Rather than resolving to work out more or eat healthier (both noble goals), why not focus on professional skills, too? The start of 2016 is a great time to think about how you have communicated with your staff and company over the last year. Once everyone is back from the holidays, you can take this opportunity to renew not just your own communication skills but those of the whole company.
- I resolve to use more stories when communicating.
The easiest way to make a talk forgettable is to simply include nothing more than data and information. Even new policies can be livened up by using hypothetical examples that tell a story of what to do and what not to do. When looking to communicate a point, ask yourself, “Is there a story that I can tell that will get this idea across?”
- I resolve to drop the jargon and business clichés
Stand out from your colleagues by refusing to use the tired and boring words that soak up much of the white space on any memo and fill the gaps between great ideas in too many speeches. Start banning the following words and anything remotely close to them: Disrupt, low-hanging fruit, circle back, deep dive, synergy, move the needle, open the kimono, drill down…you get the idea.
- I resolve to cut any communication—written or spoken—by two thirds
Whether it’s a speech, meeting, or memo, I can already predict that whatever you are trying to say can be said in fewer words and in less time. Now, whenever you write something, your first step in editing should be to cut the length by two thirds.
- I resolve to be honest and admit mistakes
Leaders often feel that if they admit their mistakes that they will somehow lose their power and respect. Quite often, the opposite is true. Taking responsibility and showing a plan for how to fix the mistake will demonstrate humility and an ability to lead.
- I resolve to ask others for help with editing and feedback
The only way you can become a better communicator is by getting feedback from others. Find the person in your company who has a knack for communicating well and let him or her be your second pair of eyes for any important speech or written work.
- I resolve to stop putting walls of text on PowerPoint slides
This is the one complaint that has been around since the dawn of PowerPoint yet very few have ever taken seriously. If you need a wall of text on a PowerPoint slide, you most likely could just give out that same information in a packet before or after the presentation. A simple phrase, quotation, or key idea, per slide will go farther.
- I resolve to use more pictures and videos in my presentations
Similar to #6, rather than using text to make a point, find a picture or video that gets the point across instead. It will break up the presentation and your audience will remember the vivid moments more often than ones filled with text.
- I resolve to listen more than I speak
To communicate well, it’s not about the words you say but the audience you are talking to. Know the needs of who you are speaking to by listening first—find out their problems, questions, needs and wants, and then speak to those.
- I resolve to keep my message succinct and simple
If you cannot condense what you want to say into one sentence, then you do not have a clear goal of what you want to communicate. Before you write a memo, article, or speech, sit down and write out the one thing you want to get across to your audience in only one sentence.
- I resolve to prepare well in advance of any deadline
Great writing and speaking do not happen at the last minute. It takes time to come up with an idea and find just the right words to get it across. Even if all you do is brainstorm or write out a few ideas ahead of time, you will be farther ahead than just about anyone else in your business.
Take time in 2016 to become a better communicator. Your employees and staff will find it easier to do their jobs when the communication from above is easier to understand. You will have more success when talking to your board of directors and when pitching to your clients. Just as everyone else is making resolutions to get healthier in 2016, do the same for the communication health of your company.
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