I wanted to start this post with the quote “I’m sorry this is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” Turns out that has been attributed to a lot of people, starting with Blaise Pascal in 1657 and including Benjamin Franklin in 1750.
That means that for at least 350 years people have known that it’s harder to write a short and concise letter or document than a long one. Twitter aside, that is still true.
Here are some tips from writing consultant Mary Cullen at 87 advanced tips for business writing:
- Purpose: Before you start, ask “who is my reader” and “what do I want them to know or do?” If you don’t have an answer, there’s no purpose for continuing.
- Plan: For a standard business document or email, spend about half of the time planning and half of the time writing.
- Everyday language. Avoid jargon. Never use a big word when a small word will do.
- Clear language. Use strong verbs (“We need to decide”… is better than “we need to make a decision”…) Any time a word is not truly needed, cut it.
Cullen says that online readers can only handle about 7 lines of text before readability goes down and they are more likely to skip it. Adding headers, lists, and white space can help – as in the paragraph above.
As leaders, we can feel too busy to edit. But taking the time to remove extra words and present a clear message can save time in the long run. People will actually read what we send and are more likely to get the point!
Dee Anne Bonebright
Simon Sinek offers a simple, yet powerful, rule for leaders to be better listeners. Refrain from sharing your opinion until everyone else has spoken! It is his “Lesson Four” for successful leaders.
Your people are super-attuned to your words and behaviors and naturally search for cues to understand what your priorities are. This human tendency can get in the way when you want to hear their opinions, ideas, insights or concerns – to truly listen to them.
Inc. magazine recently shared three tips to help leaders “talk last” to ensure that their people talk first.
- Listen – and do absolutely nothing else! Don’t speak verbally or non-verbally. Do your best to eliminate gestures, head nodding, comments, affirmations, or concerns until all have shared and others have commented.
- Ask questions like an interviewer. When you do talk start by asking “unbiased” or clarification questions. Think of yourself as an outside interviewer who just wants to better understand what you have heard – with no stake in the game! Seek to discover the “why” behind their ideas and then the “how” before you add your perspective.
- Disagree and commit. If you have concerns about what you are hearing, continue to explore the reason behind their ideas until you completely understand the why – then share your ideas. If possible commit to trying their idea or search for potential alternatives that address all points of view.
I think you will be impressed by what you hear if your people have the space to speak – first!
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, communication, Leadership, leadership development, self awareness
Tagged asking questions, blind spots, communication, Leadership, leadership development, listening, questions, self-awareness
“We didn’t feel like we were heard.
People were dancing around the topic to avoid offending anyone.
How can I get my message understood?”
Do those comments sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Those exact phrases were shared with me last week by a leader who was asking for help to communicate more effectively.
While the acts of listening, speaking, and sharing ideas seems straightforward and simple, they are anything but; especially when you add in the fact that we each bring our own filters or lenses through which we interpret messages. And if there are positional power differences or emotions are running high, communications can be fraught with peril.
During this month, we will be taking a deep dive into our Minnesota State leadership competency: communicates effectively, defined as:
- Effectively conveys ideas and shares information with others using appropriate methods
- Listens carefully and understands differing points of view
- Presents ideas clearly and concisely
Please join in the conversation by sharing your leadership and communication challenges.