Give Your Message Context

Have you ever left a meeting where you discussed a new strategy or restructuring issue and thought, “That was nice, but where do I fit in?” It happens often and demonstrates why a leader's communication can miss its mark. The problem is that the communicator is focusing on what management wants and not on what the audience needs. If individuals do not have their questions answered, they have little reason to take goal-oriented action.

As a leader, the first thing you should do is create a context for your message. Start by giving people a reason to listen and make sure they identify with it. Everyone should understand why it is important for them and what they will get out of it.

Once you have engaged their personal interest, move on to the intellectual reason or business rationale for what you have to say. Many leaders make the mistake of starting with the rationale, launching into details about market changes and the need to increase revenue. This will not win over an audience.

Next go on to the “how” part, detailing the process and action points that the team must now implement.

Finally, cover the expected outcome, showing what the future holds and how the team assesses its rate of progress.

By focusing on the “why”, “what”, “how”, and the “outcome”, and by explaining their relevance, you will establish a personal connection with the audience. Any talk at the water cooler or in the lift will be about what you said rather than about what you did not say.