Leaders think strategically, understand the critical link between focus and clarity, and appreciate the value of time. So fewer and fewer are inclined to let others waste their time. Brevity has become a basic communication skill for professionals. Here are six best practices as a leader:
1. Be brief when speaking spontaneously. Make your point and move on. Lectures are for the classroom.
2. Organize business presentations in the decision maker's format. Forget the once-upon-a-time structure. Start with a summary of your key item of interest to your listeners. Then tell them what you want them to do, decide, approve, consider, or learn as you elaborate further. You may be shocked at how many details become unnecessary after such a succinct summary up front.
3. Edit your documents ruthlessly. Emails are informal, of course. But informal shouldn't mean disorganized time-wasters. Open with your bottom-line message and the action you want. Then provide only the essential details to support the message and clarify the action. Your ten minutes invested in editing can save reader time for everyone on the distribution list--and more likely get action.
4. Prepare for meetings. Look at the agenda beforehand, know what you want to say, and prepare your comments so you can deliver them concisely. Have details and data at hand so your comments don't devolve into a free-for-all ramble.
5. Lead efficient meetings. TV viewers who regularly record favorite programs know that they can watch the DVR version in about half the time it takes to watch the live version by simply fast-forwarding through the commercials. Consider analyzing the productive parts of your meetings versus the "down-times": late starts, off-topic or rambling discussions, waiting for missing information, and so forth. Eliminate such time-wasters so that the one hour meeting can be reduced to a half hour.
6. Eliminate the lag time in your events. Consider your sales meetings, management meetings, or other conferences scheduled over 2-4 days. How much time is devoted to announcements, logistics, introductions of the introducers, overviewing the agenda--in general, telling people what they've already read in the program? Cut it.
According to Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Brevity is the soul of wit." In today's workplace, brevity is a key to the C-suite.