Two conversations. Two different people. Two different needs. And the same two words to help them both.
Recently, I was coaching a client in preparation for a job interview. My client – I’ll call him Ken – was practicing a useful framework for structuring interview responses based on the acronym “STAR,” which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. (I have been unable to find the original source of this framework.) For example, in response to the prompt, “Tell us about a time when you realized a team member was under-performing,” Ken could recount something like the following:
Situation: “We were working hard to get a project completed on time when I realized one of our junior engineers was way behind where he should have been on his deliverable.”
Task: “I was tasked with working with him to help him get caught up, in addition to doing my own work.”
Action: “I helped him see the gap between where he was and where he needed to be, set an expectation for the hours he would need to put in by the deadline, and worked alongside him to meet the deadline.”
Result: “We got the project delivered on time and he learned an important lesson about recognizing percentages-of-completion milestones on a project.”
Now here’s where I added another element to the framework. I said, “Ken, now I want you to add a ‘so that’ statement to that result.” The new ending became, “He learned an important lesson about percentages of completion so that the next time we have a similar project, both he and I will have more confidence that he is staying on track with his deliverables.”
Do you see how the “So that” statement helps to sell the interviewer on the value Ken will bring to the company? Suddenly, the answer isn’t just about what happened in the past – nor even about the good result that emerged at the time – but rather, it’s about a “greater good” that Ken can be expected to bring to the hiring organization: a focus on future benefits. We finished the session with a commitment from Ken to keep practicing his interview responses using the STAR framework plus the words, “so that…”
The phrase “so that” is an important one to keep in mind whenever you are trying to demonstrate the value you bring to a situation or organization. It forces you to focus on the difference you can make, not just on past performance.
A couple of days after the session with Ken, I had an opportunity to make this point to someone else in a different context. I was having coffee with a new acquaintance – I’ll call him Jake – when the subject of networking came up. Jake said, “I hate networking!” Yet, he knew some amount of it was necessary if he was to build his business.
To help Jake make the most of his networking opportunities, I described to him the technique of the 10-second-or-less “verbal business card.” This is a technique for introducing yourself and what you do so as to elicit the response, “Oh? How do you do that?” or “Tell me more.” (You can read more about this technique and how to apply it in two previous blog posts, here and here.) In a nutshell, the verbal business card follows this formula: “I help [insert your target market] to [insert result].” A great way to highlight the result you achieve is by using that powerful phrase, “so that.” Here are some examples:
“I help business leaders become more effective communicators so that they can inspire their employees to action.”
“I help small-business owners build their emotional intelligence so that they understand how to lead in times of disruptive change.”
Notice how both these statements leave the listeners focused on the result, not on a delivery technique or process. If the result appeals to them, they will likely ask, “And how do you do that?” Then you have permission to describe your three-step process or whatever it is you do.
Practice using the phrase “so that,” so that you, too, can make a lasting, results-based impression! And please leave your comments, so that I can know how this principle helps you.
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