A few years back, I was coordinating the interview process of my team members with the client before they start working on the client projects. My team members were not fully confident because they had never faced a client interview before. To build their confidence, we planned three mock interview sessions where I would play the role of a client. We did these interviews in-person and over-the-call. With each call, the confidence increased and communication was tuned for clarity. In the real interview, they did well and client was happy with how candidates represented their skills.
Candidates did well because they were prepared. They practiced, rehearsed and improved before the final show.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
Preparation is so important yet so ignored in corporate environment where we see people representing things without preparing. They do meetings, discussions, calls and even address large groups of people without preparing. They think they would “go with the flow” and “take things as they come.” But they don’t realize that being unprepared, in lean terms, is a huge cost and sometimes, it costs a reputation!
The work “prepare” comes from Latin praeparare which means ‘to make ready beforehand’. Preparation (or lack of it) has been a major determinant in my successes and failures so far. Preparation sharpens your saw, equips you to deliver better and with greater confidence.
Based on my experiences so far, here are some of my lessons on how to prepare well:
Purpose drives preparation. It helps to get clear about “why” you are doing what you are doing. If the purpose and end result is not clearly visible, your preparation may lack enthusiasm and direction. If you are a leader, your #1 job is to first clarify purpose before you start helping your team with preparation.
It is not just about content, but also about context. The art of preparation is not just about the content of your outcome but also the context in which the outcome is delivered. E.g. you have mastered your pitch (content) for that client presentation but you also need to know client’s business, their expectations, key stakeholders and the bigger picture. Context is a part of your preparation.
Preparation should allow you to be more flexible, not rigid. I have seen people who prepare well on content but if things don’t go as planned, they just freeze because they failed to consider the alternatives, variables and how they would respond to it. It is very much a part of your preparation. No matter how well you prepare, uncertainty is almost inevitable and hence preparation should help you remain agile and adaptable to changing situations.
Over to you: If there is one lesson you have to share about the art of preparing well, what would that be?
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Also check out my newest post on Pearson TalentLens Blog: 10 Most Important Traits of a Leader Who Thinks Critically