Setting Context

Updated: Jul 18

Looking to increase your influence and executive presence among peers and senior leaders? Want to encourage more creativity from your team? Try shifting from “how” conversations to “what and why” conversations.

When we start every conversation with what we are discussing and why it matters, it can do the following.

· It sets the context so everyone is on the same page. You will always know more about things you work on than anyone else and with back-to-back meetings, people may not even remember the purpose of the meeting.

· It saves time by ensuring you’re truly aligned. If others see the what and why differently, better to uncover this up front.

· It enables more effective analysis. By grounding in what and why, you can compare various how options to see which truly achieve the stated what and why.

· If psychological safety exists, what and why encourage everyone to think at a strategic level instead of just blindly following the leader. This may uncover concerns and opportunities you were unaware of.

· It increases your influence, especially among senior leaders, by instilling confidence that you understand and care about the big picture, their strategic goals.

This simple change in focus has created a huge impact for my clients. They now see how others talk and influence groups. The simplicity of this framework helps ground them even during ad hoc conversations. They start thinking more strategically, which gets the attention of their leadership. Their teams feel more energized because they see the importance of their work.

I encourage you to start conversations with what and why. If someone else is leading the meeting and hasn’t established the what and why, how could a few simple, respectful questions help you and the rest of the team gain clarity on this? What impact would clarity have for you and the group? What would change if you took this approach outside of work too? What misunderstandings could be avoided? What creativity and fun could be added back to what previously felt like a mundane rut?