Quick: In one sentence, what is the business strategy you’re using right now?
Could everyone on your team explain it to you?
You know the strategy at every layer. You know you’re using it daily. Why aren’t the results better?
The success of every step in your strategy begins with and relies on clear communication. What difference could it make if everyone on the team kept all communications clear and to the point?
Great communications not only help deliver your strategy. They reflect your strategy. If your team is ready for a communications upgrade, we have good news: this one is painless.
Most people can step up by making just three changes
- Move the bottom line to the top.
- Use words all of your readers understand.
- Tap the power of the active voice.
But what if…?
Clear communications that get right to the point do not sound overly simple or naïve. You can let that fear go. They sound clear. They make sense after one reading. They call attention to the action items, not to the writer—or the dictionary.
Are we getting closer to the bone? Remember, I promised “painless.” Here are some frequent, painless outcomes of adopting the strategy:
- Shortened sales cycles
- Better communications across departments
- More efficient meetings
- Better-managed teams with a shared vision
Most of us would cheerfully downgrade to lab mouse-size cubicles just to have bullet point three: more efficient meetings. You can make this approach happen without anyone whimpering “root canal.”
Move the bottom line to the top
State the most important part of your message at the beginning. Business writing is not fiction, not playwriting, not mystery writing. Whatever you do in your personal writing, put your bottom line on top in every business communication. Tell us at the beginning what you want or need or think or recommend, then let the logic of your communication flow from there. We will thank you, and the gods of workplace creativity will not punish you.
Use words all of your readers understand
In this business environment, not all of your readers learned English as a first language. For some, English may be their third or fourth. In this environment, not one of your readers will settle back with a cup of coffee and plan to savor your every word. They are busy. They do not care how well you use a thesaurus. They want to respond efficiently, in one step, and consistently with the overall business strategy.
As you well know, especially if your nervous tic is showing up about now, some of the worst offenders of the rule of simplicity hang out in the C-suite. Here’s your argument: unclear communication from the top only gets murkier all the way through and around the organization. Unclear communication clogs the business cycle as efficiently as a teenager with shoulder blade-length hair clogs a sink drain. C-suite writing needs to be clear and to the point. It should model clear communication.
Tap the power of active voice
Which sentence would you rather read?
- A decision has been reached by the board concerning honoring each employee’s birthday as a paid day off, and will be explained fully by your department head.
- Your department head will explain the new policy our board reached yesterday: each employee’s birthday will be a paid day off.
The first is passive voice, making it unclear who did what. The second is the same information in active voice: the actor appears first in the sentence and provides the information.
Passive voice is the sludge of business writing. Avoid allowing it to clog the drain.
Make just three changes. They could streamline your execution of your business strategy and speed up the results you want.
I would be surprised if you felt that we were slighting your intelligence in this blog post. Yet we wrote it at the sixth grade reading level. The gods of workplace creativity didn’t smite us at all.