In 140 Characters or Less


In 140 characters or less, Elon Musk hit 3 of the most important lessons of communication for leaders. These three points are valuable for communicating one-to-many as here, and one-to-one as is the case for most of us.

  • Say thank you. Appreciation in the workplace is too often overlooked. Isn’t a paycheck enough? Nope. To get the extra and discretionary effort, sincere gratitude is a key motivator for maximizing employee productivity, creativity and positive attitude.
  • Be specific. What effort or action did you appreciate? Being able to name the effort makes the appreciation feel more sincere to the recipient. In addition, if you want someone to repeat a specific behavior, tell them what that behavior is, don’t make them guess what they did right.
  • Ask how to help them do more of the same. “I like what you are doing, how can I help you do more of the same?” “What can I do better to help you?” Helping people to do their job better is the job a people leader. Don’t guess what they need to be better–ask them.

Now Mr. Musk didn’t get these perfect, but he’s out there communicating. He was willing to be vulnerable (Ouch, I looked at the comments.) which leads to the fourth lesson

  • Respond to their answers. To respond does not mean to react. If we give up the compulsion to give an immediate response (react) to feedback, we are actually more capable of hearing and listening to what is being said. We have time to think and ponder; perhaps get over hurt feelings to see the truth in what was said. Only after contemplation should we respond.

And we should respond regardless of our follow-up action. I heard what you said, and at this time, it’s just not possible for me to do that”, for example, is an appropriate response. Or even if you did take action in regard to their feedback, make sure they know it was a result of their feedback. If you respond, people will continue to give you answers. If you choose to react or if they feel you’ve ignored them, they will not put in the effort it takes to give you useful feedback.  

To those who on Twitter complained much about not having received their Tesla on time, you should realize Mr. Musk asked them how to improve. My guess is that he will look at the responses and respond accordingly.

New ManagersJonathan Shaver