- What you want to do.
- Why you want to do it.
- How you will get it done.
In my job as a consultant, and in my previous jobs in management, I often found people struggled to control the narrative of their own projects. They knew what they wanted. They knew their vision, but getting that vision out into the minds of others was just not something they could easily do. They expected others to just jump on board. They allowed every little question to frustrate and derail the conversations about their vision. They had a great idea and then failed their own idea through ego or being ill prepped for the conversations coming.
I take notes about everything I do in the creation and planning of a project. I have found that by organizing those ideas/notes into easily shared chunks I can frame what I want to say easier in my mind, and more importantly out of my mouth. So how do I do this? How do I prepare to shape the narrative that shares my vision?
It is important to remember that everyone will not always agree with us, but what we want is to be able to have informative discussions on the three main types of questions that we will face (what, why, how). We are a part of teams, and we will have discussions with our teams. The more informative we are in those kinds of discussions the more we will find that others trust our judgment and our vision. Other people will double check our work and ask questions. This is a good thing. It means they are engaging with what we are doing.
Together all of us are creating a narrative. Our job is to shape that narrative. Learn how to highlight and shadow during conversations to help keep the flow of the narrative in the direction you want. You want to learn to listen to the questions asked and make sure you are actually answering what others are asking and not what you think they are asking. You want to learn the many ways to shape that narrative to keep it pointed as you would like. To prepare for informative conversations it is good to have ready answers to the three questions that are used to shape your narrative.
What: The question of what is used to elucidate, well, exactly what we want to happen. This is our goal. It is our end result. It is the step or steps we wish to take. There will be times when our what and the what’s of other people conflict. In these times or when we need to get others to buy into our vision, we use why…
Why: When we say what we want to do, we should be ready with our why we think it should be done. Why we think something is not working or why we think it could be improved. Why is the discussion of the analysis? In the casino industry, the discussions about the coin in/win per unit/personal casino experience are all useful tools to explain why we want to modify machines. But each industry has its own whys. Finding the whys that are most impactful to those around us will help us to convince others of our vision.
If someone makes an assertion at odds with ours or if they merely have a question that puts our plans in a bad light we must consider what they are asking/saying. It should go into our notes. To move past it we must answer their why questions. To answer their why question we will need to check to see if their assertion is accurate and if so what other factors might override it. We will need to speak in their language if we want to modify what they think and get buy-in for our vision. We need to use the tools they understand. Nothing we create is in a vacuum, and having the why’s answered beforehand makes it easier for others to see the values that we are using to get us where we want to go. But once everyone is bought in, they will need to know how…
How: As we move into the project phase the how questions will become very important. We need to be ready for that. What and why are all talk. How is the step before and during the action. It is the nitty-gritty of making our what into a reality. It is not enough to tell someone there is a problem, we must help find those problems and then assist in fixing them. How is here so can learn how to map and achieve our goals. How is always just a rough draft until the project is done. Any moment can lead to a need to pivot and change. But here at the meeting, in discussion, you make a simple note of that and then push through to the plan on how to actually accomplish the goal. Make it clear, make it concise, and make sure you have both the big picture summary and the details ready.
These are three basic questions one must use to prep to ensure you are controlling your narrative in projects. I will flesh each of them out in later posts with more detail. But this is the summary to help get you on target.
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