There was a time when leaders thought that successful change management meant a well-developed and executed communications plan. As change professionals we have always known that there is a great deal more to what we do. Nonetheless, communications—our own and the communications of those we support—can make the difference between success and failure. As such, it is vital that we continue to develop our communications competency.

For as long as I have been engaging this thing called change, I still look to the communications lessons that others can offer. Among other things, Carmine Gallo is an expert on communications, and on Apple. His two books on Apple founder Steve Jobs are invaluable resources for all of us who play any role in communications. He recently published an article in Forbes, “Apple CEO Tim Cook Applies Three Persuasive Communications Techniques to Answer Tough Questions”, that has great applicability to us as change professionals and to the sponsors we support. In the article, Gallo uses as a case study Tim Cook’s CNBC interview on the decline in iPhone sales. He analyzes how Cook responded to tough questioning to draw three lessons that we can benefit from.

  1. “Use a simple three-part story structure.” In Change Management Review we often write about the importance of story during change. Cook’s story was specific to Apple; the key elements of your story will differ. What is important is that, as Gallo reports, “Cook’s explanation took just 90 seconds to deliver. Clearly explaining the key parts of a complex business in under two minutes is an art that takes practice and discipline.” How prepared are you to explain the change initiative you are working on in 90 seconds? How prepared is the leader you are serving?
  2. “Keep the focus on the customer.” Gallo points out that Apple is a “customer-centric company,” so the focus rightly belongs on the customer. When you and your leaders are answering tough questions, who is the focus on? Who should it be on?
  3. “Put events in perspective.” In his analysis Gallo wrote, “Headlines often get shared in an instant with little or no perspective. Good communicators need to take every opportunity to add context that customers or investors might be missing.” I would add that context also is needed when communicating with employees and other stakeholders.

What can you learn from Tim Cook that can further strengthen the communications that you and your sponsors deliver?


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