Writing well at work is about clarity, efficiency and coming across as a professional who can articulate an idea effectively. That’s why it’s paramount to be able to structure your thoughts in an easily understandable manner. Here are some structures that clients have found useful when trying to write everything from a proposal to a strategy for the future of their role.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them
This common structure is useful to layout a presentation. It gives you a structure for a beginning, middle and end.
Previous state - current state - future state
This is a good one for talking about goals - where we were, where we are and where we want to go. A good way to phrase the goal itself is to write it in the form “from X to Y by Z”. In other words, to go from “45 clients to 80 clients by January 31st”.
If this, then that
When there are many variables to deal with - make it clear what happens in each scenario. “If A happens, we will do B. And if C happens, we will do D”. This will give you and your colleague/client clarity over what will happen next.
List of their questions with answers
Sometimes people will write a paragraph of questions in an email. It’s confusing to answer them in another paragraph - so it’s best to separate them into separate lines and answer them all individually. This will give the reader more clarity on the answers.
Overview - details - challenges - risks / rewards - timeline - responsible parties - next steps
This is a good format and structure if you’d like to go to your manager with a proposal for a new project/innovation or a new type of role you’d like to do. The areas listed above will help you structure your thoughts, deal with any risks there might be in terms of time/money and highlight how the project will be rolled out if it goes ahead. The beauty of this structure is that it allows you preempt what the questions from your manager could be or any downfalls of your proposal. That way, you can deal with them before he/she asks you about them.
Experience - responsibilities - achievements - technical skills - soft skills - IT skills - qualifications - abilities
Do you need to sell yourself in an email, proposal or presentation. Try to use the list above to highlight the best parts of your career and experience to date and give three points on each. It can be a difficult exercise for many people to do, so get help from a friend, colleague… or me!
Who - what - where - when - why - how
This is a nice way of eliciting what you do in your job on a daily basis. So many times I hear people say “I help clients and that’s all I do”. Yes, but HOW do you help clients, WHY do you help them, WHEN do you help them, WHERE do you help then and WHAT do you help them with. Answering these questions will give you much better and clearer description of your role.
One sentence - one paragraph - one page
Can you explain the idea/topic/proposal well? This is a good exercise because it forces you to write down what you do 1. simply, 2. with more detail and then finally, 3. in great detail. Firstly, start off by writing it out in one sentence, then elaborate it into one paragraph, and finally flesh it out into a whole page with all the details. This will help you to really clarify what you mean and how you explain it.
I recently read Ryan Holiday's book 'Ego is the Enemy', which I found very thought-provoking. If you're like me, you'd expect to understand the content of the book just by hearing the title, however, according to Ryan, that would be your ego talking.
Listing to all the stories of clients over the past few years, and thinking back over my own personal career challenges, disagreements with colleagues and growth struggles, I was struck by how much of it can relate back to ego being a central component.Read More
Yea, I know... sometimes you have to work late because there is so much on. That's fine - I get it. But the problem comes when we are working late for the wrong reasons. Here they are...
Not able to delegate properlyRead More
Having a good mentor is a great way to start your career. They can save you time, teach you tips and tricks and introduce you to connections that will help you throughout your working life. Below is an extract from a piece written by Ryan Holiday, which offers some excellent tips for navigating the start of an internship.Read More
What if you knew exactly how you were doing at work? What if your goals, bonuses, performance reviews, successes and failures were all available not only to you but to everyone in your company? How would you feel? Nervous right? Scared or anxious?
This is what happens at the worlds top hedge fund - Brightwater, run by Ray Dalio, and he attributes his success to the system.Read More
“There’s nowhere to go” is a common complaint from employees working for small or medium companies. It signifies a drop in motivation as even though they enjoy the environment and the work if they feel there are no opportunities for progression, they start to look elsewhere. This is further compounded by their managers agreeing with them about the state of the organisation. Here’s a strategy that may help.Read More
Did you prepare for the interview? Do you know what questions they are going to ask? Do you know what they want you to say? With a bit of preparation, it's not difficult to prepare perfect answers to typical interview questions. It's also easy to prepare for trickier questions regardless of the topic - it's a process and can be learned. Of course, the problem with all of this is that it is an act on behalf of both parties. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to continue hiring employees in this manner or assume it's an effective way of getting the best person for the role.Read More
What if you wanted to study more about leadership, marketing, sales and strategy? What if you wanted to do an MBA but didn't have the time, money or opportunity? Below are 25 handpicked books that I think are an excellent crash course in business. No, they don't cover every area, in particular finance has been omitted. But they do teach a lot of valuable lessons and have been of huge value to me personally.Read More
"One of the best paradoxes of leadership is a leader's need to be both stubborn and open-minded. A leader must insist on sticking to the vision and stay on course to the destination. But he must be open-minded during the process." Simon SinekRead More
Writing is a tough gig for many reasons:
- Coming up with ideas is difficult
- Crafting and sculpting an engaging piece is tricky
- Sitting down to actually do the work is a struggle and
- Selling it (directly or indirectly) can often be a real roadblock
There are usually only two options for a career. Work for someone else or start a business, right? Nobody ever tells you about the third option - I was surprised that I didn't know until recently, even though I spent four years studying business in college.Read More
Do you really need to work in the office every day? Technology has allowed us so much freedom and flexibility in our working styles, but do we really take advantage of it? Here are 10 reasons why you should ask your employer to work from home (or a coworking space) one day per week.Read More
‘Can I have more money?' is one way to start the conversation, although not a very elegant one. Perhaps a more structured conversation would work better?
In my experience, employers are often open to giving their staff more money or a promotion, but not without good reason. For example, asking for a salary raise for doing the same work probably won’t yield you much success, however, offering to help the organisation 1. Solve a significant problem or 2. Make more money, will provide you with much more leverage. Also, keep in mind that the more you necessary you are to the business, the more inclined they will be to keep you happy at work compared to if you can be replaced easily by someone else who has similar skills.Read More
It’s better you hear it now than in ten years, or realistically speaking - five years. Many people have already been forced out of a job because they’re too expensive to employ and slower than a machine. It’s happening now more than ever but this isn’t a new phenomenon. Since the 70’s robots have been widespread, with the earliest known standardised industrial robot created in 1937. Nowadays robots are becoming household items, helping with everything from cleaning, lighting and heating to monitoring the garage door and making coffee. The changes are gradual and sometimes unnoticeable, but very real.
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” Warren G. Bennis, University of Southern California, Professor of Business AdministrationRead More
If you get a chance, there's a top podcast by the Harvard Business Review on the 4 Behaviours of Top-Performing CEOs. You would be forgiven for thinking that CEOs are the most well educated, business-savvy, mistake-free people in the corporate world, but you'd be wrong.
[There's] almost an equal amount of CEOs who graduated from Ivy League school undergraduate (degrees) as there were who didn't actually graduate from college at all.
- Elena Botelho, co-author of the article “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart”.Read More
Starting a business is a great idea - IF you know what you're doing. But it's not a good idea to work for yourself just because you've decided that you hate your job. Sounds obvious I'm sure, but many people still do it. If you do decide that you're going to take the leap, please keep these points in mind:Read More
Are you familiar with the daily bombardment of email, text, instant chat and social media while trying to get real work done? Don’t worry, Jason Fried, the CEO of base camp, has some tips for us all, especially those who work in small team environments and want to find better ways to concentrate. I picked up these lessons from the Harvard Business Review podcast, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in business or organisational psychology.Read More