• Martin Medieros

Persuasively Communicating in Crisis with "That" Team Member (You Know the One )

Here’s the golden rule of persuasive communication:

  • People will work hard with and for people they like;

  • People like people who make them feel good, and

  • Being listened to and empowered makes people feel good


The goal then, as a founder, team leader, or upper manager, is to listen to and empower your employees and team members so that they feel good about themselves in your presence, which will, in turn, make them like you, and inspire them to excellent work.

We think people turn into hyper-rational beings in crisis, they obviously get the urgency and will perform. This is a mistake. In a crisis, getting everyone motivated and on the same page can be a crisis in and of itself. The limbic system wildcards and the responses of freeze, flight and fight can turn a small crisis into a much larger crisis.

Of course, crisis states in business happen for any number of reasons: unforeseen competition, new regulations, short deadlines, new and complex requests from “anchor” customers or clients on short notice, production problems, a key team member or player is behind on a project component, unannounced executive departure, someone out sick, pandemic…imagination is not a boundary on reality in the 21st Century.

Regardless of the cause, taking time to check in with team members and listen will pay back dividends both in loyalty, creativity, and productivity. Remember, people like people who make them feel good, and being listened to and empowered makes people feel good.

Here’s how to make the magic happen.

Step 1: Stop Talking! This sounds silly… and it is. Obviously, to listen, you need to stop talking. AND pay attention to how often you interrupt someone when they are speaking. If you catch yourself jumping in -- STOP! Shut your mouth and refocus on what the other person is saying.

Step 2: Strive to Understand, not Respond. Sometimes folks just need to say what’s going on. Not to mention, the better you understand what is going on with the other person, the more easily you can both come up with a solution that works and get the project back on the fast track to completion. If there is something they say you’re not clear about, ask questions! Gather as much information until you can do Step 3 accurately.

Step 3: Repeat Back/Summarize. If you’re talking with someone, and they can accurately summarize what you’ve just said, you KNOW you’ve been heard. This is also known as an empathic statement, and it goes something like, “So what I’m hearing is that you’re having trouble focusing on work because time demands are putting a strain on your personal life. Is that right?” At this point, the other person can correct you if you got it wrong, and then you can re-summarize again.

Step 4: Offer 2-3 Acceptable Solutions as Choices. If you have kids, you may have employed this strategy: “do you want an apple or a banana?” rather than “what would you like to eat?” In business, the questions change but the concept remains the same. “Would you like to be re-assigned, or are you willing and able to get through the final push on this project so that we can meet our deadline?” Of course, the options must be acceptable to YOU as a team leader or supervisor. For example, don’t offer telework if that is not a viable option for your company, or if you cannot potentially offer it to everyone on the team.

The second part of Step 4 is to add the consequences for undesirable options. For example: “You can be re-assigned, but you won’t be considered for future high-profile projects of this nature for at least six months.”

By this point you’ve achieved those two most important objectives: you’ve listened and empowered your employee or team member.

Practice this style of communication when your team is in a steady state in order to become proficient; see if the team dynamics shift for the better as you practice this clear and straightforward system. Once you have the routine down, if and when crisis strikes, it will take a surprisingly short time to bring employees around to where they need to be in terms of getting the right work done on time.

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