Legendary CEO Lee Iacocca says, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
Recently, Business Insider asked me to write an article with advice on how to solve this problem. This topic must have struck a chord, as my article on effective communication has been shared over 24,000 times!
Because so many of my readers are leaders who ask for advice on communicating better, I wanted to share this article with you.
Read on and please share this with friends and colleagues, because they want to be better communicators too… Enjoy!
So much of life, achievement, and outcomes in work and life depend on clear, confident communications.
As legendary CEO Lee Iacocca says, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
As an entrepreneur, investor, and board member, I’ve sat through thousands of presentations given by smart people who had great ideas but simply didn’t communicate them with the impact that comes from confidence.
You can be the smartest person in the room with the best ideas, best strategy, and the best team, but if you can’t communicate with the clarity and confidence to influence outcomes, you are missing out.
Early in my career, I also struggled with confidence and effective communication. I began my professional career later than most. Due to my family situation, I did not even embark on a college education until I was 25 and earned my BA from UCLA at 28.
In my first big job after college, I was self-conscious because I felt like I was behind everyone else. I took it upon myself to invest in a two-day communications workshop to help with this shortcoming. By putting into practice what I learned, one day at a time, I began speaking up in meetings and in conversations and my confidence grew.
My then-boss asked me where I developed such strong communications skills. That boosted my confidence even more, and within a few months, I received my first promotion.
Within a few years I launched my first small business. Then, I co-founded my second one, and it grew from two people to a global, public company with 1,100 employees and $200 million in revenue.
Communicating clearly and with confidence will create incredible results.
At every age and stage in your career, you will find you achieve your goals faster by practicing habits that help you communicate with confidence and influence. You can apply these habits in every type of communication, including conversations, presentations, video calls, and emails.
Try at least one of these today, and you may discover immediate results.
1. Gain clarity
Make it your goal to have an objective or outcome in mind in your key conversations. One simple and quick way to gain clarity is to ask yourself one simple question: Is your objective to inform or empower?
In “The Secrets of Dynamic Communications,” author, speaker, and comedian Ken Davis says that all communications are either about persuading or enabling. You will either be explaining how to do something, or why it’s important. Once you know which one it is, you have the focus to get clear. With clarity comes confidence.
Knowledge is power. The more you know about what your audience thinks and perceives, the more you will connect and engage with them. This results in greater confidence. Draw them out with questions, which also happens to be one of the best relationship-building tools on earth.
Make it your goal to make a connection — people want to engage and connect.
3. Use body language
Most people miss or underestimate this powerful way to influence outcomes. Learn simple ways to increase your confidence with your body language. Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s research shows that how we position our bodies causes chemical reactions in us that build our confidence — and also gives us more credibility and impact with others.
She shared this information in a TED Talk, and it has become one of top 20 talks of all time. It is worth your time to watch and put her research findings into practice.
4. Be brief
Aim for less, not more, information. You may have heard about the research that shows most people have an attention span of 8 seconds, which is shorter than a goldfish!
This one is hard for me because one of my Strengths is called “Input,” which means I LOVE information and data. It’s an enjoyable hobby for me to collect and share information. I’m notorious for writing long emails and giving long, detailed answers to questions, but I’m working on this.
A great way to practice being brief is to begin with your main point — say it or write it first.
For example: “I believe we should reduce the price of our widgets.”
Don’t you love it when you are listening to someone who is that clear?!
Another way to be brief is to use the power of the pause, as Lea McCloud of Employee Almanac shares. The next time you’re concerned about talking too much in a conversation or meeting, pause. Before you speak, take a breath, count to five, and gather your thoughts. Experts say a three to five second pause is enough to help you reframe, refocus, and dim the excitement that inspires you to over-talk.
Benjamin Disraeli said it best: “Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.”
5. Keep practicing
Do this even when you don’t feel confident. This is a key point Dr. Cuddy also makes. Putting a few simple ideas into practice creates the momentum to achieve success and confidence. One thing is for sure — you will go further and faster if you are intentional about improving your communication skills.
I continue to invest in improving my communications skills through books, workshops, and stepping outside my comfort zone.
Embracing these five habits will enable you build the confidence to help you go further, faster.
Do you consider yourself to be good at communicating with others? What strategies helped you communicate with influence and impact? I am always looking for new ideas on effective communication to share with our readers, so please reach me directly at Caren@carenmerrick.com with any tips you may have – Thanks!