“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” -Nelson Mandela

Team diversity and the need to shape and shift your message to communicate effectively is a given. Being an effective communicator is imperative to your leadership success and a skill worth investing the time in to master and not just manage. Every interaction you have is with someone with a different view of the world, never assume people see, hear or feel things the way you do.

Being in rapport with individuals and therefore your team as a whole is so important. When in real rapport this equates to influence and people will be more honest and open. Keep in mind we go in and out of rapport with people so don’t assume this is a given. You need to work at it and consciously build and foster this.

As a leader, we need to step back and ask the honest question “Am I getting the response I need?” Although you may have communicated what you believe is a clearly constructed message unless you are getting back the response you are after you need to change something.

Your message is communicated through many factors including your words, posture, stance, voice inflection, silence, gestures, tone, pitch and pace. Even the loudness or the softness of your voice can change your message to mean something quite different than you set out to communicate. As the old adage goes “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”.

Think of casually asking your team to be on time to a meeting to ask them in a more formal forum with a deeper tone and voice projection? Be open to change and shift one or some of the variables that make up your message until you get the desired response you are after.

A few shape shifting ideas:


If you are motivating someone lagging behind be more upbeat and project your message with a bit of “Oomph” instead of matching their laid back approach and encouraging more of what you don’t want. Matching tone can assist in building what I call subliminal rapport. This can be done face to face and over the phone/Skype.


Speaking more quickly can convey a sense of urgency when you need to have a task done. It creates energy behind the action you are focusing on. Make your pace congruent with your message. Slightly match the pace of whomever you are speaking with and make sure it is in line with the message you are conveying.


Be a bit more like John, as I say. If John uses big words match a few if he speaks in detail and you don’t then match him halfway. Matching similar words and the “chunk” size of information, large or small, can subconsciously change your message and how it is received. Remember, don't match acronyms and words you don't understand, ask what they mean as this, in turn, helps build rapport and shows a bit of vulnerability from your end.


If you are communicating the same message in the same room sitting at the same boardroom table change it! I always think of open plan offices (which I love) where people seem to have certain types of conversations always in the same place. or the same meeting room. Change it up and see what happens!

Physically match your message:

Be an observer of you…that’s right…disassociate yourself and look at how you are standing, leaning and what your gestures and expressions are conveying. Are they in line with your message?

Stay open, flexible and adaptable, people are like colours, you need to be a rainbow!

Have fun with this and build your shape shifting muscle and leadership at the same time. Don't change who you are, instead dial your communication style and words up or down in a subtle way and create subliminal rapport.

Renée Giarrusso


Renée has just completed her first book “Limitless Leadership” – A guide to leading from the inside out.

Order your copy today! www.reneegiarrusso.com


Renée Giarrusso is an accomplished author, facilitator, speaker, trainer and coach who works with high performing leaders and their teams across a myriad of industries and organisations.

She passionately helps leaders fulfil their full potential resulting in increased motivation, communication and connection. Her expertise in growing and developing capability and behavioural change around leadership, communication, transition, presenting and sales effectiveness leave her clients inspired, re-energised and with improved results.

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