Fred Rogers was the creator and host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, an endearing children’s television program that spoke to young children about the very real issues and concerns that they dealt with every day. It was only natural that Mr. Rogers would be called on to reassure children after 9-11 in a series of public service spots about the attacks.
In one of these spots, Rogers demonstrates a perfect ‘Mr. Rogers moment’ when he tells us that what children need to hear is “that you will do everything you can to keep them safe.”
Good advice, not only for adults helping children, but for leaders and managers helping their people deal with these ‘scary’ times.
One approach that we have found to be effective when reassuring customers during highly emotional everyday situations can be just as effective for making anyone feel safe during this challenging time. It’s a simple, memorable framework called TAUC; here’s how it works:
T, the first letter in TAUC is for Transparency. During these difficult times, there are many things that we don’t know. In the face of a lot of unknowns, the way to make people feel safe is to be transparent about what you do know and what you don’t. But in revealing what you don’t know, tell people what you are doing to find out the missing information and answer their questions.
A is for Accuracy. It seems obvious that guessing about something or providing vague answers undermines credibility and creates significant uncertainty – the opposite of feeling safe. Yet when we feel the need to tell people something – anything that gives them hope, we tend to grasp for whatever details are available that might reassure them. Try to avoid being inaccurate, no matter how well-meaning. However, when you do provide an estimate or give information that may change, explain as well the assumptions behind your estimate and explain how and why the information may change.
Urgency, the U in TAUC is all about communicating with the right level of seriousness, confidence and action-mindedness without creating overreactions and even panic. Here, it’s important to pay attention to the words you use. Words like, ‘hopefully, maybe, this should work’ etc. can accidentally pop out in a conversation and needlessly create worry in the mind of the listener. Likewise, your tone of voice needs to be confident and deliberate. Hesitation in your voice will be translated into doubts about what you’re saying.
Confidence and Control
The C in TAUC stands for Confidence and Control. These are both essentially outcomes from the other parts of TAUC. In other words, by being Transparent and Accurate, the content of what you say, together with the right Urgency – how you say it, you will create the Confidence and sense of being in Control that your people need at this moment.
Another favorite piece of advice from Fred Rogers during times of crisis was to “Look for the helpers”. It’s up to all of us now to be those helpers.
If you are interested in learning more about the TAUC technique, download our handy TAUC reminder card that explains how to use the TAUC technique along with tips and pitfalls to consider when implementing in the field.