Communicating at Whiplash Moments

Join me in this episode as I share a framework for communicating with impact during whiplash moments. As a founder or leader, it's crucial to create clarity and forward motion when things change quickly, and this multi-step approach will help you navigate sudden changes with power, clarity, and empathy. 

Whether you're writing a memo, a blog post, or delivering a live communication, this episode will provide you with the tools you need to lead your team through any challenge.

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In this episode, Dia talks about the importance of using your voice as a strike point for your leadership, especially during "whiplash moments."

Dia begins by discussing the many whiplash moments that leaders, founders, and their teams have experienced in recent years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, layoffs, product pivots, and bank failures. These critical moments present opportunities for leaders to activate their people, teams, and cultures, or to deteriorate and disassemble them.

Dia suggests that leaders approach these critical moments with communication, written or spoken, that rings true. She encourages leaders to move from "noise" to "impact" by starting with the Impact/Outcome framework, which establishes the intention for the communication moment. By asking what impact they are trying to have and what outcome they are trying to create, leaders can hold themselves and the communication accountable and ensure that they are moving towards the desired outcome.

Dia also recommends anticipating questions and inventorying the 5 or 6 questions that the audience has about the topic being addressed. By recognizing the audience's questions and anxieties, leaders can inform the content they share, the degree of detail in their answers, and the communications plan after the initial letter or live communication gathering.

Finally, Dia advises leaders to decide what to address and in what detail, as well as what questions to leave unanswered for now and what to do about them. This is where leaders can start to develop their position or point of view and communicate it effectively to their audience.

Overall, this episode emphasizes the importance of using your voice as a strike point for your leadership and how to approach critical moments with communication that is impactful and true to who you are.

Get the Communicating in Crisis Guide HERE.

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  00:19

Hi everyone, this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi, and on this show, we explore and discover together, what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just that. These last few years have been chock full of whiplash moments for leaders, founders and their teams, your team's COVID lock downs. Now we're fully remote. Oh, no, nevermind, return to the office. Oh, nevermind. It's actually hybrid, here's how it's gonna work. Oh, it's not working. Here's how it's gonna work. Now, layoffs, VC fundraising is completely changed. Product pivots, sunsets, the product kind, big huge strategy shifts and the most recent of all bank failures. And as a leader or founder who's new to or leveling up your CEO ing. Communicating at these whiplash moments with power and clarity and conviction and empathy is mission critical. 

In today's episode, I'll be alone here with you sharing a framework for how you can communicate with impact in these whiplash moments. We'll go through a multi step approach for putting together a thoughtful communication, whether it's in a memo, blog, or a live communication, and also the pitfalls to watch out for and assumptions you need to run on. When you're communicating at those whiplash moments. If you're a founder, or a leader whose job it is to create clarity and forward motion when things change quickly, this one is for you. Let's get into it. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere. And you can always listen to the show at If there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has. When you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Your voice is a strike point for your leadership and there is never a better time to use your voice than at a whiplash moment. These last few years have been completely full of them between COVID The working situations for folks across the country and globe. recent wave of layoffs and changes, VC fundraising has changed for founders, people have been sunsetting or pivoting their products, there have been massive strategy shifts. And the most recent of the mall as I mentioned in the introduction, bank failures, it's amazing. We're not all walking around wearing full body armor and in a permanent flinch. I mean, maybe you are and maybe also SOS, your team. These critical moments when a leader or founder when you have to speak to these whiplash moments. We're all experiencing whether we're experiencing them voluntarily or involuntarily, are all opportunities when your voice really matters most. And how you show up and align and activate people teams and your cultures or deteriorate and disassemble them makes all the difference. So how can leaders how can you whose voices disproportionately weighted approach these critical moments with a communication written or spoken in a way that rings true? 

In the iconic 1977 Song psycho killer by the talking heads? There's a great lyric that goes, you're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything. And that is exactly what most of the whiplash moments, scripts, memos and letters I see are a lot of words, the boilerplate kind or borrowed from, you know, that thing Bezos wrote once or completely void of your leadership voice and saying basically nothing at all. I can't tell you how many memos or scripts I've I've seen and read and collaborated on. That are, you know, 1000 words have nothing to say, why do these documents these these scripts and these memos and up like this, so many words saying so little? It's because these moments are really scary. They feel public or they are public. And because we have often too many people piling into one singular document from lots of different perspectives. collaboratively drafting something with no central guiding principle and too often lacking enough specifics to quell our nerves, we have, we end up with a big pile of nothing. They're just collections of words and turns of phrases that quote unquote, sound good. But they don't actually advance the business and do the job we need. They satisfy the say something, but they say basically nothing. And the consequence, the consequence of that teams feel and are left confused. We don't know what's next and what you're asking of us, we have no idea where you stand, so we can't really get behind and rally rally behind you. We lack a path forward, whether it's even short term like you'll hear back from us on Friday, anxiety goes up, and momentum and morale can quickly go down. So as a leader, or founder or even as an influential voice in your domain, before you press send on that letter your team wrote, or before you go live on camera or at your office gathering, stop, hands off the keyboards, put down the mic, and consider the following as a guide to crafting a communication that speaks from who you are, because that is when you are at your most powerful and impactful. It's really what your team, your board members, your investors and supporters want from you. It's a moment to lead with who you are. So here's the first step, the place to start is with the impact outcome framework, which you may have heard me talk about before. Before we get we before we even sit down and write a word before we search for what others have done as examples. In the moments like these, we must ask, what impact Am I trying to have when I communicate out to this intended audience? And what outcome Am I trying to create? This works really well to establish your intention for the communications moment we're preparing for and can do a lot of heavy lifting for you. When you reach the editing stage. It lets you hold yourself and your communication accountable to the impact and outcome and works as a check as we roll from draft to final preparation. We can always go back and ask ourselves before we ship the communication, is it having do we think it's having the impact we're trying to have? And is it moving us toward the outcome we're trying to create. So for example, one impact statement might be the kind of impact I want to have is to shift company perspective, from despair to hope and optimism. And here's an example of an outcome tied to that, so that our talent will stay engaged and spend the next three weeks defining goals around our new strategy, super clear impact outcome. Now, this may not be actually what you say in the communication, but you and the people you will be collaborating on in crafting this critical communications at this upcoming whiplash moment, or the whiplash moment that just happened that you now need to respond to, will be something that helps you all align. So as you craft together, you're crafting toward the same thing. It'll never be perfect. But that does not get us off the hook of closing the gap between the impact and outcome we're trying to have and the impact and outcome this critical communication moment actually has. So we have to design toward something. Let it be an impact an outcome, otherwise, you'll be talking a lot and not saying anything. Okay, step two. anticipate questions. Next, it is time to inventory the questions you think your audience has about the topic you'll be addressing in your whiplash moment communication. Before you consider what you want to say. Consider where your audience is right now. And inventory it literally make a list of the five or six questions you think or know the audience has about the thing you're about to talk about. In this whiplash moment. People are full of questions and anxieties. And while you may not have the answers to all the questions, it's an absolute must that you recognize them before us craft your communication. You'll use this to inform the content you share the degree of detail in your answers and the communications plan after your initial letter or live communications gathering happens. So here's an example of five questions that you might anticipate your audience would have so we can keep these really simple. Here's a list one, how does shutting down for example, how does shutting down for two weeks affect the company's financial well being question two. Will I be noticed? Why did my position being made redundant? Three? What are the things the CEO is focusing on to address this issue? For? Who can I contact with questions? Five? What's the timeline? And what should I expect in order to understand next steps? So these are those simple kinds of questions people might have going into Bing, your audience for your whiplash moment communication. All right, step number three, we've got to decide what to address. Now that you know what you're going for your impact and outcome, and you've taken a beat to consider the questions you think your intended audience will have. You get to decide which questions you'll answer now, and in what detail and in what order, and which questions you'll not answer now, and what to do about them. This is where you get to start developing your position or point of view using the questions that you know your audience will have, or you're expecting them to have as a guide, and then adding what else you know might be relevant to them and important for them to know. In this part of the exercise, you'll be making decisions about where your boundaries are on what's shareable now or later, and developing sort of a container for the communication in a way that is aligned to your own leadership, and communications philosophy. If you have one, and organizing your thinking around your audience's needs and the needs of the business. This is critical. If you are a leadership communicator who is often tempted to overshare or to follow your audience and maybe is struggles a little bit to hold your ground when stakes are really high. In this step, getting to take control of where the content boundaries are will give you some relief and reduce the risks associated with being that leadership communicator who too often can can get carried away and, and failed to find that boundary in your content. So for example, it may be something like, we're finalizing details about our succession plan in the coming months. And we'll share our progress along the way, but not yet. There's your boundary, expect an update, the first week of May, for example, there's your giving people enough detail to quell their anxiety and know what's next. This gives you a boundary. I've said boundary a few times here, and also lets your audience in on when they can expect more information. Next step, organize, you have enough content now, informed by the questions you think your audience will have to begin to organize the segments or modules of your communication. So group the questions you have, and you're going to address and content you've collected around those questions. And what else whatever else you'd like to add into segments or modules that are collections of related questions, and content. Think of these like chapters in your book of communication. This will help you stay organized and clear. Because you'll get to put together a story that carries us through our questions, you might pull your segments or modules into something like this. First, I'll talk about what's happening, then I'll talk about why. And then we'll talk about what it means to the people in the room super simple. And each of those modules or segments could have or address a handful of questions and content that needs to be communicated. But we're not having a 25 page document or 25 page script, we're having a 25 page script that is four chapters or three chapters so we can track along the arc of the story you're sharing with us. Oh, thank goodness, now we have a story that's actually going to get us somewhere and we can see that. So now that you've got that you can start writing for you writing might mean long form narrative that they that you then pare down to bullet points as part of your preparation ritual to get ready to ready for your your live communication. For some of you, it might just simply be all caps bullet points that you then write three or four sentences to describe what the content is inside of each of those. For some of you, it might be writing a full sentence and then highlighting one trigger word in each one as you prepare for a live communication. Nonetheless, it's very critical to let yourself just write here around the modules or segments you've designed to get your, your full robust set of ideas and content out so you can then look at it and edit it as another step. Now, once you've done your writing and content creation, maybe if you're going to build slides to go with it, you've done that or you've got somebody to start to do that for you or with you, and you've edited it back to get it to get it Really pretty close to what you think the content, the final content will be for each of those modules or segments. Your next step is identify the big ideas of each of those modules. When I say ideas, I mean one for each module, not five or six per module. So you're gonna drive to clarity for you and your audience by identifying what the one idea is inside of segments, or the modules that you've created. This will allow you to again, check against your communication as you do your final revisions. If you're drafting a letter, for example, or ground you in each segment, so you don't drift because you're, you know, the one idea that you're driving toward inside that module, even if you're speaking that module for 5, 6, 8, 10 minutes. Knowing, writing and preparing, using that one central big idea of each of your segments or modules is a clarity making exercise, that is your insurance policy, guarding against the temptation to slide into talking a lot without saying anything. So if you can articulate what that one idea is, you could hold yourself accountable to actually having something to say around that one idea. So, these are the five steps that can be your guide to crafting a piece of communication in these whiplash moments that helped you use your voice as a strike point for leadership so that you can align and activate people, teams, and the cultures that you lead and cultivate toward shared goals at a time when it matters most. These five steps are impact outcome, anticipate the questions, decide what to address, organize into modules, and identify the central big idea of each of those modules, following these five steps will give you a really great start. And as you develop your critical communications for that whiplash moment, there are also a handful of pitfalls to avoid, and assumptions to operate on to help you speak with more confidence and clarity. So you can navigate the choppy waters with a steady, steady voice. So let's talk about those pitfalls and assumptions. I'm going to share my favorite three from the list of the full list of pitfalls and assumptions that you can find in our guide at in the library, or in our show notes for this episode right here. So let's talk about some pitfalls. One pitfall is confessing too much, it's tempting to have these moments be moments that beg you to just have a tell all when you're under pressure, that's very easy to do. And you don't have to resist easing your own anxiety with confessing content that is not actually helpful to the audience. So notice where those boundaries are. The second pitfall here from from the the list in our guide, is, it's really easy to fall into the trap of copying other leaders content versus using your own voice, which is to say, go out on the internet, find somebody else's exemplar letter that they've written, and then try to replicate it. Like an like a mad libs for your own critical, Whiplash moment. Too often, teams run to the internet to see what other folks have done. And it's a worthy endeavor. Sure, if you're looking for a model or inspiration, or an assembly of examples, but don't replicate, it'll dwindle the impact of what you are trying to do. And it will be a real distraction. From what you need to say, for this specific moment. In your specific leadership voice. I don't want you going out and chasing how to sound like someone else. Instead, you need to you need to invest in how do we sound like us. And then the last, the last of the pitfalls all mentioned here again, you can find the full list in our guide in the library at as enrolling too many voices in the editing of the content. We want collaboration, but it whiplash moments, folks tempers are high anxieties are turned up people's defenses are up and fear runs really hot. So be thoughtful about who you bring in as your collaborator. And when you do align on impact and outcome before you get to crafting messages and narrative and making decisions around content. So be very careful to curate the right group. I can't tell you how many times I've been called on as a leadership communications coach at really critical moments and there's 25 people marking up a document and it's just making things muddier, not clear. Here's a list, a sampling of the list you'll find in our full guide at Around assumptions you should run on as you craft a piece of communication, particularly at those big whiplash moments. Assumption number one, everyone's gonna read it, it'll be on Twitter, run on the assumption that what you share with your wider audience will become public. And when I say wider audience, I mean, outside of your direct executive team, for example, or your direct leadership team. This allows you when you run on the assumption, to commit fully to what you say and not try to hedge your bets. The second assumption to run on is that specifics ease anxiety, even if you don't have answers, say what you do have answers to inside of the content domain you've decided to share. And note when your audience can expect more details. When we know what's coming, and we know we can expect it, we can wait if we don't know what's next. And and when we'll learn more anxiety peaks, I was just last week in Costco if you can believe this. I don't ever go to Costco but I go to I went to Costco to get my prescriptions refilled. And there was this, it made me think of this episode I was preparing for, because it at the optical counter, they had one of those little ticket dispensers where you take a number, I probably waited my turn for a good 35, 40 minutes. But knowing exactly where I stood. And what was next meant that I could relax and wait in a way that if I wasn't sure exactly where my where I stood would have been much harder. So this silly little example of how much when we know something, it can ease anxiety. Our third assumption that we want to run on is that everyone doesn't need to know everything. But they do need to know something. So find specifics, even if they're small to share, recognizing that it doesn't need to be the whole piece of cake. So I mentioned before that we've built a guide to help leaders and founders and you influential voices in your domain, be thoughtful and strategic when crafting your communications at whiplash moments. This guide contains the five step process that I shared with you today, a set of pitfalls and a list of assumptions to operate on as you decide and design your remarks that address the whiplash your organization and your teams are experiencing. And you can get it at in the resources > library and the link to the show notes for this episode. So I'll finish with this question which we often pose to our guests but I'm going to pose to you now which is for you. As you communicate at those whiplash moments. What does it mean for you to lead with who you are?  Thanks for listening everyone. 

Lead With Who You Are is a production of Dia Bondi Communications and is scored mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams the third. Have a question or an inquiry? Reach out to us at You can like share rate and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite shows. Go to for the show notes to find our tools, frameworks, content and programs to help you and your team speak powerfully and lead with who you are.

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