When you speak to others, it’s easy to assume that if they’re listening, they can hear you.
But that’s not always the case.
In fact, more often than not they don’t hear you. They can’t.
It’s not about volume. Shouting will make absolutely no difference – except to possibly foment dislike and disrespect for you as a leader.
And it’s not about merely saying it again, and again. You can repeat yourself ad nauseum and they still may not hear you.
It’s frustrating. Maybe even infuriating. But it’s even worse than that.
Because if they can’t hear you, they will not respond.
And that means they won’t think or act in the precise ways that support and advance your leadership initiatives.
That would be a failure of leadership. On your part.
So what to do?
First and foremost, don’t assume they hear you, and that they will think and behave accordingly. That assumption can cost you – and your leadership impact – a lot.
Instead, “amplify” what you say. Again, that doesn’t mean speaking louder. Au contraire.
It means speaking so that what you say matters to them, not just to you.
That may sound obvious to you. Even pretty simple.
It’s really not. There are many elements essential to making what matters to your leadership matter to those who can help you achieve it. My diagnostic measures about 40 of them.
But before you open your mouth to speak – whether in a meeting, a town hall, a presentation or any other communication – start with this:
1. Know what their understanding and awareness is of your topic or initiative at this very moment – today, not tomorrow or yesterday. In your leadership role, you are likely privy to much more than they so you have a different level of understanding and awareness. If you come from that, there will be a gap of some size that can inhibit their ability to hear you. As they’re listening, or trying to listen, they’ll be hit by fog and misunderstanding, and tune out.
Note that this is not about treating them like a 6th grade audience; they’re not. Don’t talk down to them – ever. Instead, determine exactly where they’re at now, and meet them there. Then take them further in their understanding and awareness. But be discerning about how much further and how quickly; it doesn’t have to be done in just one communication. Move them bit by bit, strategically, to where you need them to be by enhancing their understanding and awareness incrementally.
2. Know what their interests are right now. What do they care about? What don’t they care about? Is what you need them to hear even related? And if not, why is it in their interests to listen, let alone respond? This comes down to really knowing them— which should be a given if they are your staff. If not, you should still always find out as much as you can about what they are interested in about your topic. Then when you speak, it will be evident that you do know them. And that you care enough to know what they’re interested in. That builds the kind of rapport and connection between you through which you can build invaluable trust, loyalty, and personal leadership authority.
3. Know what they’re concerned about right now. And if the issue you’re speaking about raises alarm or concerns, they won’t be able to listen, let alone hear. They’ll be preoccupied with how what you’re saying is going to affect them.
A prime example of this was when I was asked to assess a video a marketing team had created for a CEO to announce a major company organization. As videos go, it was fine. It had great visuals and was dynamic enough to energize a crowd. But it didn’t address what I knew would be the primary concern of the thousands of employees listening to the announcement, i.e., “How will this reorganization affect me?”
So I counselled the CEO to address that first and foremost in her remarks. Three different times within the first 3 minutes, she assured employees that anyone who was listening to her in the room or virtually was secure in their job. I was in the auditorium and could visibly see people first relax, assured of their job security. Only then could they hear the rest of what she had to say.
If you want to ensure they can hear you when you speak, start by making sure that what you say is congruent with their level of awareness and understanding, reflects their interests and resolves their concerns.
And then observe their response. You’ll know for sure whether they were able to hear you. And if what they heard reflects what you said.