Clear and compelling

Communication is worthless if the message is unclear. And action only follows if the message is compelling.

I remember reviewing internal employee feedback surveys at a previous company that called out problems with a lack of transparency and communication.

"I wish there was better communication from leadership."

"I want to know more about the direction we're heading and how decisions are being made."

That sort of thing...

So the company leaders responded in the best way they knew how.

They scheduled a weekly update meeting where they would fill in the rest of the organization on what was new and upcoming.

And it helped... a bit... sort of.

But the next year the feedback was largely the same.

How could that be?

There had been so much more communication and intentionality around creating more visibility and transparency!

But here's the thing.

People thought they wanted more visibility into the decisions being made.

What they needed was for their leaders to craft a clear and compelling vision for the direction they wanted to take the organization and communicate that.

The reason the additional communication was ineffective is that it lacked focus... and now it was being broadcast through a megaphone.

If anything, the more frequent communication shed light on the fact that there was no clear plan. No unified purpose. No set of central guiding principles.

It takes an incredible amount of work to agree on those things and even more to distill them down into something that can easily be communicated and digested.

Most leadership teams are terrible at this.

So they get little buy-in from their organizations. After all, what would they be buying into?

Abundant communication and transparency can never make up for a poorly thought out plan or lackluster vision.

Proverbs 29:18 says "Where there is no vision, the people perish".

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller's storybrand framework. It's a marketing framework but it has a much broader application.

One of the core concepts he hits on repeatedly is this:

"If you confuse, you'll lose."

It's as true for a team of leaders communicating direction for the upcoming year as it is for someone giving a presentation to stakeholders or creating a set of marketing materials.

A clear and compelling vision energizes and activates people in a singular direction.

Why go through all the trouble of ensuring regular communication if the message is unclear?

At best you'll lose your audience and they'll ignore you. At worst, people will stop taking action altogether because they're confused about what they should be doing.

Confusion paralyzes.

Whether you're trying to establish direction with your team, or convince prospective customers they should buy from you, the last thing you want is a bunch of confused, paralyzed people.

If instead, you trim everything that doesn't support your message and leave your audience with a clear and compelling vision, they will know what to do and where to direct their energy.

People respond in direct proportion to the level of exciting and unambiguous direction they're given.

It's the way we're all wired.

We all want to be about something bigger than ourselves.

We all want to be part of a great story.

If the plot gets lost or buried we all revert to wandering in our own direction, focused on our individual stories to the detriment of what could have been a march toward greatness, an amazing achievement, or a mission finally accomplished.

We can't afford to bury the lede.

We have to do the hard work to make sure everyone knows exactly where we're going and why it matters.

It's the only way we'll make any kind of meaningful progress.

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

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