I had a wonderful conversation recently with a colleague about a document they were creating for a client. I wasn’t sure it was solid enough to support the client objective. It got me thinking about how aligned communication is more than sending a note out or making a mention of something and expecting it to have strong impact. Many leaders think that if they communicate something that it will be seen as important and understood.
Aligned communication is not about you, the leader; it’s about them, the consumer. The following considerations intertwine with one another and require equal consideration.
It’s critical to understand your potential audience(s) when communicating. How do they best receive information. I’m not necessarily meaning format, but tone, cadence, complexity, etc. Different people take information better when it is set at a ‘frequency’ they are comfortable with. , People tune out and you’ve lost your audience and objective if what’s communicated goes outside of their comfortability.
Others shouldn’t have to adjust to you; you need to adjust to them. As the one with the message to convey, it’s up to you to sell your ideas to effect change.
Once you understand who is going to be potentially receiving your communication, you need to hold your objective at the center. This isn’t just the objective of the document, but it includes the long-term objective of the relationship. Just like your mission and strategic plan, your actions on a daily basis should fit to the larger aim. Does the communication you’re looking to deliver get you further along a path towards the long-term goal?
Connected with the objective, the call to action denotes a steps or steps you want receiver to take towards the desired objective. With this in mind, you are able to set a structure to your communication that will tell the story and lead the receiver down a path towards the objective.
Once you assess your audience, objective and calls to action, you need to determine how much effort and structure to put into the communication. What is the risk of doing a cursory job? What would be overkill? Is what your trying to do take your receiver a long way forward, or is it just for small steps of confirmation? Should there be other communication done before you do this communication? During our conversation noted above, we determined such interim communication (a verbal dialogue) was needed before the perceived objective was handled by our written document and led us to change the objective and audience of our communication.
Many of us…ok, all of us, slip into working through communication haphazardly to get it off our desk, or mind, and check off the box. It’s easy to just put something out to the world and say people didn’t get what you were trying to say. If you are leader who doesn’t go through the above proces, you lose trust and credibility. People take the liberty of drawing their own conclusions and choosing whether they want to take action or not.
It takes practice to think of the best way to get your point across and effect change to another person or group. To the extent you open yourself up to the fact that it’s up to the deliverer of content to construct it in a way that will reach objectives, you can get off your high horse as a leader thinking they have to reach up to you. It also makes future efforts so much easier when you do the work beforehand.
True leadership doesn’t work top down.