“Great communication – no matter the topic – always connects with people’s feelings and with what they find meaningful.”
John Kotter from his latest book, Accelerate: XLR8
Can you remember projects that you “got to” work on compared to projects that you “had to” work on. The feeling of energy and the opportunity to do work that made a difference. I recently listened to one of our state university presidents talk about the amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have to contribute to transforming higher education. All of us felt the emotion in his message and it resonated with meaning for each of us.
In his latest book, XLR8, John Kotter shares ideas to help leaders communicate in a way that creates this type of “get-to” mindset. Communication that “captures people’s attention in a way that almost compels” them to engage in their work with messages that describe both the urgency and the opportunity to make a difference in a meaningful way.
A starting point for leaders is to focus and align people’s energy and enthusiasm using what Kotter calls “Big Opportunity” statements. These statements must include both emotion and reason. At Minnesota State Colleges and Universities we have an opportunity in front of us that is described in the following statement:
Charting the Future is a strategic effort to help change how we work and encourage collaboration among MnSCU institutions to better prepare our students for success and achieving a more prosperous Minnesota. We are imagining a better world for our students, our colleges and universities, and our communities across the state.
Creating “Big Opportunity” statements that are realistic, emotionally compelling and memorable can help you connect with both your people’s heads and hearts. “Big opportunity” statements are:
- Short: Less than one page so they are easy to share and can reach more people.
- Rational: They need to make sense in the current reality so they are not dismissed immediately.
- Emotionally Compelling: Speak to the hearts of all relevant audiences.
- Positive: Focus on the opportunity and what “burning desire” people have to make a difference.
- Authentic: It feels real, is believed in by you and demonstrates your level of excitement.
- Clear: Provide clarity and focus.
- Aligned: Supports or is consistent with existing mission or vision statements.
Leaders who are able to communicate with their heart and heads can unlock the potential and passion of the people they lead.