How to help people pass your messages on to others

14th June 2016

“My mate fancies you.”

Four words that never work for teenagers.

After all, asking your friend to tell the person of your dreams you fancy them… well, it’s just not going to work, is it?

She’ll wonder why you haven’t told her yourself.

If she’s keen on you, you aren’t there to take advantage of this keenness.

And if she isn’t keen, you aren’t there to undo the damage your friend’s just caused.

So, all in all, using a middle-man in this situation is a bad idea.

In business, though, we often need to use a middle-man. For example, you might…

  • hold a senior position, and want your direct reports to cascade your messages to their teams
  • have created a training programme you want others to deliver
  • want to take a Business Case to the Board. But you aren’t allowed in the meeting, so have to ask someone to present it for you

So, here’s the key thing: how to ensure your middle-man adds value to your message. And doesn’t dilute it. Or worse, contradict it.

Here are a few ways to ensure they do a good job for you:

  • Be crystal clear what your desired outcome is. That way, your middle-man knows what you are looking to achieve
  • Be equally clear on the reasons you think your ultimate audience both (1) will want to do what you want them to (your middle-man can focus on these) and (2) why they won’t want to do it (your middle-man can help remove these)
  • If you give your middle-man supporting information – a slide set, set of trainer notes etc – for each page/slide, explain both its purpose (in other words, what you want the ultimate audience to say/feel after hearing it) and how best to deliver tricky or contentious topics
  • Ask them to add their own insights and experiences to your message. Their personal slant will help bring your content to life. In fact, without it, they aren’t needed. You might as well bypass them and communicate directly with the ultimate audience
  • Offer to act as a Sounding Board. Tell your middle-man they can practise bits/all of it on you at any time, until they feel certain they’ll do a great job

You will add your own ideas to this, of course. But – whatever you choose – I strongly advise it falls between the two extremes of:

  • Giving no guidance – “say what you like”; and
  • Giving total guidance – “I’ve scripted it word-for-word for you”

The former means it’s 100% their message and 0% yours. And they might not do a good job.

The latter is all your words and none of theirs. It just won’t sound right coming out of their mouths. They’ll sound like an odd version of you. Also, this approach ignores all the great ideas they could include.

Action point

Identify the next communication someone’s delivering on your behalf. Find simple ways to brief them better. That way, your message becomes a combination of the best bits of both of you.

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