Message Discipline

Message Discipline

A key responsibility of a leader is to create an optimal environment so their team can thrive. Their mental “environment” is much more important than the physical but it is often overlooked. Think about what your team needs in this regard in order to excel. What mental obstacles can you remove to make it easier for your group to get things done and done well? Often, it’s specific to your business challenge. For example, if there’s a downturn in your industry, it’s important to keep people focused on what’s possible even with more limited resources.

Once you’ve determined the challenges or limiting thoughts your team may have, think about the messages they need to hear. Brainstorm key points and answers to some of the common pushbacks you believe you’ll hear. Don’t forget to address emotional objections like fear of failing, fear of being criticized, and fear of looking bad/stupid. Then put your strategy in motion by working your messages into conversation. This is a proactive approach and it’s important to be disciplined in your messaging. Frequency helps retention so stick to your “script.”

For example, if you’ve consistently missed forecast, your team might be demoralized. Reinforce your commitment to helping them succeed and emphasize your belief that they can ultimately deliver. If they complain that the forecast is too high, redirect their thinking. If you agree that the forecast is too high, tell them what you’ve done about it (“I’ve made that point clear to management; it’s out of our hands now. We need to focus on what we can accomplish and shoot for this stretch goal”). However, if you think it’s an achievable goal, share your thinking about why you believe it is. Providing context helps to alleviate fears.

Acknowledge the very real challenges they are facing and provide examples of how other companies have overcome them—whether from your own experience or from business cases you’ve researched. Solicit their suggestions and encourage team members to build on them. Celebrate interim wins. Most importantly, be authentic. This isn’t about blowing smoke or being unrealistically optimistic. It’s about helping people get out of their own way. Once they do, they often end up surprising both themselves and the company.

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