In the previous series, we discussed how important face-to-face and phone call conversations are as a means of communicating ideas. When it comes to formal business arrangements, however, there is no substitute for the written word. All of your written communications need to be clear, concise and grammatically correct in order to make sure that everyone understands what is being said and/or agreed to.
In the course of your business leadership, you are going to have to create many forms of writing. They will include:
- PowerPoint presentations
- To-do lists
- Business plans
- Business proposals
- Project specifications
- Job descriptions
- Reports for shareholders
- Outlines for new initiatives
- Press releases
Many people hate having to write, but the truth is that the better you are at clear written communication geared towards the right audience, the more effective a leader you will be.
Leverage Your Content
One of the best ways to create good written content easily is to write the essentials once, and repurpose them as needed. Keep all of your most important communications in clearly labeled files and folders. For example, your business plan, mission statement, quarterly reports and so on should all be at your fingertips. Your best PowerPoint presentations can easily be adapted to a range of situations.
Keep Great Records
Good leaders are well organized. Always have a paper trail of names, dates, times, places, emails, receipts and more for any important projects. These are essential for tax purposes if you are running a business. They also serve as back-up in case you need hard copies of all these items in the event that something happens to your computers.
Stay on top of all your filing, digital and paper. Keep at least two paper copies of all of your most important contracts: one for storage, and one for consulting and copying if needed.
Keep your computer and emails organized. Keep your papers filed properly in a fireproof cabinet so that you can lay your hand on important documents at a moment’s notice if you have to. Use back-up hard drives and cloud-based storage as well to ensure nothing ever gets lost.
Also, think about what would happen if something were ever to happen to you. We are not indispensable, of course. But in the event of an accident or illness, good organization can make things a great deal easier for anyone in the company who has to take over your duties if, God forbid, you were to become ill, or if you yourself were ever to be laid off.
Learning and Teaching Good Written Communication
As with most things in life, good writing takes practice. The good news is that the more you do it, the more you will improve your skills. Good written communication is essential for leadership and getting results. Following instructions and giving clear instructions can make all the difference between success and failure.
A good leader needs to explain his/her goals and vision for the future no matter what project or task s/he is leading. No one is a mind reader and everyone needs to share information on more complicated projects in order for everything to get done.
State what you want clearly. Anticipate any questions readers might have. Assemble all of the information your audience will need in order to complete a task, and support them as they work on it.
Instruct your staff as to how you wish to be communicated with. Show a high standard of excellence by proofreading every email you send out. Don’t rush. Use your spelling and grammar checker and read everything through at least one more time after that, before hitting the Send key.
Instruct as needed and then let your staff take charge rather than hovering over them. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Watch Your Words
Words have power. Just look at any interesting editorial in a newspaper or some of the world’s most famous speeches in history. Say what you mean and mean what you say. There’s no need to use fancy words and sound like a dictionary. Be clear and to the point so that everyone who reads what you have written can understand it. Use a thesaurus as needed to find synonyms. Look up any words in the dictionary that you don’t know.
Watch Your Paragraphs
Short, sharp paragraphs work best for business writing, as well as for digital communications such as emails, websites and PowerPoint decks. There’s no need to write long-winded college essays to get your point across.
Teaching leadership skills and good communications might be difficult at times, but it can be worth it if you are able to run a more efficient company – with better communications that people will be interested in reading, and that instruct your staff and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Some people argue that there will always be leaders and followers and that some people are born leaders. They might have a strong personality and wish to be a leader, but it will take a special kind of person to get other people to follow them. They will usually accomplish this through visible achievement – that is, leading by example and thus showing others how things are done.
A good leader can demonstrate how to communicate well through doing it themselves, making it a priority in their face-to-face, phone and written interactions. Assess yourself as a communicator in your leadership role and see if you can improve. In this way, you can travel even further along the road to success as a leader.
To your best success!