A point of view seems like a simple thing, maybe even something that you’re assuming you “just have” and don’t necessarily need to work at developing. If this is you, good for you! However, for most of us, this is not the case. Recognizing when to put your perspective – your point of view – forward and how to articulate it is a skill that’s developed and refined. It requires thought and consideration. Choosing the right words are important as is selecting the audience that will receive and ultimately interpret your point of view. Sometimes delivering a point of view off the cuff is great and other times it will take considerable preparation.
Throughout my professional years I’ve had major successes and failures in this area. I once was so vocal about a professional partnership in a meeting that the owner of my company’s face literally turned red with fury. On the flip side, I’ve also taken the time to write white papers and blog posts about professional topics that were so well received they landed me speaking gigs at national conferences. So there will be ups and downs when it comes to both developing and sharing your point of view, but the lessons learned will make you better, more articulate, and confident as you grow… and that my friends, is what it’s all about.
How to Develop a Point of View
While it’s not rocket science, there’s a process to it. To develop your point of view around <insert topic here> you must listen, assess, and understand.
Listen: Has someone asked you a question about something you’re not familiar with? Or a question about something you are an expert in? Or a question about what the industry is doing? Or what you’d recommend in <insert any scenario here>? These are opportunities to develop a point of view. When you’re listening, truly listening, you’re tuned into your environment. Whether that be consulting with a client, a water cooler conversation with your coworkers, or even a performance review with your boss. You need to be listening for the opportunity and reason to develop and structure your point of view around an appropriate topic, subject matter, toolset, etc.
Assess: Now that you’re listening and truly tuned in to your professional environment and have triggered the need to develop your point of view, you must assess what is required of your point of view. In some cases this might be simply digging into your memory bank, formulating a few quick thoughts and away you go. In other cases it might turn into a bit of a research project because you aren’t fully versed in the topic or because it’s something you’ve never considered for yourself, your client, or your team before. The goal is to assess the depth and breadth of what’s needed from your point of view for it to be successfully shared, heard, and generate your desired end result.
Understand: At this point, you know you need to have a point of view, you’ve generally determined what’s required of your point of view, so now you need to understand what it means. It’s one thing to simply say, “I think you should do X because of Y.” It’s entirely another to work out the implications of that perspective for the person or people you’re sharing it with. Will it help them achieve their goal or satisfy their knowledge gap that triggered you to develop your point of view in the first place? If they came back to you in six months would you still agree with your recommendation? Do they have the tools to take what your point of view is suggesting and become actionable? You must understand your intention of sharing your point of view and how the implications (which are most likely very positive) of your point of view may affect the person or people you’re sharing it with.
How to Share Your Point of View
In the consulting world, there’s an acronym we spout off: WIIFM. It stands for “What’s In It For Me?” WIIFM is used to put context to what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. Are we thinking about our audience? What are the follow-on questions they might ask and are we prepared to answer them? Essentially it’s a lens we use to ensure our bases are covered before we share out a point of view with our clients.
If you develop your point of view perfectly, but share it imperfectly you’ll find yourself at the beginning of the process. Here’s how to ensure success when sharing your point of view.
Consider your audience: How you share your point of view with a co-worker is different from a client. As is how you share your point of view with a client who is a VP with decision-making power, a budget, and a strategic partner compared to a client who is an implementer who is tactically focused. Depending on who your audience is, your methodology for sharing should be different. Think through who your audience is, your relationship with that audience, and what they will expect from you when sharing your point of view. Take the time to think through the WIIFM for your audience and how you’ll deliver on their expectations.
Choose the right Communication Method: Based on my experience, here are some communication options that work well.
- Lunch or Coffee: When speaking informally, or with an individual you have a semi-personal relationship with, discussing over lunch or coffee is a great option. It invites discussion and takes the pressure off of delivering expertise. It also creates an opportunity to dig deeper into questions and learn how to continue to develop the point of view in a way that will drive continued work, conversation, relationships, etc.
- Formal Meeting: This is where a PowerPoint deck comes in handy. They’re not always super fun to create, but when you’re presenting to a group of people, perhaps even over video, it’s a great tool to facilitate a formal meeting and is easily shareable so folks can reference it later.
- Email: When the need to develop and share a point of view generates out of a simple conversation, following up at a later (but timely – no more than a week) point in time with a well-worded email is a great option. It lets the person know you heard them (listen) and reacted thoughtfully (assess) and are here for them (understand).
Follow Through: Part of sharing a point of view is the follow-up on that point of view, especially in a professional setting. If you share with your boss how you plan to achieve a promotion, but don’t continually follow-up to let her know your progress, what was the point of developing and sharing in the first place? Likewise with clients. If your team spends hours preparing a presentation articulating a perspective on how the client can increase ROI by 10% but you don’t follow-up to put the work in place and kick it off, that 10% increase is lost. Once you’ve communicated your point of view, develop a plan to follow-up on it and keep it moving. This follow-up plan will be different depending on your audience and how you communicate it, but it should exist, even if it’s a simple quarterly email to check in. Don’t let your point of view go to waste.
Your point of view is part of your brand. You’re putting it out there for consumption and digestion. Remember to listen, assess, and understand along the way to ensure it’s a point of view you’re proud of and can stand behind as you thoughtfully share it out. Get to listening, because you have a lot of value to bring and important perspectives to share!