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Creating Strategic Action in 4 Steps

This blog post has been written as support for homework for participants from my training on “Creating Influence”.

…but the exercise described below is an excellent approach to defining strategic action for any mission you may undertake.

 

First, let’s describe “strategic action”

How is strategic action different to normal action? It considers one’s current position in close relationship to the mission. In this way, strategic action is focussed on high level priority-driven steps that are more likely to get us to where we want to be.

Example: Suppose I want to complete an IronMan race. I might be inclined to imagine that swim-training is the best action to undertake. But if I first do a good strategic positioning exercise, I might realise that my priority is in fact to first develop my business offer in order to earn more more so that I can liberate more time for training. If I don’t do this, I will have to a) squeeze in training in an already busy schedule and b) end up paying divorce costs due to marital negligence 🙂

 

Ready to think strategic??

 

STEP 1: Start by defining your mission

There is no sense in doing a positioning exercise if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.

Example: If I ask you if I am strong, depending on what objective you imagine me working on, you may come up with completely different answers…

When defining your mission, be sure to use quality goals. Read my other blog post on PERSONAL goal-setting for some starter ideas..

 

STEP 2: …then assess your current position

One of my favourite tools for doing this remains the SWOT analysis. A good SWOT will give you ideas on recurring themes for improvement. Note: I said a GOOD SWOT !

 

Another tool I really like regarding personal influence is the network influence-grid proposed by Jo Owen in his book “How to Influence“. He suggests that for all the people in your network, you need to assess them in terms of whether or not you have a good relationship with them and whether or not they have power (to help you in your mission). A network influence-grid therefore has 4 quadrants…

 

When the people you know are mapped out in their relevant quadrants, you will better focus on people who are realy useful (top-right) or think about how to better leverage the existing relationships you have to get what you need.

 

STEP 3: Now, look for priority areas for action

I find that if I have done a good job of assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, when I look at the results there are recurring and linking themes. These are the things to work on. Don’t worry about action yet, just look at which things seem to come back and back.

For example, in my last SWOT exercise I saw that:

  • My network was very complete
  • …but that I wasn’t using it well enough
  • I have great references for training work
  • …but never ask for referrals
  • There was an opportunity to better develop my own client base

An obvious priority strategic action: Leverage own network.

 

STEP 4: When your priorities are clear, plan baby steps

I am finally reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen right now. One of my clients said it was a great book, but I thought: What else could there be to learn about priority management? In the first 10 pages I had my answer:

Turn unmanageable TO-DO lists into “next concrete action” (baby-steps) lists.

 

In the scope of our exercise, this means asking 2 questions for each of the priority strategic actions noted previously:

  • What would be an ACCEPTABLE outcome?
  • What is the NEXT CONCRETE ACTION you need to take?

 

If you’ve followed the 4 steps ahead, you should have some good ideas to get moving with.

 

Good luck!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Please leave a comment

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Be FAB to be heard

This blog post explains the basics of FAB communication. FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t. Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard. Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication.

 

In training with IT consultants, I ask them to create a short personal CV for a potential client. I ask them for qualities that would be interesting for their clients.

I tend to get a lot of answers like:

  1. Organisational Skills
  2. Degree in Engineering
  3. Bilingual French and German

 

F = Features …and basically: No-one cares

For me, the types of answer noted above are simply features of the consultant. Things they are or things they do. Most people don’t care about features because they simply aren’t interesting.

 

A = Advantages …which are already much better

An advantage is defined as what makes it better to have “F” than not have “F”. So I ask the consultants to translate their features into advantages.

This is what I get (respectively, for the aforementioned “F” answers):

  1. Able to efficiently organise workload and ensure that priority work is finished on time
  2. Able to understand complex ideas and translate them into models and processes
  3. Can talk to Swiss customers

Already much better!! …but….

 

B = Benefits …and this is what people care about

In fact, let me slow down a bit. What DO people care about? Do I care about you? No! I care about me… and despite my wife and mother telling me to be less egoistic, I WILL ALWAYS CARE ABOUT ME.

Just like the procurement people looking for IT consultants care about themselves and their companies. So: We need to show the benefits of our advantageous feature. This means tuning in the advantage the situation, values and needs of the other person.

3 more examples:

  1. Ensure on-time delivery of new IT projects
  2. Help your people to implement new processes by defining clear and easy to follow steps
  3. Increase sales in Switzerland by streamlining customer communication

(…notice how the 2nd and 3rd benefit statements include a clear reference to the “A” statement) Now that’s more like it!!

 

In conclusion…

Translating your features in to advantages that are beneficial for the other person is key to getting them to listen, care and act …and the applications go a lot further than selling IT consultants.

Here are a few examples of moments when FAB communication would be good:

 

Convincing your partner to take a different route to your holiday destination

  • F = road name
  • A = what makes that road better
  • B = why your partner should care

A strong WIIFM statement in a presentation introduction

  • F = “I will tell you about 1, 2, 3”
  • A = Why 1, 2, 3 is good
  • B = What you will get out of listening to me

The opening paragraph of this blog-post:

  • F = “FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t”
  • A = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard”
  • B = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication”

 

I hope you liked this post and I hope you are ready to be FAB.

Feel free to leave a comment..

D

 

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