I was checking out the She Works Tumblr, and someone had posted new advice: “What Would a Wise and Very Patient Person Do?” Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that elegant question in the midst of a tough negotiation or a heated conversation? True confession: I haven’t either! This idea is a perfect way to pause before jumping in, and fits with this month’s theme about work of “stories I would tell the 23 year old me.”
Most people will tell you that communication is key to success, but how do you do it well? Here are 5 practical ideas if you’re new to the workplace. They’re also best practices if you’re volunteering (from a political campaign to your neighborhood PTA):
- Have the 1′, 5′ and 10′ version. It’s good to be passionate. It’s not so good when you dive into the weeds about your topic and no one can follow what you’re saying. No matter how long your presentation is supposed to be, prepare a one minute, five minute, and ten minute version. Don’t think of it as getting cut off or minimized. Instead, be confident that you can get your message across in a clear and complete way, even if time is short. Know how to get to “just the headlines”; fill in the color later. By the way – that long, crowded elevator ride with your VP where you stop on every floor? Heads up – you may have just had your annual review in those three minutes, so think on your feet.
- Land the Plane. Save the ability to improvise for 15 minutes about any topic for your local Toastmasters meeting. Instead, before you start talking consider, “What is the one thing I want people to know?” Starting from the end will help if the conversation veers off track, even if it’s a positive discussion. Know how to get back to your key point(s) and land the plane.
- Your Mail Has Just Been Forwarded. Have you ever received an email that demanded a response? A tough reply may be called for, but think twice before you angrily hit “send”. In this era, we’re all one click away from being the bad example on TMZ, Gawker or even the New York Times. Even if things don’t get that far, do you really want your VP to read the mail where you had a tantrum? Put that note in your Drafts folder and sleep on it.
- You Have Not Because You Ask Not. Is the project stuck because you don’t truly understand the next steps? Take a few minutes to think about possible solutions. Going into a meeting or sending an email with clear “asks” doesn’t need to be overbearing and dictatorial. Clarify what is yours to do…and what belongs to someone else.
- Finish. As I mentioned in Play With the Big Kids, I’ve met a lot of fun and charismatic people. Their presentations are usually loaded with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, they often don’t figure out the details about how they can accomplish their goal, and their big idea ultimately falls flat. Be different. Be the person who sees things over the finish line. If you love your project, other people will too!
Your words matter. This week, instill them with your unique passion, personality and intelligence!