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Art of the Pep Talk: A Leader Communication that Inspires

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

by Stephanie Bickel

leader communication

What is the art of the pep talk? A good leader communication motivates. An effective pep talk inspires, spurring not fear but empowerment. Ensuring completed work is not enough. Putting on a happy face and a positive spin may backfire if it is perceived as fake or ignoring reality. How does one motivate without inducing anxiety? How does one instill positive energy without eliciting eye-rolls?

Audiences and situations vary, but you can master the art of the pep talk using these leadership communication skills.

1. Pain Point

You have a situation on your hands. If you didn’t, a pep talk wouldn’t be necessary. Do not sugar coat it. Start out by keeping it real and focus on your audience. It’s not about your pain, the company’s pain, or anyone but your audience’s pain that we need to address. What problems are affecting your team? What is the team’s pain? Why is it hard for them? Name it, describe it, briefly, and with empathy.

“I know morale is down after that round of layoffs. You now need to do more with less and you miss your colleagues.”

"Last week was hard. I know you all put in extra hours and are sleep deprived.”

leader communication

2. Action

After empathy, get straight to the solution. Let them know what they need to do immediately. Whether they need time to get used to the idea or simply need fear of the unknown alleviated, give them their direction next.

“We need to do the hard work, and be open and patient with one another as we adjust”

“We need to be strong—strong for each other, strong for our teams”

3. Value

Values carry us through difficulty. When situations are chaotic, values give us clarity. When opposition is daunting, values provide courage. Use language related to values to help meet the team’s fears, doubts, and discouragement. “Remain disciplined. There is one trait that makes the difference between good and great. That trait is discipline. Discipline makes champions. We are not average. It is this sacrifice and push through the pain that yields the growth that will pave our future. We play to win. Our peers and competition will not be able to do it. “

“We are steadfast in our integrity. We do the right thing even when no one is watching – even when the media does not notice. We know who we are as leaders and as Company ABC”

4. Emotion

Open up to your team— not about your situation, but about how you feel about theirs. Show them that you care. What are your feelings? Be transparent, and show your process to right action.

“The reward is going to be great and crystal clear. I am so excited for us.”

“Your loyalty and compassion for our people is commendable. I am so proud of how you are leading and will lead your teams out of this shadow. “

“I feel a surge in openness. We learned there are more sides to this than expected, and we need the fullness of that group to continue being as engaged and open with each other. They trust us a great deal to share their perspectives freely like that.”

leader communication

5. Belief

Think of beliefs as faith. In what do you have faith in the moment? In what can your team believe? Relate the belief back to the value. What will carry the team forward? What will instill courage, hardiness, and calm as they meet opposition?

“No one can do this better than we can. We don’t need external support. It is all within us.”

“We are going to be leaders during this pandemic. We are not going to wait around for the world to tell us who we are. We are leaving a legacy around us every day with how we behave with our teams.”

Put it all together

1. Pain: “That client meeting was rough; they are a tough crowd.”

2. Action: “We need to take a few days to get some space, research, and think of a new strategy.

3. Value: “How we define success is the only thing that matters. Success is finding the best answer within our constraints. We must accept the possibility that there is a better answer and increase our desire to find that.”

4. Emotion: “I feel a surge in openness. We learned there are more sides to this than expected, and we need the fullness of that group to continue being as engaged and open with each other. They trust us a great deal to share their perspectives freely like that.”

5. Belief: “We are the perfect team to unify this group and empower them to lead the effort forward.”

Strong leadership and communication skills are essential to bring your teams through difficult times. Begin with honesty, and empathy. Provide the answer, the direction, the clear action. Strengthen resolve with values. Connect with your audience by being transparent with your own feelings and process. Then give them a belief to guide them in their process.

Craft your pep talk so that it is artful, leading colleagues to collaboration and cooperation. Adapt this leader communication formula to your situation and watch your teams rise to their challenges.


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