Some Tips for Communication ☎️

Nov 25, 2022 3:01 pm

Happy Friday!

Well, we moved into our new home on Tuesday, and my family immediately got sick. I'm choosing to look at the upside here, which is that we got to have a holiday together instead of traveling.

Earlier this week, I was on the phone with a large group of a client's legal team working on contracts for a new product, and I was astonished at how poor the questions were. Seemingly simple questions like, "Who uses the data," took much longer to answer because they lacked any context.

So, I wanted in this little newsletter to go through a communication pattern that I often coach product people and leaders to use as they communicate so that conversations stay productive and collaboration can occur.

I call it speaking at three levels.

The basic idea, before I get into each level, is that you will communicate an idea at three different levels of detail or scope, starting from the most zoomed-out or abstract and ending with the most detailed. By using those three levels, you can help people create a needed context to understand what is going on, which lets them engage easier. Skipping the levels tends to create a lot of conversational rework. Some people, when I teach them this, worry it takes too long, but I find one sentence per level is sufficient and that usually means you can do this in one or two breaths.

Level 1: Purpose, or Goal

At this level, we are stating the "Why" of what is going on. Typically this is the purpose of what we're doing or the major goal that started us on the path we're on.

An example could be, "We need to bring in 2 million in extra revenue this year."

Level 2: Current Area of Focus

This level is between the super high level and the very specific details. It's appropriate to think of this level as a bridge between purpose and detail. So in product work, this could be thought of as an Epic or something along those lines.

An example here could be, "So we need to look at how we are onboarding customers."

Level 3: Specific Detail

Finally, at the last level, we're at the very discrete tactical issue at hand. This is where most people want to start and where I suggest you end. By bringing this level up at the end, we've created the context for this specific detail to live in, which frames up the rest of the conversation.

An example here could be, "We want to make some of the profile questions optional, so people get into the product sooner."

That's it. That's the whole magic technique right there. I hope you can kind of imagine or recall a conversation that started at Level 3 and got stuck because nobody had the right framing to make progress. If not, try this as an experiment; imagine having a meeting where the first thing someone said was Level 3. More than likely, you'll have a reaction of, "That doesn't make any sense!" Now, if you start back at Level 1 and work your way down, your brain will create a plausible story using the information from the other levels, and your reaction will be quite different.

Anyway, I hope this newsletter finds you well, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this technique or others you've used.