Leaders are charged with creating momentum. The leaders who do that successfully are not necessarily great speechmakers, but they have learned to communicate at three levels.
The most basic level of communication is with WORDS, sharing information. Words on their own have limited power. Eloquent words do not guarantee influence. Some of the people who get high marks for communication have low-grade influence. The use of words to communicate is only the very beginning for leaders. For a leader to create momentum, they must communicate at level two and beyond.
Communication through ACTIONS is the next level. When you speak convincing words and blend them with consistent action, you get influence. “Actions speak louder than words,” the old saying goes—and it’s true. But real communication goes a step further.
The third level is communicating through OTHERS. The people you have influenced through your actions begin to speak your words. They start living out your values themselves, and as they do they influence others. The great leaders who create movement and change the world are leaders who have discovered how to communicate in this way.
It’s important that you learn to do this. Momentum is the way to exceptional growth. So for these three levels of communication you must find your message. You must have clarity. Experts say you should be able to state your message in four words. You need to know your message and stick to it.
Loyalty to a message is not always easy. Changing a message is often easy when we’re struggling or want more, but is often the worst thing we can do. It interrupts momentum. Tough times help make our message authentic and clear.
Here are some tips I have discovered from various sources that I have also found make a difference when trying to build momentum:
Start with the WHY. Explaining what you are doing and how everyone will benefit is critical. Communicate clearly and widely. The more you can clearly show the benefits, the sooner momentum grows. Legitimate passion is contagious. But you can’t falter or lose resolve, or you can lose everything.
Start with the end in mind. Let people know what success will look like. How long will it take? How large a gap is there between where we are and where we want to be? How much effort will this take? Setting reasonable expectations and helping people realize they have what it takes to do it, energizes people as you create a common goal and focus.
Share your plan. People need to know you have a plan for the journey and a reliable guide. While most people don’t go looking for change, they REALY hate “being changed.” If they have input into the change process, it will go better. Make it real—if you are inauthentic, it will likely backfire.
Plan for resistance and inertia. Change is challenging. If you go too fast, it can be frightening. Go too slow and it gradually becomes overwhelming. The leader must carefully and consistently communicate to keep things moving steadily forward and help people “keep their eyes on the prize.”
Recognize and reward progress. The tendency to relapse is powerful. Psychologists say the time it takes to develop a new habit depends on how engrained the old one is. That means it is almost always easier to move back into our comfort zones than move forward into unknown challenges unless we are highly motivated.
Lead yourself. If you are responsible for leading change and building momentum, start by getting your own house in order. Maybe you need to take a vacation before the process begins. Find people you trust to help you recognize when you have become too frustrated, tired, or discouraged, and let them help you work through it. You need support just as your team does. By leading yourself well, you will be much better able to drive the momentum needed to make the change and get it to stick.
You can be a three-level communicator, and you must be if you are going to build momentum that leads to the change you desire.