Hi and welcome. It’s Scott Watson at mremotionalintelligence.com. In this podcast I’m going to share with you a number of language patterns that encourage effective planning and collaboration and minimise issues, minimise or completely eradicate the possibility that things will go wrong further down the line whether it be a process, a system development, or a project that needs to be undertaken. Let’s get going.
Language is, when used effectively, a wonderful way to help people think for themselves, not just influence them to do as you wish because that might not be the right thing to do, but to get them to think for themselves and actually take greater personal ownership for their thinking and then their decisions and their subsequent actions. What is a major for many leaders and mangers and teams that I coach and collaborate with in all kinds of industries across the globe is their projects get started, then they start to fade away, then things that haven’t been anticipated that aren’t particularly good or productive or effective start to happen, things start to fall apart a little bit, and even the focus on achieving the outcome can sometimes dissipate as people work in their own silos.
Now, Stephen Covey mentioned this principle of begin with the end in mind many, many years ago in his wonderful book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Just as if you were flying off on your next holiday on an aeroplane, you wouldn’t expect the pilot and his or her first officer to just get in the cockpit and fly somewhere and hope they got to where you were going. That will be ridiculous, completely dangerous and fundamentally flawed thinking, but why is it in organisations, I don’t know about you, but so many organisations and so many managers have the commitment, the motivation and the vigour to get going on a project but then they start to fall into silo thinking, silo working, and the joined up thinking, the collaborative decision making, mismatching of ideas, the healthy disagreement that nourishes a relationship and makes it stronger rather than damages or destroys it doesn’t take place.
Well here is a thing that language can be used to promote more personal ownership and minimise errors. And here are a couple of language patters. If they sound a little bit strange, wonderful. Just learn them and use them, try them out for 10 days any opportunity you can and you’ll become more comfortable in using them and you’ll start to see the benefits for you and other people and your organisation of actually using them. Here’s a first question to be asked right at the outset or soon after the outset at the appropriate time to the relevant people.
The first language pattern is “What investment are you making in time now to ensure that this project’s priorities are clearly understood? What investment are you making in time now to ensure that these project’s priorities are clearly understood?”
What does this question do? It gets people thinking whether they’re from the same team, different team, different divisions, different paths of the organisation. It gets them thinking away from just individually and starting to think collectively because one team or department’s priority for the project maybe not to fail or lose faith if it doesn’t work. Another department’s priority maybe to ensure it’s delivered on time. Another department’s priority maybe to deliver on budget. This is the thing. What investment are you making in turn to ensure this project’s priorities are clearly understood, and then, ultimately, delivered? That’s the first language pattern. It gets people thinking. Don’t just listen to this. Write them down. Put them in your smart phone notes app and start to use these language patters and you’ll get lots of benefit.
The second language pattern is “With whom are you intending to plan with prior to the project commencing. What do you expect the outcome of that planning meeting to be? With whom are you intending to plan with prior to the project commencing? What is the outcome you expect to be from that planning meeting?”
This question ensures that colleagues don’t just go off all guns blazing, 70-miles an hour down the highway. Stop, think because you can only act on what you think about so it’s very careful and very important that you think clearly, and not just from your perspective but your stakeholder’s perspective, your peer’s perspective, your customers’ perspective if that’s absolutely relevant and that’s internal customers as well. With whom are you intending to plan with prior to the project commencing and what is the outcome of the planning meeting expected to be? Making sense? I hope so. If not, stick with me on these. They do actually work.
Third language pattern: “What issues have arisen on similar projects that you can potentially avoid with better planning and collaboration on this project? What issues have arisen on similar projects that you can potentially avoid with better planning and collaboration on this project?” This message is is don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from past experiences. What’s not gone well? What’s gone well? How can you get the things that have gone well to go even better, smoother, more quickly, more efficient, more cost effective? How do you avoid in advance by anticipating what these bumps in the road and issues and problems that may be encountered? How do you avoid them? This puts the brain a few days, a few weeks, or even a month ahead so you don’t just deal with the problem as it has arisen because far more difficult to do that.
The fourth language pattern: “How would you ensure that the recipient or stakeholder has the correct information in a reasonable time to produce what’s required or what you need? How will you ensure that the recipient or stakeholder has the correct information in a reasonable time to produce what you need?”
This is not doing things just because they’re urgent, as in, “Oh my goodness! I’ve just thought about that. I’d better get this going.” I better send the awkward email. I better send the begging email for someone to down tools and give me the information I need. This is putting people’s brains on alert that getting the correct information in a reasonable time and requesting it in a matter befitting of a high trust, low maintenance collaborative relationship is the best way to do it. There’s no knee-jerk reactions. It’s plan, plan, execute. Plan, plan execute. Many projects and organisations fail to deliver the best value for their employees, their customers, their stakeholders, investors because they just don’t plan.
The fifth language pattern: “What is the one thing you might not yet have thought of that could further minimise the risk of problems been encountered with delays, and quality issues or budget overruns? What is the one thing you might have not yet thought of that could further minimise the risk of problem, delays, quality issues or budget overruns?”
Now, the person or group you’re asking might think, “Well, I don’t know what. I’ve not yet thought of because I’ve not yet thought of it.”
Of course, but what you’re doing is inviting their brains individually, if it’s one to one, and collectively if it’s part of a project group to think now, to start thinking of “My goodness! It’s like driving a car.” You’ve got your seatbelt. Of course, you should wear it because it’s there to keep you safe. You’ve got your side impact bars that you hopefully will never see but they’re there to keep you safe. You’ve got your airbags all throughout the car, which, hopefully, you will never see because they’re hidden and they’re there to keep you safe but, ultimately, you’ve got to drive the car and you’ve got to pay attention and drive safely. It’s that kind of principle that applies to this language pattern and question. What is the one thing you might have not yet thought of that could further minimise the risk of problems, delays, quality issues, and budget overruns?
The next language pattern is “Before you and your team get started, just so I can understand exactly what’s going to happen, run your plan past me one more time. Before you and your team get started, just so I can understand exactly what’s going to happen, run your plan past me one more time.”
That’s to ensure that you understood clearly what’s going to happen, why it’s going to happen, what’s the value and benefit if it happening, what’s not going to happen, and also it gives you an opportunity to mismatch ideas, mismatch recommendations or ways of doing things and establish, refine and improve ways of working.
The final language pattern is “If there’s a problem that exists and it’s deserving of attention, and not sure of what to do to resolve it, what will your next action be?”
It’s acting as if the problem has already been resolved but it’s not in reality but in their brain. The question is when you resolve that problem and made everyone who needs to know aware of your next action, what’s the first thing you’ll have done to resolve the problem? When you’ve resolved that problem and made everyone who needs to know aware of your next action, what was the first thing that you did to resolve the problem? It sounds crazy but it gets the brain thinking as in you’ve already resolved it, you’re already telling people it’s resolved but what did you do first because the brain, unless it’s guided to think clearly and concisely, as well as creatively, it needs precision. That is what these questions are designed to do to encourage effective planning and collaboration and minimise issues that can occur.
The use of these language patterns need to be done sparingly and intelligently at the right time with the right people for the right reasons, which is for a genuinely win-win outcome, not something that’s self-serving, that’s only good for you, or makes or helps other people feel stupid or foolish or they’ve just not thought of things. That’s not your intention. It’s to deliver as much value as you can collectively, as quickly as you can at low cost as possible with just few bumps along the way. Those are some language patterns to promote and encourage effective planning and minimise issues. How can you use them in the next couple of weeks with your colleagues, stakeholders, peers and suppliers even. Have a go, give it a go, and let me know how you do. I’ll see you soon on the next podcast.
Thanks for joining me. It’s Scott Watson at http://mremotionalintelligence.com/