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How to Use The Law of Thirds in Communication

The Law of Thirds is a Patrick Lencioni concept. He explains every leader will always have people in three camps - supporters, fence-sitters and detractors.

Naturally as humans who care so deeply about belonging we focus on detractors.

Think about it - you can have most of your team and organization in the supporters and fence-sitters camps but if one loud voice is a detractor it’s all we think about, right?

The problem is, the way we communicate actually pushes our fence-sitters - and the energy and culture of our whole team - towards our focus.

If you’re focusing on detractors you’ll actually give them more energy and push fence-sitters in that direction.

Thankfully, it’s a simple change that can make a

big difference!

When I’m coaching leaders I often do this exercise with them to help them use The Law of Thirds to help with their communication:

  1. Write down three columns on a page and put everyone on your team or wider organization into the three columns - supporters, fence-sitters and detractors.

  2. The next time you’re writing an email to your people or leading a meeting, practice how you would communicate it if it was just your supporters in the room.

  3. With emails I like to even write the email ‘to a supporter’ initially to really get a focus going on how you’d communicate to them. “Hi James, etc” is how you practice it.

  4. Now go and send your emails and lead your meetings with communication directed towards your supporters, not your detractors.

So what do you do with detractors? Detractors are usually difficult people - either toxic people who undermine or different people who are difficult just because of how different they are to us.

Want to see that difficult person step up or step out of your team within four weeks?

Find out how in my book Step Up or Step Out.

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