Category Archives: Communication

The PROVE Acrostic

prove itSource: Bill Richardson, International Consultant and Trainer


This acrostic is a powerful reminder to leaders that they actually are buyers of commitment from their followers. With followers, while they typically don’t realize it, they are actually selling this very powerful commodity referred to as commitment. Commitment actually means full engagement with no turning back no matter what. Unfortunately, because a large number of leaders behave in non-supportive or inauthentic ways that creates doubt in their employee’s mind about their real intent, the employee only provides their compliance. While this compliance may appear valuable, it typically lacks full-fledged application of their brain power, perspiration and most importantly what I call their discretionary emotional energy aka passion. This acrostic will help leaders appreciate the value of team commitment to building collaborative capital in the organization and remind them of the importance of their stewardship role in taking proper care of the commitment entrusted to them.



Main Idea: Your brand is your unique promise of value delivery! If you have established a reputation in the organization or community as someone whose intent is worthy of support people will very quickly entrust their discretionary emotional energy aka commitment to you.  If however they do not know about you and the three key elements of your personal brand, i.e.  1) what are you known for, 2) what do you stand for, and 3) what are you capable of becoming, then they will only start off with providing  their compliance. They will be constantly assessing your intent, to ascertain whether you are authentically focused on what is best for the team and the organization. How this process works is contained in the remaining letters of this acrostic – Reach, Objectivity, Validation and Energy. By growing, protecting and promoting their personal brand, leaders can tap into team member commitment much sooner.


Main Idea: Multiply versus diminish! This factor in earning the right to influence revolves around the difference between two mindsets. The first is the leader mindset that “I am the smartest” because they perhaps have degrees and they have the title of leader. These leaders proceed to expect blind obedience and essentially pair of hands kind of support. Their focus in on the deliverable only and what is immediately in front of them. Contrast this with the leader who believes “we are the smartest” and focuses on multiplying what each team member brings to the table. Their reach is significantly wider and higher because they are more focused on outcomes rather than just deliverables and truly forming a trusted partnership with the team. Multipliers are more fun to work with as they are more interested in being a thinking partner than being a thinking replacement as someone who has all the answers.


Main Idea: Responsibly think fast and slow! With our brains hardwired for auto pilot thinking primarily with the purpose of keeping us safe, leaders can easily be seduced into making quick assessments and judgments without any “conscious” thought. By demonstrating to your team that you are aware of how the brain works and that the capability to think fast and slow is a gift of humanity that needs to be managed with care. Team members want to be assured that their leader is putting curiosity before judgement when either thinking fast or slow. Your willingness and ability to remain objective especially under pressure will automatically engender confidence from your team and significantly strengthen your personal brand.


Main Idea: Pay attention to what people value and need! We humans are social animals with five pre-set social needs that significantly influence our behavior. People value and need having acknowledgement for their sense of status, their need for certainty or predictability, their need for some sense of autonomy, their need for being part of a tribe or team that will keep them safe and lastly a need to be treated fairly. These five needs – status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness form the acrostic SCARF which was first coined by David Rock in 2008.  Essentially when any or all of these social needs are threatened people will move away from the direction you want them to go. Conversely, when any or all of this needs are reinforced and increased people will tend to move in the direction you would like them to go. SCARF provides leaders with a language for social interaction they can employ both in their personal and business lives to improve the quality of their social interactions. The key is remember that most of the elements of SCARF are occurring at the subconscious level of the brain. Therefore people may be moving away from an idea or project and they typically will not be able to explain why. By being able to help them put their difficulty into language you automatically strengthen your connection and validity as their leader.



Main Idea: Connect, mobilize, sustain! Just as discretionary emotional energy is at the heart of building collaborative capital, energy around connecting before you communicate is at the heart of demonstrating your worthy intent in regards to commitment. Influencing people is something you do not something you have. Think of influencing as a three bladed propeller that must turn to create movement or progress.  The first blade is about connecting with people to understand what they value and need. Once you have established this context move on to mobilizing their commitment through either tell, sell, enlist or negotiate tactics. The idea is to use the right tactic depending on the context and to have multiple arrows in your influence quiver. The key for the third blade is to sustain that movement by acknowledging what people are contributing, giving feedback and information on progress. People will dedicate their commitment when they know their leader treats influence as a process and not just an event. The secret leadership ingredient is energy.



Final Words: This acrostic is powerful, purposeful and proactive. It is based on the premise that leaders need to continually PROVE their willingness to be a worthy steward of this important ingredient of collaborative capital. It is like swimming upstream. If you stop swimming you will fall back!

The GRABS Acrostic

communicate-icon-pictures-2Source: From Globe and Mail Article – July 27, 2015 by Doug Mollenhauer


This acrostic has a bit of an edge to it which I really like. Its connotation is that when a subject or idea GRABS your attention it has power and impact. Doug Mollenhauer, a communications-training consultant based in Vancouver, developed this acrostic to reinforce five key principles for connecting effectively when communicating. His article can be accessed at


Get It:

Main Idea: Help them understand it by stripping complexity and ornamentation from your communication – less is more.

Relate to It:

Main Idea: Help them care and feel something by zeroing in on the emotion that will connect a smaller but potentially more motivated segment of your audience.

Act on it:

Main Idea: Help them want to act on it by articulating an appealing call to action like Nike’s “Just Do It!”

Believe it:

Main Idea: Help them be believers by persuading acceptance through trustworthy authority and personal experience appeals. As Doug puts it, “If the gut says yes, acceptance often follows.”

Surprise and Delight:

Main Idea: Help them notice by injecting humour that both delights and focuses attention by breaking the pattern.

Final Word:

I believe that ordinary things done extraordinarily well, make the difference in leadership. What could be more ordinary than communication? Communicating extraordinarily well is about connecting by paying attention to what people value and need. Embedding GRABS as a habit will help you do this more effectively.

The THINK Acrostic


Source: unknown


This acrostic is one of the most impactful frameworks for helping people change the way they interact with other people both one on one and in teams. Because we are hard wired as humans to be self centered especially when under stress, our communications often lack empathy and clarity. This acrostic serves as a behavioral script to help people press the “pause button” before speaking especially in high stakes situations. Once embedded as a habit its application can have a dramatic effect on both personal and business relationships.


Main Idea: Test the veracity of what you are about to communicate by factoring in your current emotional state and the quality/quantity of information at hand. If you are in a highly emotional state there is very good chance your objectivity has been reduced and or distorted. Remember that truth can be a matter of perspective and highly influenced by culture and protocol.


Main Idea: As in the truth, our perception of what is helpful is also a matter of perspective. Generally, when under pressure our ability or willingness to put curiosity in front of judgement is compromised. We are hard wired to judge the threat or reward nature of everything we perceive minute by minute. In these moments we need to exercise a certain level of discipline in order to accurately determine whether what we are about to say will be helpful for the relationship versus what will be helpful for us.


Main Idea: I am reminded about an anonymous quote, “long after people forget your words they will remember how you made them feel.” Basically it means when you communicate or mobilize people to action, how you communicate your message will either inspire them to be committed and engaged, or discourage them to the level of compliance and helplessness. Before you speak, again hit the pause button to determine which you want, inspiration or discouragement. The bad news is that despite your best efforts to the contrary, your body language, tone and volume likely make the difference. The good news is all three of these elements can be easily changed.

Necessary: Quite often in intense but friendly debates with my wife, especially about politics, I have caught myself going farther and deeper on particular point than is really needed or required. You might have witnessed this same phenomenon in the work setting where people will be more concerned about being right than actually learning either new information or better information about the other person’s perspective. Testing for “is it necessary” is perhaps one of the best strategies for communicating effectively especially in executive presentations. This is particularly true when the audience believes your intent is to show off versus be clear. In my coaching practice I promote the B.L.U.F approach – bottom line up front.

Kind: For me, this is the most important element in this wonderful acrostic. Testing for kindness is very seldom done in either the personal or business realm. In fact in my experience, kindness is sometimes considered a sign of weakness. The challenge for this one is that we deceive ourselves into believing that kindness takes time, a lot of energy and because we are busy and overwhelmed ourselves, we have an implicit licence to simply express ourselves. This is especially true when we are in a state of overwhelm because our company has launched more airplanes (aka projects and initiatives) than it can safely land. The fact is that we are social animals and how we connect with others makes the difference in how well we are able to cope with the pressures of  today’s fast paced, multicultural business environment. Kindness matters as does this whole THINK acrostic.

What do you THINK?

Why Acrostics Matter!

Picture5My name is Bill Richardson and my passion is helping people be the best version of themselves. I am an international trainer and consultant specializing in soft skills development especially in multicultural, cross generational environments. I believe soft skills have a hard impact.

 Ever since I was a boy growing up on farm in Southwestern Ontario Canada, I had this dream of making a difference in people’s lives. Back then I did not have any idea how I could or should do this. During my 35 years working with a Canadian major bank in many varied leadership and management roles, I discovered that the key for individuals to become the best version of themselves always had something to do with personal learning and development. Long story short, it became the driving force for me to take early retirement from a safe, well paid job to pursue facilitating learning and growth on a full time basis which is what I do today.

 I believe the key to learning is not so much about what information you take in, as much as it is about how much of the information is actually retained and applied. A key strategy to independent learning is called the acrostic – a mnemonic device that helps learners effectively learn discreet pieces of information. In an acrostic, the first letter of each word spells out a word or message and provides a powerful framework for both understanding and recall. For example a popular team leadership acrostic spells the word TEAM – Training, Empowerment, Accountability, Motivation.

 Over the past years doing my dream job I have extensively used and evolved this simple device to an art form in my talks and workshops. In addition to being a friend to all teachers and facilitators, the acrostic can be a powerful personal and team development tool that can assist managers and leaders in explaining complex topics in clear and concise ways. In the world of business, ambiguity is the enemy of commitment.

 As I share in this blog my acrostics accumulated from many years experience, I extend an invitation to all of you to send me your favourite acrostics to so I can showcase them as well in this blog.