When leaders have good news to share, the important points are front and center. In the subject line of the email. On the title of the slide. On the tip of everyone’s tongue.

But, when the news isn’t bright, managers often try to explain the situation, discuss the circumstances, congratulate the effort, before they get to the real point.
Whether good news or bad, follow these basic steps to effective communications:

  1. Lead with the Headline. Always state the most important things first to your employees.
  2. Discuss the actions being taken. Your people want to know what they can do to help. Be specific about the owner, dates and expectations.
  3. Provide relevant situational analysis and background, as needed. You may want to provide a short summary and link to full details. Or, in some cases, you realize that all the details aren’t that important after you’ve followed steps 1 and 2.
  4. Summarize by tying it back to the strategic goals of the project or of the organization whenever possible. Please see the blog series on “Change Management Communications” for tips on creating a personal connection to organizational goals.

If you follow these steps in this order, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more concise your written communications will become. You may also see a marked improvement in how people respond to your clear direction.