Three Surprising Copywriting Techniques Leaders Can Use to Motivate Their Teams

DeathtoStock_Creative Community7

It is a topic that is getting tremendous press. People are talking about it in conferences.

It is a really tough time for leaders right now.

Why? Because leaders need to be taking their organizations/teams forward as well as appeal to an audience which knows it has many choices in the marketplace. Leaders are frankly between a rock and a hard place. Put too much pressure on goals, and audiences might get upset; pamper the audiences too much, and goals might suffer.

Is there a middle ground?

In my experience and course of study, three communication techniques that copywriters use for their writing success also work well with motivating teams as well. And the best thing is that these communication tips do not compromise a leader’s effectiveness in achieving goals. They really are quite effective.

Mention the YOU–alot

Leaders who talk only about themselves, risk alienating others. People are mostly interested in themselves and how something will benefit them. Pick up a sales copy or pitch and see how many times the writer of that pitch has mentioned the word YOU.

So when writing and speaking, leaders should aim for a conversational style and mention the word YOU quite a bit.

Caveat: The only time YOU should be dropped is when giving negative feedback. Instead of saying, “YOU did this incorrectly”, it is better to say something to this effect, ” I feel this thing could have been done this way”.

Use active, crisp verbs

Copywriters can propel people to action because they use active verbs considerably in their writing. Copywriters are all about generating results and leaders also have similar reasons for communicating.

Words such as achieve, develop, inspire, are visually more appealing to the mind’s eye and resonate more with people compared to dull verbs such as “be done”.

So instead of saying, “This can be achieved in x manner”, a better way would be “You/ We can achieve targets in x manner and get x results”. The words ” You/ We can achieve” help people conceptualize what is required of them and motivate them to take the desired action.

Appeal to the emotions

Probably the one most common thing that leaders gloss over is appealing to the emotions of their teams. The law is often laid down without consulting others. Those who must implement a decision need to be stakeholders in the planning process in order to get buy-in.

Copywriters appeal to emotions by adding empathy, stories, spelling out benefits, addressing the pain points, answering objections, and using captivating words to draw attention.

Leaders need to build their communication kits with similar techniques to connect with their audiences.

Motivating people is an art form and by borrowing communication techniques from trades where  communication is center stage, leaders can achieve this goal more effectively to move their organizations forward.

Top 10 Picks to Help You Enhance Your Leadership Communication

Top 10 Leadership Communication

Communicating effectively requires self-awareness, understanding the audience, having a clear purpose, knowing the context or background within which you are communicating, and developing the right message. As a leader you will need to navigate through all these areas and ensure that outcome of your message achieves your goal.

Leaders who read can perform better in the organization. The reason for this is that reading helps to clarify thinking, provides new ideas and insights, and adds support to one’s viewpoints.

Here are my top 10 suggestions for you to improve your leadership communication and your personal brand.

  1. Leadership Communications: How Leaders Communicate and How Communicators Lead in Today’s Global Enterprise by  E. Bruce Harrison, Judith Mulhberg 
  2. Leadership 2030: The Six Megatrends You Need to Understand to Lead Your Company into the Future by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell
  3. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
  5. Power Listening by Bernard T. Ferrari 
  6. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Joseph Grenny,David Maxfield, Ron McMillan,Al Switzler Kerry Patterson
  7. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny 
  8. Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders by Lindsey Pollak
  9. The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks by Al Siebert
  10. Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein

I hope you enjoy reading these books and improve your leadership performance as a result of them. Do share your suggestions for other leadership books so that others in the community can benefit.

Improve Your Leadership Communication and Build Influence by Harnessing Your Brain Power

LeadershipLet’s face it–In a hyper connected and crazy ‘do it now or otherwise it will never get done’ world, communicating from the perspective of the other person is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Well-meaning leaders can derail in times of stress, because other priorities take precedence and fuzzy communication concepts such as courtesy and consideration seem impossible to apply when they are most required.

The issue with ignoring basic communication guidelines is that one often creates a bigger mess which takes an even longer time and energy to mop up. Often the scars run deep and the ‘victims’ strike back at surprising moments. Suddenly, it becomes clear that by spending an extra five minutes in crafting a communication message sensitively, could have saved a day’s worth of clarifications and meetings. The extra five minutes could also have helped the leader in building greater influence within the organization and standing out from the insensitive crowd.

So, how are we supposed to go from nonchalant to committed to a positive outcome in those five minutes you ask? I suggest that we use those minutes by talking to our rational brain and ignoring our lizard or reptilian brain. You might be skeptical about this solution and I can try to alleviate your concern in two ways.

First, I have been using these brain strategies for years and whenever I have messed up, it has usually been because I allowed the lizard brain to take over. So, these techniques have a personal ring to them.

Second, there is considerable reading material out there that supports these methods. One book I loved reading recently was the The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. There are many practical tips to harness one’s brain power in this book. There are many more that you can read.

For the sake of this discussion, let us imagine that a peer sends you an email, ccing your boss, saying that he is disappointed with the delays related to a certain project and wants you to take responsibility for those delays.

How can you prevent this exchange from turning into a disaster?

Visualize Success Despite Challenges

A retaliatory strike could be devastating for your relationship with the coworker, your image in front of your boss, and your overall self-esteem.

By visualizing the purpose or end goal of this communication, you can calm yourself down and reply in a more rational and controlled manner. Visualization typically involves vivid imagery and seeing things clearly in one’s mind. Prior to visualizing, try to breathe deeply and transport yourself mentally out of the current situation.

By imagining a completed project where everyone is happy, and quickly thinking of the possible action- steps (these might change) that can be taken to get to that point, you can confidently suggest an in-person meeting. It is important to get the face-to-face connection done quickly and work out actionable steps to resolve this situation. Left festering, it is likely that this situation will worsen.

Let Compassion Work Its Way

The person who sent this email, might be having a really bad day at work. There could be many factors bothering this individual: home situation, personal problems, illness, job issues etc. Since it is impossible to ignore this email, we need to build into our toolkit different methods to achieve our goal of a successfully completed project. Compassion is one of them. Maybe we do actually know of what is bothering this person. Thinking about what we would be like if we had the same problem, might enable us to put on a different hat and respond to this situation in a better way.

Take it in Stride

Say to yourself– stuff happens, let us move on to the next step. By developing mental resilience you can overcome hurtful situations such as these. It is important to note that this is not the end of the world. This technique is difficult to apply when one is already reeling with too many deadlines and stressors, but recognizing that one should always have mental space for such derailers will help you channel your thoughts more productively.

 Think Positive

Train yourself to convert negativity to positive thoughts. You have heard of looking at the glass half full. Well this is exactly what this is. What is the flip side of this email? This person is reaching out, there is an unresolved issue that you were unaware of, isn’t it great you found this now, before it was too late? What a save!

When you use these techniques before you communicate with others, you will find that your communication will be more productive and your influence will grow as a result of your calm and composed disposition. I think you will be happy with the outcomes of these techniques. Do let us know what you think.

The Honor System

I recently went to a restaurant to meet a client for lunch and something interesting caught my eye.

While I was waiting for my client to arrive, I saw a TO-GO shelf near the entrance of the outlet. The shelf was meant for  customers who had pre-paid to pick up their order quickly and avoid the long lines at the cashier.

Honor System

Honor System

This concept is similar to the hold feature at the libraries in our area. Once a person enters the library, he/ she can simply collect a pre-requested book from the hold area and personally check it out with the help of a library card. This process beats looking for the book and waiting in line— two activities that are cumbersome for the time-strapped.

The examples given above refer to an Honor System which according to The Business Dictionary is an ” Unsupervised arrangement in which customers or users help themselves to goods or services and are relied upon to pay for what they take”. In academics, the Honor System refers to appropriate academic conduct such as no cheating or fabrication.

For the Honor System to work properly, people are expected to be inherently honest and not defy or abuse the system in place. Unfortunately, the solutions in this article for the time-strapped are difficult to apply in many places because of the low priority or importance some societies put on trust and honor.

If we could apply the Honor System in all societies around the world, life would become so much easier and simpler. One would not have to wait in lines for many small tasks and would be able to use that time much more effectively. Organizations that use the Honor System also communicate that they trust their customers and build stronger bonds. It is quite possible that customers feel more connected to such organizations and will frequent them.

Some more examples of the Honor System:

Biggby Coffee

The Vault

Farm Stands

Honor Marketing Book

If you have come across an honor code or system in your area, do share it with us. It would be great to see how other countries or cultures are overcoming societal limitations and taking this concept forward. We would love to hear from you.

How Summarizing Can Save You Time, Money, and Build Your Credibility

Summarizing Can SaveHas this ever happened to you?

You listen to a list of tasks assigned for the day and start the work right away. You do what needs to be done (or so you think) and hand over the project with a big grin on your face.

No more worrying about ‘rocks’ because the boring part is over.

Ah maybe now you can choose between taking a coffee break or just relax for a little bit at your desk. Once the task assigned is complete you want to move on to something relaxing.

The visions of a happy state come to a screeching halt when you are informed that you did not complete task one as requested. You were assigned a sales presentation which required a slide on recommendations. You skipped the recommendations because you thought you had heard incorrectly–typically recommendations were the responsibility of the supervisors.

This time it had been delegated to you and you had not clarified and summarized the discussion. With your reputation on the line, you feverishly work to deliver on time. No coffee breaks for the day. At least not yet.

You probably do not identify yourself with this particular story, but might have had experiences related to misunderstandings of this sort.

The reason I share this mini disaster with you is to highlight the fact that too often we get caught up in our attention deficit worlds to understand what is really required of us.

When we summarize, we obtain agreement about the tasks we are expected to perform or the actions we we are supposed to take. Not only does summarizing save us time (in this case going back to finish task one) and money (possible promotion which might now hang in the balance), but it also has an amazing effect of lifting a burden of uncertainty from our shoulders. The words “What if I am working on the wrong track?” might haunt as one works on a project assigned by the boss.

Securing agreement during the summarizing process is the key to a fruitful communication process.

In my opinion, the two best communication mediums for summarizing are face-to-face or phone because feedback is in real-time. E-mailing back and forth to build consensus annoys people.

If communication in your workplace is mainly through e-mail, just pick up the phone, get the agreement, and then send your understanding of the requirement through e-mail. If there is an issue with your interpretation you will probably get a response.

If you don’t get a response, chances are that the boss thinks you are on the right track and further clarification is unnecessary. The first round of summarizing and agreement, however, should preferably be through a medium where you can get immediate feedback.

If you have never given summarizing much thought before, do try it. You will be pleasantly surprised at its time, money, and credibility saving impact.

Let us know what you think of this tool. We look forward to hearing from you!

 Written by: Warda Zaman, CEO, ParaConnect Communications LLC.










Podcast #1: How to Become a Moderator and Be Good at It–Conversation with Wasif Mazhar

Wasif Mazhar, a powerful moderator and part of the Human Capital Development Team at Telenor Pakistan, joins us for a podcast on moderatingevents and shares what goes on behind the scenes to deliver a successful moderating session.

Wasif has worked with participants from companies such as LUMS, TRG, Mobilink, Ali Akbar Group, Crescent Bahuman Limited, Gourmet, Pioneer Cement, Mezino Technologies, Serena Hotel, and Almab Chemicals. He is a core team member and a wing lead at Pakistan Human Capital Forum (PHCF), a forum for HR Professionals.
Resources Wasif Mazhar uses:

Books-The Wisdom of Ants, How the Mighty Fall, Built to Last, Who Moved My Cheese, The Winning, What Color is Your Parachute?,,,

Lessons from SHRM 2014 (1/8): ‘The end of average’ and what this means for OD Professionals

SHRM 2014 was a wonderful experience for me. I have never been to a conference this size or an event that was so well-organized to the tee. It was truly above average: from the mobile app which helped me seamlessly navigate the event and take notes to the SHRMBOT who answered questions; from the amazing and well-learned speakers who truly engaged the audience to the diverse and happily charged audience; and from the ubiquitous volunteers in green shirts to the well-thought out game plan every step of the way–they had thought of everything! Above average for sure.

The reason I talk about end of average or above average in this article is because this was a topic under discussion during the conference. During one of the General Sessions, Mr. Thomas Friedman, a NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, spoke eloquently about the demands of the new workplace and how we will all need to step up our game NOW. As I listened, I thought of the following: what about the people who have not prepared for above average, how does one even go about becoming above average, and how much time do we really have to make this transition? Tough questions, no easy answers. Then I thought of myself as an OD Professional trying to bring about effective change in organizations—how do I become above average in a rapidly changing world—in a world where Facebook was born just seven years ago?

I think there are three ways OD professionals like myself can accomplish this: We will need to continuously practice OD skills, develop the ability to learn and retool ourselves by actively soliciting feedback, and work smarter by using the right tools for our work.

Practice makes perfect and OD professionals must try to find ways they can practice their craft regularly. This means that even when there is no project, OD professionals should use OD tools and techniques in other life situations. As an example, OD professionals can work in their communities and volunteer for an OD project . If we are interested in current affairs, we can  think of way we can solve a world problem through OD. The application of OD is everywhere. We just need to look for it. To stay current in the field, books, certifications, peer discussions, journals etc. are very helpful.

Second, getting feedback from peers and clients is an extremely powerful way of learning about one’s weaknesses. I also suggest attending networking events organized by  local OD chapters to meet experts in the field and learn from them. The ideas gained from these sessions often help generate solution to the problems at hand. Networking sessions can be whatever you want them to be. You can either just go to these events and listen to the discussion or come back rejuvenated and start creating something new from that experience—the choice is yours.

Last but not the least, are the tools you will use. An OD practictioner must experiment and work with the ones that deliver the best results. At one of our local events, a participant was amazed with the power of the fishbowl technique. After the session, the interviewee who had many years of experience in OD stated that this technique was one of the most useful reflection tools he had ever experienced. In this technique the interviewee sits in the middle of the group with the consultant asking questions and sitting face-to-face with the interviewee. The other stakeholders look on. During the Q & A session, the interviewee deeply reflects about his/her challenges and comes up with solutions to handle them. There is greater ownership in this process. A simple interview in this situation may not have yielded the same results. Therefore, OD practitioners need to know how to use the right tools in the right situation to get the best impact.

I had many interesting insights from the SHRM 2014 conference and thought of the different ways OD professionals can apply the information shared in the conference to their work. I hope to share my observations with you in the coming months. In the meanwhile, I would like to engage with all OD professionals on the topic of how we can improve ourselves and make ourselves better in this field. I look forward to hearing from you. Together we can embrace the coming challenges that the world faces as one. Do share your thoughts and connect with me at

Article first published on June 30, 2014 at: