June 2006 Newsletter

In this issue:

Say What you Mean....

Say what you mean!

So many of us in management think we are in the leadership business. Well, we are. But-and perhaps more importantly-we're also in the communication business.

In fact, if you want to find what sets a great leader apart from a mere manager, you need look no further than skillful communication.

Stated another way: Clear, concise communication is the most critical tool in effective leadership.

Surveys bear this out. In one conducted recently, an overwhelming majority (94 percent) of 2,000 U.S. senior executives and managers said that communicating well is the most important skill for executives and managers to have to be successful.

But, as John Hamm points out in the May issue of Harvard Business Review, if you want to know why so many organizations fall into turmoil, look for poor communication that fails to show what the boss is really thinking.

Hamm has a diverse background as an operating executive, start-up CEO, venture investor, leadership coach and author, and is currently a general partner at Venture Strategy Partners, a San Francisco venture capital firm. He says, "Over and over again, they (CEOs) present grand, overarching-yet fuzzy-notions of where they think the company is going. Too often, they assume everyone shares the same definitions of broad terms like vision, loyalty, accountability... ."

Doing so, he says, only makes their jobs infinitely more difficult than they need be. Why?

Because they confuse their employees.

Though employees, even most senior managers, nod in polite agreement, they wonder if they truly understand, says Hamm. They worry about looking stupid if they ask for clarification. As a result, they often imagine all kinds of motives and develop their own interpretations.

And not knowing what's truly expected, they waste precious time.

Rumors circulate.
Employees lose focus.
Big projects fail.

Why do we communicate ineffectively?

In part, because we rely on clichés. A good case in point: Managers often say, "We must improve our quality." With no further explanation, they leave employees wondering, "What do you mean by quality? Do you mean the product will perform as intended? Do you mean quality to the undiscerning eye or quality as an experienced craftsman would view it? Are you talking about product quality or customer service quality?"

We also fall back on jargon. In today's business world, jargon bombards us from all directions and with greater and greater frequency. Yet people report it confuses them. They wonder precisely what "best practices," "circle with," and "functionality" mean. And when they don't understand the words, corporate communications break down, negatively impacting productivity and efficiency levels.

Perhaps Hippocrates said it best: "The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words."

Tips: How to communicate effectively

So that nothing detracts from your message, here are a few simple guidelines for communicating effectively:

  1. Select clear concrete words; avoid the abstract. (Say buy, win or earn instead of acquire.)
  2. Keep it simple. Use short words rather than long. (Say get instead of access. Say use instead of utilize.)
  3. Avoid buzzwords and jargon.
  4. Avoid clichés.

When you speak concretely and directly, you clearly communicate your vision of your company's goals, priorities and opportunities. You will save your company time, money and resources...and allow extraordinary things to happen.

For a bit of fun, look at the MBA Jargon Watch Web site,

www. johnsurf.com. This tongue-in-cheek guide to business jargon and management buzzwords, will put a smile into your day.

MGA can help your leadership team communicate more effectively through knowing more about your employee base.  This will enable you to identify a better approach to managing, communicating and training your most valuable asset. Increasing clarity in communication within your organization will provide a permanent increase in effectiveness.

With MGA you can maximize that investment.

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