Do you really send the messages that you think you are sending? How often do you re-read an email or text before you send it? You might be surprised at what you think you are messaging versus what you are really messaging. Your perception may not match reality. Messaging is a critical business tool that you cannot afford to ignore.
Good messaging is also a key peer differentiator. Read on…
- Make it crisp
- Value dumps
- Vision messaging
- What you think doesn’t matter
- Start with message validation
Make it crisp
Too many corporate communications have long and wordy sentences. Further, paragraphs are too long. You can find good on-line guidance on this. The short version is this; be harsh with yourself on the word count in sentences. Cut the flowery rhetoric and get to the point. Use bullet points more often as a tool to cut paragraph sentence length. Senior executives are time constrained and therefore you will gain favourable attention if you can provide succinct and direct messaging.
A common messaging error is dumping too much value into a message. The receiver simply can’t absorb it all. This is common in presentations, particularly external ones. For example: If you have 20 value statements and you only need the top 7 to win the next step in the relationship then stop at 7. This way you will have another 13 value statements to delight the client as you continue developing a relationship. Otherwise, if you state it all up front, you will have less to say in the subsequent meetings. Further, absorbing all 20 value statements is a difficult task for listener.
Leaders need to build vision statements that create an image of a possible future. This is a critical messaging tool for executives through to department managers. This skill is all about creating word pictures that allow you to figuratively stake a flag on a direction or goal. Then you need to get behind your teams and help them get there. Honing this skill will likely allow you to stand out from your peers.
What you think doesn’t matter
All of your communication should be written with consideration to your audience. What is their role? What is their subject comprehension level? What is their bias on the topics? What is their age and experience? All of these and numerous other factors should be considered when you write your message. Reading a finished message from the perspective of the audience is a fundamental tool to good messaging. This is a learned skill.
Start with message validation
A great way to improve your messaging skills is to use validation. Find peers, senior managers, staff, partners that you can use as a sounding board. Create your message and then run it by them. The goal is for you to see your messages from the perspective of peoples view. Take a look at the Getting and Giving Advice blog for guidance on this.
How are your messages? What can you do to improve your messaging? What are your messaging blind sides?
It is surprising to see leaders react strongly to daily challenges. Often this reaction drifts into low grade crisis mode. This can also be perceived by staff as increased stress and sometimes, low grade panic. Why do leaders expect an easy ride? We are paid, as leaders, to deal with challenges and problems – it’s our job! If problems and challenges did not exist we would not be required. Reading on.
- Control you emotions
- Have a pressure relief valve
- Let your staff vent
- Be calm, get promoted
Control your emotions
A key management role is to deal with problems while presenting a calming influence on the business. It is the job of management to expect problems and crisis to arise. When you are faced with a crisis how do your staff and fellow leaders perceive your emotional response? Are you calm and controlled or flying off the handle? As leaders we cannot afford the luxury of venting. Our job is to provide an umbrella of emotional stability to our staff and the business.
Have a pressure relief valve!
However managers are not robots. There is a need to have a safe place to blow off steam. This is a good tool that allows us to provide calm leadership to our teams. When I was a new leader I worked for a VP that gave me some great advice. He said “you can come into my office and throw up on my desk, but I expect you to present a confident and calm face to the business”. He was my pressure relief value. You will need that safe place to vent.
Let your staff vent
Too many organizations judge harshly when staff vent. If it’s in public and damaging then it’s inappropriate behaviour. However, we are all human and you should allow your staff a safe place to vent. That’s your office or some other private place. Do you allow your team members to use you as a pressure relief value? Or do you demand that they contain the stress to the point where it blows? And it will blow, either at work or at home. Neither is appropriate. As a manager you need to help your staff manage stress.
Be calm, get promoted!
An employee who demonstrates good crisis management, calmness in the storm, and clear decision making with a rational thought process, is highly valuable. They are promotable. How are you perceived by your leader, your peers, and your staff in the middle of a storm? It is important for you to develop calmness and quiet leadership in a crisis. This is part of what makes a good leader.
How do you behave in a crisis? Are you the “go to” person or are you part of the crisis hype?
We all strive to be the leader, the big kahuna, the king of the castle, the person in charge. That’s OK. I’ve been there and that’s a pretty good place to be. But most of us will spend more time being the key influencer to the person in charge. Now that is an interesting role to have. Key influencers often have an incredible amount of power through influence that is not associated with their titled role. Further, being a key influencer is the best training ground for leaders.
A good key influencer, the person behind the leader, is often a remarkably demanding and critical role. Good leaders will cultivate key support teams. Leaders often hesitate to make decisions without first hearing the suggestions and perspectives of an influencer. A respected influencer can also raise new issues with credibility. Some of the most rewarding roles are key influencer positions. It is a role with a lot of informal political and business power. They are indispensable to leaders.
Second is often best
When you really think through the role of an influencer you will come to the conclusion that it is a pretty good role to have. Influencers can be considered the heir apparent. They generally have insider information and knowledge about pending decisions. A discerning influencer is a sought after internal resource. There is merit to spending a lot of time in the influencer role. Influencers don’t have the same optics and performance demands that leaders have. Being second fiddle is a pretty good place to be.
Hone your skills
The influencer role is the perfect stepping stone to executive leadership roles. If you can find an influencer role grab it. From that position you will observe executives in action. This affords you the learning opportunity of seeing how to lead and how not to lead up close and personal. You will see the subtleties of corporate management and the related legal activity. People talent management and a host of other HR related skills we be front and centre in the discussions. An influencer role is a great place to hone your leadership skills.
Who is an influencer?
The attributes of a good influencer are;
- Good communication skills – written, verbal, and presentation
- Think at the 50,000 foot level and to think strategically – those are different skills
- Understand financial information
- Be trustworthy and loyal
- Understand the business and the industry
- Be unafraid to speak the truth – tell it like it is
- Being flexible
This list could go on but these are the highlights.
Go get it, or make it
You will not see the influencer role advertised. Every company should have one and leaders need them. If you can’t identify the influencers in your business then they are very good at their jobs or there isn’t someone currently filling this role. You can target the role if it exists by beginning to model the role and working toward becoming the support person to the influencer. It the role does not exist then you should align yourself to someone who has a strong upward mobility and become their key influencer. That way you learn the role and you may in fact follow on their coattails.
Does being an influencer appeal to you? Why?
How many times have you gone to a meeting only to find it unfocused and unproductive? You look around the table and most people are absorbed in their laptop or phone. Or they just have a vacant unengaged look on their face. This is death by meetings. Likely the highest wasted labour cost for smart workers today. Yet somehow we get sucked into the deadly meeting syndrome.
Save yourself from meeting death! Ask for an agenda from the meeting organizer. If that’s you, don’t ever issue a meeting invite without an agenda. Your meeting outcomes will improve as long as you keep the attendees focused on the agenda. Ask yourself “why am I here”, what is my role or contribution? If you or the meeting organizer can’t come up with a good reason then take a pass on the meeting. Request that the meeting organizer stick to the planned agenda and timeframe.
Careers can be made or lost in a meeting. Good meeting contributions are often lost due to lack of time to think through the agenda and your personal contribution. Take 5 minutes before every meeting to review the agenda and think about your contribution. What is the most important issue? What is the single most important thing you can say? What is the best thing for you not to say? How can you demonstrate thought leadership? How can you best contribute to the meetings success? If you can think these items through ahead of time then you will have a marked advantage over the rest of the meeting attendees.
We all have rich collaborative tools available today. Do you know what they are? If not, then find out. Do you know how to use them? If not, find a training tool and dig in. Get your team together and discuss the value of meetings and brainstorm alternatives. If you save yourself and your team from one or two meetings it will be worth it. Create meeting rules for your group. Get a meeting hog Lonnie jar. Make it fun to put a spot light on meeting misbehaviour so you can change it without putting someone down. Do whatever it takes to save yourself and others from meeting death.
Sadly, it happens
There are a few well known technology companies that run on meetings like a drug addict dependent on the next fix. Employees will confess that they spend most of their time in meetings and not really delivering much of value. Some stay and let atrophy set in. Others bail on a good income but zero job satisfaction to find something less soul killing. Often it only takes a few people to change the meeting addiction culture into one of truly worthwhile staff gatherings.
The last word
Meetings have a role to play and are often critical to success. But they need to be well planned, kept to an agenda, held to a start / stop time, and be focused on deliverables not chit chat. Beware the standing meeting – be willing to review the purpose and process of the meeting to ensure that it is fresh, relevant, and focused on what is worthwhile.
Are you a meeting junky or a meeting expert?