Making an impact
We all want to make an impact. When we speak. When we interact with others. And when we do things. Why? Because making the right impact means that we can achieve our goals.
But how often do we think about the best way to make that impact? How to get our message across in the most effective way? How best to ensure the desired effect when doing something?
This is something that we have been focusing on quite a bit recently. It is of course a topic that’s been in the news recently. It’s also something that we’ve been working on increasingly with women in the workplace.
So what are some key things that can make a difference to the impact that you make? That can ensure you have the effect you would like?
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (Abraham Lincoln)
One of our favourite quotes. The point being, the more thought and preparation you put in beforehand around what impact you want to make, and how you can best make it, the better the outcome is likely to be. Say I have a management team meeting coming up, and there is a key outcome that I would like. I want to get approval for some budget to be released for a project that I want to roll out. The more preparation I can put in beforehand, the more likely I am to make the correct impact and get the right result. So I will consider what my message is, how best to deliver it, when during the meeting to deliver it, and how I will be backing it up.
Keep your points short. Attention span is not that long. Start with your headline, and then follow up with background information.
How many times have you sat in a meeting where someone has spent ages explaining the background, before actually coming up with their point? By which time most people have switched off. Which means the headline idea is unlikely to land, and stick.
This is something we cover in our high performing communication workshops. Research has shown that you get people’s full attention for such a short space of time (can you believe that it’s only around 7-10 seconds, before people’s brains start making connections and thinking of other things?) So use that time wisely.
Consider your audience
People often spend so much time thinking about the impact they want to make, and what they want to achieve, that they forget to consider the audience.
So imagine the situation above. You’ve worked hard to clarify what you want to say. You are going to headline. You have your back-up information. You are sorted. And yet you still get nowhere in the meeting. Your messages just do not hit home, and not just because you only got your slot at the end of the meeting, when everyone had had enough.
Considering things from other people’s point of view is absolutely key. This links in with behavioural theory, and specifically how you motivate people. Let’s say I want my Board to agree to a cost-cutting exercise throughout my area of the organisation. Imagine that I work for a hospital trust that runs five different hospitals, and we waste ridiculous amounts of money in a whole range of areas. One of the most stark examples is our purchasing of surgical gloves. Rather than buying them from one supplier, different departments, let alone the different hospitals buy them from different suppliers, at vastly differing prices. We have 25 different kinds of gloves that we purchase! I have been trying to get this message across to the board – I have all the facts and figures to hand, and to me it is an obvious priority – we are effectively burning money! But I just can’t seem to get through to the board. They don’t want to focus on it, and have other priorities (in their eyes) to deal with. This is driving me mad. Then one day I spend some time reading about behaviour change, and specifically the need to ‘find the feeling’ of my audience. This teaches me that I have to do something that motivates their emotional brain to care about this. So what do I decide to do? I collect up one pair each of the 25 different pairs, and tag each with the price paid. At the next board meeting, rather than presenting the board with facts and figures, I just slowly lay out the gloves, starting with the cheapest, and finish with a line of 25 pairs of gloves, all which look very similar, and all which do the same job. The mouths of the board gape open, I have grabbed their attention, and found their ‘feeling’…..
Sometimes it doesn’t happen straight away, and you have to find a way around, rather than hitting an issue straight on. As the fabulous Baroness Sue Campbell has said in the past: “I’ve learnt to say ‘ok the door is shut, I’ll see if I can get through the window.’ And if the window is shut I’ll dig a tunnel into the house, and if the tunnel’s not available I’ll burrow through the roof. In other words, there’s always a way round things.”
This links in with the concept of persistence, something which we talk about a lot in our high performing programmes. The thing about persistence is that it can be make or break. Too many people fail because they give up too easily. But we like to focus on a concept which we call ‘intelligent persistence.’ And this relates both to what you are being persistent about, as well as how you are going about it. Another of our favourite quotes is this, from Stephen Covey: “In the busyness of life it’s easy to work harder and harder, climbing the ladder of success, then arrive at the top only to realise that the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall.”
So when you’re looking to make that impact, persistence is key. But make sure that’s it’s the right thing to be persistent about.
For more information on any of these areas, or more information generally about how we can help, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org