No matter what side one sits on in politics, no one disputes the fact that in America, we’re witnessing history. Never before have we had a female presidential nominee and never before have we seen such vitriol and polarizing controversy over the candidates from our most popular parties. Many argue the challenge is in their message, among many other things. However, one is polished, specific, and accused of being rehearsed, even robotic. The other is spontaneous, brash, passionate about business, and vague nearly always, as well as quite fond of superlatives for expression. Which is the right version of their message? What makes a message appear presidential? Perhaps more importantly, if you are president, CEO, or even a mid-level leader, what makes up your message and is it the right style of leadership message for your audience? Are they understanding all the nuances you’re sending…in the way you’re sending them? Does your message delivery match the expectations they have of your level of leader? Each question faces our candidates this time of year, but it faces you, dear leader, daily. Manage your message and you’ll become a better leader. Here are three quick tips and reminders that will propel you in that direction.
Employees, who feel their leader is distant, aloof, overly polished and practiced, will question the authenticity and veracity of his or her message. It’s one thing to appear confident, quite another to be so buttoned up that one’s message appears disingenuous. Even without all the fifty cent words, here is the guidance. Practice your message by focusing on the core of your message. What you want to convey is far less about what you say and much more about what they hear. Thus, a leader’s focus is better served when placed on how he wants team members to feel after hearing it. How do you want them to feel following your message? They are not expecting, nor should you, perfect speaker. They do not judge you usually when you skip a sentence or when you lose your place in your notes or when you mispronounce something, catch it and then say it correctly. Polish is overrated, particularly when it comes to a difficult message. Be real, be human, and be heard. Be a robot and they’ll wonder what their real leader is hiding.
If one must be the messenger of a negative message such as layoffs, paycheck problems, or anything that will be demotivating, use facts versus fiction. In the first 2016 presidential debate, one candidate had nugget after nugget of what appeared to be and was delivered as fact. There was not always agreement on her information being true, but her presentation in an authoritative fashion of factual points in history, factual accounts of events, and facts able to be checked regarding constitutionality certainly added to her credibility. An important tip for you: Be sure you have your facts up to date and current or you’ll be dealing with accusations in addition to bad news resistance. However, even in the face of good news, your reputation, your credibility and your rapport with those you lead depends on the consistent efficacy of your message. Perhaps you can make up answers on the fly and need to get this employee answered so they’ll leave you alone. Just because a leader can do something, does not always mean they should.
In a recent presentation of a community leader, I recorded hash marks of each time he said the word “Right?” I was still able to pay attention, but was aghast when I noticed I had made 52 hash marks. Superlatives, broad sweeping generalities, fillers and vague terms do not serve a leader well when it comes to clarity in a message. Good news, bad news, or even simple information is best conveyed when specifics are used to send the message. Really, even if the job situation is really, really bad and even if there are many, many and bunches of problems with the processes everyone always uses, if a leader wants employees to change, comply or even understand what action is needed or changes need to be made his or her message needs to include specific direction or specific information.
This is not a debate on who won or lost nor who fared better as a candidate, but merely a plethora of fodder for discussion on what your leadership message might unknowingly look and sound like. You may pick out your best red outfit to convey power and presence, but if you sound like a well practiced rehearsed robot, you’re not making any valued connections. You may wear a demure blue tie to soften your strength, but if you can’t specify an actual action item or mention any facts that would serve as evidence to your passion or frustration with the current situation, no employee will take you seriously. Leaders must be aware of the nuances of their message and the many interpretations made of their communication. You may not have eighty million viewers, but the ones who are listening, matter, and as always your communication as a leader, really is…contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.