How leaders can learn credible communication

by L&D24 Aug 2016
Leaders need to construct a message that gets people’s attention, gets it fast and continues to keep it, according to Rowdy McLean, leadership consultant and author of Play a Bigger Game.

Whether that message is being delivered in an article, proposal, meeting, conversation or on a stage, the reality is that great communicators become better leaders and build better teams, McLean said.

“There are few things worse than someone who just can’t or won’t get to the point,” he added.

“You have to get people’s attention from the get go. There is just too much waffle, too many long stories and too much death by power point.

“Getting your message clear opens doors, builds connections and creates opportunities you and your business never imagined.”

McLean suggests the following advice to get started:

Get credibility before you get going

Why you? Why this? Why now? These are three questions you need to answer up front because it gets people in the game and makes them want to listen to what’s next.

You don’t necessarily need to do it in that order. Just make sure you have some good credibility before you begin.

Match the message to the market

To be influential you need to be sure to get the message right. There are three things to consider if you really want to make an impact.

1. The message platform (i.e. stage, boardroom, meeting, conference call, article, interview, telephone chat, email.) I know that some of these require no energy at all but if you are conscious of your state of mind, you can manage your energy levels and passion about the communication. 

You can be considered about your approach, the words you use and the emphasis you put on those words.

2. The audience. Consider the size of the audience and the background they come from. Who else is communicating with them and why? Get a really good understanding of the average person you are communicating with. What are their struggles and challenges? How are they likely to feel in relation to your message?

3. The message itself. Is it sensitive, informative, factual, helpful, insightful or motivational? The delivery style changes depending on the type of material you are delivering.

Authenticity trumps strategy

Your message needs to be real. That is, it needs to be clear that it came from you or your company. If you are going to outsource your communications, advertising and messaging, be sure the company knows exactly what the brand and culture of your company is.

People will forgive you for a lot of things if they are sure you are being you. The biggest cut through in any medium with any audience is when you are real.

People can spot someone who doesn’t believe in their message a mile away (look at politicians). If you are trying a communications strategy and it’s not working, I will bet it’s because it’s not real. 

Don’t get lost

Your message needs to flow. If it flips and flops from one place to another you lose the audience, you lose the opportunity to influence and you leave a lasting impression of confusion and misunderstanding.

If you are not an absolute rock star professional, you should never wing it. Even the superstars like Robbie Williams, Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk put in the work.

Big businesses like Fedex, Google, Nike and Apple spend ages putting their communications together. They prepare probably more than anyone. You should to. Structure is the path to clear and consistent communication.

This is a five-step framework leaders can use for creating messages that stick. (Note, it’s a framework, a little like a recipe. You should add your own spice and special sauce to make it unique and authentic to you and your business.)

1. What’s your big idea?

What is the key thing you want to get across? One thing is generally enough. We make the mistake of trying to say too much. One well-crafted idea delivered really well should be your focus.

If it has to be more than one, divide them into separate messages within the larger message. Try to make the big idea catchy like a news headline.

If it’s boring (“43 reasons why the average person in Timbuktu needs health insurance”) you won’t get their attention. “Health costs are a killer” is more of an attention grabber.

2. Here is some useful information – get them interested

You want to give people some facts, science, research, data or case studies about why your big idea is important to them. It’s not just a big idea; there is information that makes it important. This backs up your big idea at the beginning. You are giving people a reason to read or listen.

3. Here is what it means – share your knowledge

So now you become the expert by making sense of the information in the second point. Connect the 1. (big idea) with the 2. (information) so that it’s meaningful for your audience.

4. Here is how to deal with it – show them the way forward

Now you want to help people out. Tell them what they should do as a result of 3. and share with them how to do it in the best possible way.

5. Here is what will happen – shine a light on the future

You want to finish on a positive. Consequently, paint a bright picture of the future they can expect if they do what you have said to do in 4.

When you master the craft of communication, you get cut through and that’s the path to better outcomes.

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