Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: V&V
“Our department is undergoing dramatic changes and I want to communicate it to the other groups in a compelling way.
President Havel’s quote “Love and truth will win over the lies and hatred,” was an effective message for maintaining a nation’s faith during turbulent times. His words created imagery of what a democratic country could be like when it was freed from the chains of an outdated communist regime. Havel framed the political transformation in a way so others could see it the way he saw it.
Utilizing visionary speech or “framing” is a way to use language to manage its meaning and thus, influence how events are seen and understood. Framing is analogous to what a photographer does. When the photographer takes a snapshot of the world, we see only one small aspect of that world. In a complex environment there is considerable maneuverability with given information. Therefore, what is real is often what the leader says is real.
Capture a snapshot of your department’s changes in a meaningful and interesting way and then project it to the other departments by utilizing three language forms that help frame the issues, namely stories, jargon, and spin.
Leaders use stories to frame issues with examples that have a close meaning to the staff in each department. When the leaders at 3M continually tell the story of how Post-it Notes were discovered, they remind their staff of the importance the company places on creativity and chance in the innovation process.
Jargon is a special language indicative to each industry. For example, J.I.T. is jargon in manufacturing language meaning just-in-time, the process of manufacturing goods at the time when they are needed. Utilize jargon for creating symbols and definitions for finding new ways of thinking and identifying priorities.
Finally, try becoming a spin doctor. This is someone who practices the art of spinning. The objective of spinning is to cast your subject in a positive or negative light. Leaders who are good at spinning get others to interpret their interests in positive terms while opposing interests in negative terms.
Reference: The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey Bass 1996) and R.S. Dunham.
Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates