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Forget WiiFM, Try WiiFT: The #1 Skill Millennials Need To Get Promoted

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We’ve all heard of the WiiFM (What’s in it for Me). I’d like to encourage early career professionals instead to start thinking about the WiiFT (What’s in it for Them). Not you, but what is in it for your managers, executives, team, and clients.

Recently I was in a conversation with a financial services client and we were wrestling with this question: What presence skills do early career professionals and individual contributors need to develop to be successful in their roles AND advance in their careers?

In today’s business world, this question is crucial. Fortune 500 companies are looking with dread at their leadership pipeline. Pearson Learning recently published a Learning Trends Report that coins the term “The Next Generation Leadership Crisis” in which “bench strength” for leadership positions is seriously lacking.

Back to the conversation with my client and what newbies can do to advance—after a brow-knitting pause on both our parts, she blurts out, “They need to be able to communicate to the audience in front of them!”

When early-career professionals give a status update or an elevator pitch, they are not taking their audience into account. They aren’t asking the essential questions: What does this person care about? What do they need to hear? What is their stake in this project or initiative? Instead they communicate from their own point of view, often giving too much detail and digressing from the main topic. This results in impatience, interruption, and eye-glazing on the part of their manager, team or client.

We’ve all heard of the WiiFM (What’s in it for Me). I’d like to encourage early career professionals instead to start thinking about the WiiFT (What’s in it for Them). Not you, but what is in it for your managers, executives, team, and clients.

Next time you have to deliver a project status update, I encourage you to plan ahead a bit and ask yourself:

What does my audience care about? If it’s your team, they are likely to want to know how your update affects their work flow, so you might say something like, “The client has signed off on the budget and the timeline, and we don’t anticipate any changes to the engagement in this phase.” That will both reassure them and let them know they can move forward with their own individual work without disruption.

What do they need to hear from me? If it’s your manager, he or she will most likely want to hear that the project is on track and there aren’t any red flags, and if there are, express them succinctly: “The client wants to sign off on the engagement one phase at a time. We’ll need to do some of the front work without their sign-off, but we’ve worked with this client before and they’ve always come through.”

What will engage them? If you run into a senior leader in the hallway or at a networking event, they will most likely want to hear high level how your department is doing, and frankly, how you are either driving growth or reducing costs: “Our department has put some significant operational efficiencies in place this quarter which will mean fewer new hires next year.”

“WiiFT” is a whole new way of thinking. Once you turn the spotlight onto the person you’re talking to, your whole perspective can change. Your language becomes more focused. You talk less. You speak with more passion and vocal variety. And those qualities are exactly what your colleagues, managers and senior leaders want from you.

And once you master the “WiiFT”, try the “WiiFO” (What’s in it for the Organization). You’ll have the corner office in no time.

Stay tuned for our second part of this series—WiiFO: How You Can Help Your Organization by Knowing Their Needs.

Related Topics: Communication, Relationship Building, All Posts, Millennial Development, Presentation Skills

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