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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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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Emerging Leaders: Leading the “New World”

Leading Technology

As leaders in a professional environment, we always aim to convey a message with good intentions. However, we can oftentimes fail. This is because we haven’t crafted our message for the correct target.

Our messages are not always clear because we don’t always understand our audience.

Engaging Future Leaders

I am a person, a leader, a mentor who aims to engage future leaders and develop an understanding of methods to connect with all generations to enhance communication and leadership growth.

There is a huge divide between the “Net Generation” and other generations because technology has exponentially developed this group of people.

Who knew that social media would be the greatest influence over a group of people?

A Growing Divide

Teachers, coaches, mentors, and leaders a like struggle to connect with the new generation of leaders. And this disconnect between these groups becomes more clear as the years progress.

Our job as leaders is to make sure our future leaders are ready for the future world, starting now to develop the “Net Generation,” helping them understand the advantages and disadvantages that technology has created for them.

Technical Edge

Cutting Through the Crowd

Now, many may understand the advantages of being tech savvy which are:

  1. They are able to connect with larger audiences more globally.
  2. They can work faster with more mobility.
  3. They can understand more and have more resources to produce results and develop others.

A Double-Edged Sword

What many don’t understand is that there are disadvantages as well:

  1. Everyone is under a microscope and the world of Human Resources is stronger than ever with fewer people and more resources. This means that social media can be used for hiring practices to get a better snap shot of people. People and leaders alike need to watch what they post as posts are seen by more than just friends and family. Networking circles are larger than ever before.
  2. Verbal communication skills have become diluted; much of today’s communication is via device without speaking.
  3. Connecting with multiple generations has become more difficult because the differences have become exponential.

Closing the Gap

Now, to close the gap between generations to enhance communication and develop “simply great leaders” we must teach listening and understanding, which are the basics to human interaction and chemistry.

I have…

  • Spent some time developing myself to understand the complexities of social media.
  • Utilized social media as a leader and employer to get a better understanding of this topic and to help develop young leaders.
  • Used social media to make decisions about hiring leaders into organization in which I have worked.

Emerging leaders need more guidance and coaching than ever before so we need to be there to help.

Mentoring New Leaders

I have mentored emerging leaders and the key to success is to find common interest with leadership goals and practice one-on-one communication through coaching practices.

Unfortunately, as business professionals we have fine lines as to how much we can inform new candidates and employees in regards to business do’s and don’ts ; we have to generic, ensuring equality and professionalism which can hinder the growth of potential emerging leaders.

Today’s leaders need to step out of their comfort zone make a difference for the future.

Taking the Time

Taking time to develop and educate future leaders, raising awareness about the effects of social media though sincere coaching and development; this is what we need to build a stronghold of the next generation leaders.

Effective communication is about listening and understanding while conveying a message that a person or group of people will understand. The best way to convey a message is to understand the audience to which it is being conveyed. Keep in mind that the great leaders of tomorrow will encompass the teachings of the leaders of today.

So how are you doing in bridging the gaps that exist in your organization? How well are you reaching out to those in different generations to help your operation run smoother? What are some of the (technological) barriers that are keeping you from better engagement with others? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders


Michael R Stanford is Doctoral Learner at UOP
He does occasional motivational speaking for community colleges
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Where the Focus Goes, the Business Goes


I’ll venture to guess that a book narrated by a talking dog named Enzo isn’t on your list of go-to business books.

I won’t even argue that it should be. But there is one important lesson to be gained from Garth Stein‘s novel about a rising-star race car driver, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

The lesson is this:

Where the eyes go, the car goes.

This is a fitting metaphor for business, wouldn’t you say? Your results are a direct result of your focus.

Keep it Between the Ditches

We’ve learned some variation of this lesson first-hand, every one of us. We set grand goals for our businesses, we lay a course to achieving them, we even get the right people on the bus.

And somewhere along the way we get lost and, worse yet, find our plans hurtling full speed ahead toward the ditch.  Out of breath we ask ourselves, “What just happened?”

Where the focus goes, the business goes.

Pick a Lane

Let me share a few examples of what happens when leaders “pick the wrong lane” in driving their businesses.

Example One: Lost Focus

Car in DitchFor several years my firm worked with a large corporation whose senior executive team passed down a series of ill-fated decisions. Each decision was, in all likelihood, considered and made in the business’ best interest. But on the whole the decisions appeared reactive and impulsive.

Worse yet, they lacked follow-through; decisions with serious organizational implications were announced and subsequently left unimplemented for months.

Programs launched with grand fanfare and died quietly.

During that period our firm collected employee engagement data that demonstrated a serious lack of confidence in leadership. Also during the period, profits fell despite deep and ongoing cost cutting efforts.

The two results are not coincidental. The executive team’s focus on quick fixes drained the business. Not until they settled down and drove with focus on longer-term solutions would their business turn around.

Example Two: Lost Messaging

Beggars Can't Be ChoosersA colleague leads a nonprofit organization who, like so many organizations like it, struggled to build a base of volunteers sufficient enough to achieve its work.

Their communications team, he told me, began to sound like beggars on the street corner.

“We need help! Please help. Every little bit of your time helps. Please? Pretty please?”

They needed to drive in a different direction to get to a different place. They needed to stop communicating like beggars and refine their messaging to something that would work effectively with their audience. They needed to refocus the message.

“We needed to quit begging and start talking about everything we accomplished with the blessings we already had.”

Once they focused on their successes — you guessed it — they got more volunteers. People want to be a part of a winning organization, not a struggling one. Perspective, internal and external, really is everything.

Life in the Leadership Fast Lane

There are four immediate steps you can take to identify the distractions drawing focus from your goals.

  1. Like any agency or law firm, track the time you spend on specific tasks. Do this for the next week or two. To do so takes nothing more technical than a spreadsheet. Be specific and be honest.
  2. Assess the gap between your activities and your goals. If you’re not spending the majority of your work day on tasks directly related to your business goals, you’re out of focus.
  3. Identify the culprits that steal your productivity and results. And be honest in doing so. It’s easy to blame distractions on others, particularly our direct managers. But how many tasks did you take on that you should have or could have pushed back on in favor of work directly supporting your business goals?
  4. Use your data to manage up. Once you’ve gathered real data on where your time is going, engage in a discussion with your direct manager about the implications of your focus. If your leadership truly supports your business goals, together you will find a way to allocate appropriate time to achieving them. If not, engage in a discussion about how to rewrite your business goals appropriately. In other words, de-clutter your focus and get buy-in in of doing so.

Where has your focus been lately? Where has that focus gotten you? Are you on the right road? Are you in the correct lane? Are you going in the right direction. And how has your business responded? We’d love to hear from you!

Gretchen Anthony is the President and founder of Tilt Consulting
She helps with communication planning, development & change communications

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