Leaders: Clarify your ideas before communicating them

Paul B. Thornton Every week, you communicate a variety of messages to your bosses, employees and customers. Many of your ideas are aimed at creating a better future — that’s what leaders do! But will your ideas work? Will they be understood and acted on? You’ve likely witnessed or lived through change initiatives that don’t […]

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Paul B. Thornton

Every week, you communicate a variety of messages to your bosses, employees and customers. Many of your ideas are aimed at creating a better future — that’s what leaders do!

But will your ideas work? Will they be understood and acted on?

You’ve likely witnessed or lived through change initiatives that don’t achieve the desired results.

Why is that?

In some cases, the leader’s ideas weren’t fully vetted. In other situations, the poor results were due to ineffective communications.

The following three steps will help you achieve better results.

Step 1–Clarify Your Thinking

Trav worked for one of the major insurance companies. He was a brilliant visionary leader who spent significant time thinking about his ideas and creating his telecommunications vision. Trav touched base with other thought leaders to dialogue and get feedback on his ideas. Those discussions helped him fine-tune his goals and plans.  

Trav also expected his staff to do some independent thinking and come to meetings prepared to explore all aspects of his vision.  He was particularly interested in the best ways to simplify and communicate his ideas to a larger audience.  Trav was open to new insights and exploring questions that helped him consider all aspects of his ideas.     

When discussing current operational performance, Trav would always incorporate his vision into the discussion. Interestingly, this approach kept his management team focused on implementing the vision while effectively managing current operations.

Bottom line—Like Trav, you need to spend a significant amount of time thinking about your ideas. For some leaders being constantly busy has become a substitute for thinking.

Test your ideas with other experts. Involve your staff and evaluate your ideas from every possible angle. The more time you spend clarifying your thinking, the more confident you will be when presenting your plans.   

Step 2—Prepare Your Message

Prepare your message so it is clear, simple, and convinces people your ideas will work.  

Engage people’s head and hearts. Provide the facts and numbers that support your claims. Your ideas become compelling when you provide solid evidence.  

Also, engage people’s emotions. Indicate how they will feel when the new changes are implemented. Remember people buy ideas and products that make them feel safe, happy, confident, etc. Emotions motivate us!   

Keep these points in mind when preparing your message.

  • Package your message with the right balance of realism and optimism. Be positive but keep it real.
  • Boil your message down to the major points that people need to understand. Focus people’s attention on what’s most important. Eliminate the clutter. Use simple examples, stories, and visual aids to support your major points. 
  • Make your big ideas stand out. Don’t bury your big ideas with too many details. Provide only the relevant details that people need to know.
  • Prepare the questions you will ask the audience. Ask questions that will open people’s mind to your ideas. Ask questions that will help people see the benefits of your proposed changes.  

Once you prepare your message, try it out on your staff. Get feedback and make changes as needed. 

Step 3—Deliver your Message

If you truly believe in your message and are committed to making it happen, you will deliver it with passion and conviction.

Your enthusiasm will get others excited about what’s possible.  

Another way you communicate your message is through your actions. Setting the example sends a powerful message about your commitment to doing what’s required.    

When setting the example, keep these things in mind.         

  • Make your example visible. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s restaurant picked up wastepaper in the parking lot to demonstrate the importance of cleanliness. All employees could see him picking up cups and napkins.   
  • Make your example dramatic. In 1984, the Chinese Company, Qingdao Refrigerator Plant was a failure. Zhang Ruimin was sent in to turn the business around. He started by having 76 defective refrigerators lined up on the factory floor. He then distributed sledgehammers to his employees. Zhang and his employees swung their sledgehammers until all 76 refrigerators were destroyed. This dramatic action communicated an unforgettable message— “Poor quality will not be tolerated.”
  • Make your example consistent. One of my managers, Phil Beaudoin had 18 years of perfect attendance. Now, that’s being consistent.   

You gain credibility when your actions align with your words. Walk the talk!

Points to Remember

To have the right ideas communicated in the right way, you need to:  

  1. Clarify your thinking. Fine-tune your ideas.   
  2. Prepare a compelling message to convince people your ideas will work and that they should work to implement your vision.
  3. Deliver your message with passion and conviction. Set the example to show your commitment.

Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His e-books are available at Amazon and include:

Paul has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics. (Search: Paul Thornton & stcc)

He frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on LinkedIn.  

He can be contacted at [email protected]

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