My biggest lesson this year: Clarity

Getting people on the same page, or as others call it “bringing them along in the journey” is critical to getting buy-in to your vision. And one of the keys to communicating a future vision, plan, or change is to give people context. As the leader, you were probably involved in the decision-making process, sitting through all sorts of meetings and conversations during which ideas were shared. You know the history that led to the decision being made the way it was. But what about everyone else?

Being the manager for a project or team, one often overlooks communicating what is obvious and intuitive to you, but can seem like a mystery to those working with you. Providing clarity involves a delicate balance between keeping it simple and addressing real-world complexities. Leaders who master this tricky communication are good at explaining their rationale, and structuring messages so they are clearly understood.

Explaining the rationale behind a vision means providing explanations. If people aren’t given explanations, they are likely to unintentionally make them up. By explaining your rationale, your team will understand where they are going, why they are going there, and what the expectations are.  If you operate with a “need to know” mentality, it’s likely that people won’t have the information they need to buy in emotionally and rationally to your vision.

In the learning path I had this year in this area, I was fortunate to have a couple of meaningful conversations, I reall special learning from the European Sales Director of a former employer: Effective leaders also make sure they are structuring their messages so people can easily understand them, and so they can be repeated and shared with others. But structuring messages takes time, and you might be thinking, “I’m great at communicating clearly. I don’t need to take the time to structure my message—I’ll just wing it!” But think about how it feels to be handed a mess of information and be expected to figure it all out. I lived there in the last year, as I am sure most people do. Meandering, unfocused communication leaves people wondering whether their manager has his/her act together. On the other hand, well-structured messaging says, “Here’s a leader who knows where he’s taking us.”. So how can one become more clear?

  • Find the “headline” of your message—you should be able to boil it down to eight words or fewer.
  • Create talking points that balance the big picture and the details.
  • Refer back to your message repeatedly over time.

What, Who, How and Why? What is the closest milestone you need to achieve from a “smaller” meeting that will help you achieve a larger goal?

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