Communication Strategies to Motivate and Inspire
November 30, 2022 | BY Simcha Felder, CPA, MBA
Have you ever been in a meeting and felt the ideas you were trying to communicate were not getting through? You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t persuade anyone else to follow your vision, or if no one can understand it, then even the brightest idea will go to waste.
Long considered a “soft skill,” effective communication is now regarded as one of the most important skills a business leader can have. Leaders who reach the top of their field study the art of communication in all its forms — writing, speaking, presenting — and are constantly striving to improve on those skills. The ability to explain the direction and strategy of your business to others so they can do what needs to be done is critical for any business leader and is often the difference between success and failure.
In his new book, The Bezos Blueprint, best-selling author and Harvard University Instructor Carmine Gallo describes three common tactics that top leaders use when communicating with their employees:
Using short words to talk about hard things
Long, complicated sentences make ideas hard to understand. “If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do,” writes Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman. Instead of muddling your ideas with complex and technical language, find the simplest and clearest way to communicate what you want to say.
There are simple ways to improve the clarity of your communication. Software tools can review your writing and create a numerical readability score that corresponds to an education grade level. For example, a document written for someone with at least an eighth-grade education level is considered “very easy to read.” It does not imply that your writing sounds like an eighth-grader wrote it; it means that the ideas are easy to grasp. And ideas that are easy to understand are more persuasive. (For context, Grammarly assessed this article at a 9th-grade education level.)
Choosing metaphors to reinforce key concepts
The beauty of metaphors is that they can provide simple, concrete and memorable comparisons to explain the complex or abstract.
In business, metaphors communicate complex information in short, catchy phrases. Warren Buffet is an expert communicator who has long used metaphorical references to explain complex financial topics. Buffett’s metaphors grab the reader’s attention and reduce complexity to a short sentence. For example, Buffett is frequently asked why 90% of his investments are made in the U.S. His answer: “America’s economic soil remains fertile.” Heavy textbooks have been written on foreign vs. domestic investment, but in five simple words, a metaphor allows Buffet to communicate a complex concept simply.
Visualizing or humanizing data to create value
In the information age, data is being collected in greater and greater quantities every day, but throwing up a graph or a pie chart on a presentation is often met with eyes glazing over. A trick to making any data point interesting is to humanize it by placing the number in perspective. Any time you introduce numbers, take the extra step to make them engaging and memorable.
An example from Gallo’s book is, “By 2025, scientists expect humans to produce 175 zettabytes (one trillion gigabytes) of data annually. It’s simply too big a number for most people to wrap their minds around. But what if I said that if you could store 175 zettabytes on DVDs, the disks would circle the earth 222 times?” The number is still the same, but the description is more engaging because it paints a powerful image.
The human brain does not do well with complexity or abstractions. Consider the previous strategies to improve your communication style and make sure your messages and ideas have the desired effect. Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi may have said it best: “If you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me, you cannot get the masses to follow you.”
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied upon for, legal or tax advice. If you have any specific legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, please consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.