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Communication: Simple is better

Tom Wall Published on 29 February 2012

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When you think of great communicators in history, who are some of the first people that come to mind?

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What do you think made them so good at sharing their message? Is it merely because they speak the same language as you do, or is it more than just the words they use? Of course, choosing the right words at the right time is at the heart of effective communication. But, I think most top-notch communicators are great because they know their message, their audience and how the two come together.

So ... how good are you at sharing your message with the people you’re trying to reach and influence? If you’re like most of us, you probably struggle too. So what can you do to improve your communication skills and style?

When visiting a friend of mine from Mexico City a few years ago, I had some really good conversations with his dad, a retired executive of a spark plug manufacturer that supplied the U.S. automotive industry.

Mr. Zugarazo told me that one of the most important roles of the CEO was that of CCO, ‘Chief Communication Officer.’ Initially, it seemed somewhat obvious that a CEO also needed to be a good communicator. But as he elaborated, I understood exactly what he meant.

Mr. Zugarazo often had to travel to Detroit for meetings and would then return to the plant to work on the complex challenges his clients presented him. He told me that the most important role he had as CEO of the company was to take the complicated and make it simple.

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Since he counted on a lot of people to achieve Six Sigma results, he needed everyone to understand the company’s primary objectives and how each department’s efforts helped accomplish them. He didn’t use big words or acronyms to try to impress or exclude. Instead, he brought simplified information to his mid-level managers and shift leaders, and then communicated clearly.

His communication goal was simple ... to help people understand. He knew that if everyone on his team could understand the company’s objectives, they would also understand why each step of every process was so important. Mr. Zugarazo’s success as a leader depended on his team’s ability and willingness to follow. And, as it turns out, so does yours.

So how can you start leading and communicating more effectively with your team?

When training and coaching people on the details of specific concepts and protocols, I prefer doing it ‘backwards.’ Essentially, I start by introducing the end result and then return to the beginning to explain how to get there.

For example ... instead of taking everyone on a road trip without saying where you’re going or what routes you’re going to take to get there, I’d say “we’re going to Indianapolis, and here’s why, how and when.” Right away, the objective is clear. Once everyone knows where you’re going, all you need to do is share the details of how to get there. That way, when anyone starts veering off course, it’s easy to get them back on track.

Communication doesn’t have to be complex or complicated to be effective. In fact, just the opposite is true. From now on, keep it simple. PD

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Tom Wall
President
Dairy Interactive, LLC

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