Solution Saturday: Clarity without Blabbing

Dear Dan,

I’m the one in a meeting who goes on and on. No bullcrap, but as my good friend once told me, in my desire to make sure everyone understands, I say the same thing a few ways. Ugh!

I have an awesome team, and thankfully, we like and respect each other. But I know my over-communicating could be frustrating.

How do I give clarity without blabbing?

LDM

leaders-should-explore-the-power-of-piping-down

Dear LDM,

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with your question. More leaders should explore the power of piping down.

3 reasons leaders become blabbers.

  1. Position, authority, and responsibility loosen lips. The person with the highest job title talks the most.
  2. Concern about unnecessary mistakes makes leaders jaw-flappers. It feels safer to say too much than too little. Talkative leaders are protecting people from wasting time and resources.
  3. Experience with people who nod in agreement, even when they’re confused, invites windy leaders to talk more.

Set a positive goal.

Your goal is effective concise communication, not simply talking less.

Seek clarity and brevity.

Prepare.

Leaders with the gift of gab need to prepare more than quiet introverts. It takes more preparation to speak effectively for a short time than a long time. 

  1. With a project in mind, make a complete list of every topic you want to address.
  2. Rank the items on your list in order of importance. Which items should you eliminate or combine? Start with the big stuff.
  3. Craft one or two sentences for each important item. Don’t begin with adlib.

Leverage relationships.

You mention good relationships on the team. “… we like and respect each other.” Include others in your development. 

I encourage you to be as transparent with your goal as possible. It sets an example and strengthens connections.

Ask trusted team members, “What suggestions do you have that might help me communicate with brevity and clarity?”

  1. Explain the goal.
  2. Ask for suggestions.
  3. Dig into their ideas.
  4. Put one idea into practice during your next meeting.

Give a project to experienced team members. Explain your goal. Ask them to give you a knowing nod when they feel you’ve provided enough clarity. If you want to have fun, they could make a slashing motion on their throat and fall on the floor.

Feedback given in the moment is most effective.

Seek feedback from inexperienced team members immediately after meetings. Explain your goal and ask three questions.

  1. What did I do that provided enough clarity?
  2. What was I doing when I talked too long? (Assume that you talked too long. Don’t ask them to tell you.)
  3. How might I communicate with brevity and clarity?

Engage others in creating clarity.

  1. Speak briefly during meetings and ask, “What else does the team need to know?” (The term ‘team’ protects individuals for looking dumb.)
  2. Describe the project. Cut yourself off when you’re tempted to circle the tree again. Ask, “What’s one area where the team might need more clarity?”
  3. After discussing the project ask, “What’s one key factor for success with this project?” Make a list of five factors. Invite the team to briefly discuss key factors for success with each other.
  4. Protect people from failure by asking, “If we fail, what will we not have done?” Follow up with, “How might we address those issues moving forward?”
  5. Hold a pre-meeting with key players to define issues and craft the message.

Bonus: Ask experienced team members to explain part of the project for you. When they’re done, say, “Thank you,” and nothing else.

Talking too long invites confusion, not clarity.

How might leaders communicate with brevity and clarity?

**I relax my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.

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