It’s All About You

Mere moments after she assumed her new leadership role, Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May said something I’ve rarely heard leaders say: The word “you”.

This simple, three letter pronoun is often missing from a leader’s communication. And yet it is so critical to a leader’s ability to engage listeners.

Much of the leadership communication I assess could be delivered in a closet, for all it recognizes that there are sentient human beings listening.

But Theresa May gets it. She has the unenviable job of leading Britain through the tumult that threatens its very nationhood.

And the very first thing she did, before she’d even crossed the threshold of 10 Downing, was to speak to her people.

In less than five minutes, she addressed the importance of a unified Britain, acknowledged that the current system is skewed toward the privileged few, and committed to resolving the inequities.

And then she made it real. One by one, she cited Britons’ current interests and concerns, each one prefaced with the word “you”: “You have a job but you don’t always have job security.”

“You have your own home but you worry about paying your mortgage.”

“You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.”

She spoke in a way that made people feel she saw them, heard them, and was speaking directly to each of their concerns. She used the word “you” repeatedly, fostering a meaningful connection with the listeners.

And after recognizing them, she did what the highest performing leaders do. She expressed empathy:

…..”I know you’re working around the clock.  I know you’re doing your best. And I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.”

And then she made it more tangible with these promises:

“When we take the big cause, we’ll think not of the powerful but you.  When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritize not to the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few; we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

All this and more, in less than five minutes.  You can see the best part here.

To have the greatest leadership influence and impact, Theresa May is going to have act consistent with her words. She’s facing momentous challenges as she holds Britain’s very future in her grasp. No doubt she will have many other critical communications to deliver in the upcoming months, but she’s off to a good start.

Strengthen the impact of your own leadership communication by being ever-cognizant of those listening. Employ the word “you” at every opportunity. Speak directly to their interests and concerns.

And you’ll have them at hello.