You’ve heard the saying, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Make your communication even more effective by doing all three – in that order. Lead by laying out your message headline. Then follow your audience’s direction to go into more depth as appropriate. Finally, once they get your points, inspire and enable them to take the next steps and get out of the way.


Effective communication requires deliberate preparation. As Mark Twain once said, “It takes about three weeks to prepare a good, impromptu speech.”


    • Begin with your single objective, the one step you want your audience to take on the journey from being unaware to aware to understanding to believing to action. Don’t try to move them all the way at one time. One step at a time, step by step.


  • Understand what matters to your audience and why. What do they really care about? Check your assumptions about them, where they are, and how far you can move them.
  • Re-look at your objective given what you’ve learned about your audience.
  • Clarify your “hidden X” – how you want them to feel about you.
  • Think through your message headline based on the platform for change, a vision of a brighter future, and a call to action.
  • Clarify your three message points, potentially laying out 1) the platform for change – why your audience should listen to you and take this subject seriously (ethos), 2) something that helps your audience envision themselves in a brighter future (pathos), and 3) a call to action – things they can do next (logos).
  • Prepare more detailed discussions of those three items, your opening, and closing.


  • First, make sure you understand what you’re reacting to. What did the person ask? So what do you think they really care about? Now what will help them most?
  • Remind yourself of your “hidden X” – how you want them to feel about you.
  • Think through your message headline/answer to their question (ideally before they actually ask.)
  • Clarify your three message/support points, potentially including 1) background and context, 2) rationale for your answer/recommendation – three fact-based points (what), 3) details of implications (so what)/ next steps (now what).


Add your perspective with your message headline/answer to their question only. (N.B. Do not deliver your message/support points at this point.)


Then let the audience lead you. If they get the point, stop. If want to know more, pull in your thinking on background and context, rationale, or implications and next steps as appropriate.

Get out of the way

You’re communicating for a purpose which you distilled into a single objective or response. When you’ve achieved that objective or responded to someone else’s needs, stop. Give the audience your final thoughts to inspire and enable them to do what you’ve now all agreed they should do.

One of my early district sales managers, Jerry Westman, taught me that the only effective response to a sales prospect’s saying “Yes” is “Thank you.” Saying anything else runs the risk of unmaking the sale.

This article is shorter than my normal articles. I’ve made the points you needed to read. Asking you to spend any more on this would be wasting your time. Instead, I’m going to get out of the way, leaving you to apply this simple mantra to improve your communication: lead, follow, AND get out of the way.