How often do you think about the message you land through what you say, the way you say it and the context in which you say it?  Or even more importantly the messages you land without saying anything – how you act and more importantly interact. 

I have just watched this interesting TED talk that came through over the weekend in my various email feeds and as I went to share it on LinkedIn, I paused to reflect more broadly on the topic of messaging. 

The reason I paused was because I started thinking about the opportunities that I have on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to affect the lives of others through the messages that I land.  Not just as a consultant, coach and facilitator in a work context, but as a dad, son, brother, friend, mentor, neighbour, teammate and colleague.  In a coaching context I guess I am very careful and think hard about the way I frame questions, challenges and observations.  But I was reflecting that outside of that, I am not sure that I am quite so judicious or deliberate.  The TED talk is predicated on the research and psychological experiments that explore how everyday interactions shape our future from a young age (but I would argue at any age). 

A few words can change the course of a life; they have the power to shrink, expand or transform someone’s identity — even your own.”

 I certainly don’t believe that I am shrinking lives regularly, but is there an opportunity to think more about the way I frame things so I am more effectively expanding and transforming?  The video gave a couple of really powerful examples of messages delivered in a challenging context that inspired and created possibility.  The much more likely and usual messaging in that context would obviously have the opposite effect and this becomes the thread of the talk.

As leaders with a capital L or a little l – in any of the roles we play in life we absolutely have the power to make a transformative difference for better, or indeed sadly for worse.  I have been thinking about opportunities I have seized and opportunities I have missed – especially with my daughters.  The trials and tribulations of my younger daughter Maisy starting university springs to mind, I know my support report card would be a little mixed.  Reasonably thoughtful = “You are not alone in feeling the way you feel and once you start meeting some of your house and course mates you will see some of the strengths and opportunities you have access to.”  Could do better = “You don’t know how lucky you are, you have only been there a day.”

I am thinking about a 3 step process that I am going to try and follow to be more positive more consistently.

  1. Having sufficient awareness in the moment to be able to recognise the opportunity to land a message that can make a difference. 

  2. Thinking about the outcome – the openness, freedom, possibility inducing narrative that I want to leave behind as a consequence of that message.  That outcome needs to be couched in the needs of the individual and not me.

  3. Framing and sharing a message that is realistic but positive delivered with authenticity – ultimately the receiver needs to take accountability for pushing at the door you are opening and take a transformative step.

Easier written than consistently acted upon – but starting with the right intent and the awareness to seize and make the most of opportunities has got to be a good place to start.