Are You a Communications Expert?

09.26.12 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

I was flying home from a trip the other day, and as we sat at the gate awaiting our departure the pilot came over the PA system and announced the issue this way, “Folks, it’s really hot right now on the plane and I apologize. Our auxiliary power supply system is not working, which is how we normally keep the plane cool on the ground. We’re going to be here a little longer; and because it’s so hot, I need you to turn on all of the air vents above you and lower the shades. That way, we’ll keep it is as cool as we can until we get up in the air and then our engines will get the plane cooled down from being so hot. I’m really sorry it’s so hot right now, but if you’ll help us out we’ll be under way as soon as we can.”

Are you hot right now after reading his message? I am. I may not have captured his exact words, but I did capture the essence of his message: it’s HOT!

What would you have said? Here’s what I would have said:

“Folks, we’re a few minutes away from taking off. While we’re finishing up our paperwork please completely open up the vents above you, and lower the shades. That will keep it cooler on the plane until we get air born. Thank you for your cooperation and we’ll be out of the gate shortly!”

How did that read/sound?

  • Notice I never used the word “hot?”
  • I was crisp, concise and to the point with an action request of the audience
  • There was no mention of the issue in a manner that would cause your attention to focus on just how hot it was on the plane.

Here’s the point: despite the often cited statistic that 93% of your communications is non-verbal, i.e., tone, inflection, body language, etc., WORD choice is extremely important (especially in this type of situation when we can’t see you). What I didn’t mention was the pilot’s tone of voice. He sounded miserable which that didn’t help his word choice at all. But, even if he had delivered it monotone, his words were so focused on how hot it was on the plane that it had an impact. And, guess what? I’ve been on planes hotter than that one! It really wasn’t that bad. He must be going “through the change!”

In the leadership and performance coaching work that we do at HCI we talk about intentionality. What we mean is that for real change to happen you must get intentional because it won’t happen by itself. Most people will just continue to do what they’ve done without a real focus and plan for making their desired changes. Today, begin to really listen to what and how others deliver messages. Also begin to focus in on your message. If you’re a strong global/conceptual thinker and communicator you would be well served by writing down your message before ever delivering it. I know that’s not practical for every situation, but for those times that it is, that will help you when you have to speak extemporaneously!

UnCommon Leaders™ are great communicators. They are the best. They become experts. When they speak, people listen!

Is anyone listening to you?

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