Emotional Intelligence

by Andy Smith

Communicating the vision

As a leader, you may have a very clear vision of where your organisation or team needs to be, a vision that motivates you to persist, whatever the obstacles. No matter how compelling this vision is to you, it will only motivate other people if you communicate it in ways that people can understand, and that arouse the desired emotional response in the listener.

The best way to make sure that you get your message across – and do so in such a way that it is received as sent – is to seek to think like the recipient of the message. For each person that you are aiming to reach (each type of person, if you are leading more than a small team), decide what response you need from them and put yourself into their shoes. These are the aspects you need to consider from this point of view:

  • What type of language do they understand and what will get the desired emotional response?

Sensory-based language will be more motivating than dry, abstract, conceptual language, because the mental images that sensory words create will evoke more emotion.

  • How emotionally expressive do you need to be?

Other things being equal, the more expressive you are, the more you will influence the emotions of others (but you need to take into account what is appropriate in the culture of your team or organisation).

  • What tone of voice (literal and metaphorical) will create the right mood?

Reading the audience is essential here – the same tone and delivery that would fire up a hard-nosed sales team would alienate a team of researchers or social workers.

  • What values do you need to appeal to?

Make sure you consider the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor. If you are the boss, people will listen because they have to, but just how much attention they pay will depend on how closely you address what is important to them. Some of their values will motivate them towards accepting the vision; others may be better left undisturbed.

  • What beliefs need to be honoured or appealed to? Moreover, if any beliefs need to change, what is the best way to do this?
  • Which are the best media to get the message across? Will the audience respond best to visual communications, audio, the written word or talking face to face?

You also need to take a step back and view both yourself and your audience objectively, as parts of a whole system. What will be the knock-on effects of you communicating your vision? What will be the effect on other parts of the organisation and other stakeholders? What will be the longer-term consequences?

Another factor to consider is how involved people need to be in the vision. Is it simply a matter of getting buy-in to a vision imposed from above – or do people need to be actively involved in co-creating it? Even with ‘top-down’ visions, some involvement is usually required from the people on the ground when it comes to translating the vision into everyday practice. The more people are actively involved in creating the vision, the less it will need to be ‘sold’ to them.

Clearly, you must have the social awareness to read the culture and emotional climate of your organisation correctly. Your ability to assess the ideal level of people’s involvement in creating the vision will depend on your self-awareness. How prepared are you to learn?

See the topics on Communicating Change and Internal Communications