To avoid the storm, think of the weather

5th April 2016

Imagine I asked you what the weather was going to be like today. How would you respond?

  1. Maybe by looking out of your window and telling me what you could see?
  2. Or by giving me a full-blown shipping forecast?
  3. Something else?

What if I gave you a bit more information? That the reason I want to know the weather is because I’m just walking down to the village. I want to know whether to take an umbrella or not.

Now, I imagine you’d just say something like “It won’t rain. No need for the brolly.”

In other words, it’s really easy to give the right information when you know why I want it, and how I’ll use it.

Now another example…

Imagine your boss asks you to update her about what you’re working on. How would you respond?

  1. By looking out of your window, and saying how you see things going?
  2. By doing a full-blown shipping forecast type of thing… tons of detail, much of it not needed, but definitely thorough. She certainly won’t be thinking you’ve not been working hard
  3. Or would you ask why she wanted to know, and how she’d use the information?

And which approach would lead to you producing something you both felt pleased with?

Here’s another…

You work in sales. And the customer asks for a proposal. How do you respond?

  1. With a document explaining how you see the world, listing all your strengths, past successes and so on.
  2. Or with a shipping-forecast-style thing… ridiculously long, tons of detail. Much of it not needed, but definitely thorough.
  3. Or would you ask what information they wanted to see in there? That way, it would be 100% relevant to them. And miles quicker to write.

I remember seeing a female interviewer ask Zac Efron “Zac, if you were going to take me on a date, where would we go?”

His answer was brilliant.

Instead of giving a full-blown shipping forecast answer, he said “Well, what do you like doing?”

She said “Dining out”.

So he said “Well I’ll take you to the best restaurant in town”.

You’ll be preparing communications for others today. There’s only one way to find out exactly what they want in there. Will you do it?

Action Point

For your next big communication, ask the recipient why they want it, and how they’ll use it. Use whichever words you want. The ones I’ve found best:

  • What outcome are you looking for, from this communication?
  • Therefore, what content/headings do you want in there?
  • What content/headings do you not want – after all, it’s better for us both if it’s shorter!
  • Can we quickly chat this through so we agree things verbally? That way, my written document becomes a confirmation not an exploration

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