“How” as Important as “What”

How as Important as WhatThis past week several senior level clients, in different organizations, shared their frustrations about their inability to get initiatives launched.

The executives above them didn’t buy off on them. And these  were smart, big win ideas. Ones that could produce significant results. But the executives who could pull the trigger, wouldn’t.

The answer to my client contacts’ problems seemed clear.

Maybe because it’s a very engaging election year, but what’s apparent is “how” the message is presented matters. As much as “what” the content is.

Consider these examples:

  • Bernanke & Paulson’s proposal to Congress for buying bad mortgages (a 3-page document for $700 billion when a sub-prime loan takes 8-10 times as many pages)
  • A husband explaining to his wife why he hadn’t done something she’d asked (but using the voice he reserves for the cashier at the DMV window)

These 2 examples point out that even if “what” you have to say is correct, right and true, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans. If the recipient can’t hear it, forget it.

And although this may seem elementary, it’s not.

It’s very political high up any organization. And success at the top is directly proportionate to one’s ability to shape and guide the message so that it’s received appropriately. Rather than spat out like sour wine.

This means considering how the message is framed and presented requires as much work as the content.

Yes, in the adult world there’s a constant checking if artfully crafting the “how” manipulates the meaning of the “what”. But consider the alternative. Focusing solely on saying exactly what one truthfully thinks leaves you with a room full of great ideas atrophying in the dust.

How skillful are you with messaging’s “How”?

Chris Arlen
President, Service Performance

Technorati: communicating, implementing initiatives

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