Influencing Skills: Plan Your Communications – Part 1 of 4

By Carolyn Crawford

Good morning one and all, I hope you’ve had a fabulous Christmas and New Year and are feeling rested, relaxed and excited about the year ahead.

A client recently asked for four monthly reminder emails, following their ‘Simply Influencing’ workshop, to help reinforce their new tools and skills.  It struck me as such a good idea, I figured I’d share these simple reminders here!

So you know what to expect, the four parts will focus on the following:

Part 1 – an overview of the entire process

Part 2 – a detailed breakdown of the Communications Planning Process

Part 3 – an overview of the NBI thinking quadrants

Part 4 – an exploration of how we can adjust our communication for people with different thinking preferences to our own.
So this first part outlines the 7 steps to communications planning.  The following 3 will elaborate on each.


Step 1 – Identify the goal of your meeting – be clear about the outcome you’d like to achieve in this meeting.  Not the longer term outcome you’re shooting for over a 6 month period with this stakeholder, but the shorter-term, first step goal for this immediate meeting.


Step 2 – Do your audience research – consider the world from their point of view.  What are their targets, visions, challenges and concerns? What does a typical day look like for them? What keeps them awake at night?  Ask them directly in advance via email or phone, or speak to a mutual colleague.


Step 3 – Plan your questions (Asking) – a question has more influencing power than a statement.  It elicits information, it builds rapport, it opens up the conversation, you get to demonstrate your interest, and it triggers the law of reciprocity whereby someone who’s been listened to, is more inclined to listen in return. 


Step 4 – Consider your listening (Appreciating) – don’t just listen for the words and the content.  Listen and watch for the feelings too.  Look for any incongruence in the spoken word and the body language.  Listen for the inflections that imply interest, excitement, doubt or concern.  Pick up and run with those observations.  “You seem excited!” “Do I detect some concern?”  Probe further. Listen and understand more than the next person.  He who listens best wins.


Step 5 – Prepare your Advocacy – Just because you speak well doesn’t mean you advocate well.  Plan it.  Organise it.  Structure it.  And speak in their language using examples that are relevant to them.  This doesn’t mean scripting it.  It means having a basic outline and then being fluent and flexible on the day.


Step 6 – Spot the clues to help identify the thinking preferences of your stakeholder – look at their office environment; listen to what they speak about and how they speak about it; check out the way they dress; notice how they take notes; are they making small talk early in the meeting?; are they expressive with their opinions or more withheld?  Good cluespotting will give you powerful information about how they like to be communicated with and what outcomes and criteria are most important to them.


Step 7 – Tailor your Asking (questions), Appreciating (listening), Advocacy and body language for people with different thinking preferences to your own.  Once you have a sense of your stakeholders’ first and second thinking preferences, you can tailor your content and delivery to be more palatable and appealing for them.  This is not a matter of selling your soul or becoming someone else.  It’s a function of drawing on those quadrants that are still a part of your own thinking structure, though they may not be your first preference or two, and delivering from those quadrant gently and subtly for the length of the meeting. 


More on steps 1-5 in the next blog.  More on steps 6 & 7 in the third and fourth blogs to come.

All best and happy influencing.

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