A simple way to increase the impact of your communication, and therefore the impact of your leadership, is to apply the ‘what’, ‘so what’, ‘now what’ framework.

The ‘what’ simply refers to the situation, problem, or issue, at hand. At this stage, we are simply answering; what is the situation, what are the facts, and what do we all need to know?

The ‘so what’ refers to the insights, meaning and potential implications of that situation. It involves exploration of the opportunities and risks. At this stage, the questions we are answering include; what are our insights? What are the potential consequences and implications? What could this mean? Why do we care? What’s at stake?

The ‘now what’ refers to the proposed actions we will take to address the situation. At this stage, we are answering; what are the key actions we will take? Who is accountable?

If you were to observe a highly ineffective interaction, you would notice the participants spend the bulk of their time in the ‘what’ (approx. 70%), lost in the issue and becoming progressively more helpless and hopeless. They spend almost no time in the ‘so what’ exploring the meaning and possibilities of that issue. As a consequence, they spend way too much time in the ‘now what’ (approx. 30%), because they are anxious and overwhelmed, coming up with long lists of actions and initiatives.

Conversely, if you were to observe a highly effective interaction, you would notice the participants spend very little time in the ‘what’ (approx. 10-15%). It’s a very short, sharp summary that shows they understand the issue and can articulate it simply. They spend the bulk of their time in the ‘so what’ (approx. 70-80%) exploring meaning and consequences. It’s where they explore risks and opportunities, beliefs and assumptions, and alternative courses of action. This is where innovation happens, and leadership is demonstrated. As a consequence, they spend very little time in the ‘now what’ (approx. 10-15%), because the next steps will usually be clear and few.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your communication and your impact as a leader, spend much less time in the ‘what’, much more time in the ‘so what’, and embrace the resultant clarity of ‘now what’.

Inspiration from others

“Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.” – Albert Einstein

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” – Wayne Dyer

Questions to reflect on

  • What percentage of time do you typically spend in the ‘what’, ‘so what’ and ‘now what’?
  • To make your communication more effective, what changes do you need to make?
  • How will you track your progress?

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 250 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered dozens of cases of business transformation and thousands of individual cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

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