Managing top-down messages

As a leader, there are times when you’ll need to communicate messages which you receive from above, down to your team. Sometimes these will be messages which you support, and sometimes you might not.

It’s important to remember that you’re not there to openly disagree with the message, but to communicate the message onwards in a way which helps people to accept what’s been said.
In order to be sincere when you communicate your message, you need to ensure that you have all the information you need from above. If you have to keep going back and checking things, it undermines your own belief in the message, and weakens the impact of your communication. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to ensure you have the full information…

  • What’s the topic?
  • What timescale does it relate to?
  • Which areas of the business does it impact?
  • What flexibility do I have when communicating it?
  • What should I do if it’s badly received?
  • What support can you give me on this?
  • What action are you looking for people to take as a result of this message?
Once you have full understanding of the message, you need to fit it into a strong, concise structure to display your confidence in what’s being communicated.

The ARRBA structure for communicating a strong message
ARRBA is a communication structure which helps you to communicate potentially complex message to others in a clear and simple way. It works like this:
  • Attention
  • Request
  • Reason
  • Benefit
  • Action
You need to grab the other person’s attention with a high-impact statement showing its relevance to that person. Then you state a summary of the request which is being made. Get that in early to stop people guessing. Next you need to provide the reason behind the request, and the benefit to the other person in carrying out the request. Finally, a clear first action is helpful to encourage people to make a start.


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