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Talking Points For Leaders

What is your message? When you watch politicians there is no doubt what the message is. They stay “on message” and it doesn’t really matter what questions they are asked, they always come back to their message. How about you? How are you doing with your message?

Leaders under-communicate. They under-communicate because they don’t realize how much detail people want. They under-communicate because they don’t give people the context in which everyone is operating. They under-communicate because they are intimately familiar with the message and take it for granted that everyone else is as understanding of the situation as they are. Leaders under-communicate because they fail to understand that people are busy and are distracted and need to be reminded. You may get frustrated when you find yourself repeating things you thought you explained two months ago.

The messages I am talking about here are the important ones that answer the why questions. They help employees understand the how and when? These are often strategic or relate to core vision and values. These big issues are too important to be relegated to a framed plaque on the wall next to your receptionist. These big issues need to be communicated, and re-communicated. You need to use every method at your disposal but the most effective method is you. That’s right – you. You looking your people in the eye and taking the time to explain the program. More important, the most effective method involves the other leaders around you. You must all be “on message.” How do you do that? Talking points.

Just as the television politicians have their talking points, the message they want to get out, you too will have your talking points. For example, there may be six key elements to your core values. Safety and integrity are two of them. In January, a very large percentage of your conversations with people at all levels would involve safety. In March, integrity would your talking point. This doesn’t mean you ignore everything else, nor does it mean you repeat the same lines ad-nauseam, it does mean that you will find opportunities to discuss your talking points.

Here is how it works best. At your executive team meeting early in the month you review the talking point for the month, in this case customer service. You talk with your senior leaders about the core message you want to get to your employees. You talk about ways to have the conversation, examples you want to use to reinforce the point, and why this is important. At the same time the newsletter features an article or editorial on customer service. Then for the next month, the majority of your conversations with people will at least touch on customer service. This is multiplied across the executive team. People are hearing the message, it is being reinforced, and they understand the why and the how. They are getting it!

Your message will not get out unless you make sure it does. How often do you repeat it? Do you think they – the ones you lead – get it? Do you think you are doing a good enough job communicating your message? Most research says leaders do a poor job getting out their message. Use talking points and your message will get through.

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. Visit the website at www.beaFireStarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beaFireStarter.com.

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Client Comments:

" ...it was one of the most dynamic and interesting talks I have ever witnessed on general leadership and effective management. I thought it was very interested to see how you approached the topic from the bottom up -- from the grunt's perspective. This made the topic very easy for me to relate to and gave me ideas on how to develop the leaders I am responsible for."

Noel S. Salac, P.E.
Construction Engineer
Nebraska Dept. of Roads

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