A colleague recently forwarded a note from her boss, asking if I could clarify the meaning of some of the jargonized sentences. My response:
Yes, one needs to maturate a voluminous lexicon of enigmatic multisyllabic attributive participles to succinctly and effectively communicate these transformational aphorisms.
Communication is essential to leadership work. We can share vision and ideas, influence how others think, listen and learn from others, and manage work which leads to results. Leadership communication is a craft which we’re always practicing and sharpening.
The best leadership communication has three attributes: Simple, Repeatable, Shareable.
Use the simplest language possible to communicate your ideas. The first rule in Strunk and White’s classic book, “Elements of Style” is “Omit needless words.”
Develop a good working vocabulary. Using the right word makes a difference. Mark Twain wrote “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Leaders do well to remember what Mrs. Brown taught me in 5th grade: “Complicated sentences come from poor thinking.” If you’re struggling to communicate in simple terms go back and sharpen your thinking. The ability for people to receive your message and respond accordingly is a good test for the clarity of your idea.
Effective communication is repeatable. We might wish it otherwise, but the reality is that humans need to hear key messages repeated in order to absorb them. I once read that a toddler needs to be told something 87 times on average before they understand it. I’m pretty sure that applies to adults, too. I love what Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the US Senate said: “It is as important to be reminded as it is to be informed.”
Once you have your key messages simplified and clear, repeat them often. Use different opportunities to repeat them, and different formats. Emphasize messages in your one to one conversations, in group meetings, and in broadcast messages.
One friend who is leading a huge change in his organization has appended 2 sentences to his email signature that succinctly capture the target and the means of the changes. His leadership team helped craft them. Key people in his company have memorized them because they’ve seen them so often.
Communication needs to be shareable. Even with our best technology options you can’t fully reach everyone who needs the message. Your primary recipients need to share the message with others in their sphere of influence. The believability of your message increases with the “social proof” that others have shared it.
It’s easier to share if it’s simply expressed.
It’s easier to share if it’s been repeated many times and ingrained.
Disproportionately large impact of key messages happens when your message is shareable.
Communication is an essential leadership craft. It’s tempting to amplify unclear messages, because modern communication tools make it “easy” – but begin by working on the clarity and simplicity of your message. That’s the hard work that pays the biggest dividends later on.
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