Last week I broke down one of the 9C’s of executive presence: conciseness. Today I’m going to talk about her close sister: clarity.
These are 2 crucial elements of effective communication and the great news is, as you strengthen one, you also tend to strengthen the other.
So today I’m going to talk about:
- Where people fall down when it comes to clear communication
- Why focusing on clarity is important
- How to start communicating more clearly
Let’s jump in…
What’s so hard about communicating clearly?
Intuitively, we know it’s good to communicate clearly. However many people struggle to do this effectively. Why?
Here are 2 things that may be getting in your way:
Not enough intention and prep
By that I mean, you’re winging it. And I get it, because I used to wing it too. And then I learned (the hard way) that when you start to interact more with senior leaders, winging it is NOT a good strategy.
I would show up to a 1:1 with my boss with just a couple of bullets scribbled in my notebook I wanted to ensure I brought up to him. I would pitch an idea to leadership without spending the time to think about how I wanted to present it and what framing may be most effective.
The solution? Prep, prep, prep!
Not putting yourself in the other person’s shoes
We sometimes forget that other people don’t live in our heads! You may be very close to a project, but when you’re presenting to your CEO you need to acknowledge that he is not.
The solution? Before you communicate something, consider who your audience is and how they will receive it.
Why is focusing on clarity so important?
Here are 2 reasons to work on this communication skill:
Credibility / expertise
Yep, when you communicate clearly you are also communicating more effectively, and that increases your credibility and perceived expertise in a given area.
Think about it, when someone is trying to explain something and you’re left feeling lost and confused, how do you perceive that person? How do you feel about the interaction?
There’s a strong correlation between expertise and explaining things clearly, which I’ll describe below. But the important thing to understand is that putting the effort into communicating more clearly will impact people’s perception of you in a positive way.
This one should be obvious, but when you communicate more clearly and effectively, you’re more likely to get what you want. You are going to be compelling. And that’s the goal right?
Okay, how to get started?
Here are 3 ways you can start communicating more clearly, starting now:
Use the Feynman Razor
The Feynman razor states that when you truly understand something, you should be able to explain it to a 5 year old. Too often we hide behind technical jargon when we don’t fully understand something.
If you truly understand it, explain it in layman’s terms without all the jargon and code. Everyone will appreciate it.
Organize your information:
Often our brains are overwhelmed by all of the information that’s coming at us. Do your listeners a favour and organize the information you share with them.
- Minto Pyramid – The Minto pyramid is a model for sharing new and complex information. The key element is to start with the conclusion. Ie. the main point. The TLDR. Then get into the key supporting arguments and finally share more details at the end. This is easier said than done – you’ll want to prep and practice.
- Grouping information into themes – When you’re sharing other information, ask yourself how you can group or organize it into themes to help make it easier to process.
Frameworks and diagrams
Finally, there’s a reason they say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Often, we can communicate an idea more effectively by using a framework or diagram. Spend the time thinking about whether the information you’re sharing can be presented visually. It will lower the cognitive load for your audience and increase your credibility at the same time.
Okay, I hope I’ve convinced you to take the time and prep required to start communicating more clearly. This is something that will absolutely add to your executive presence and is time well spent.
Remember, if it doesn’t come easily at first, this stuff takes practice! Don’t give up. You’ve got this.
Until next time friends… ✌️💜