s the admirable summing-up of the difficulty of being concise, delivered by French polymath, Blaise Pascal). Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson may have at some time spoken the words attributed to them: but there is seemingly no record to corroborate it.

Certainly, we would all prefer to have luminaries of wisdom as the sources for words that guide us. But it highlights another reason why preparation is crucial. Check your facts – or, if you’re too busy, get someone you absolutely trust to check your facts. Ignore it at your peril as you will open yourself up to lots of tricky moments.

Our mantra at Bladonmore is, and remains, simple: Your story, well told. Perhaps Abe Lincoln even said it, once.

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