Back in 2016, Ross Fisher gave a talk at SMACCDub called ‘The Best Presentation Ever’ which explained how each of us has the ability to give awesome presentations. Ross has made a name for himself in the FOAMed world when it comes to presentation skills and you’ll find all sorts of goodness at ffolliet.com his P cubed presentations website. The basic premise is that the story of a presentation (p1), the supportive media (p2) and the delivery (p3) multiply together to create impact. A failure in any one area reduces impact but success in one area builds on success in another to create the best presentation ever. Please do go to his website and read his blog or listen to his podcasts on the subject…it has certainly changed how I give presentations and how I view them, forever.
However, it got me thinking about something else, what if we applied the p cubed formula to our work lives? What if we weren’t just doing the best presentation ever but the most important presentation ever…the example we set everyday in our working lives.
The Most Important Presentation Ever?
When we stop and think about who has influenced us at work, there is often something about the way they actually lived their lives that made that impact. It wasn’t just what they believed or said that struck us, it was how they acted, how they lived that made us stop and take note. It made us want to be like them too, someone that people look up to, someone who sets an example for others and makes people want to be better. Is this something that just happens or can we actively choose to be like that? Can we look at ourselves, examine our own behaviour and become that sort of influential colleague. Perhaps the p cubed formula can show us a way to do that.
The Story (Beliefs)
Now we aren’t talking about ‘Once upon a time…’ here, the story of our lives, no, we are talking about what story we are trying to tell with our lives. In this context the story is the message we are trying to get across, what we believe is important, what drives us. There are likely to be any number of things but if we stop and think we can probably get it down to one or two really key areas that matter most to us: Patient Safety, Staff Wellbeing, Kindness, Evidence Based Medicine, Teaching. These areas may be consistent throughout our career or they may change depending on our circumstances or role but they are the core story that will drive our influence. We may not know what these are yet, but reflecting upon what brings us joy and what causes us upset should help us to see where our hearts are. Alternatively thinking about our current situation may give us a different approach to choosing our story. What do people around us need us to be? Do they need someone to model kindness because work has hardened everyone? Is quality suffering due to too much emphasis on targets and someone needs to stand up for good practice? Could we be the person that our colleagues need us to be?
Leading from the heart comes to us more naturally, requires less effort initially and is fueled by passion but consequently we may feel any failures more personally. When things go wrong it may be harder to work through why we are bothering because this was emotionally driven and we now have negative emotions associated with the goal. Leading with the head doesn’t feel as inspiring, cold logic rarely is, but if problems arise we won’t be relying on our feelings to keep us going. Instead we’ll be relying upon a strategic decision which, however hard it may be, is still sound.
Whether we are led by our head or our heart, understanding our beliefs is vital to establishing our story. Without beliefs we can’t influence anyone usefully. We will be an empty vessel, a rudderless ship ready to be pushed in whatever direction pressure is applied. We will be inconsistent, offering no useful guidance to anyone as our beliefs will change from day to day. If we want to become a useful example to others we must figure out what matters to us, where our anchor is placed, because when the storms come, and they will come, what people need from their leaders is consistency.
The Supportive Media (Actions)
Okay, forget Powerpoint and flip charts when it comes to media in this presentation there is only one thing that matters: what we do. We are the media in this presentation, we are what helps get across our story. If we believe kindness is important then it is vital that we show it in our actions: we must be kind. If teaching and training is our story then we have to behave like it matters: valuing educational opportunities both for ourselves and for others. Never has the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ meant more or helped us understand better what is at risk. Nothing is a more powerful demonstration of our beliefs than us living them… and nothing will damage our influence more than us failing to do so. We’ve all seen it done and probably all done it too but the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ school of leadership just isn’t effective. In Spiderman Homecoming, Tony Stark says to the young Peter Parker:
“Just don’t do anything I would do… and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do? There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate.”
Confused? Peter certainly is and we can assume that those around us will feel the same if we lead in a similar fashion. We must not only practice what we preach everyday we must be seen to practice what we preach and be prepared to be challenged and humbled by our colleagues when we don’t.
However, there is an even worse option open to us: if we actually behave contrary to what we say we believe. If we talk about respecting others but shout at them or talk them down in the coffee room behind their backs, expect our colleagues to follow suit. If we say education matters but consistently fail to attend teaching sessions or refuse to release staff to go on training opportunities, our staff will take home a very different message. Whatever we might be saying, don’t be surprised when people choose to follow what we do instead! Let us make sure our actions match our beliefs, that we act coherently, not as a hypocrite, a functional atheist, saying we believe in one thing but behaving as if it isn’t true.
The Presentation (Attitude)
If the story is ‘Why’ and the presentation is ‘What’ then the presentation is ‘How’. For example, we know why we are behaving as we do – we believe teaching matters, and we know what we have to do – we make sure we teach when we can and support training opportunities but how do we act? Do we support teaching with enthusiasm and positivity, just do it as part of our job; or are we bitter, jaded and reluctant. Are we acting out of joy, out of duty or against our will? Are we behaving like teaching is what we want to do, what we should do or because teaching is what we have to do?
This final part of the jigsaw is incredibly important. With a neutral attitude we can be an individually competent performer but we are unlikely to ever be an effective influence on others. With a negative attitude we will come across as bitter and drag colleagues down but a positive attitude can transform you in to a shining example and a real agent for change. It can be so hard to get this part right and it is often the area many of us fall down on, particularly in these days of short staffing, high workload and emotional fatigue. Enthusiasm can be in short supply and it is one of those things we see dissolving in colleagues as they burnout in front of us. We watch their influence wain as the previously enthusiastic teacher, researcher or team player starts to show signs of disengagement and bitterness. We must all be aware that the words we use, the expression on our face and even the way we carry ourselves around our workplace betray how we truly feel about what we are doing and this has an enormous impact on our influence of those around us.
I think we all want to be a positive influence on those around us and whilst we may not all have the opportunity to make ‘The Best Presentation Ever’ in front of a conference, a departmental meeting or a teaching session I believe that all of us do have the chance, every day, to make ‘The Most Important Presentation Ever’, our working lives.