Professional Development: Advocating for Ideas and Opportunities in the Workplace | Holley M. Kholi-Murchison | Skillshare

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Professional Development: Advocating for Ideas and Opportunities in the Workplace

teacher avatar Holley M. Kholi-Murchison, Artist & Cultural Geographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why This Skillset Matters at Work


    • 3.

      Unpacking the Vision


    • 4.

      Messaging the Vision


    • 5.

      Forwarding the Vision


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Communicate and materialize your ideas at work (and in life!) with social practice artist and entrepreneur Holley M. Kholi-Murchison!

Ideas may make the world go-'round, but it’s our capacity to communicate them that actually makes the world go ‘round. Join Holley as she walks us through her approach to taking professional ideas and opportunities, communicating them effectively, and rallying the right people to help them materialize within your workplace.

Together with Holley, you will learn how to:

  • Unpack the vision for your idea or opportunity so that you can effectively position them for others 
  • Communicate your vision clearly and effectively to the right people 
  • Forward the vision in a way that actualizes and moves your idea forward 

No matter your level within an organization or team, this class will provide you with the resources to succinctly and compellingly share, conceptualize, and see your ideas and opportunities come to life. 


This class is designed to welcome students of all levels. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Holley M. Kholi-Murchison

Artist & Cultural Geographer


I‘m an artist and cultural geographer exploring work as a pathway to self and communal actualization. From my research I tell love stories and create media, artifacts, experiences and spaces that embolden people across disciplines to develop and channel their gifts and talents for their life’s work, personal fulfillment, and our collective liberation. I also advise executive leaders and teams at select companies and institutions on creating more equitable workplaces.

While it's been a winding road, over the past 15 years I've had the privilege of making art I'm incredibly proud of, coaching thousands of multipotentialites to honor their multitudes, collaborating with brilliant, kind practitioners and waymakers, and speaking and teaching a... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Ideas makes the world go round. But what we don't talk about enough is that our capacity to communicate them is what really makes the world go round. I'm pretty much always been into peaching for as long as I can remember, since my early childhood. The word peach just had different meanings and definitions to it. The way I've always seen it is, telling stories and enrolling people into stories where they felt seen, where they felt heard, and where they we're willing to take a journey with me. What I realized early on is that, this skill set is something that's applicable across the board, whether it's at work, whether it's in conversation with peers. It has been one of the most critical skills to my career development. In today's class, I am going to walk you through my approach to taking big ideas, communicating them efficiently, and rallying the right people to help them materialize. I'm Holley Kholi-Murchison. I'm a social practice artist and entrepreneur. The taste of transformation is honestly what keeps me coming back to this word. I've coached hundreds of entrepreneurs to peach their ideas and raise capital. I've peached to many companies around ideas that I've had that I wanted to move forward, and I've peached to friends, peers and colleagues to get them on board to help bring new ideas to life. I hope this class changes the way you see peaching. I hope it becomes a lot less daunting and you see it for what it really is, the ability to tell a compelling story. Through the lessons we're going to explore how to unpack your vision for your idea, essentially getting all those nitty-gritty details out of your brain and onto paper, so that you can effectively position what you're trying to talk through. We're going to talk about messaging your idea. Once you've got all the nitty-gritty details down, how do you communicate it clearly and effectively to the right people, and then we're going to talk about forwarding your vision. Once you've got your message clear, you know who you want to communicate it to, how do you do so in a way that moves the idea forward and takes you to your next steps? You should take this class if you work on a team or anywhere across an organization and you believe in the value of ideas, the sharing of them, the conceptualizing them, and the seeing them come to fruition. You are going to create a concrete game plan peach or a presentation for an advancement opportunity or an idea that you'd like to materialize. But before you upload your projects to the gallery, I'm going to share a bunch of resources with you in the next few lessons. If you have any questions along the way, just share them in the discussions, and I'll meet you there. Let's get started. 2. Why This Skillset Matters at Work: Before we get into unpacking, messaging and forwarding ideas, I want to first contextualize why this skill set matters in the first place, and that's what this lesson is all about. Being able to pitch and position ideas opens up endless possibilities. I remember the very first big idea I shared that I got a yes to. It changed the trajectory of my career and my personal life as well. So when we're able to compellingly reel someone in to something we believe in something we've imagined and then gather resources to materialize it. That sets the tone for us to be able to do it over and over and over again. Now is a golden time for us to advocate for our ideas in the world because we can't get this present moment back. I know that feeling of having ideas collect dust and notebooks that never come to life or seeing someone manifests an idea that you thought of but you never acted on. This moment, especially when we think about the future of work and what's at stake and what we have the capacity to create change around is reliant upon our radical imaginations and the futures that we seek to see. The more we have a range of different voices and thoughts and ideas coming to the table. The more we can create that change. As we move forward, I want to offer up a little distinction between idea and opportunity, and I encourage you to let your imagination run wild with it. Let's say you're on a team and you've been on that team for a significant amount of time, and you have a big idea in mind for how you-all can do something differently, whether it's a process or a strategy or a campaign that you're working on. That's what I mean about idea. A new way of doing or moving something forward, and when we're talking about opportunities. Similarly, I want you to think about yourself on a team, if you've been there for an extended period of time or a short period of time, and you see a pathway for you to move into a different role or wear a different hat or position something new, that's an opportunity. I want you to take those distinctions from my example, but add onto them based on where you are in your career, what team you're working on, what company you're working with, and let your imagination run wild. As we move forward, I want you to decide on just one idea or opportunity that you want to focus on unpacking, messaging, and forwarding through the next couple of lessons. I'm going to be here right alongside you with my own case study for reference, and I'll share with you how I was able to do the same for one of my biggest ideas yet. 3. Unpacking the Vision: This lesson is all about some key questions worth considering as you make sense of the idea or opportunity that you've chosen to advocate for. I want you to think about this unpacking part of the process as the road map that you take with you when you are charting new territory. Without laying out the pieces clearly, it's easier to stumble along the way and this is going to help you avoid some of those stumbling blocks that come up. I'm going to walk you through nine key questions worth considering when you're advocating for a new opportunity or an idea. I'll tell you more about how I've walked through them in the case study portion. But I want you to follow along whatever question applies, trust it, and if it doesn't, you can let it go. The first key question worth considering when you're advocating for a new idea or opportunity is what's at stake and what's been a barrier thus far? Because oftentimes when we're positioning new ideas or opportunities we're telling the story of, hey, here's what's at stake if we don't do this very juicy smart wise thing that I'm positioning for you, and here is the barrier that's been in the way of us doing something as magnificent as this before. You lay the foundation for your idea or opportunity to exist between this what's at stake place and what's the barrier that we haven't been able to get around before. That's the first question worth considering. The second key question worth considering is a two-prong question, it's who's your main point of contact and how does what's at stake impact them? Because oftentimes we can talk about an idea or an opportunity and if you're the only one who feels the pain point of what's at stake, it's not as alluring, or enticing for someone else to get involved. But if I can tell you a story of hey, point of contact, whether it's your senior manager, or whether it's one of your colleagues or whether it's someone on a different team who you need to get onboard, "Hey, here's this idea I have, person A. Here's what's at stake within this idea. Here's how what's at stake also impacts you." So you make it more appetizing. The idea is that as you answer these questions, you can figure out, here's what makes my idea irresistible. Here's what makes it impossible or almost impossible for someone to say no to it. We know what's at stake. We know what barriers are in the way of it. We know who our point of contact is, and we know how what's at stake impacts them. Question 3 is, what information do you need to illuminate what's at stake? You're not pitching into him yet, you know who your person is, you know how what's at stake impacts them now, what information do they need to be able to be like, "Aha, I'm on board." The fourth key question worth considering is what has already been attempted to solve for what's at stake? Here's what I mean by this. If you ever go into a meeting and you pitch a new idea and you get a reaction like, we tried that already when we did XYZ, and you're like, we did? Yeah, we tried this last month. You have to show that there's proof that you've done your homework, you know what's been tried, you know what hasn't worked, and here's why your idea makes the most sense here. The fifth question worth considering is what do you propose? This is the space where you get real crystal clear about what your idea or opportunity is that you want to pitch or position. Question 6 is, how far are you in the development of your idea? That's an important thing to jot down. How far are you in the development of your idea? The seventh key question worth considering is what potential roadblocks stand in the way? Now, particularly when you're pitching or positioning new ideas or opportunities within the context of a team or within a company, it's so important that you've thought out, okay, here are some of the barriers that might come up. So what are the potential roadblocks? Is it running out of resources? Is it time? Is it having the right people? What are those potential roadblocks? Question 8 is, what's your vision for execution and what resources do you need to see it through? You can have the juiciest, most delicious idea but if you don't have the vision for execution to see it through, sometimes it's really difficult to get buy-in. So what do you need? Do you need money resources? Do you need a team of people? What are those specific things and what's your vision for how you execute it? Are you thinking, okay, I need a timeline of three months and here's what I could do in that three month time span. Or is the idea of something you're positioning and you're like, actually, I need help with visioning and executing the idea. Being completely transparent about where you stand in that stage of the plan lets people know that you're serious about your idea, or it shows that you're not serious about your idea at all, you get to choose how you show up in it. The final key question worth considering is what's to gain? Let's say you get the green light on this project, on this idea, on this opportunity. What does your team or your company have to win by saying yes to the idea that you are presenting? I want you to think about these nine questions as the breeding ground for your idea brainstorm. This is what's going to help you excavate and unpack that big idea or that opportunity that you're holding on to. I'm going to share a case study with you for what this looks like when it comes to life. For me in particular, my most recent career endeavor was securing a position as the creative researcher and residence at WeTransfer. They're a company with a file-sharing platform and a suite of tools that help people bring their creative ideas to life. What started with that idea was I enrolled in a graduate school program for cultural geography and the program is called Global Futures, Culture and Creativity. At the heart of the program, it begs the question, how do we use social science research methods and culture and creative practices to solve problems of equity around the world? I was like, "Okay, that sounds really cool in academia." Now what does it look like for me to take some of that work and theory and apply it in practice in the world outside of school. I thought, "You know what, I'm going to pitch a company about doing a residency, so I can take some of these ideas and work across some of their departments." I was like, I know what my strengths are, talent development, ideation, and storytelling. So perhaps I can say, "Hey company, let me come in and be your creative researcher and work across your teams and help you blow up ideas in creating research that changes learning and development and tell really dope stories about the work that you're doing in the world." I wrote down my answer to these nine questions based on what was at stake, who my point of contact was and what I'm going to share with you are my initial answers from that brainstorm. Here you'll see my initial notes. I was like, "Okay, I want to join WeTransfer and researcher and residence, learning partner and residence capacity. I'm going to reach out to my contacts there." I knew that they had an open an application form on their website. I was like, "I'm just going to create my dream job and do it." I was like, "I'd ideally like to apply the work I'm doing in my graduate program to help enhance their learning and development department and the work that they're doing on WePresent. So I just started to write down all these ideas for what could make it happen. I wrote down a time frame of when my residency would be, September to January was this year long to nine month residency. I was like compensation, I need to do some research on that once I answered these nine questions and got them down on the page, it gave me the confidence boost I needed to be like, "Okay, yeah, that's a valid idea that I can gain traction around" and it made it really clear for me what my next steps were. What I want you to do is take a look at those nine key questions and as it pertains to your idea or your opportunity, you're focusing on answer the ones that make the most sense for you. In the next lesson, we're going to talk about messaging and positioning that idea to get the results that you want. 4. Messaging the Vision: Now that you've successfully walked through those nine questions, this lesson is all about how to effectively communicate your idea or opportunity. I see the process of effectively communicating an idea or an opportunity as packaging, is the step that you go through before you actually share the idea. It's the taking the bits and pieces of information and shaping them in a way that gets someone to clearly understand what it is that you're bringing to the table. This packaging piece is really important because otherwise, if you pitch or position your idea or opportunity in its brainstorm state, it's the equivalent of leaving all the ingredients out on the counter and expecting someone to guess what the meal is. There's two parts you need to be factoring in when you're thinking about communicating your idea or your opportunity, there's what channel you want to convey that message through, and there's how you want to message it. The channel can be email, it can be a pitch deck, it can be a phone call, it can be a formal meeting, and so the way you message it looks different. If it's an email, my recommendation is, it's a quick email to set up a larger conversation or a larger dialogue. That email shouldn't be 3-5 paragraphs. That email should be five sentences, max, and how I like to structure my email is like, "Hey, I've been working on this particular idea to help solve for XYZ. I know we've tried XYZ before, but I think this is really going to help get us to the finish line." This is why I'm reaching out to this particular point of contact because I know how to illuminate what's at stake for them, and then you close with your ask. Do you have 30 minutes to meet with me next week to explore the possibilities around this idea or something along those lines. That's your channel email and that's the message the way you convey it. Sometimes a visual deck is really useful. If you check the resources, I've shared a couple of apps and tools that I love to use for making visual decks. Let's say your idea is an engineering solution or a product solution. A deck then helps you tell the story. The deck becomes your channel and how you message, again, you go back to those nine questions. What's most useful for someone to know? Then your actual outreach is, "Hey, I've been working on this really big idea to help us solve for XYZ. Here's a deck I created to illuminate what I'm envisioning, and in that deck, it offers up a timeline, resources you need. I would love to sit down and meet with you to talk about the idea. Are you free on this date at that time." That's how you begin to message so that you can move the packaged idea forward. That's your channel and that's how you message it. We've talked about email, we've talked about visual decks. Sometimes it's just a phone call and that's your channel. This depends on the closeness of your point of contact. Like within our work and our teams, there are some folks who we can just pick up the phone and call when we have an idea. I have a lot of close peers who are going just text and say, "Hey, can we wrap for 15 minutes? I'm working on something. I need your insight" They're like, "Great. Pick up the phone." The channel becomes the phone. How it's messaged is now if I've called and said I just need five minutes to run this by you, then I can structure my spiel in that five-minute conversation. That's email, visual decks, phone calls. Now, meetings are a different story. Now, meeting as your channel, how you message the ask for a meeting can look different depending on what your work dynamic and communication is. Sometimes folk schedule meetings through a Slack. Sometimes folks reach out via email to schedule meetings. Sometimes people pick up the phone and call to set up a meeting, and what you'll see there sometimes is a staggered approach to channels. Sometimes you need one channel to get to another channel to have a larger conversation that you're looking to have. I'll share an example with you to help make this a little bit more concrete in practice. Like I mentioned, as creative researcher and resident, I filled out those nine questions, I brainstormed my notes and when I thought about what was the best next step for me, I knew email was my channel and I knew my message was to my point of contacts. I knew that I had a clear pathway because I've collaborated with WeTransfer for two years prior on a number of different projects. So I already had relationship currency and buy-in from two people who I work really closely with there and we hold each other near and dear. So I thought let me send an email outreach to them to say, "Hey, I've got this idea I'm chewing on." I didn't want to go too far in the timeline of the idea because there was information I needed for them. I'll show you how I set up that email to say, "Hey, I've got an idea and I need your co-collaboration to make it make sense. Can we set up a call?" Take a look. This is the blog post that I wrote where my residency was announced. I'm going to take you through it. Here is the email that I wrote up. Again, just a couple of short sentences and I'll read it aloud to you. "I hope all is well in light of COVID-19 and the necessary uprising we're in the midst of. The two of you have been on my mind over the past two weeks. There's a thoughtful approach I leaned in. I know that the world has been crazy lately. I've been brainstorming a contract position to submit through the WeTransfer open application. Before I do, I would love to run it by the two of you to get your feedback to see if it's aligned with the company's 2020/2021 needs." Then I make my clear concrete ask, "Do the two of you have capacity for a quick chat next week or the following week? Thank you so much in advance, sending love from the States, H." Short, sweet to the point. Now I know that these are busy people whose inboxes fill up rather quickly, so I'm going to get in and I'm going to get out. They replied to that email within 24 hours and said, "Hey, we're available to chat next week around this time we'll send in a calendar invite through." I'm like, "Perfect." Now I have a call on the calendar. I've successfully unpacked my idea with those nine questions, I've clearly messaged that I have an idea and now I'm ready to move into the next stage. Here's what I want you to do before we move into the next lesson. You are going to choose an approach for how you'll present your idea or opportunity. Again, I want you to think what's your channel and how are you going to message it through that channel? In our next lesson, we'll talk about how to forward your idea once you've gotten in the communication loop. 5. Forwarding the Vision: We've unpacked and positioned your idea or opportunity, and now we're in another critical stage is presenting the idea. This is your moment to rally the folks to help you materialize what you've been dreaming up all along. So in this lesson, we're going to talk about some communication tips and best practices, for how to best navigate the communication approaches that we talked about in the previous lesson. First and foremost, you don't need to reinvent the wheel when you're presenting. Use the nine questions that you brainstorm through in our earlier lesson, to help you shape a script for what you want to talk about when you're presenting. You want to cover the key things like what's at stake, how does what's at stake affect us all? What are some of the barriers that have prevented us from alleviating this burden? How does your idea help alleviate it? What's your vision for how it works? What do you need people to do to get onboard? Those are all things that we touched on in the first nine questions. If you take those few, you can shape your script, so to speak, for how you want to pitch and position your idea and get people on board. The second step is, be mindful of the rule of three. This is one of my favorite rules in writing, but it also really ties in well when we're speaking and presenting. That rule suggests that concepts that are presented in threes are inherently more interesting, more memorable, and more enjoyable. As you start to structure what your presentation is, you can think of it in three ways, we're going to talk about the problem, we're going to talk about what my idea or opportunity is, and we're going to talk about how you can help me forward that, or we're going to talk about how you saying yes to it changes the landscape of how our team functions, or how our company functions, or how our department functions. The third tip, really comes into play when you think about what happens after the presentation. Often we can get hung up on. Okay. I'm going to pitch. I want to knock it out of the park, and then it ends there. The conversation doesn't end at the end of you pitching or presenting your idea or opportunity. I want you to think ahead around what happens next. If you get a yes in that moment in that room, what's your next step? Do you need to set up another conversation, another call? Will you need to send a budget for the idea that you are presenting? Do you need to create a timeline? Will they need more information or a deck? Based on the point of contact, how far along you are, and the idea or pitching the opportunity, really think about what your next steps might be so that you can be prepared for your next move once you've got the green light. I'll give you an example of what it looks like to forecast out what might happen next. You saw in the previous session, I sent that email to my points of contact that we transfer to get the conversation started about the idea I wanted to build. I knew that after that conversation, there will be more work to do because I went into it saying, hey, I want to get on the same page around what some of your goals are. I knew in my mind that I was going to design a residency that met the needs of the company as it grows, but also met the needs of my desires as a creative researcher and residence, and the work that I wanted to be putting out in the world. I knew that I would probably have to design a deck to paint the picture of the vision after that conversation. My intuition was right about that. I'll show you what I ended up creating. What you're looking at is the front page of a deck that I ended up sharing with the WeTransfer team. After my call with my beloved colleagues, the first thing they said to me was, ''We love the idea of a residency, can you create a deck to show us what you're envisioning and we'll share it with the right teams?'' What I told them was, ''I would love to work with the insights and intelligence team, I would love to work with the PR and comms team, and I would love to work with the learning and development team.'' I've got to work on shaping this multi-page deck that painted the picture of what the role of a creative researcher and residence would look like. For privacy purposes, I can't show you the full deck, but I can tell you the headers that I included. I made sure to include a page about me that gave them insight on what my work as a social practice artist has looked like, how I've consulted and worked with and within companies to help them re-imagine what the learning and talent development looks like, how I've helped them think strategically about solving humans and their problems. I shared my background in terms of how I've been working to help people communicate and champion their ideas across the breadth of my career. The next piece I included was a residency scope. Here's what I envision doing and working within each of these teams to help solve the specific needs. I made sure that the deck was a reflection of some of the pain and the interest areas that we talked about on our call. I had the about me, I had the residency scope, I included a residency timeline, here's how long I envision working within the organization, I included compensation that I desired, here's how much I want to be paid for that project. If you're positioning yourself for a new opportunity, you would think, and here's the new role I want to create for myself, here's the salary I want. This was similar in that vein. Then I made it super easy. I was like, here's our next steps. I made sure to make it a point to further the conversation. I would love to get on the call and talk more through this, see what makes sense, see what needs tweaking and further the conversation, and that's precisely what happened. I think it's important that as we forecast out, we remember that these things take time. Going from idea to execution is not an overnight process. This residency process from pitching the idea to actually signing the contract to come on board as researcher and residence, took about seven months. From this deck, I ended up in conversation with various teams. I talked to the insights and intelligence team which is now user experience research. I talked to the learning and development teams. I talked to the PR on comms team. I really got to know the ins and outs and the needs of the team that I'll be working with, so that the idea wasn't self-serving, but it was an idea that would help move the company forward and help move their efforts forward for the independent creators that they help serve around the world. I was thinking ahead. I was like, this is probably going to be a number of conversations. This deck is probably going to be multiple iterations and it was, it was three. But I stayed the course because I knew that if it was the right fit, we would make sense of it and we did. Now that I've given you an example of how I started to think about what next might look like, I want you to do the same for yourself. You know what you're presenting, you know how you're positioning it, you know who you're sharing it with. Now, I want you to go one step further and imagine what questions might they have? What happens if I get a yes? What would I do if I got a no? What would I do if I got a maybe? Your next action before we close out is to make a list of this yes, no, maybe checklist. If they said yes to my idea or opportunity tomorrow, what would I do next? If they said maybe I need a little bit more information, what would I do next? If they said no, what would I do next? I considered all of these possibilities when I was pitching their residency idea to WeTransfer. I knew if they said yes, I probably need to share more information and have more conversations. I knew if they said no, I would ask, what do you need in order to make this a yes? I knew if they said maybe, I will probably have to go back and tweak and go back to the drawing board or figure out new people to ask or perhaps do some research on other companies that I would position this to. Think about the context here the nine questions you've answered, what the idea or opportunity is, and I want you to make your yes, no, maybe checklist so you can forecast the actions that could potentially happen next. 6. Final Thoughts: Thank you so much for taking my class. I hope it's enhanced your capacity to see the brilliance in your ideas, and also bring them to the stage that they deserve to be on. If you have any questions, just remember, I'm a discussion away, so drop your questions in there, and I'm really looking forward to seeing your final projects uploaded in the gallery. If you really enjoyed this, I encourage you to check out some of my other classes here on Skillshare. I'll see you soon.