Every leader needs to communicate effectively. Whether it’s with employees, clients, partners or donors, you want to make sure you get your audience’s attention.

But as one of my favorite ad gurus David Ogilvy is known to have said, “You can’t save souls in an empty church.”

So how do you really make sure that does not happen?

Is there a single action you can take to all but guarantee you have open ears and eyes ready for your message?


Become empathetic!

Plain and simple, empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, a powerful trait of the conscientious communicator. All of which starts with the ability to really put yourself into someone else’s shoes.

You feel their aches and pains…

…their stresses…

…their hopes and their desires.

Fact is, research tells us that business success comes with higher levels of emotional intelligence and not just analytical intelligence.

Yet, according to recent studies, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find leaders who exhibit empathy.

According to author Roman Krznaric in his recent book “Empathy: Why It Matters and How To Get It” empathy in the world is rapidly declining.

From the online world to college campuses, the executive suite to wealthy neighborhoods in America, research points to the declining ability to empathetic.

When interviewed by Time magazine in 2014, Krznaric cited the following stats:

  • Over 70% of adults experienced online harassment and trolling

  • Studies show a long-term decline in empathy levels among college students of nearly 50% in the past three decades

  • The wealthier you are the less empathetic you are likely to be and

  • Senior executives are four times more likely to resemble psychopaths who are devoid of empathy than the average worker

But any conscientious communicator worth her salt knows the starting point to being empathetic. And that, quite simply, is to get inside those flats or sneakers of the audience. Then walk a mile in them.

Easier said than done, you say?

Okay, here are three ways you can do just that:

  1. Listen Up: Ask your key stakeholders what is there biggest worry? Focus Groups are great ways to help you uncover what keeps them up at night watching Jimmy Fallon as opposed to dreaming those high REM-dreams. Not sure a structured focus group is where to start. Use social media ( see number 3) or even an email to ask and then LISTEN! Perhaps offer them a simple “kicker” for their participation. Maybe a contribution to their favorite charity…a Starbucks gift card…or just a heart-felt thanks.

  2. Take a Trip: Another way to get inside their hearts and minds is to ask them in person about what their thoughts are. Maybe it’s at a conference, workshop or trade show. Or local business event. Nothing will get lost in the translation when you’re doing a face-to-face.

  3. Dig Deep: If both options 1 and 2 aren’t so easy for you (say you don’t have a list or don’t have an opportunity to connect face to face)think a bit strategically and go online. Visit blogs or join social media groups (think LinkedIn or Facebook) where your peeps hang out. In several of the LinkedIn groups I belong to, I see these kind of questions posed on a regular basis. Remember: people want to help people. Just be honest and straight with them.

It’s been our experience that once you’ve completed any of these simple yet practical information gathering methods, you’ll be walking away with deep insight about what makes your audience tick.

You’ll understand why they feel the way they feel.

Which will go a long way in helping you engage with those souls in your church.