Let me be brief. Sometimes less is more.
If you read last week’s newsletter about the importance of executive presence, you may have noticed one of the 9 C’s is conciseness.
I wanted to dive into this one deeper in today’s newsletter because I work with SO many women who struggle with this one. And Brittany, it matters!
So today I’m going to talk about:
- Why we struggle to be concise
- Why you should focus on conciseness in your communication
- How to get started with some practical tips
Let’s jump in…
Why is it so hard to be concise?
When I share my framework for communication with the women I work with, most of them agree it’s pretty simple and easy to understand. I talk about the 3 Cs: clear, concise and compelling.
But putting this into practice is a whole other story! And there are a couple of reasons why.
First, it’s your brain’s fault!
You’ve probably been thinking about the topic you’re planning to share for a long time. You’ve gone over it and you are aware of every detail. And often we forget that other people don’t live in our heads!
So when you start talking about something or sharing an idea, you’re assuming that the listener is starting from the same place you are. They aren’t.
The second factor I see a lot is wanting to show the listener just how smart you are. You have all of this expertise and you want to ensure you’re relaying it.
Maybe you’ve been working on a project for months and have become an expert. When you get an opportunity to share the data from the project with the leadership team, you want them to know you’ve learned every single detail there is to know. You want to demonstrate how thorough you’ve been in your analysis.
The problem is that sharing a ton of detail does not communicate this effectively. In fact, it can do the opposite!
Why should I bother working on this?
Here are 2 reasons to work on this communication skill:
- It helps the listener understand you more easily
- It impacts people’s perception of you – ie. your executive presence
- It holds the listener’s attention
Have you ever asked someone a question and they started droning on and on with so many details that you lost track of what they were actually talking about?
Most of us have experienced this. And the effect is that you leave the conversation a little overwhelmed and even confused. This is not how we want to leave our listener feeling! Especially if you’re communicating up the chain and hoping for a promotion.
When you’re concise, it forces you to prioritize the information you’re going to share. And when you do this effectively, it communicates to your colleagues that you understand what’s truly important. It shows them you have expertise and good judgement.
In short, using concise communication gets your point across more effectively and tells the listener that you truly understand the topic.
And finally the third point: if the listener isn’t as passionate about this topic as you are, being too long-winded may actually cause them to start internally wondering where you’re going with this… which means, they’re no longer fully engaged with the information you’re sharing!
Not what you want.
I always recommend trying to keep the cognitive load low when you’re sharing information. ie. make it EASY for the other person to follow what you’re saying only share the relevant information.
Okay, how to get started?
If you know you’re someone who needs to work on this, don’t worry. It’s something you can absolutely improve on with some awareness and intention!
If you’re not sure…
- Take a look at some of your emails. Big blocks of text? You need to work on this.
- Check out your resume: More than 1 page? You likely need to work on this.
- Reflect on past conversations: Has your manager or another leader ever asked you to get to the point? Or interjected to ask what the key issue is? Yep, you need to work on it.
- Finally, you can ask a trusted colleague…
So how can you actually start to work on this? 3 steps to getting your wordy-ness under control.
Prep: Take the time to prep before presenting data, project results or new ideas. Ask yourself: What is the key takeaway? What are the 1-3 top points I want to make?
Spend some time practicing how you’ll deliver this information. If you can possibly keep things to lists of 3, do it! Even if there are 15 reasons you want to move forward with a project, there’s no way all 15 are equally important. Determine the top 3 and lead with those.
Does this sound easy? Often my clients will nod their head yes, and then come back the next week telling me how figuring out what that one key thing is, is harder than they thought it would be!
I promise, this gets easier with practice 🙂
Review: I’m talking about reviewing your written communication before it goes out. Before you send that email, read it over and remove any extraneous phrases and information.
For example, change:
“I’m writing you today to ask if you had an opportunity to look at the article I sent over last Friday and see what you thought of it.”
“Did you have an opportunity to review the article I sent over? What did you think?”
I can almost guarantee if you spend some time going through your emails and reports, you’ll find ways to trim them WAY down. This also goes for slides and any other written communication you’re creating.
Reflect: Try to get feedback on written communication. For in-person meetings, reflect on how it went following the meeting. Did people seem to follow what you were sharing? Did they remain engaged or lose interest?
Having a healthy reflection practice is one of the best ways to level up and keep getting better.
And with that, I think I’ve shared enough words for today, so I’ll be signing off.