Tonight I attended another great session hosted by Jonathan Kahn with two excellent speakers discussing how to deal with ‘blockers’ in your company and influence without authority. The event was held at The Hub in King’s Cross, a precursor to the forthcoming Dare conference in September.
The night kicked off with two speakers, Sarah Richards Head of Content Design for GOV.UK and Ummul Choudhury, Co-Founder of Bidna Capoeira. Both addressed ‘blockers’ (people objecting to your ideas) when presenting and how to best influence your desired outcome.
Sarah’s role at GOV.UK is pretty legendary in content strategy circles; her team have been responsible for culling multiple government websites in favour of a single hub of easily, findable information. GOV.UK is a brilliant example of applied CS under extremely challenging conditions.
She presented her insights as four main points:
1. Find the pain. Don’t launch into a conversation with your point of view. No one will listen to you unless they say what they need to say. Shut up and let them speak (‘enjoy the silence’). Then repeat back to them what they have said for clarity of understanding. Let them run out of things to say.
She says this process will ‘reset the relationship’ and disable (hopefully) any tension that may have built up in the weeks prior to the meeting.
2. Avoid the hard sell. Learn what you need then ‘show’ and ‘share’ your point of view. Rip up the agenda and whiteboard the issues to reach a common understanding. She acknowledged that sometimes you will always have people who won’t listen, that’s life. As a way to avoid arguments, bring in experts to back up your point of view. Sometimes, it’s better to hear the new ideas from an outsider.
3. Look beyond the KPIs. If you hit them, will they really deliver what the company really needs? As an example, Sarah spoke about how she reversed one of her previous KPI metrics for ‘Visitors’. If one of the key GOV.UK objectives is to make information more visible, then forcing people to view this info on their own site made no sense. Instead, they optimised the description field in SERPs so you can find key info (like contact details) by simply typing the appropriate keywords into a search engine. Extremely brave, extremely clever and works really well on a search optimised site like GOV.UK.
4. Flattery will get you everywhere. Network, talk to senior management. Ask them for their opinion on anything. People love to tell you what they think. Make connections and establish a network of champions before you step into that all-important boardroom meeting.
Ummul Choudhury’s account of teaching Capoeira to refugees in Palestine was both insightful and moving. Even though she had endured hardship from the authorities whilst trying to do her job, she maintained enthusiastic by reminding herself of the bigger picture. Unlike the refugees she worked with, she still had her passport and her freedom so that gave her the perspective and energy to return each time. She also discussed how easy it was to label people and how our own prejudices limit ourselves.
After the presentations there was time for a panel discussion and the chance for smaller groups to work together to problem solve challenges we face at work. A great chance to network and come away from the session with an action plan.
Thanks again to Jonathan and speakers and I’m looking forward to the Dare conference in September!