As leaders communication is a critical part of what we do. It’s easy when we have great news. Everyone is happy. Unfortunately, some of the messages we need to convey aren’t what our audience wants to hear. That’s much harder because you don’t want to be a Pollyanna, spinning things so positively that you look out of touch, but you don’t want to be Eeyore either.
Our job is to convey the information in such a way that people don’t feel like their on a sinking ship, and at the same time, maintains our credibility as leaders.
How do we do that? Here are five critical things have worked for me.
- Know your audience - Your message needs to meet them where they are. Your job is to bring them where you want them to be, but a critical part of doing that is knowing and showing that you know where they are. In addition to knowing where they are, you need to acknowledge and validate it. If you don’t know where they are, then find out.
- Create a positive message - Craft your message so that there are positive takeaways. You need to be careful here because you don't want people to think that you're out of touch, either. Ideally you want for there to be three, and they should be towards the end of your message. People won’t remember most of what you say, but stating those three positive takeaways clearly and concisely will make your message clearer.
- Tell a story - Human beings love stories. It helps us to better understand things and makes your message more memorable. If appropriate you can include numbers and statistics because some people need them to find your message credible, but the story line is critical.
- Connect with your audience - When you’re delivering your message, make sure that your body language is open. Your arms should not be crossed and make eye contact to the extent possible. Your facial expression needs to be consistent with the tone of your words. If you aren’t standing behind a podium, or seated at a table, walk around.
- Practice - You don’t want to sound like you’re reading someone else’s words. You are the leader who needs to own the message. Saying it out loud is important. I can't tell you how many times saying something aloud has made me go back to the drawing board because words on paper sound different when you speak them. Practice is also important because when you're comfortable with the words, at the point of delivery, you can focus on your body language, tone of voice, and the audience, which some argue are more important than the words themselves.
When the news isn’t quite what the audience wants to hear, it is a challenge to strike that right balance between positivity and credibility, and knowing your audience is key. Like everything, it is a skill that is developed with experience, and the 5 steps outlined above have raised my skill level.
QUESTION: How do you communicate unwelcome news effectively?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.