4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (2024)

Listen Up!

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (1)As part of our ongoing leadership-development research at Align4Profit, we collect data from the participants in our programs and conduct interviews with leaders at all levels in multiple industries. Recently we launched a survey to delve deeper into what exactly makes frequent, open, honest, and candid communication so difficult for some leaders and organizations. We are excited to share the preliminary results with you here.

Align4Profit’s 4 Ups! is a model for REAL communication. The absence of which is one of the biggest obstacles to team performance and leadership effectiveness. When leaders struggle to address the REAL issues, REAL facts, and REAL feelings, they become an enormous liability impacting people and profit. People crave feedback—so let’s Serve it Up!

The 4 Ups! Model

The 4 Ups! Model of effective communication is the ability to Bring it Up! Talk it Up! Wrap it Up! and Follow it Up! Let’s first look at each of the 4 Ups in the visual below and then review what prevents execution—how we potentially Screw it Up! within each of the Ups.

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (2)


The 4 Ups! provide a framework for implementing REAL feedback during team discussions, coaching, and performance management conversations. In highly engaged and high-performing organizations, the skills to implement the 4 Ups! in the most effective ways will always lead to better results on people, culture, customers, and profits. In fact Jack Welch says: “A remarkable absence of candor in the workplace represents one of the most significant obstacles to companies’ success.”

As leader, you are charged with bringing the best out of everyone, creating a climate for innovation, and helping everyone do their jobs better. What better tool do you have at your disposal than to effectively communicate? When effective communication is mastered, it is easier to achieve High Commitment and High Engagement, evidenced ultimately in superior financial performance and growth in shareholder value.

Fess Up!

Effective implementation of the 4 Ups varies greatly from individual leader to individual leader.
The theoretical position is:

  1. All four skills are necessary for effective coaching, communication and problem solving, and it is up to leaders to find their voice and inspire others to find theirs.
  2. Each of the 4 Ups requires a separate and distinct skill to facilitate REAL dialogue.
  3. Every leader’s style impacts positively and negatively on the implementation of the four skills.
  4. It is rare for a leader to be proficient at all four attributes.

What does the research tell us so far?

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (3)Well over half of the respondents identified the biggest lack is to Bring it Up! followed by the focus or skill to diligently Follow it Up! Only a few leaders, less than twenty five percent, indicated difficulty to Talk and Wrap it Up!

Our analysis and experience indicate that part of the reason for the lower scores around Talk and Wrap it Up are because of leadership blind spots with regard to how effectively they execute during conversations and fail to communicate in an involvement-oriented manner.

What are the implications?

From lost relationships, poor innovation, and steep financial penalties, the price for not speaking up is high. Drawn-out, unproductive, numbing meetings, often reach no conclusions, resulting in lost productivity. Rambling, cryptic, and incoherent emails that are misunderstood or ignored, result in wasted time, and managers who do not or cannot truly listen alienate staff and lower morale. In today’s rapid-paced, changing, and demanding workplace, we cannot afford to miss opportunities or delay sharing insights that will take the organization forward.

What are the typical Screw Ups?

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (4)We see too many leaders fail to communicate and avoid conversations all together. Fear stops them dead in their tracks and they Shut Up or Save it Up!

What fears? More specifically, respondents in our survey, shared that they fear being wrong, as well as being punished, disliked, labeled, and want to refrain from hurting others. Some feel they may not have the appropriate authority or fail to see the possibility of reaching a positive result from raising certain issues and often see confrontation as an exercise in futility. While other leaders have little problem in voicing their opinions—they do so forcefully with aggression—others may convey their objectives in a rather firm and blunt way. Some leaders passively approach subjects in a fragile, tentative, or hesitant way or tread so carefully that they confuse people with their concealed or sarcastic approaches.

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (5)>When a conversation is in full force, the objective is clear, points are made and heard, and resolution is accomplished.

However our ongoing research identified quite a lot of ways difficult conversations disintegrate: Rather than Talk it Up skillfully, some people tend to use sweeping statements, get stuck in blame, or make threats. Others become evasive with their answers, withholding information and talking around issues or diverting conversations to other topics.

In some meetings, subjects are talked out over and over but never taken to the Wrap it Up stage. When tougher discussions emerge, we often witness that the pace quickens, tone gets higher, volume gets louder, and interruptions increase, and in some situations there are major blow ups. The lack of listening and the effective two-way flow of communication are often seriously lacking.

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (6)Once a conversation has been brought up, talked up, listened up, and agreed to, it is time to gain heartfelt commitment by achieving mutual understanding and agreement. The worst mess up is when we close discussions with a “pretend” wrap up and make assumptions of who will do what at a specified time and how—what success will look like. We mess up and neglect to nail down the specifics. Also some leaders fail to involve others in decisions and gain little mutual agreement on actions. Others provide poor documentation and do not communicate expectations to all meeting attendees.

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (7)A plan for completing assignments must be in place to guarantee progress. We advocate to inspect what is expected as many organizations perform poorly because of lack of follow-through.

Successful leaders share clear assignments, hold people accountable, outline consequences, and establish a regular review processes to track progress. Now when we say “inspect,” we are not referring to micromanaging, rather the management practice of strong and consistent follow-up. We are in essence checking in with employees to remove barriers to performance and to offer support. We certainly don’t put up with or tolerate ineffective follow-though.

In almost every workshop we run, we hear that the lack of time is the number one killer of follow-up. At the risk of being confronting, I believe, poor follow-up has more to do with leaders’ lack of conscientious and diligent scheduling and prioritizing this activity.

It’s not always ‘what’ but ‘how’ that can have the most profound impact on effective communication.

4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (8)Words are only part of the story. To effectively communicate you need to see, hear, and feel what is being said, too.

Nonverbal clues, the tone of your voice, and your body language—essentially the style in which you communicate—influences the outcomes of your communication. Albert Mehrabian’s research suggests that only 7 percent of meaning is in the words spoken (Verbal) and 93 percent of communication is nonverbal: 55 percent through facial expression, posture, gesture (Visual), and 38 percent through tone of voice (Vocal).

Finally, MAN UP, and ladies too… WOMAN UP to your responsibility for effective communication!

Take it Up!

Again I ask your help to gather more data on this topic by taking the Align4Profit 4 Ups! Survey, above. Your anonymous responses will not only assist us in our research but will ensure that you are represented in our quantitative work. Our survey essentially asks one question, “Which of the 4 Ups! gives you the most difficulty?” Since we also want to learn the source of that difficulty, we ask you to briefly describe what prevents you from taking action.

If you would like to better your skills in the 4 Ups! Contact us about development solutions. We offer face-to-face and virtual solutions to support your growth.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my insights!

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4 Ups! Model of effective communication – Align4Profit (2024)


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