Remember the game, Telephone? A circle of people–one by one–whisper a word or phrase to each other until the last person utters the phrase out loud so the group can see if/how it has changed. It’s amusing to see what happens to the phrase by the time it’s announced.


It’s one thing to keep a phrase or idea “in-tact” when the stakes are low, say during a game of Telephone. But it’s quite another to deliver consistent and effective messages during the pressure of the day, when emotions are high and so are the stakes. Though we will always find some variation in messages as they make their way through our tribes, there is a strategy you can use to increase the cohesion and effectiveness of collective communication.


I call it, The Pivot.


What is the Pivot?

The pivot is the turn you make–and the space during the turn you create–after you hear a message but before you deliver it. It’s the in-between time. What happens in you, and how you ready the message as you pivot, can make all the difference in what happens during and after the delivery.


The pivot can occur within minutes of hearing a message. It can also be days, even weeks in the making. The pivot can be one conversation or many; it depends on the scope of the message. But regardless of the scope and duration, it’s hard to overestimate how important the pivot is to your tribe’s execution of its mission. Poor pivoting can ruin strategy and derail execution.


Here are three actions you can take to pivot with excellence.


1) Situate the message before sharing it: Whether a message is positive or challenging, effective communicators situate the message in themselves prior to delivery. It’s possible you won’t like or agree with a message you have to deliver. It’s also very possible the message will be a difficult one to deliver based on its content. The content could trigger resistance in the receivers. Situating the message means you do an internal scan to determine your own acceptance and emotional alignment with the message.


If you are struggling to embrace the message or concerned about your ability to share it, then make peace with it before you put it out there. Sometimes we have to make peace with a message in short order. We don’t have a lot of time to reflect. But it’s worth taking even 5 or 10 minutes to emotionally align around the message before you share it. Also, find a realistic and optimistic way to share the message, before the words, and emotions, come pouring out. And If, for whatever the reason, you are fundamentally misaligned with the message, then you have an entirely different problem to overcome.


Consider your target audiences: You may or  may not have an issue with a message. By the time you deliver it, you may be past your own emotional reaction to it. The pivot, however, requires you to consider your audience before you share. Before you communicate the message, visualize your stakeholders. Imagine delivering the message to them.


  • What are the potential areas of angst or misalignment they may experience.
  • Who are the potential resisters? Who might agree prematurely?
  • What are trigger-words or ideas that you should avoid?
  • What objections should you be ready to discuss?
  • What types of reactions, from the receivers could cause you negative reactions and derail your ability to deliver in a calm state?


These questions, and others you believe to be important, will help you choose your words before, and monitor your emotions during, the delivery. Remember it’s not just about the content. It’s about delivery. And delivery is, to some degree, shaped by the receivers.


Increase attentiveness before sharing: We all have many commitments and pressures that poke at us during the day. The collective weight of these dynamics can create weariness or inattention, or both. When we are inattentive, it’s easy to  barge into the moment of communication without ensuring we are emotionally and psychologically ready. Because a lot is riding on how we deliver important messages, the quality of our attention to ourselves, the audience, and the message, is essential for success. Before you deliver messages or share information, tap into your mindfulness and bring your best energies to the moment. Be aware of the potential snares that could derail your effectiveness and then share with humble confidence.


Which of the three actions can make the biggest difference in your communication this week?