People of influence
are the men and women within an organization whose opinions count -
not necessarily because they rank high on an "org" chart but
- because they have acknowledged experience or are associated with people
of authority. This article is one in a series of five articles on how
to expand your sphere of influence through better communications.
I just completed
Sandra Post's short game golf clinic. (Notice I said completed, not
graduated from.) One of the best tips I received was "keep it simple."
No matter what club you are using or the distance you are trying to
hit, use the same basic stroke.
If you add fancy
footwork, a unique flick of the wrist or extra lower body movement,
you may connect occasionally but, in the end, you'll create more problems.
Be consistent. That way, even under pressure, you'll always remember
exactly what should be done to succeed.
This advice applies
equally well to the world of business communication. People judge you
all day, every day, on many factors including the words and phrases
you use. Too often, business people believe they will appear more professional
if they cloak their written and spoken messages in pompous words and
clichés. But it doesn't work. Don't try to impress your readers
or listeners. They are too busy to find convoluted messages interesting
Focus on what the reader wants to know and needs to know and deliver
that message, using words the reader can easily understand. Contrary
to popular belief, polysyllabic words and passive voice sentences will
not make you look professional in the reader's eyes - only clarity and
Tell the reader why he should read your e-mail in the opening line.
Too many writers deliver an e-mail in a chronological order. They give
the background information first and wait for the last screen before
telling the reader what they want from him. As many people read opening
paragraphs to decide whether to continue reading, backward writing is
not effective. Deliver "the hook" first.
If you have a deadline,
place it in the subject line. That way every time the reader opens his
inbox, he'll see your time line.
Use your eyes, as well as your ears, to listen. Don't busy yourself
mentally rehearsing how you are going to top the speaker's comments.
Keep it simple. Stay in the moment and work with the information the
speaker is giving you. Ask him questions to extend his thoughts and
to further clarify his viewpoint.
In leaving voice
Deliver a strong, upbeat and brief message. Don't get cute. Be polite,
firm and assertive. You have only 10 to 15 seconds to make a good impression.
Never start with "I'm sorry I missed your call." No one believes
Offer callers the
option of reaching someone immediately. Say what you need from them
- a message, a name, a phone number. Tell them when you will return
their call or the best time to call you back. Let them know if the message
has a time limit. Change your messages as often as necessary.
People take their cues from your language when deciding whether or not
they want to co-operate with you. If you bluster, exaggerate or try
to upstage others, you won't gain credibility. Winning speakers communicate
in a straightforward fashion. They project positive expectations, give
credit where it's due, speak decisively, and tell the truth.
Whether you are
swinging a club on the golf course or communicating in the business
world, remember - for a positive finish - keep it simple.