Communicating in a bite-sized world

town crier free to useOne challenge for communicating through the noise is what some of you called “communicating in a bite-sized world.” As leaders, we are competing for the attention of our team members, colleagues, and other stakeholders.  We know that effective messages are brief and yet memorable–and that’s not always easy to achieve.

Like most academics, I like to think that I can create clear, compelling messages. But I also have a tendency to fall in love with my own words.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit the length of my first dissertation draft. Suffice it to say that my long-suffering advisors very kindly told me that I needed to delete about half of it!

On the other hand, we have all experienced leadership messages that are brief, attention-grabbing, and have no real content. John Hamm from Harvard Business Review called these “roller-coaster pronouncements” that fail to clarify terms and create shared understanding.

How can we find the balance between providing enough specific information to help the organization move forward, without becoming either too wordy to too vague?

A blog from Forbes offered some suggestions:

  • Use the fewest words possible. Remove technical terms, jargon, and other sources of complexity. This means that you need to understand your message very clearly so you can explain it to others.
  • Use your own voice. Present the message genuinely in a way that lets people recognize your underlying values.
  • Be visible. Electronic communication is a key strategy, but there are times when nothing substitutes for face-to-face connections.
  • Listen. Communicating is more than getting the message out. Leaders often don’t get direct feedback about how our messages are received. It’s up to us to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal reactions from others.

Dee Anne Bonebright





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