Stage manage your performances

Most people don’t give enough thought
to the power of sequence —the order in which they allow information to be exposed in public forum.
If they’re running meeting they don’t think about who they will call on first and who last.
If they’re making progress report, they don’t consider which achievements to lead off with and which to hold until the end.
If they’re presenting list of ideas in sales presentation, they present in sequence that makes their gems shine and their throwaways disappear.
Sequencing events in any of these three situations is incredibly simple.
To illustrate: Twenty years ago, rift developed in our London operations. Led by its manager, the successful TV group became force unto itself, and threatened the integrity of the London office. At conference to patch things up, I was prepared to discuss grievances and, if necessary, lay down the law for cooperation. But I abandoned this as soon as I looked at the seating arrangement and noted that the renegade head of the TV division was seated to my immediate left.

Theatre sets the stage
After short speech about my vision, I asked each of them “Do you understand that you’re working for IMG, not the television division and your priorities should reflect that? Just give me simple yes or no.”
I started with the person on my immediate right and went around the room. One by one, each answered “Yes,” they agreed with my decision. As the “yes” responses mounted up we finally came to the division head who sat there stunned and enraged. To his credit he stuck to his guns. He said, “No.”
I could see that this bit of theatre had shaken him up and established to everyone in the room how clearly out of sync he was with his people and our company. That was the beginning of the end for him at our company.
Controlling the sequence of events doesn’t have to be as theatrical as this episode. In fact the power of ordering things your way is greater if you downplay it and people aren’t aware of it.

Control the sequence
If I’m meeting to review our activities on client’s behalf, let’s say I have 35 subjects to discuss, and I’m not happy with what we did on one or two items.
Starting the meeting with negatives opens me up to criticism and puts me on the defensive.
Instead I make point of preceding the negative item with three or four items where we’ve done mind blowing work: “You’ve just heard what we did for you in Australia. You’ve heard about the tremendous deal in France. And here’s that $100,000 royalty cheque from Canada. Now, here’s project in Spain where, frankly, we didn’t do so well.”
That cushions the blow. Given all we’ve done for the client in Australia, France, and Canada, he might be more forgiving of our trespasses in Spain.
It’s the same with selling ideas to your boss or customer. If you have shopping list of 20 ideas, four of which are good and the rest not so good, in what sequence do you present them?
Some begin with the best and work their way down. Some people reverse this, ranking ideas from bad to good and working their way to strong finish.
They’re thinking about sequence, but not wisely. I would prefer to mix it up. I’d lead off with two or three weak ideas then hit my audience with strong one, and continue that pattern throughout. good idea, is always more appealing if it’s preceded by poor one.

Speaking to order
You can gain lot by controlling the order of people you call on in meeting.
If you think you’re going to get some negative feedback on an issue you want positively resolved in meeting, you’re much better off calling first on people you know favour your point of view. Pick your advocates. If you think Joe, Tom, Beth and Susan are on your side and Tony isn’t, by all means call on those people first. Getting four yea’s on an issue might negate whatever impassioned plea Tony might make.
And if you’re master of sequencing you might lobby them before the meeting and tell them what you plan to do.

Mark McCormack is the founder of International Management Group. www.successsecrets.com

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