Leaders – Are You Finding the Right Words?
Just read a timely #HarvardBusinessReview article (HBR article) that reminds leaders to keep communication concise and simple. Particularly during times of rapid change, when the volume of messages is high and concrete instructions need to be landed.
Words are essential to capturing the attention, hope and trust of your audience. Best practise includes:
- Use the ‘rule of 3’, eg; NY Governor Cuomo’s ‘Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Save Lives’, which was the basis of Boris’s ‘Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’.
- Replace long words with short ones.
- Use analogies. Neuroscience tells us our brains process the world by associating the new or unknown with something familiar. Such mental shortcuts help us understand complex events. Cuomo used that strategy in early lockdown, resurrecting President Roosevelt’s ‘fire hose’ analogy to explain why it was in Oregon’s best interests to send 140 ventilators to New York. “We’re all in the same battle,” he said. “You want to contain the enemy. Oregon could have a significant problem towards May. Our problem is now. It’s smart from Oregon’s self-interest. They see the fire spreading. Stop the fire where it is before it gets to my home.”
- Personalise the message content. The human brain is wired for storytelling. Use personal, relatable stories to empathise and connect with your audience. Rapport building aids cooperation.
Is the language of your emails/communications to your colleagues, customers and shareholders instilling fear or calm? Please choose wisely.
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