Communication At Work AMA With Chris Fenning

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Chris Fenning. Welcome, Chris.

Hi Thomas, thank you very much for having me.

My pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Absolutely. I’m a husband and a father first and foremost and I’m also an author and a communications instructor. The first two of those are pretty self-explanatory. The second takes a little bit more explaining because there’s a lot of different flavours of author and communications instructor. So to give you an idea of specifically what it is I do, I’ve got a question for you Thomas which is have you ever heard the advice or been given the advice? You should be clear and concise when you communicate. No, you haven’t been. Have you ever heard anyone else being given that advice? I think I would say it’s probably universally, it’s a principle that people should follow, but when I say no, what I’m really saying is I don’t think many people follow that principle. Ah, so you lied very nicely into my next point, which is not many people get told how to do it and that’s what I do.

I help people become clear and concise and learn simple techniques to apply in everyday day to day work conversations, sales pitches specific methods to be clear and concise and that’s the type of communication instruction that I spend my time. Okay, well you did send your book in advance and I have read it or at least I’ve read most of it. Um, and I thought it was very good. I’m very impressed. So thank you very much for sending that over. Would you like to tell me a little bit about, let’s say, the backstory of the book and how it was to write it, that sort of thing. Yeah, absolutely. So the book is called The First Minute How to start conversations that get results and then also what it looks like. It looks like this. And it’s a short book about how to get to the point and how to be clear and concise that the genesis of this came from. I’d spent 15 or 20 years in large corporations, small corporations start-ups. I’ve had my own businesses and throughout that time I been exposed to a lot of different communications training on executive fast tracks on general day-to-day training and my own sort of diving into the topic.

And there was one question that never quite got answered and it’s the one that I mentioned in the introduction which is being told to be clear and concise is great advice, but it’s a goal and it’s an aspiration and I really wanted to know how and my background, I’m an engineer by training and I’ve been in business longer than I’ve been in engineering. So I can’t claim that title anymore. But as an engineer by training and interest, I like the methods. I like specific follow point ABC follow steps 12 and three and that helps me apply tools and techniques and achieve whatever the outcome is. And in all those years I never found the ABC of how to be clear and concise, but what I did find with lots of great examples of how to do it, lots of people who knew how to do it, lots of models that were halfway there and so having not found anything written down, I decided well maybe it’s time to write something down.

And I researched more and more about the topic and found maybe half a dozen books that have been written in a few academic papers, but nothing that pulled really all together in a work focused way. Most of the how to be clear and concise books focus on work and social and all sorts of other types of conversation. So I thought well if I can’t find it then I should have a girl writing it. I mean that’s what I did, well I think that highlights something which is what I was going to say to you, which is I feel like that you have highlighted a problem, which we all sort of I knew that we had but on a on a different level, so it was, it was kind of a level that when you when you get a problem it’s very easy for you to say okay, I see that as a problem and I can go and solve that problem, but for whatever reason, this particular example, it’s a problem that I don’t know for me anyway, I was like this is something that yes, I’ve seen many times and yes, I I see it as a problem but never thought they never came to the front of my mind.

That was like, yes, I really need to solve that issue. And I think that looks great at doing that. The reason I’m laughing is you’ve just described the very first line of feedback I got from my editorial team. The very first line on the very first piece of feedback was this is a book that everybody needs and nobody will buy because nobody recognises the problem in themselves. We all know somebody else who rambles, can’t get to the point, mixes up multiple topics, always goes way down into the details. We can all point that somebody else who does that. But very few people turn the finger around and say, oh yeah, I need that help as well. So it was a really encouraging and disheartening piece of feedback to get. Fortunately, it turns out people are buying, but it is useful. But that first piece, it was as you described it, it’s very difficult to recognise that within ourselves. Mm Well, I certainly and also you mentioned about your engineering background and about how the book is structured.

I thought I can totally see how that comes through because you’ve got like the first part. Second part, third part, it’s all very structured as the way that you laid it all out. Thank well thank you. It is, it’s not a flowery read, it’s not something you can sit down only takes about two hours to go through because it is a short book but it’s not something you go, oh this is a very entertaining read. It is practical because that’s what I was aiming for. I was looking for one of the two formulas, three formulas that you can apply all the time to just make communication clearer, more concise and simpler by using these methods. I didn’t have to think too much, particularly around complicated topic. This it just gave me a little framework okay, if I do this, this and this my point is going to come across mm But I feel like we are doing something at the moment which is in your book which says we shouldn’t be doing which is we’re talking about something and we have all the context because we’ve read the book or you’ve written the book But the people who are listening have not read the book.

So to start off with what, what would be the first couple of things that you share from the book if you were talking to someone and they were interested. Yeah, great, great question. Yeah, we’ll cut the Curse of Knowledge. We’re diving right in there. The very first piece of advice and if people stop listening after this piece of advice, you’re still going to take away something incredibly valuable. Stop asking for a minute or asking for a moment. Whenever we start a conversation, it’s really simple, very easy, particularly important to conversations to say, oh, do you have a minute? It’s almost never a minute. It’s usually more than a minute for us to get our point across before the other person has a chance to respond. And so the very first advice is still asking for a minute or a moment. Take 10 seconds and think how long is this conversation going to be? Do? I need 3 minutes, 5, 10 and then ask for that amount of time. It’s a really simple thing to do. But it makes a big difference to a reputation because well, while saying, excuse me, do you have a minute is a very, very inconsequential small part of a conversation with multiple interactions you have with people over time, What you’re doing is you’re missing your own self-imposed objectives.

You’re asking for a minute and then you’re missing your own deadline when you take three or 5 and what you’re doing is stealing time from that other person because you’ve asked for a minute, they said yes, and then you take five. That’s like asking for crisp or a chip from someone taking a whole handful out of the bag. It’s not what they agreed to you take it. So don’t ask for a minute. Take 10 seconds. Think about what you want to convey what you want from the conversation, how long it’s going to take and then ask for that and you get to good benefits from it. One you’re going to ask for the actual amount of time that you need which is beneficial to both of you and two, you’ll have taken some time to work out what you want from the conversation and you’re going to be better prepared going into it. Yeah. And to elaborate on that particular issue, most people do have a minute. But if you only have a minute, it’s going to be incredibly frustrating. Which I think is one of the things you mentioned in the book. Oh yes, you’re trying to then is the audience of that conversation.

You’re then faced with a choice, you either have to interrupt the person to say I’m really sorry, I’m going somewhere else or you have to hear them out knowing that you’re gonna be late for another meeting or trying to get to the toilet whatever you need to do that you were stopped on the way to doing and neither of those are good choices. You don’t want to put other people in that position. So first and foremost, stop asking for a minute. Just ask for the amount of time that you need. Well one of the, I know that the books on amazon and I was gonna before I because I did a little bit of research, I always do on every guest that comes in and one of the reviews on amazon was I was I was hooked within the first I know 15 I think it would have been 15 pages or 15 minutes, whatever it was. 15 seconds. Okay. I didn’t do you justice there. But I thought the introduction was great. And you spoke about core principles based on following the core principles. Are you aware of what I mean by that?

And can you share some of those? Yeah, we’ve already covered one of them. Don’t waste other people’s time. Get to the point quickly. So no, get to the point. Don’t waste other people’s time and know how to summarise something. Be clear and concise. And those are the things that we aspire to do. They’re always good aspirational items, but we really know how to do that. So the book is a step-by-step guide with a couple of very simple tools to help you achieve those things. If I can go back to your previous question, you said give it a little bit more info. And so I gave the first piece of advice which was stop asking for a minute. The second piece of advice. And this is the first main section of the book. Is every conversation at work should be framed correctly. And by framing it means setting up your audience to receive your, your information here. Your question, There’s a three-part process to framing conversation takes 10-15 seconds And in those 10 to 15 seconds you should provide a context for the topic.

You want to talk about the intent, what you want the person to do with the information and then a one line summary of the information that you’re going to give. And the framing that 1st 10 seconds is incredibly important to bring your audience into the right frame of mind to hear what you want to say and be engaged in a conversation. So the first part of that is context. That is of all the possible topics in the whole world. You could talk about name the one that you want to talk about because I guarantee it’s not what’s in your audience’s head. They were thinking about anything else. They’re thinking about what to have for lunch, that’s thinking about budget report. They’re thinking about soccer match from last night. They could be thinking about absolutely anything. Even if you’ve just come out of the same meeting about the same project or program or task and you were sitting next to them and you walk out of the room, what’s in their head is not going to be what’s in your head. So the first thing you do is provide context and it’s very simple just say, hey, I want to talk about this project.

Hey, I want to talk about the thing that happened with James last week or want to talk about the budget. I want to talk about the sales event. Just name the thing. And that helps remove all the other stuff from the person you’re talking to his head and they are going, okay. So this is what you want to talk about. You mentioned some of what’s going on. I think unconsciously they have to interpret if you don’t provide the context, then you have to, they have to interpret themselves as to whether or not that how it applies to them and that sort of thing and that can be most costly I think is the right framing on that and they can, they can get the wrong interpretation if they have to interpret themselves right. They can, because they’re trying to fit this into all the possible meanings and not only can they get the wrong outcome, which is one of things you’ve highlighted. That’s, that’s quite bad because it means there then listening to the rest of the conversation with the wrong lens and the example of that is if you’ve ever had a conversation where you get halfway through and go, oh hang on, are we talking about that?

Because I thought we were talking about this, those conversations are where they’ve not been framed correctly and you’ve got the wrong topic so it can have all kinds of wasted time and other problems because you’re making assumptions. But it’s also means they’re not listening to what you’re saying because their brain is going, what am I doing with this? What are you talking about? What are you talking about? And until it can answer that question, it won’t be able to process the information in the way that you want. There’s a bunch of science behind this. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I love that topic but I’m not going to go into the details here. But then there’s a lot of science that says until our brain knows what to do with a piece of information. We, we struggle to take in anything else, which is why in this neatly brick comes on to the second part of framing. Once you’ve provided context and you’ve given a topic, the second part of framing is to provide intent. And if I’m talking to you, I need to let you know what I need you to do with this information.

Am I asking you for help? Are you going to need to take an action? Is this just gossip? What is the purpose and what do I need from you? And this goes back to the same things I just talked about that your brain is going to be saying? Well, so what do I do with this? Am I, Am I going to have to do something at the end? And until we know what to do with the information. You don’t know where to store it or how to process it. And it stops us from listening and again, we with that void of information unless somebody says, hey, I’ve got a question and you’re like, okay, I’m ready. I’m primed and I’m gonna be ready to give an answer unless someone gives you that you spend the whole time doing what, what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do? And it’s very distracting for ourselves. And it means that the conversation is just not effective right from the start. Yeah. And there’s one thing that I wanted to highlight which is kind of separate from that, but it highlights how important this topic is. And it was you quoted a study and when you said it, there’s a lot of signs backing this sort of thing.

I thought, yeah, it’s kind of you to reference a lot of points in the book and it sort of looks like a, like a type of study. But one of them was something along the lines of, we, It’s like 50% of the time is wasted in communications, something like that. I should, there are a couple of things, I don’t remember that stat office off my head so I’m not going to misquote my own book, but there’s a, there’s a stat that is about how much time small companies waste on miscommunication And Seamans, the big technology company did this study a few years ago. And the outcome was of a 100 person company with 100 employees. 840 880 hours a year are wasted ongoing back to clarify something that has already been communicated and that’s, huh? 800 plus hours.

If you were being, if you’re billing for that, that’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of work, a lot of revenue. So if that’s what’s being wasted, particularly for small companies, imagine how many billable hours that you’re not getting because people having to go back and clarify. The thing that came out of that study that really hit me is it only measured the time to go back and clarify, it doesn’t capture all of the other consequences of poor communication that the people who have heard a piece of information run off and done a task but it was the wrong task or made a sales call and it was the wrong sales call or it wasn’t the right information. All of those assumptions lead to rework, lost opportunity, things being done incorrectly in errors and that cost is on top of those hours where people have to go back and clarify. Well, the way that my mind works when you just highlighted that step and when I read it for the first time, I was like, you know, you can get an average of what you’re paying per hour and you can multiply it by that number that you’re paying And you’ve got how much that’s costing you.

I mean that’s, and then also I wouldn’t want to pay that. How much is costing everyone else as well? So it’s very valuable information, I’m glad. And The third point, so we’re gonna we’re still on framing this is the 1st 15 seconds of the conversation. So we’ve provided context. Here’s the topic I want to talk to you about is the intent is what I want or need you to do that. The 3rd part is the key message. And the simplest way to think of that is it’s the headline for everything else you’re going to talk about. You’re not condensing the whole of your conversation into 10 words, but you’re giving the headline. And the way to think of this is imagine switching on the news and the first thing they say is way down in the detail of the news story. They’re talking about some trade agreement post Brexit. You take a bit of time trying to work out what are they talking about? What is how does this relate to me? What what’s going on? Is this big or important? And the news never does that.

They always start with a headline and then they start with a summary and then they go down into the detail of the topic they want to cover and that headline helps us helps prepare us as an audience for what we’re going to hear. And it gives us a reference point for everything else that comes in that article. Mm and so the key message is the 3rd part The context, intent and key message in the 1st 10-15 seconds, Less than 20 words. You’ve then got your audience away from thinking about the tennis matches, have another weekend or the bad meeting. They just came out of there thinking about your project, your topic, They know what is expected of them and they have some idea of the topic of the conversation that’s about to happen all within 10-15 seconds and you’ve just set up a conversation to be successful. Yeah, it makes me think of one of the things in the book which is I hear people sort of I hear objections as we’re talking about things.

And one of the one of the objections which you covered almost immediately was your books. The first minute the first minute of the conversation or the work conversation is not the first minute that you’re interacting with that person. You know, it starts off person they you go ahead. You’re better. You’re absolute raising a point and thank you so much because if we don’t talk about this, people will be saying, well this flies in the face of all the other communications advice I’ve ever been taught most communications courses advice gurus experts would say. And just human nature will tell us that interpersonal skills, having, getting to know people relationship building, that should be part of work conversations, that should be part of everyday conversations that we have. I 100% agree. The context of the first minute starts when you talk about the work topic. So if you bump into someone and you want to talk about the weekend or you want to chat about anything at all and ask about the kids do that.

Absolutely do that as much as is appropriate for the situation. But the moment you want to turn the topic of conversation to work, that’s when the clock begins on the first minute and that’s when you’ve got a frame. What comes next for the work conversation. I’m really glad you brought that up because some people be saying, well this shouldn’t be how you start a conversation, you’re right, you start with hello, hi, how are you? All of those human relationship pieces, But then when you get to work it changes. Can I explain a bit more? Yeah, go ahead. So we’re social creatures and animals and love storytelling. Almost all communications instructors will tell you the benefits of storytelling except when it comes to work conversations at work, it’s transactional. Almost everything we do is about getting to the point quickly so we can do it, get it and move on. If work conversations were meant to be social, every meeting would begin with once upon a time.

That would just be awful because you know that you’re then sitting down for a 25 minute history lesson or something that’s not relevant to moving your work topic force. So there is this difference between our entire life, preschool school social life, university wrote social communication, that’s how we learn and then we jump into work and it’s transactional communication and they’re fundamentally different approaches and we were not taught and we don’t learn how to do that until we’re thrust into the heart of it. Very good point and I really like the news analogy about the headline. So like you if the news was structured that way, you have a bit of a struggle trying to figure out what was going on because you missed the start of it. You absolutely would. Someone give me an example, give an example back at me last week and they said it would be like giving someone a magazine and telling them to start reading on paragraph seven. That article would make very little sense and you’d spend the next 10 paragraphs trying to work out what’s the topic and what’s the main point and so on.

Because at the top they do the key message, they do a headline and then they do a one page summary which is a really concise summary of what the rest of the arctic Elizabeth and that’s what the second major section in the book is about, which is how to create really tight, concise summaries of topics We’ve got a couple of questions which I do think there’s such a lot of good information in the book that I feel like it would just be better if you just talked for a while. And I just sat there and listened. There are a couple of things which are not in the book which are at least to my knowledge, are not in the book, which I’d be interested to get your opinion on, which is what happens when you’re talking to someone who does all of the things which you are referring to. They are starting in the wrong place. They don’t give you a headline, they don’t give you context. How would you deal with that having all the knowledge that you currently have? Okay, I’m making a note of that question because it’s a great one. I want to make sure I do it justice. The I’m pausing because I’m trying to think of the right word that doesn’t come across as rude.

You’ve got to plan your point to interrupt, to find a natural break, and it’ll depend on the person and the start of the person that’s talking to you. If they give a whole lot of information in a big jumble and then pause, repeat back what you think the context, intent and key message on. So if you come talk to me and you’ve been chatting for a minute or two and then you paused, I might say. Okay, so I think we’re talking about this event and it sounds like you want me to follow up with someone and it’s on this, this is the thing you want me to do. And by using the structure, you then give the other person a framework to which they can respond because they can address those three bullet points. They can say, oh no, that’s not the topic. It’s this okay, great. We’ve clarified it or yeah, that’s what I wanted you to do. So you’ve got a tick for that, You give them a structure, you give yourself a structure and if they continue to ramble back to you then break it down even further and say, all right, let’s just make sure we’re talking about the same topic and you can address the things one at a time without dressing them down without coming across as though either you’re dumb and don’t get it or that they can’t communicate.

It just gives you both a framework to work with. We’re almost helping them follow the guide that’s in the book. Would you say that’s accurate? Yeah, it’s definitely a way to consider it. And this person rambles for 10 minutes. It’s a personal choice whether you dive in there and interrupt or whether you just sit back and wait. That’s I’m not going to tell people what you want to do. It depends if it’s the big boss or a friend, a lot of this is situational specific, but when you come down to clarifying the message to use the frameworks there are great, great mechanism to just get the stuff that you need. No. And the one question I had when I sort of read the conclusion and I’d absorb some of the information, it was like, right, how what’s the best way for me to start applying this information? So I was like, you know, with human beings, so I’ve just absorbed this great information. But now I still have all of my old habits. So what should I do to get started basically, Thomas just do it, just get on and do it, isn’t it? Okay, so that’s not particularly helpful.

So the way that I learned this development topics and also worked with my teams and other people in the past has been to look at previous emails because emails are written down, you can try and remember a previous conversation, but memory is a funny thing. So find a medium lengthy email that you sent and look at the subject line in the first paragraph and see if in that first paragraph in the subject line, have you provided the context, the intent in your key message. And if you have given yourself a little pat on the back and know that you’re doing it well. If you have to dig for the information, then you’ve got some work to do and if the information is not there at all that tells you you’re not providing those key things up the front of the email, which is and it’s a written version of a discussion. That’s how the two email and conversation can be compared. So take a look at previous emails and if they’re good, great. Find another one that isn’t and if you find one, most people find them pretty quickly rewrite it with context, intent and key message as three separate.

You could do it as bullet points to begin with and you can even write context and here’s what I want to say, intent, my intent but write it out and that gives you a worked example that’s relevant to your job, relevant to whether you’re talking to a vendor, someone in your team, colleague boss, whoever it’s relevant, it’s recent and it’s real. And then use those techniques in the next email. Use those in the next conversation. You think of a conversation you’re going to have tomorrow or next week? That’s quite important. And write out what how would you start? What would be the 1st 10, 15 seconds of that? What’s the context? What’s the intent and what’s the key message? And then if you think you can take those notes with you, you’ve got, you’ve got a nice little script to you. I think the email is a good place to start because I think that would probably help you transitioning those habits from email to discussion. You say that’s a terrific. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned repetition before repetition is one of the keys to habit forming and you want to do it with deliberate practice with the good technique.

So doing it in email, you’ve got the time before you hit send to go back and check, You’ve got time to draft it out with those key points. And was a recent study. So we sent 100 200 million emails a day, whichever study you want to read. There are a lot of emails at a lot of practice caveat on that. This these techniques are useful in every email that you said. It’s not every email, it’s the first email in a new email chain because if you were in third or fourth reply in the back and forth and you were still doing context intent and key message that would be like restarting a conversation every couple of minutes. So it’s when you initiate a new subject, initiating you in that conversation with someone that’s when these things apply and in the book, there’s a number of examples. A few examples of actually showing how this can be done in work related topics in the mountain. Yeah, I was going to mention the example because the almost like the before and after, it’s like chunk of text or boxed in together and then you get you get the after and it’s like broken down quite nicely.

I’m quite literal. So I think I might just have to take my emails and just start breaking them down in the way that you’ve recommended do it, do it. That’s actually anyone who listened to this, who’s worked with me in the past. Well, we’ll probably have somewhere in the depths of their inbox emails for me that literally say context intent and message or in the summary, which is the tool we’ve not talked about yet. Talk about what’s the goal? What’s the problem? What’s the solution? And I use those words because the person reading it then understands, oh, this is what they’re talking about. So absolutely use them. Nobody is going to look down on you for being extra clear. Do you want to talk about the summary? Because it’s sort of a segue, isn’t it? Into another topic? Yes. The second technique and this is the one that I get asked to talk about more. So I’m really pleased that we could talk about framing because that’s the start of the conversations. It’s really important to get that right. That’s the framing is the foundation for the discussion.

The structured summary is what a lot of people, particularly salespeople or anyone who pitches and presents structured summary is what they like, Because it’s a three part technique that enables you to summarise almost any work the topic and so on, no matter how complex it is and the summary approach provides, what is the goal, What is the problem preventing you from achieving the goal and what is the solution and it has the needle acronym GPS because it helps give direction to the conversation and there’s a bunch of play on words that go with that. But gold problem solution is a great way, not the only way, but it is a great way to summarise work topics. I’d love to expand why? That’s the case. That’s all right. So everything we do at work, everything we do at work is about achieving a goal or it’s trying to attain the goal. Whether your company sells food, your goal is to provide food to customers or provide utilities or provide sales services or in my case provide instruction and training on communications topics.

Every company has a goal and every job within a company has a goal. The accounts departments goals are to make sure taxes are filed on time and all of the money is accounted for and everything’s kept neat and tidy on the accounting cycle, that is their goal. And then when you go down onto a daily level, someone’s goal might be, I need to complete this month’s account. Everything we do at work is about achieving goals. So when you’re summarising something about work should always start with what is the goal because then your audience knows, okay, here’s the point on the horizon that we’re able for. It actually gives context. It gives a bunch of backstory, but without having to tell the whole history and everyone who hears it goes okay, that this is what you’re trying to achieve. Great. I understand that and it should be simple to do. I just gave a number of examples around accounting. We’re trying to say that our taxes, that’s a goal. Trying to get the accounts to Julie by next Wednesday. That’s a goal.

The first part of all summaries state the goal. The second part is state the problem that’s preventing you are making it difficult to get to that goal because that’s actually what we do every day in our jobs is find solutions to problems and overcome problems. Every company, every job has a series of goals. But if we could just take one step and we’re at the goal, we wouldn’t have a job. So our, our jobs are to overcome those, it’s to find the customers to meet the sales targets. It’s to build the widget that makes the website work better. Those are problems to overcome because the website doesn’t currently have a widget. So it needs to be built. The problem is, there isn’t a widget today, You’ve got to build one. So the second part of the summary after you said, here’s what we’re aiming for, here’s the problem that’s standing in our way. The 3rd part is the solution, here’s what we’re going to do about it and that’s how you create a really solid understandable summary that’s given your audience the key things, they need to know about what comes next and that last bit is so important.

If you structure a summary with gold problem solution, the last thing you talk about is the solution And solutions are forward looking. They’re action oriented. Solutions are not spending 50 minutes of the meeting talking about the history of how we got to a place. Solutions are what we do in our jobs that drive the results and get us to now that goal, it’s one of your, I’m not sure if you call it this, but it’s one of your rules, isn’t it? That it should always be future focus, Always future focused with one. It’s always a caveat unless you’re having a lessons learned conversation and you need to understand or do a post mortem on why something happened. But even those should end with. So what are we going to do about it? And that is solution focused and forward looking. We gain very little at work by spending a lot of time talking about the past And there are three types of solution description. You either need to find a solution, you’re proposing a solution or you’re reporting on a solution that was put in place and has already been completed.

Even status updates should be here’s what we were trying to achieve, here is why it was difficult. Here’s what we did and the result and you can summarise all of that in a minute, just one sentence for each thing, it happens at the beginning of the news happens in magazine articles, it’s something we get exposed to a lot. But don’t recognise that’s what’s happened. A very good point as it brings up something which there’s a few things that you list in the book which are like typical things that people do. and I have an example just to make it clearer, it’s like talking about two or more topics at the same time. So you’re not being clear. And another one is, you know, you’re taking too long to get to the point, that kind of thing. And is this the part where you would get around that? This helps with some of that because you should only ever talk about one problem at a time. If you talk about multiple problems, it might all relate to the same goal, but your audience is going to spend the rest of that conversation thinking that we’re talking about problem.

What’s the problem two or three, four or five. However much you packed into the beginning their conversations Should be about one topic at a time. You can talk about lots of things in a conversation but don’t interweave them. Otherwise you end up with a horrible, knotted ball of string and you’re making the audience try and work out how all these pieces fit together and the way to solve this starts with framing. When you frame the conversation. If you’ve got one topic to talk about. So you’ve got one topic. If you’ve got two topics to talk about, two significant points relating to the same project. Program. Sale say that up front. Hey Thomas. I’ve been working on the post nl project. I’ve got two things I want to talk to you about. One is a progress update. The other one. I need your help with something. I framed the discussion by telling you that there are two separate topics and they’ve got two different intents. Then I’d summarise one topic we talk about it and then I’d move to the next topic.

So framing instructed summary, provide you with a map and way points that you can refer back to help provide structure to the conversation there. We were talking about two things we could dive. I give you a summary on the first one we dive right into the detail, have our back and forth and get whatever I needed or intended from the discussion. And then I could say okay great that’s topic one At the beginning I said I had two topics to talk about here is the 2nd 1 and you’ve reminded people of that that framing at the beginning of the conversation. You’re giving them a clear instruction that okay it’s time to change gears. You’re reminding them of the second topic and then you’re having that second conversation. You do provide, you do provide an example of what happens when you have to talk about two topics, don’t you? There are a couple where it’s people just get confused. If you if you don’t frame them out separately, people end up getting confused and we’ll all of many of us would have had examples of this.

We’re going to hang on, we are we still talking about that first thing or we on something else now? Or do you want me to take this action relating to that first topic? And it happens when people into we’ve things or go off on tangents or down rabbit holes. And it happens a lot when people say, oh and this relates to my second point before they finished their first points, there was my parents and my grandparents told me growing up, finish the thing that you start finish your point, then move onto the next one and we’re all guilty of not doing that in conversations. We just run into different topics as we so we get excited and we want to show the interconnected we’ve of things that we’re talking about. Don’t talk about one thing at a time and your audience will really appreciate it. Well, as you say, is transactional and work related conversations. So, absolutely, yes. Because any of that, the fact that you’ve written a communication book is that as a result of parenting and that sort of thing, is that why you’re interested in that topic, it’s not or if it is, it’s very deep and I’m not aware.

it could be a subconscious thing? I believe that this came from just wanting to find a solution to a problem that I had. It’s the second book I’ve written. The first book completely unrelated is about competitive target rifle shooting. And I wrote that book because I was a coach at the time, I couldn’t find a decent book for beginners and I was forever drawing little pictures on the back of scraps of paper and trying to get stuff down from my students. I thought someone must have written this stuff down before and they hadn’t in a way that worked for me. So I wrote it and got album with certain things, but I saw that there was a gap, so I wrote it and that’s always been on the engineering side. Technical side of my brain saying there’s a problem. Ok, where’s the solution? That’s poke. Until I find it. I think that ended up being more of the driver to writing this rather than rather than upbringing. But I’ve made my parents would say something different. Well, I mean, it brings me up nicely on to the next question, which is how let’s say if someone just thought this information was great, but they have a team.

So, you know, that’s, it’s something that would be good to roll out to the whole team. And so it makes everyone more efficient and even less stressful in some instances I’m sure. So how would you recommend rolling this type of information out if you had a team? well, obviously hire me and I will help you do that. That’s definitely the first of all this is while that would be great, the processes are simple enough that you could grab a copy of the book, look at the step by step formula within each. Look at the framing, context intent and key message. Look at structured summary, read them, look at them with your team and talk to your team either in a group setting, run a small training, talk to them individually, give them these tools and say, here’s how I’d like to be communicated with. I’m making this very transaction specific. There’s a lot more to training with a team than that, but give them the tools, give him a copy of the book, helped them see the value.

And then as a manager, it’s incredibly easy for you to help your team apply this earlier. We gave an example of how we are in response to someone who was rambling, you could use the framework to come back at them and give them a structure to help them with their response to do the same thing with your team. If someone comes in and talks to stick your head in the office, gives you a phone call and they aren’t using those steps have the conversation and then just afterwards say, hey, next time can we start with the context or I wasn’t clear on the intent, just remind them of the steps, it’s only three steps in framing, it’s only three steps instructed summary. You can almost audit the communication that you’re receiving and give in the moment, very casual feedback to see how it was. Just wasn’t quite clear on what you needed from. So it’s not a checklist where you’re delight coming in and auditing and saying you’re not following the rules.

It’s a framework to help them communicate with you in the way that you need and maybe you’ll end up having a discussion about a different method or how to adapt it to your working environment that suits their communication style better. But by working with them on those techniques, it gives you a starting point and you as a manager something to say, Hey, my team never tells me the intent. Let’s take some time to work on that and just think about it in all the conversations and after a couple of weeks if that you’re going to have so many interactions that you’ve got that repetition. So it should start to build up within the team. You do coaching is that, right? I do. And training? I’m currently in the just at the end of an international move, we’ve gone from the state to England. I’m now in the Netherlands, hence the very empty background here. So individual training and team training is on, pause for a couple more weeks as our furniture catches up with anything. So, camera equipment, desks and so on. But yes, there, I’ll be re-releasing an updated online course that is designed to be cheap and accessible.

I want this kind of training to be really accessible for companies, small companies, big companies, I don’t think me teaching these techniques needs to be £1000 1000 dollars for three hours. I think everyone should be able to do a low cost that helps with these fundamentals. Individual coaching, that’s a different, different kettle of fish. But there will be a revised up of course coming out soon and even in about a month and a half and then there’s individual coaching. Do a number of talks to associations. I can come into organisations do luncheon lands, do dedicated training sessions and the real value comes with follow up. Some of that’s done by email where once a week people will email me their example emails of here’s how I used it and we used to do a back and forth critique on whether where they think it can be clearer and that’s the kind of service that can be often whatever is going to work best for different things.

I think the major benefit of it is that yes, it has a possibility to be highly influential in terms of, you know, great outcome potential, but fairly minimal. Should we say upfront work. So as you say, it’s the first minute in the conversation which makes that conversation than much more valuable profitable whatever term you want to use. So congratulations. Very good. Good work thank you. It’s my pleasure. So what are your goals for the book? My goals for the birth or the business? I always ask business goals but I assumed it was for the book. Business skills is this is a stepping stone for what’s coming next. And with a lot of small businesses we hear you’ve got to find your niche go into your niche. This is a book that goes across all industries. My particular focuses IT. And helping IT professionals talk to business professionals which includes how to get away from very technical responses into clear and concise business consumable responses and that is the direction that I’m very focused on.

And heading in just the first book I was going to write was about bridging the business it divide. But the very first thing I would teach on every occasion whether it was 1-1 and a team, the very first thing I would teach is what’s in this book because until people can be clear and concise it doesn’t matter if you don’t use jargon. Doesn’t matter if you speak the businesses language if you can’t be clear and concise. You have to do that first. Did you did you recognise that there’s a problem with communication between I. T. People and business people but maybe I’ll maybe I’ll sort of do something on that and then realise well actually it’s not just them it’s everyone that’s doing this it’s everyone. Yes and there is that gap between it and business And not many people are placed to understand both. And I’m very fortunate in that I had a technical training and in 15 years with software in one shape or another with a foot in both it and business like most of my career had been devoid so it didn’t seem like a difficult thing because it was what I was taught to do and what I experienced.

So you asked what my focus is for the business is helping in that space. I want to help teams communicate better with business teams. The book is a calling card. I wrote the book partly because I wanted to get some material out there. It helped me organise my thoughts. I will probably give away more than myself. But if people want to buy it I’m doing a terrible job of selling myself. I said communication courses shouldn’t be phenomenally expensive. Don’t buy my book, do buy my book, it’s really good but I expect to use it as an introductory method to showcase the kind of information that I’ll be providing and then that gets me in a position to talk to people where I can really help there. It seems small companies individuals or large organisations help get their IT teams to communicate better with the business because I disagree. I fundamentally disagree with the stereotype that techies can’t communicate. They absolutely can. If they have the right training, the right practice. They absolutely can. Was there anything that you feel is particularly valuable in terms of message from the book that we haven’t discussed today?

There’s one piece that is tucked away. It’s a couple of pages that reference this. It’s called a validation check point. And this is when, once you’ve started a conversation, we talked about this earlier. You’re asking someone for time unless you’re in a scheduled meeting. But if you’re having an impromptu conversation or even an email, you’re asking people for time. So check that they have both the ability and the availability to answer your question. And it’s very simple to do. Once you’ve framed the discussion, once you’ve given a structured summary, say, hey, is this something you can talk about now? Are you the right person to talk about this? And that gives the person you’re talking to all the people you’re talking to an opportunity to say no, I don’t right now, can we come back later or no? It’s not as important as the other stuff I’ve got to do or yes. Sure. Or I don’t have the right answer. Go and talk to Emma. She might have the right information. Do that check please because it will prevent you wasting time on a conversation that might not might not be with the right person or be happening at a time that’s convenient to validate that the person people you’re talking to have the ability and the availability to talk right.

I remember that in the book. He can do multiple validation. You call them validation check point. Is that what you said, validation checkpoint? There’s a time check and validation check up. Okay, and where is the best place to find you? You can find me at The book’s available at all retailers. It’s on amazon as a main place but it’s available through 60,000 different retailers online and come and find me at My social hangout is LinkedIn. That’s where I spend most of my time and I publish twice a week. I won’t crowd your inbox out and not on their 15 times a day, but I put out 22 blog posts each week, usually Monday and Wednesday. One is information on how to guides. The other is more of an opinion piece about the state of communications training, particularly software companies. And if those sound like something you’d be interested in, hit me up on LinkedIn, connect, I’d love to chat.

Sounds good. Thank you very much for being a great guest. I highly recommend especially if you’re involved in business to get the book.

Thank you very much, Thomas. It’s been a real pleasure.