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How to Drive Budget Results By Using Empathy

Most of us can identify with spending hours crafting a compelling presentation for an essential budgetary increase or equipment purchase, then being told a month later that our request was denied. Our immediate reaction is to focus our frustration and disappointment outward when really, an inward reflection is most effective. Think about it as if you were the decision maker; walk in their shoes for a day. Craft your presentation to highlight outcomes they are interested in and show how your request is going to meet their bottom line. They are much more likely to tune in.

Seeing and hearing how your needs will add value to the "bigger picture" will intrigue them. As nurses we call this empathy, the intellectual identification of feelings, thoughts, and/or attitudes of another. It is essential for compassionate, patient centered care. By employing empathetic skills when preparing your presentation, your chance of success increases significantly. This short video clip, 'The Power of Words' by Andrea Gardner is a perfect example of how changing your appeal to match the perspective of your audience changes everything. In business they call this the value proposition. What keeps your decision maker up at night? What themes have been repeated weekly in staff meetings? What are the new regulations or accreditation standards they are trying to meet? By framing your presentation into their mental map, your value proposition will be compelling and memorable.

Since forming Avkin, I have given presentations about the company to several audiences. The essential information does not change, but the delivery is tailored. Am I presenting to simulation educators, deans, CNO's, or potential investors? By editing the direction of the presentation to include a value proposition they can begin to apply its relevance to the bigger picture. As a result, it is much easier to hold their attention and they quickly identify how your needs align with theirs.

Empathy is also important on the day of your presentation. Is it the end of the day? Have ten other people spent the day asking for things? You are excited and anxiously awaiting your time to shine but your audience may be bored, tired, distracted, or irritated. Set a goal to be the first meeting of the day. If this is not possible, spend a few minutes trying to imagine how your decision maker is feeling before you walk into the room. Remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? They are as significant in the boardroom as they are at the bedside. If your audience is tired, hungry, or in need of a bathroom break, your presentation is not going to be impactful no matter how hard you prepared. Offer a short break before you present or consider bringing a snack if appropriate. Maslow contends that our basic, physical needs need to be met before we can focus on secondary and tertiary needs. By addressing basic needs up front, it frees the decision maker to engage in your presentation.

As nurses we hone in on each patient's individual needs, wants, and desires to compel them to positive changes in their health. Assert these same skills to communicate a value proposition to your decision maker and they are much more likely to find room in the budget to accommodate your needs.

- Amy Cowperthwait Avkin CEO, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC 

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