I’ve had the great privilege to coach thousands of senior executives over the last three decades in a number of Fortune 500 industries. Over that time, I’ve learned a lot about what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to communicating. I’ve distilled that knowledge into some key ideas that I use to guide my own communication and coaching practice.
1. We are always communicating. Whether consciously or not, you are constantly communicating with those around you through your words as well as your actions — even how you carry yourself. At ClearPoint, we refer to this as “the constant conversation.” It’s crucial to monitor this conversation to ensure that you’re sending the right message.
2. We undervalue the power of words. It is hard to overstate the power of a well-chosen word at the right moment. Think back to the J&J Tylenol scare in 1982: a heartfelt public statement, shored up with decisive action, got the situation under control in three to four sentences. Or think about the most meaningful thing someone has said to you in a time of grief. Most of us feel that words fail us in those situations, but the ones that do get through are all the more meaningful.
3. If you don’t care, I don’t care. It’s easy enough to share a message nowadays. But if that message lacks passion, why should anyone else care about it? Show your audience how much you care about the topic, and they will too.
4. We are always persuading. This is especially true in the context of business and leadership, but it also applies to nearly every aspect of our daily life. Even when you think you’re simply stating the facts, you are still trying to get someone to see it your way. Be conscious of the need to persuade — and then sharpen your tools to do so.
5. The art of communication is not lost. It’s amazing to me that the principles of good communication and rhetoric have held true across cultures and centuries. Aristotle’s logos, ethos, and pathos are reliable tenets of communication now more than ever. And while effective communication may seem like a lost art in certain political settings, there are plenty of seasoned experts working to keep it alive.