Words Are Like Seeds

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Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

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5 Things They Don’t Teach You in Communication Skills Training

More and more, I’ve started incorporating concepts, strategies and techniques into my communication skills training that I learned during the first three years of starting my own business, Quality Assurance Communication.

My typical clients are international professionals working in Europe. Very often, the articles I write are written to ‘speak’ to internal audit professionals who travel the world assessing governance, internal controls and compliance with policies and regulations.

Audit not your thing? No problem. What I share can be applied to any other function, whether you work for a global conglomerate or you’re an entrepreneur.

Let me explain by starting with my pitch. It goes something like this:

“I empower international audit professionals to communicate their key messages more clearly, concisely and persuasively, so my clients achieve better audit results than ever before.”

You can argue the merits of the exact wording. I can tell you that the wording changes slightly each time I present myself. You could say its imperfect… imperfect wording or an imperfect pitch. I’m absolutely fine with that. Because it gets results.

Here are five of the strategies and concepts I learned while starting my business, and why I think they can help you refine and target your communication skills and strategy.

1. Take imperfect action

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to take imperfect action.

I consider myself a ‘recovering perfectionist’. This means I have to work on not being a perfectionist. Every. Single. Day. If you are like me, you know that being a perfectionist means it can take you a lot longer to complete a task than ‘normal’ people who don’t suffer from this affliction. Learning to take imperfect actions means you get stuff done. Faster, if less perfectly. But I promise you, it will get you results and move you forward. Much more than striving for and achieving perfection ever will.

2. Build strong, trustful relationships

“People buy from people they know, like and trust.”

This is a long-used sales phrase that is just as valuable today as it was 30+ years ago. I use it in my communication skills training all the time now. Why? Because if you take the time and make the effort to build strong, trustful relationships, you’ll get better results, faster. (Am I starting to sound like a broken record? Good!) I believe wholeheartedly that people champion, support, promote, recommend, cooperate with, take action for, etc., people they know, like and trust.

3. Make it personal

You want me to implement a new global procedure that adds work to my day and has a less-than-friendly user interface? Frankly, it’s not very motivating, or convincing, to tell me that “Global department X is rolling this out at every subsidiary”. The benefit to the global organization may not trigger an emotional connection for me.

Dig deeper, and tell me the impact this new procedure will have on my daily work: pros and cons. How will this change benefit me? How will it improve my world? That last question is the one many of my presentation workshop participants struggle with: You’ve got to be able to answer it. Because if you can answer it, you WILL get cooperation, action, and commitment.

4. Make results clear

I’ve got to be really clear on what results working with me will bring to my clients. This concept works for everything, not just for training: Tell me the expected results and show me examples of similar results, and you’ll influence the decision so it’s a win-win.

Don’t know what the results are of what you are proposing? Then it’s back to the drawing board, my friend. Know the results. Communicate the results. Deliver the results. A simple formula for success.

5. Know your ‘why’

Simon Sinek said it best: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

My goal is not to offer training to the wider world, my goal is to connect with my perfect customer. Someone, and yes it is one person, who understands my ‘why’, because it is their ‘why’. The pitch I shared with you at the beginning of this article resonates with my perfect customer. They hear, they see, they feel, they believe me when I tell them that my purpose is to help internal auditors improve their communication skills so they can be more successful, and get better audit results, than ever before.

By implementing these strategies and techniques, I know, I believe in my bones, you will take your relationships, your communication, and your business to the next level. Results, results, results – for you and your clients.

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

How to Become a Report Writing Fashionista

What does style have to do with report writing? Everything.

One of the outcomes of my International Audit Report Writing workshop is a style guide for audit report writing. Don’t write audit reports? No problem. If your team issues reports regularly, you can still benefit from the concept.

What is a report writing style guide?

It’s an internal document that provides guidance to your team on tone, content requirements, structure, and language choice. It codifies expectations on what and how each member of the team should write.  It results from analysis of issued reports, extensive discussions with management, learning from report writing training, and a shared vision of how reports should look and feel when finalized.

What are the benefits of a report writing style guide?

  1. It ensures consistency. Despite a team being in place for years, significant report writing inconsistencies can exist. During my report writing workshops, I highlight inconsistencies and weaknesses to management and the team. These gaps can be eliminated through intentional use of a style guide after training has occurred when combined with constructive feedback and coaching.
  1. It increases report writing quality. Because your report represents your professionalism and the quality of your work, it can enhance – or detract – from your reputation and your entire team’s reputation. Higher quality reports from the team result in an increase in real and perceived value of your work to the organization.
  1. It serves as a central information source. Every team member has access to the same guidance, any time, from a shared directory. This eases the burden of training new team members, and provides a valuable resource ‘on the job’.
  1. It functions as a baseline for the global team. In today’s dynamic business environment, getting international team members to adopt the team’s global standards can be a challenge. This results from having team hubs on multiple continents and is especially critical when English language skills vary at each location. A style guide will that international team members have the resources they need to meet report writing expectations.
  1. It captures decisions as they are made. A report writing style guide is a living document. Over time, management may update the report template, redefine content requirements or revise standard report language. A style guide can be easily updated for these kinds of changes by the internal document owner and immediately shared with the entire team.

What’s the downside of investing in a style guide?

One can argue it muzzles the author or prevents the author from writing in their own voice. After reviewing hundreds of audit reports, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Individual writing styles and approaches still come through. The style guide simply clarifies any mandatory aspects while providing clear direction regarding tone, content and language. This creates the margins, and the author is free to fill in the facts, figures, conclusions and recommendations in context.

None of my clients has ever regretted putting a report writing style guide in place for their global team. The benefits far outweigh the investment in terms of productivity and quality of work product.

If your team is ready for a report writing style guide, contact me today. I’m happy to share how you can get started on your path to more effective report writing.

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

Living Proof That Excellent Communication Means More Results

It’s hard to believe 2016 is almost over. What a year it’s been!

I can honestly say I’m looking forward to a few days off over the December holidays to rest and recuperate from the whirlwind of 2016. Except that over the holidays, I know I’ll be working on the workshops already lined up for January and February…

This year has been wildly successful for me, and since I’m in the business of effective communication, I took a few moments to reflect on whether there is a correlation between my success and my communication abilities and strategy.

The only possible answer is YES!

As you read my articles from the past three years, you may have noticed several constant themes:

  • Know your audience
  • Build trusting relationships
  • Communicate the impact of doing or not doing something
  • Ensure your key messages resonate with your audience
  • Inspire others into action to create positive change

I could go on…

The bottom line for me is that if you deeply understand your (potential) business partner, then you can serve them more effectively. What do I mean by this? Know what a day in their life looks like, what keeps them awake at night, what their needs and goals are.

And then give them what they need to help them get better results and be more successful.

How did I increase my turnover by 100% this year?

  • By communicating with my clients and potential clients with regular frequency to build and nurture a trusting relationship. This means having face-to-face conversations in meetings and giving industry presentations, calling clients and people I met in my business travels to catch up, and sending my newsletter/blogging on a regular basis.
  • By giving them proven strategies and techniques that help them, their teams and their organizations. From writing and presenting to interviewing and negotiating, I tailor each workshop to the client’s environment, industry and current pain points.
  • By going the extra mile, by delivering quality, and delivering results.

My goal has been and will continue to be to empower international professionals to communicate more clearly, concisely and persuasively… every single day.

So as this year comes to a close – and I know we are all working diligently to complete our tasks for the year – I ask you to take a moment and consider how your communication skills have affected your results and ultimately, your success this year.

If you decide you need to enhance your communication skills in 2017, then read some of the great books out there, participate in a workshop, or get yourself a coach. Start learning some new ideas so you can add to your communication skills “tool basket”. And then take action to put your new skills into practice!

My secret tip for success: taking imperfect action, even in my communication. It moves me and my business forward every day. So don’t wait for the perfect time, the perfect email or the perfect presentation. You’ll spend far too much time waiting, and far less time reaping the rewards of your, and their, action.

Here’s to successfully wrapping up 2016 and to even more results in 2017!

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt