Leaders Structure Messages

People who deliver structured messages prioritize organizing what they want to say, making it easier for others to understand.

The poor alternative is to deliver “impromptu messages”, when we avoid investing energy into organizing what we have to say before speaking.

As an “iD” DiSC style, I’m frequently guilty of that.

I had been VP of Community Relations in our local ATD chapter, and failed spectacularly. A great example for the opposite of the two-step path to success, and the need for deadlines. Anyway, I ended up as President (a much easier job, frankly), and my friend and colleague Sarah Noll Wilson took over as VP of Community Partnerships and nailed it.

She forged the partnerships I couldn’t, secured corporate sponsorships, and founded some helpful and successful recurring events to develop our members.

I was so pleased, and a bit ashamed, and used a two-word bit of impromptu messaging to let her know how happy I was for her: “You win”. I said that a lot. Every time she reported a new success. Eventually, she called me on it.

“Why do you say that? It’s weird.” When I explained what I meant, she was relieved. She later wrote, “I was confused why you kept saying “you win”. Did you think I needed to feel like I won? Or that I felt valued by beating others?”

Not at all. I was just happy. And if I had used structured messagesI would have been able to get that message across better.

Last week, I lifted up Matt Hantz of M Booth as an example of explaining rationale, and promised a Small Business Saturday example of structured messaging this week.

Matt was the member of the M Booth team to make the case to AmEx executives that SBS was 1) simple; 2) scalable; and 3) own-able. American Express appreciated the use of the “Messaging Triangle” and Hantz proved to be the master of this.

His explanations were clear, concise and structured.

Simple? If you’ve heard of Black Friday, it’s pretty easy to explain. And, the goal of putting “Small Business Saturday” in the lexicon of business and shoppers everywhere is both adventurous and crystal-clear.

Scalable? Time has proven that’s not an issue. And, between M Booth and American Express, the creative, financial, and people resources were there.

Own-able? Over time, this has become the toughest one and there are two ways of looking at it. On the negative side, nearly everyone knows what SBS is, but not everyone connects it to AmEx. Polling shows that in the days that follow SBS, attribution is high, but as the year goes on, it fades. On the positive side, Hantz says this now:

“My personal opinion is that when you’re doing advocacy marketing like this, you have to be ok with losing some control, and that’s a good thing—it means the idea has taken off. Another senior AmEx exec once told me, “first we gave it roots, then we gave it wings.” It’s pretty corny, but I like it.”

There’s a reason the partnership has worked; leaders from both entities have shown leadership strength, and trust in what the other offers.

That notion of being “corny” may seem out of place when you’re talking about a large financial institution like American Express, but it makes perfect sense if you look at the serious whimsy of M Booth. (Their landing page says they “are inspired by Beyoncé, a great grilled cheese sandwich, and any girl little leaguer that pitches at 70 miles an hour”.)

Instead of impromptu messages that may confuse, leaders deliver structured messaging to create clarity and build alignment.

Structured Messaging is a leadership behavior that helps drive Clarity during the Alignment process of the Work of Leaders.

To learn more about an assessment that measures and guides growth for leaders and potential leaders, start here.

To learn more by reading a great book, see the link below. Purchases made through that link may result in a small commission for me.

This is the eighth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.

For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.

  1. Amy Seidelman
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    I am loving the use of Small Business Saturday as a continuing example! This was a great read today.

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