Know Your Audience:
Plan to Turn Opportunities into Success
Several years ago, a close business colleague gave me some very good advice on opportunity. I wanted to launch a critical workplace program, but was struggling to score some facetime with my executive sponsors. I felt these sponsors weren’t giving me the opportunity to move forward with my idea. My colleague sensed my frustration and called me at home to offer some friendly advice. After listening to me vent, he rather candidly told me that opportunity was mine to create, it wasn’t something someone else would award to me.
This statement was as foreign to me as it was baffling, and I grew more despondent and determined (and perhaps even more stubborn!) to make things happen. After all, I had a great idea: I wanted to develop an internal training program across all locations that would introduce some consistency to our workflow and provide a clear path for the professional development of employees. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t just agree with me and show their support by giving their royal nod of approval. So, with much resilience, I continued to forge ahead with meeting after meeting and discussion after discussion to get people onboard. I spent so much energy trying to convince others what needed to be done, and far less energy explaining why it needed to be done. We all know the saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, but in this case my way was not the right one. Due to the lack of clarity in my purpose, I lost some credibility with my audience, not to mention a lot of energy, time and peace of mind.
So how often have you stubbornly trudged down a path without weighing all the options or opinions of others? How much sleep have you lost mulling over a particular solution and all of its possible scenarios, or rehearsing how to clinch a tough sale, or how ask your boss for a raise or promotion? Sometimes we fill ourselves with so much drive to accomplish a mission, but then lack the objectivity to envision its final outcome. This exhausts our energy and forces us to function in a state of fight or flight, where nothing ever really happens. Not only is it draining, it’s defeatist and a complete waste of energy and time — two valuable resources that, once spent, are gone for good.
But don’t be discouraged. Opportunity does have a way of presenting itself, even if it might not come knocking on your door; sometimes, you need to chase after it. Just remember, any time you’re chasing an opportunity, you need to pursue it with a clarity of purpose and some solid planning — and having a little luck on your side never hurts!
Purify your Intention
There’s an old saying in Arabic: “Purify your intention”. How can it help you? Think of it like this: if you sift all your ideas through a mental sieve, trashing all the irrelevant, extraneous thoughts, you’ll keep only your finest ideas for further exploration and development. Doing this will help you spend your energy and time more wisely.
Turning ideas into action requires effective planning and execution, as well as an understanding of your audience. An indispensable yet often-overlooked element in the planning and development stage of a project is the needs assessment. Starting with a thorough needs assessment lets you identify the gaps between your current and desired state, estimate your resources, and gain some credibility with your sponsors and stakeholders.
A solid needs assessment starts with a plan: What do you want to accomplish and why? Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to identify the needs and wants of your potential audience. You can do this by collecting and analyzing representative data from a sample population. Be sure to carefully observe and document all tasks, working with exemplar employees and SMEs to help you determine what the learner needs to be able to do; this will also help you make the proper recommendations to your stakeholders. The following process outlines three essential objectives of a needs assessment:
- Define the needs and wants of your potential audience by analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data.
- Identifythe various competencies and procedures, as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required.
- Understand the organizational strategy that drives corporate culture, which will inevitably impact your approach and the success of your program.
Having a needs assessment means you won’t be diving into unknown waters without fathoming how deep you’re going and when to come up for air. Armed with a concrete plan, strong data, and a solid recommendation, your sponsors will appreciate that you have mitigated risk and unnecessary costs. Furthermore, because your sponsors have been able to weigh-in on your vision, their buy-in will not require as much verbal muscularity on your part. By getting to know your audience, you’ll be able to deliver just what they need.