Over lunch the other day, I was asked, “How do you help people be ready to use the Three Points Forward model? What can we do to use it before a situation gets difficult?”
It is a great question and I have been thinking about it since.
Here is my answer: Positive and excited stillness.
Let me show you what positive, excited stillness looks like through the examples of three remarkable people.
A benefit of my work for the last 25 years is teaming with some outstanding leaders. These three in particular were skilled at finding just the right message. Each had developed an “unconscious competence” an internalized expertise that helped them successfully communicate.
•The first, a Government Administrator who saved his agency from being zeroed out in the federal budget, at a time when his party was out of power and offering no help.
•The second, a General Counsel for a Fortune 500 company, who led his company’s recovery from a major scandal and then helped the company responsibly manage a difficult reorganization.
•And finally, the congenial Am-Law 100 firm Managing Partner who advised dozens of banks and boards to deal with every kind of difficulty and who I knew best as a deep-water yacht racer.
Now, I realize all three had a similar demeanor. Externally, each appeared calm, a certain type of serene. But if you paid attention, you could sense an internal, virtual humming of energy, a consistent, highly enthused state. This polarity, I believe, allowed them to be prepared, ready, and responsible (response-able) at the highest level. They were poised, relaxed and could therefore draw on the right concept or the key phrase whenever needed.
One more thing I recall— all three smiled, a lot. Not a beaming, tooth-filled grin; but a polite and utterly sincere smile. Even when hearing something negative or unpleasant, they smiled, maintaining an external calm, while the inner-workings revved at a high speed.
Each also offered some of the best examples of living the three waypoints.
The Government Administrator, an expert on evidence-based medicine, always had clarity about his interests and intentions. He knew what he wanted to have happen and how he wanted to make it happen. He was comfortable sharing these with anyone, including members of the President’s Cabinet or senators of opposing views. He also knew to ask about and work with the interests of others.
The General Counsel appreciates and invests in relationships. He reaches out deftly and respectfully connects with employees, vendors, opposing counsel, and even competing companies, in order make good things happen.
And the Lawyer | Skipper? He was relentlessly and positively, future-oriented. In the midst of the worst storm I have ever sailed through, he calmly steered through crashing waves while chatting happily about how he looked forward to meeting his wife for dinner at his favorite restaurant in the port where we were headed. It might sound like a small thing, but it relaxed all of us, which kept us safer.
Of course these three people spent years becoming “unconsciously competent.” It takes time and effort to pass through the developmental stages to become “masterful” at communicating.
Having these examples, seeing how they embodied the three waypoints, helped me advance my own abilities. Now this can help you.
So next time, I’ll tell my lunch partner that positive, excited stillness is the way to be ready to put the Three Points Forward model to use. Here’s how:
1. Stay externally calm, even still, to appreciate what is happening around you;
2. Keep both your mind and your heart fully engaged and highly active so your knowledge, skills, experience and feelings are primed to inform you; and
3. Smile— because that gesture invokes a positivism that will help you, and others, find the best way forward.