Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we strive to bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.
This week’s article is written by Jonathan Reitz, CoachNet’s FLUXIFY’s Director for Training/CEO. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The SHORT List of Communication Skills EVERY Leader Needs that airs on June 21, 2022.
We’ve all been in a meeting with someone who talks too much. You know the person who doesn’t believe in using 100 words when they have 10,000 to say. There’s nothing more annoying or counter-productive.
During my first career in the radio and television news, we worked hard to say a LOT in just a few words. Time constraints were part of the reason, but so was the short attention span of the listener or viewer. “Say it shorter” was our mantra.
In my coach training business, I work with many coaches and leaders who have difficulty keeping their conversational contributions to a minimum. It’s a direct result of the coaching relationship but not necessarily a direct result of the coach’s contributions. One of the cornerstones of coaching is that we show up in such a way that the client connects the dots and comes up with new ideas on their own.
To remedy this, follow this nine-step plan:
- Record a meeting or a conversation that’s important to you. It works best when something is at stake because you’ll be motivated to make the most of your communication.
- Let a little time pass. You have to be objective about what you hear on the recording. Forgetting the details of the conversation makes this easier. I know after thousands of recordings of my coaching that I have difficulty being objective if the memory is too fresh. I think everything I say is either mind-blowing or uninteresting. So I let 4-6 weeks go by before I review the conversation. You might need that long or a little less.
- Take a first pass at editing what you said. Now comes the hard part. Get a pad of paper and a pen. (Remember paper and pen?) You must use paper and pen for the step in the process, as your brain engages more thoroughly when using multiple physical systems while writing with a pen/pencil compared to typing on a keyboard. Writing by hand multiplies the impact of the work we’re about to do.
- Listen to the recording. With paper and pen in hand, review the recording of your meeting, and write down every word you say. Allow plenty of time for this, but don’t overanalyze what you’re capturing. Don’t worry about what the other people say because we’re working on your communication. The work in this step is hard, agony; you’ll probably hate it. You might curse my name a few times. But the results will take you places you’ve never expected.
- Once you finish transcribing your contributions to the meeting, go back and look at what you say. Read it out loud if you can. Notice the times when you say more words than necessary. After a few minutes, rewrite everything your comments in half as many words while preserving the substance of your words. This first edit begins to point out different conversational choices and where you might be able to say the same things using fewer words. The most important thing is to keep the message intact but more efficient. Painful might describe this experience. It can be downright awful. But it is worth it. And we’re just getting started!
- By now, you see a tremendous opportunity for different communication. But don’t stop after one edit. Go back and take a second pass. Work to make it half as long as the first time while maintaining the content of your messages.
- Take a moment or two at the end of this second edit to reflect on how you could structure your sentences differently in your next meeting. Begin a draft of some communication guidelines you can use as a reference.
- Now the difficulty ramps up again. Take the second edit and pare it down a third time. Your transcript is now 1/2 as long as the second edit while still communicating the vital information. Now your communication becomes tremendously efficient, and your meetings will change! You might even find a few more slots on your calendar because your meetings shorten.
- For the last step, bullet out some ways your communication needs to change. Write your list by hand on a clean sheet of paper, trusting that using those muscles combined with the tactile sensation of holding a pen and writing on paper reinforces the learning and helps you retain what you discover.
Doing this exercise once or twice changes how you choose your words. Marrying this strategy with clear agendas and measurable outcomes ensures that your people will want to follow you because you respect their time and deliver meaningful messages. Your meetings will improve, and your people with thank you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jonathan Reitz, MCC is CoachNet FLUXIFY’s Director for Training/CEO. Jonathan holds the Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential in the International Coaching Federation. He’s also the co-founder of the Team Coaching Global Alliance, and a top-rated speaker at the World Business and Executive Coaches Summit (WBECS).
He wrote Coaching Hacks: Simple Strategies to Make Every Conversation More Effective. Jonathan is a member of the faculty in the Weatherhead School of Management Coaching Program at Case Western Reserve University. Jonathan Reitz lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Joy and daughter Julia.
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