The messages you communicate to your team have a massive impact on company culture, morale, and productivity.

It feels good to deliver a message that people want to hear, such as: project approvals, promotions, and raises.

But what do you do when you have to deliver a message people may disagree with, such as a new in-office policy, or lead a difficult conversation, such as your first team meeting after layoffs?

My colleague Dr. Ron Heifetz at the Harvard Kennedy School defines leadership as “giving people bad news at a rate they can absorb.”

While you can’t control anyone else’s reaction to difficult or bad news, you can use your voice to connect with your team during times of uncertainty, to help them move from anxiety to motivation, and from isolation to community.

Prioritize listening.  Rather than assuming what another person is thinking or feeling, give your team time and space to collect their thoughts and process their emotions (remember: we all do this differently) after a difficult conversation. Then, provide space for them to ask questions. Practice active listening techniques, validate their feelings, and ask follow-up questions. See, hear, and understand your colleagues before you respond.

Anticipate questions. When there is a specific question on people’s minds (such as “Why do we have to do this?”), that question becomes a roadblock that prevents them from moving on to more action-oriented tasks (such as “how are we going to do this?). Answer questions promptly, honestly, and clearly. Be open about the limits of your information and remember that it is OK to say “I don’t know.”

Demonstrate shared values. Use the values you and your team share – such as respect or a growth mindset – to show them how the future could be better if you embrace this new change. How are they living their values by accepting these changes, even if they don’t agree with them? Acknowledge when a team member models your shared values as a way to motivate them. For example, thank and celebrate a direct report for demonstrating a growth mindset after they propose a new idea to help move an unpopular project forward.

As a leader, you play a delicate balance of setting business goals and supporting your team. While sometimes those responsibilities can seem at odds with one another, without the latter you cannot achieve the former.

Use these strategies to harness your voice in the act of leadership to make your team feel calm, motivated, and supported.