Communication Breakdown: Are You Thinking About Your Audience?

Communication Breakdown

Over the course of my career many leaders have lamented this: “Little I say seems to be resonating!?!?”

Although this can be very frustrating, it certainly does not mean that you should just stop communicating (as I’ve also heard…)

Knowing Your Audience


Most likely, the failure to communicate effectively an indicator that you need to take more time to find out what makes your audience tick, and how and when they’re most receptive to information.


Think about any questions and concerns they might have that will impede their ability to hear you. By anticipating audience needs and concerns, you can ensure that you shape your message in a way that will resonate with your listeners.

The Real Communications Challenge

As challenging as it can feel to state your thoughts clearly and concisely, the real challenge is shaping those thoughts clearly and concisely for your audience.

Employees (and any audience) want you to appeal to them in terms that speak to them and their needs, often on a personal and emotional level—yes, even if you’re just talking about work.

Especially if you’re talking about work.

When leaders don’t understand their audiences’ needs or perspectives, they make these two common missteps:

  • They mistake any communication for good communication
  • They communicate from their perspective instead of the audience’s

Your Communication Role as a Leader

As a leader it’s your job to use communication to help your audience make the connection between business objectives and their role in helping you meet them. But it’s important to understand that before you can get to the business big picture, you’ll need to address employees’ personal needs first.

At the end of the day, employees want to know “What’s in it for me?

They might articulate that need in any number of ways:

  • “How does this affect me?”
  • “What does this have to do with me?”
  • “What should I be doing?”
  • “Does anyone care about me?”

The Solution: Know Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them. There’s real magic in addressing your audience’s needs first. When you do your audience is more likely to trust you, and as a result be more generous, open and receptive to big-picture, strategic communication.

All communication should always be tailored to the specific audience to make them aware of their role in the organizational whole.

That’s what leads to engagement and the discretionary effort all of us want.

Then, you can truly inspire employees to action as only a great leader can by giving them feelings of significance, community, and excitement through your communications.

Specifically as a leader you should:

  • Contextualize organizational information to ensure your team understands how it fits in.
  • Craft information so that it’s relevant to individual employees and teams.
  • Provide job-related information so that individuals and teams can do their jobs effectively.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s whether you can make it relevant to your employees.

So, how clear are you about who EXACTLY is your audience? Have you developed the right mindset to serve them in a way that will work with them? Or are you stuck in a place where you seemingly don’t connect well? If you are, what would you do to get to a more effective platform for your audience? I would love to hear you thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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On Leadership and Effective Communication

Poor Communications

For leaders in today’s business world, effective communication is a really big differentiator.

And yet time and time again I’ve heard the excuse, “Communicating effectively is just too tough.”

The Real World

With so much information flying around from so many places, the ability to ensure you’re understood and employees are prepared to take action on your path forward is critical to your individual and organizational success.

In a perfect world, communicating with other people would be as simple as saying what we mean.

But in the real world, saying what we mean…just isn’t always very simple.

And while some things are out of your control, when it comes to communication there’s a great deal you can control.

Communication Basics

Communication comes down to creating a conversation by expressing thoughts and emotions through the rather limited vehicle of language. Our preferred modes of communication—speech and writing—are limiting by their very nature, but even so, most of us don’t master them or use them to their fullest.

It’s not as though we’re confined to hieroglyphics and smoke signals.

We have a pretty sophisticated set of tools at our disposal—both in terms of delivery mechanisms and our abilities to shape messages creatively, convey a single idea in a number of different ways, tailor our approach to resonate with different audiences, listen carefully to feedback, and so on.

Communication Breakdown

The Simple Reasons Communicating Effectively Seems Difficult

Communication is the sum of several different variables—some of which we can control, and many of which we can’t. The most effective leaders know having a message is only the beginning.

In order to get that message across so that people hear it, absorb it, and understand how it affects them, you must also consider context, audience, delivery and more.

My real goal is to isolate the factors we can control and recognize those we can’t, so that instead of making excuses, we can start making efforts to improve our ability to communicate in ways that influence and inspire others.

That is, after all, what we’re trying to achieve through communication, isn’t it?

Communication Strangleholds

Here are a few of the reasons communicating effectively is tough:

  • The learning process is daily and ongoing, not something you can master by simply taking one class (although that’s a great start)
  • Communication is personal and an approach that works with some people may fail with others
  • Communication involves being able to anticipate the needs of your audience
  • We’re communicating even when we’re not
  • Everyone can learn to communicate well—someone might need to show you how, and its takes practice

Become an Outstanding Communicator

Appearances can be deceiving though, especially if you’re committed to improving your communications to achieve your business goals.

Here’s what you can do today to elevate the level of your communications:

  • Take responsibility for ensuring that communication happens, and happens in the right way—communication begins and ends with you. Don’t expect others to do the heavy lifting. No one can translate information and help your employees make sense of it as well as you can.
  • Recognize that communication is an instrument of strategy, and a strategy itself. Effective communication helps you turn strategy into action, both for your goals and the goals of the organization.
  • Take time to understand your audiences’ communication needs. With attention to your audience and individual needs, you learn to shape your message in ways that resonate and break through the clutter.
  • Plan communication and recognize communication doesn’t just happen. You can “wing it” and take a chance on the results, or you can be planful and purposeful, and succeed. Effective leaders make their communication look seamless; that’s the result of planning and practice.
  • Go beyond information sharing to real conversation—communication is about dialogue. Think of a tennis match and how invigorating it is to watch a great exchange of shots.
  • Use stories to create an emotional connection. People follow leaders because of how leaders make them feel. Tap the feeling side of others with stories.
  • Ensure your actions follow your words. People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.

It takes skill and practice to ensure that the actions we inspire are the ones we want. With thought, attention, and practice, you too can become a great communicator.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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Leaders: Getting Out of Email Hell

Email Hell

It seems as though at times the email faucet never slows. And the more emails coming in – and the more emails to sort through – the higher our stress.

The question for leaders is this:

What can you do to help your team focus and be more productive? And what steps can you take to reduce your own email overload?

Our new research, the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study, provides a unique view of how employees in a variety of industries, roles and functions perceive email and the strategies they feel are most helpful in dealing with its frequent excess.

Perception & Reality

The detailed results offer interesting insights:

  • Email is seen as an effective and necessary communication tool by more than three-quarters of all audiences (84% of executives; 83% of middle managers; 77% of employees)
  • Limiting email outside normal business hours  is seen as very effective by few (11% of executives; 20% of middle managers; 13% of employees)
  • Limiting email during normal business hours carries even less support (8% of executives; 15% of middle managers; 11% of employees)

Through our research employees said they want guidelines and policies to help address the overwhelming amount of irrelevant email that fills their inbox each day.

And while dealing with irrelevant email has become a challenge – and frustration – for almost everyone, middle managers are feeling that pain the most.

The results of our research demonstrate middle managers spend 6,000 minutes (100 hours) on irrelevant email each year. That’s not just email, it’s irrelevant email. Additionally, supervisors spend 5,250 minutes (87.5 hours) and employees spend 4,250 minutes (71 hours) on irrelevant email every year.

Those numbers add up pretty quickly for any organization.

Solutions to email overload do exist. As a leader all eyes are on you and your actions play a central role.

Getting Out of Email Hell

Here are some email best practices that you can blend into your communications today:

Use email to:

  • Provide directional information
  • Share a status update, briefly, in the message
  • Include additional information through a link or attachment
  • Offer time-sensitive information uniformly to a group of recipients
  • Record of your communication

Don’t use email to:

  • Give negative news or feedback
  • Describe complicated, detailed or lengthy topics
  • Keep the recipient from having the chance to respond in a conversational manner
  • Discuss topics that are nuanced and require context to understand fully

Email tips and best practices:

  • Keep messages short and clear to read; use bullet points to highlight information
  • Be clear in the subject line by briefly explaining the content of your message
  • Detail when you need a response and what you’re expecting
  • Pick up the phone if the email chain is going back and forth; recognize that email is not always the right vehicle, especially for complex topics
  • Respond quickly
  • Proofread your emails for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Double check you’ve used the right email addresses and attachments; avoid distributing proprietary information
  • Answer all questions to limit avoid back and forth messages
  • Use “Reply All” only when everyone needs to see your message
  • Check with the recipient to see how they would like to receive large attachments
  • Avoid message that contain nuance or sarcasm; email doesn’t express either one well

Email overload touches just about everyone and every organization. Yet solutions do exist.

Smarter Communications

With a smart plan and the right approach, email can become the effective and efficient communication tool it was meant to be within your organization.

At the same time, you’ll raise the bar of your overall communications, reinforcing the benefits of face-to-face and voice-to-voice communications.

See here for more on the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study

So, how ugly is your email inbox? What tips can you implement now to handle the volume and urgency issues that keep increasing? How can you get a total handle on your email communications before 2013 rolls in? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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Leaders: You Can’t NOT Communicate!


There are very few things in this world that are neutral.

Consider a gift that is carefully wrapped with special wrapping paper and decorative bows. It says something nice about the thought, the meaning, and the care taken in presenting that gift to someone special.

It communicates something very different than a plain brown paper grocery bag simply stapled shut with no decoration or creative flair. 

So either way the package is wrapped, it is projecting something about the person giving the gift. And it is saying it out loud.

Your Impressions

Similarly, everything you do, and everything you say, communicates something. And, importantly, everything you don’t do, and everything you don’t say, communicates, too.

This is a reality for everyone in business and life. And it is important for people to understand this.

Yet for leaders, it’s even more critical because all eyes are on you.

Whether you like it or not, your employees, your leadership peers, and everyone else read into your actions.

  • Who do you talk to regularly?
  • Who don’t you talk to regularly?
  • Did you seem distracted in that meeting?
  • How do you spend your time?

Your actions are interpreted by others based on their own perceptions, experiences, and biases.

You can’t not communicate. So, shouldn’t you get better at it?

The Business of Communication

In business, the leaders that understand that their success often rests on their ability to communicate are those best able to get employees focused and moving in the right direction.

They do this to:

  • Build engagement and motivation
  • Get teams moving more quickly
  • Generate consistent, successful results from their reports

They generate business results by communicating strategically. And they do it well!

They are what I call Leader-Communicators.

Real Communicators

Real communication, with real meaning, can be a difference maker for leaders.

With it, you can:

You can inspire confidence in team members and offer advice. These are huge steps that can help enable a leader in strengthening the work of an individual contributor, and your entire team.

With communication, you can spur success in your company, and you can build a legacy by developing a new strategic direction. 

Communication can set you apart from everyone else:

It’s a bona fide superpower in today’s business world.

Becoming a Communication “Superhero”

Superhero LeaderSo, how can you get this superpower?

Despite how difficult it seems to communicate at times, and how much easier it might seem to say nothing and move along (>>>Warning>>> Remember not communicating actually is communicating), becoming a communication superhero is easier that you might think.

As with anything though, perfect practice makes perfect.

Greats like Picasso, Michael Jordan, the Beatles, and Wayne Gretzky all spent years learning, practicing, and honing their skills.

They didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be great.

The best business leaders do the same thing – learning about new ways to tackle issues, reading about the lessons of others, and continually improving.

Great speakers learn the basics, and practice in front of mirrors and friends before moving crowds with their words.

Have faith. With practice, I know you can be a communication superhero.

So, now that you know you can’t not communicate, take a step back. What is it you’re actually communicating today? What’s the first step can you take right now to improve the way you communicate?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Book

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