Finding Your Voice in Whiplash Moments: A Guide for Leaders and Founders

Leading through Whiplash, the power of your voice

Your voice is a strike point for your leadership, and there is never a better time to use your voice than at “whiplash moments.”

These last few years have been chock full of whiplash moments for leaders, founders and their teams. COVID lockdown, return to the office mandates, —no wait, fully remote—no wait – hybrid!  Layoffs, the VC fundraising climate changing, product pivots and sunsets, big, huge strategy shifts, … and the most recent of them all —bank failures.

It’s amazing we’re not all walking around wearing full body armor and in a permanent flinch. Maybe you are, and so is your team.  

These critical moments, when a leader or founder has to speak to a whiplash moment we’re all experiencing, voluntarily or involuntarily, are opportunities when your voice matters the most.  And how you show up and align  to activate your people, teams and cultures, or deteriorate and disassemble them makes all the difference. So, how can leaders— whose voice is disproportionately weighted— approach these critical moments with a communication, written or spoken, in a way that rings true?

From Noise to Impact

In the iconic 1977 song Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads, there’s a great lyric and it goes:

"You're talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything."

That is exactly what most of the whiplash moment scripts, memos, and letters I see are: 

A lot of words, the boilerplate kind or borrowed from “that thing Bezos wrote” once, void of your leadership voice and saying nothing at all. 

Why? Because these moments are scary, feel public (or are public), and because we have too many people piling into one document and drafting something with no central guiding principles, lacking enough specifics to quell our nerves so we can get into action, or not. They’re just collections of words and turns of phrases that “sound good” but they do not advance the business and do the job we need. 

They satisfy the “say something” but they say nothing at all.  


And the consequences? Teams are left confused, we don’t know what’s next or what you’re asking of us, we have no idea where you stand so we can’t get behind you, we lack a path forward (even if it’s short term), anxiety goes up, and momentum and morale goes down. 

So as a leader or founder, 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 keyboard, 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 what your team, board members, investors, and supporters want from you.

We’ve built a guide to help leaders and founders be thoughtful and strategic when crafting their communications at whiplash moments. The guide contains a 5-step process, a set of pitfalls to a voice and list of assumptions to operate on as you design your remarks that address the whiplash you, your organization and teams are experiencing.

Here it is in brief: 

The place to start is with the Impact/Outcome framework. Before we write a word, before we search for what others have done at moments like these, we must ask:

  1. What impact am I trying to have?
  2. What outcome am I trying to create?

Next, it’s 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. 

Now that you know what you’re going for (impact/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 which questions you will not answer now and what to do about them. This is where you get to start to develop your position or point of view using their questions as a guide.

You have enough content now to begin to organize the segments or modules of your communication. Group the questions and content you’ve collected into segments that are collections of related questions and content. This helps you stay organized and clear.

Now it’s time to find what is essential. Drive to clarity for you and your audience by identifying what the ONE idea is inside each of the segments or modules you’ve created. This will allow you to check against your communication  as you do your final revisions (if you’re drafting a letter) or ground you in each segment so you don't drift (when you are speaking live).

Our complete Guide for leaders and founders is a simple and interactive tool to help you speak powerfully, build trust and use your voice as a strike point for your leadership.   

Find the Guide HERE.

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