Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 12: setting goals and priorities, and avoiding understating or overstating

This is my twelfth installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342 and following for Parts 1-11.)

I began this series on the issues of knowing your goals and priorities and on presenting them without distracting clutter, while adding in necessary supportive detail (see Part 1: bringing what you seek to say into clearer focus.) I return to that set of issues again here with this posting, but from a somewhat different direction. My goal for this series installment is to discuss best practices for presenting your ideas in ways that would at the very least improve your chances that others would support them, and to increase your chances that they will even actively adapt them as their own too.

• This is important for people in explicit positions of leadership, that they bring others to want to follow their lead.
• This is important for people who find themselves in a position where they need to more effectively present their ideas to others who have greater direct decision making and leadership authority.
• This is important when seeking to build support and consensus when working with peers. That can mean influencing others or at times it can even mean leading from within the group, at least on one set of issues but without any explicit title or position for that – just on the basis of the strengths of your ideas and on in how you present them.

As such, the issues that I address here can be considered one of the core topics of discussion that this series has been leading up to. And I begin with the fundamentals.

• If you want to convince others to agree with and follow your lead and your thinking on some set of issues of importance to you, present them with a positive path forward and with a positively stated solution to any problems that you address. Do not simply try steering people who you seek to influence, away from an approach or a putative solution that you find faulty and without providing them with any positively stated alternatives.
• If you just present a negative and argue against an approach or resolution under active consideration, you face the possibility of leaving them with a choice that you would not agree with or with no alternative to it at all.
• Positively stated, well-argued and presented options offer a specific path forward. Most people find it a lot easier to accept that, than to accept ongoing or even increased uncertainty.

This is important, and whether you are formally leading others, or simply presenting what you see as a best path forward, and leading through the force of your experience and skills but without a leadership title or position.

• Keep it simple: what you say and how you say it, or in how you put your ideas in writing.
• Selectively present the facts and supporting details, and without overwhelming your audience or turning away those whom you seek to positively influence.
• Don’t make this about yourself – make it about the ideas or approach that you would espouse.
• Let the people you are presenting this to ask for further details if they need them and just make it clear that you are willing and able to provide supporting details or background information and insight if it is wanted.
• Make yourself the expert here and present yourself as such, but as an expert who listens and who seeks to find the best solution to the issues at hand that will work for all concerned.
• Listen and directly address any arguments or points of disagreement that are raised. Never couch an argument against a colleague’s ideas in personal terms – regardless of what you think of their ideas or of them for that matter. Always be respectful and really listen; even someone who you think is usually wrong, can surprise you with a great idea too – allow for that possibility.

What I have just stated in that bullet pointed list can be summarized as “take on the role of a problem solving consultant here, and present your ideas as if you were a consultant brought in to help resolve a problem that a client faces – and with a resolution to that problem that would work for this client.

• And deliver good news without hype,
• And bad news without excuses,
• And both without coming across as being self-serving.
• Allow others to take up your ideas and make them their own too. Allow and encourage others to develop the buy-in on what you have to say that comes from contributing to it too.
• These points all mean not making what you have to say, or the points that you would promote all about your own ego.
• I am not writing here about taking or not taking credit for your work or for your creativity or insight. Take credit for what you do, and take responsibility for it too. But make what you do count by presenting it in ways that can be accepted and implemented by others too.

I have in fact said a lot in this posting, and have said it on the basis of seeing this approach followed with its consequences, and not followed and with the consequences of that too. I am going to follow this posting with another series installment where I will discuss spontaneity and calculated planning, and on applying them both in ongoing communications processes. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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