You have the perfect goals and action plan for driving a strong and impactful D&I program. Every detail has been addressed, every metric identified and accounted for, every risk analyzed, and budget line scrutinized.
Unfortunately, for some, that is the easy part. Because now it’s time to sell the plan up and around, getting approval, budget, and the support you need to turn the perfect plan into action.
While the path to approval, support, and adoption can sometimes be bumpy, there are some tips and techniques that can help.
1. To introduce plans start with the punchline then get to the details
The goal of introducing plans (or any other concept) is not to convey all the information, but to peak the audience’s interest to want to learn more. This is the equivalent of a movie trailer. Make it short, splashy and exciting, and easy to understand.
Introduce the plan with the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘now what’ up front. Then, dive into the details later, such as further down in the communication or in a separate, linked communication.
The introduction should be no more than a 3-4 sentence paragraph to peak interest and give next steps.
What it is you are proposing (make sure to link the plan to the known initiatives, goals, or programs).
Why it matters to the recipient of the message (not why it matters to you).
The call to action (what you are asking of them).
If appropriate, add a second paragraph to give a bit more detail or links to more information. You can include information such as:
Who’s involved – leaders, participants, stakeholders
An outline of the project – timeframe, scope, resources, budget
Where to go and who to contact to find more information
The great benefits to the organization, team, community, etc.
Choose a format that will best resonate with the recipients. It may be worth generating more than one format to accommodate different preferences. Format examples include:
Plain text email
Slide / infographic
30-second video (commercial)
Internal website / landing page
2-minute presentation (such as a quick agenda item in a larger meeting)
2. Always include call to action and next steps
For many organizations, gaining support and approval is a multi-step process and could include multiple meetings and communications over a period of time. This could extend well into the execution of the initiative in the form of check-ins and progress reports.
However, there’s a big difference between endless rounds of conversation and progress.
Avoid getting stuck by focusing on action.
For every conversation, communication, and other interaction have a ‘call to action’ and make sure it is prominent and clear.
A ‘call to action’ is the purpose of the communication. It’s the ask. There are two basic types of action:
Make a decision: for example, giving approval, assigning a resource, selecting a job for the project, agreeing to a role or responsibility.
Provide input: for example, giving feedback, providing content, signing up for a webinar.
However, sometimes the call to action is not yet possible. In this case, identify what is required to achieve the call to action (the next steps) and assign responsibility and timelines to those items.
Here are a few tips to help enforce actionable progress:
Include the call to action within every communication both at the beginning and end (emails, meetings, etc.).
If the call to action is not achievable, identify the actionable next steps required to achieve the call to action before ending the interaction. Assign responsibility and a timeline to each.
Communicate the next steps back to the group both during and after the conversation with responsibilities and timeline (such as in an email or group chat forum).
Schedule the next interaction as soon as possible – either through pre-set periodic check-ins (such as weekly meetings) or as part of the next steps until the approval is complete.
3. Keep stakeholders informed of progress with steady, short-format communications
Just like with the introduction, the key to progress reports is short, exciting, to the point, and easy to absorb. In addition to using the tips for introducing a concept, here are a few tips for progress reports.
Consistent format: with consistency, recipients will quickly learn when they will get updated and where to go to get the information they want
Bullets: Using techniques such as bullets helps facilitate short format and easy reading
Graphs: If the updates include data, showing graphs helps readers absorb information quickly