As change practitioners, we are constantly in the position of having to influence others. Among other things, we are recommending that the leaders we support take unpopular actions; we are looking to earn our rightful place at the table and in integrated planning with others supporting the initiative such as project managers; and we are seeking to influence individual contributors to change the way they have been thinking about and doing things for years.

While she is addressing leaders in “Adopt these 4 speaking habits to boost your leadership presence,” Fast Company author Anett Grant’s insights are important to us as well.

  1. “Don’t just dump the data; connect the facts.” It is likely that you provide the leaders you are serving with periodic risk assessments. Many change management approaches use a “red, yellow, green” risk format. Reporting, for example, that sponsorship is red” may be what the data says. But the fact is that with weak sponsorship, mitigating any other risks will be a challenge at best. What is the data telling you? Tell the leaders you are supporting as well.
  2. “Speak from the heart, not from a script.” When we head into situations where we have to deliver difficult messages, we tend to create the script in our mind. Then we speak from the script. As Grant says, “You need to be raw, honest, and convince people that you’re speaking from the heart.” Otherwise, you are not going to convince them to hear and act on the message you are delivering.
  3. “Ditch the technical jargon and use simple, plain language.” Not unlike other professions, we like to use our own glossary of terms and acronyms. But when we do, we are getting in the way of effectively communicating our message.
  4. “Use images to make your audience feel smart.” While Grant doesn’t specify this, your images may be visual, or they may be verbal. For example, you may choose to graphically illustrate to your leadership team the way in which you are asking them to cascade enrollment through the organization. Likewise, you may opt to use a metaphor to describe the way in which the new hospital will keep track of patient locations (“Like air traffic control.”). Well crafted images communicate in ways that help people “get it.”

If you are truly committed to successfully influencing those to whom you are communicating about your changes, Anett Grant’s “four speaking habits” can make a big difference.