There are any number of golden rules to helping even very skilful communicators communicate better, but probably the golden rule is "If it is really important to get the message right, run it past the right person!" The thing is, just because it is clear in your head, doesn't mean that it leaves your mouth in that same state! We tend to forget we have travelled a long journey from the beginning of an experience to the place where we are now; one of decision and understanding. It is a leader's job to be out front like this, but it is essential that you realise that you need to help people cover the same ground that you have and don't just announce your decision.
A good piece of strategic communication should tell a story. It needs to have a beginning middle and an end. This approach is particularly relevant in challenging times and more so in a crisis.
The Beginning: explains how you came to be in this situation, explains context and reminds people of the history. It gives overview and background for those who may not know it all.
The Middle: is a clear, calm overview of the current situation; sets out the stall of options, and assesses their up and down sides.
The End: explains your decision, why it is the best option for each relevant group of stakeholders, starting with your audience's own concerns; states what is required of them and how they will know it is working and what is in it for them1 to back this course of action. It concludes with an opportunity to ask questions and a promise of being kept 'in the loop'.
A trusted and skilled person can help facilitate the person whose job it is to give the message by:-
It is crucial that, if this important message is to come through and be effective, that people believe it. In times of stress, people begin to be more distrustful and more fearful. They scan every message for any hint of evasion, duplicity or weakness. It is therefore vital that the message is honest, and as complete as possible.
"Words are just words and without heart they have no meaning."
Another key, related facet is it must be authentic. In other words, the message must be congruent with the person who is delivering it, and their values. It is a primitive, herd instinct3, but we know when people are hiding something, and this is enough to make others not follow you at times like this.
It is vital to start with the end in mind4, and one of the key things people look to the leaders for is a good plan. They need to believe you know where the business is going and have a viable plan for getting there. If you don't know yet, better to be honest than to pretend, but you'll need a good plan quick! Your message should be equally planned, and consistent with it.
Your message needs to flow naturally, so if you are the sort of person who finds this easy, that is fine, but if not you need to practice until, perverse as it seems, it comes out sounding natural and not strained.
Remember, your message should be a simple and as clear as possible, and the means you use to deliver it should be as direct as possible.
"The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate."
Good communication requires good listening. Ensure that your audience is ready and in a state to listen. You need to maintain awareness of them and their mood during your communication so you can modify it if required; a plan, or speech, seldom survives encounter with the audience!
Remember, simplicity is the key to great communication!
Richard can only be described as world class... - Operations Director Asia/Pacific, Diageo
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