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Plus, Two Scenarios to Demonstrate Effective Leadership Communication

Words are potent leadership actions. Effective leadership and managers who communicate with precision inspire positive action and produce consistent results. Communication that is opaque or emotionally charged requires costly and time-consuming downstream damage control. Do your words and tone inspire positive action or alienate and derail your people?

Consider these two scenarios:

1 – You: “Our biggest client is threatening to cancel our contract due to chronic, slow delivery times. What’s going on?! You’re all paid to produce results! I expect you to fix this immediately!”

2 – You: “Our biggest client is threatening to cancel our contract due to chronic, slow delivery times. We’ve solved issues like this before. I’m confident that we can turn this around. Let’s get to the root cause and brainstorm solutions.”

Scenario #1 is reactionary, negative, and judgmental. You, the leader, have excluded yourself from co-owning the issue, creating a you-versus-them dynamic. Further, there is not a clear plan for resolving the issue, leaving the team feeling like they’re alone on an island.

Scenario #2 uses the pronoun “we,” fostering a positive and inclusive team relationship. Further, it is solution-oriented and expresses confidence in the team’s ability to collaboratively solve the problem.

Appreciate how small, deliberate word choices can crush morale or inspire optimism, forward action, and successful outcomes. Effective leadership communication is concise, clear, and motivating.

Answer these two questions before you speak:

  1. What message (e.g., direction, concern, expectation) do I want to send?
  2. How do I want people to feel (e.g., motivated, encouraged, supported)?

Two examples of using the above structure to prepare others for constructive feedback:

  • “I think the team could be collaborating more effectively. Let’s meet to understand what’s going on. Together, we’ll identify a path forward.”
  • “I’m concerned about your recent performance. Let’s have an honest conversation and come up with an action plan that’s mutually beneficial.”

Ambiguity is the enemy of leadership communication. Note the brevity and conciseness of the first statement, creating clarity for the receiver. Again, observe the “we” pronoun in the second statement and the forward, solution-oriented direction. The examples above inspire direct action and create a context of confidence and optimism.

Forward-thinking leaders take 100% responsibility for their people’s performance. A team’s failure is a failure of management. Effective leaders understand that turning around performance starts with recalibrating their messaging. This begins with word choices that clarify direction, inspire action, and drive accountability.

Steve helps growth-minded leaders of small to medium organizations develop and align leadership, structure, and people to achieve business outcomes.

Take the Organizational Health & Performance Assessment: www.steverudolphcoaching.com