Thought Leadership

A Communications Wake-up Call!

Is it time for a communications wake-up call? For most of us, the answer is probably yes. We all could learn to communicate better, both personally and professionally. Conversations are a way of connecting with others. In all our conversations we hope we are able to get our message across in a clear and non-threatening way. Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way. As managers and leaders, we often find our awkward communication style getting in the way of success.

From a professional perspective, we spend a significant amount of time communicating with others. In business situations, positive communications are critical to success. Remember that communication is multidimensional; it's never linear. Also, we can often learn from some of our worst conversations, those that went horribly sideways. What went wrong, why did you fail to get your message across, etc? Good intentions can often end with bad consequences.

I recently read an excellent book about Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher. The book, Aristotle's Way, by Dr. Edith Hall focuses on how Aristotle's philosophy can be applied to real life situations today. It's worth your time to check it out.

I have always been a fan of the ancient Greek philosophers. There is much to be learned from their wisdom. Their emphasis on "knowing the person" is an excellent place to start in understanding strengths and limitations. The Greeks were famous for arguing that one must "know thyself" to be wise. I'm of the view that understanding "who" we are as individuals is the backbone to understanding our unique leadership and communication style.

Dr. Hall makes the point that Aristotle's message is valid to this very day. His message is one which can be applied to modern day problems, like problems with everyday communication. Aristotle had a very simple formula for mastering the art of effective communication. It focused on three things: Audience, Brevity and Clarity. These are Aristotle's ABCs of communication.

Whether you are communicating with a small group, large group and simply speaking with someone one-on-one, getting your message across can be challenging. Let's break down the ABCs:

Audience - Know your audience; the emphasis is on research. Learn as much as possible about your audience. Doing the research to gather all the relevant information is key to communicating your message effectively. Simply put, knowing your audience allows you to steer the conversation to your advantage. We generally don't think of research in advance of conversations, particularly when it comes to one-on-one communication. These are the exact type situations where research can be very valuable. Many of our conversations in business are one-on-one. Spend time in advance of these discussions thinking about your message. Organizing your thoughts can also be important research.

Brevity - One of the things I continually remind myself to do is be brief. Whether you are interviewing for that once in a lifetime job, or providing instructions to your team about an important project deadline, remember to be brief. Unfortunately, often our interactions in business are centered on being right, or proving the soundness of your viewpoint. This will lead to long drawn out dialogue, which can come across and aimless and repetitive. There is power in any message that is brief.

Clarity - People need to understand your message. If your audience fails to understand you, you will fail in your communication. Speak and communicate with clarity. Focus on the message. Don't try to make yourself look or sound smart with overly worded sentences. There is clarity in simplicity. Less is more when it comes to clarity.

Managing through a long career is hard work. Careers are planned and adjusted, particularly as we face the many twist and turns that come our way. Is your communication style holding you back? If so, its time to think about changing it. Mastering the art of effective communication should be on the to do list for all of us.

Until next time...

Jim Ward