There’s an ancient story about an entire nation that comes together for one, singular purpose. They’re going to build a city. It would be a city like no other, a place where people could come together, a place where every individual could find work, raise a family and build a life.
It can be argued that this ancient culture lacked for nothing. They had the resources they needed to build the city, but more than that, they had a common goal, common vision and a dream that was larger than any one of them could possibly accomplish on their own. In the center of this city they would build a tower, one so tall that it’s top would scale the heavens. This tower would be an altar that would unite all humanity. It would be a monument to the innovation, ingenuity and rugged, self-determination of all mankind, a light to illuminate the glory of man and the unlimited potential that can be found within us all.
The central theme of this ancient story isn’t about a leader. It’s not even about a vision, a nation or even the tower itself. The glory of the city to be built is secondary to the primary tool that made such an incredible feat possible. You remember the story – we call it ‘The Tower of Babel’, the place in ancient history where the arrogance of man combined with one voice to build a city that captured the attention of God.
It wasn’t great wealth or great technology that persuaded mankind that we are capable of such grandiose schemes. It wasn’t resources at all. It was this one simple thing – COMMUNICATION. According to the story, “…all the people were one and they all had one language…nothing they proposed to do would be withheld from them…”
Never underestimate the power of communication. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will raise and fell nations! Without clear communication vision will never stick. Without clear communication core values are simply trendy ideas. Clear communication gets me to work on time, convinces me which products to buy and let’s people know the depths of our relationships. Make no mistake; ambiguity and leadership are a deadly combination.
With this in mind let’s look at 5 Words to Make Yourself Heard.
- CLEAR – Try this experiment with me. Think of a horse. What color is it? If you said anything but brown, you’re wrong. Why? Because when asked to think of a horse, unless otherwise instructed, mine always starts out brown. Everyone comes from a different background. This history shapes the words we know and the way we think. With a simple instruction, “Think of a horse”, ambiguity has already begun to set in, the vision starts to get blurry and momentum begins to wane. Say what you mean, mean what you say and recognize that not everyone in the room heard the same thing when you said it. CLARITY IS KEY.
- CLEAR (CREATIVE) – Because of diverse backgrounds what connects with me may not connect with you. I like rock ’n’ roll, you’re a little bit country, but a love song’s a love song, right!? Not exactly. This is where CREATIVITY is an important part of the process of being CLEAR. Creativity helps you connect. It makes your message stick. Creativity isn’t about flash and dash. It’s about finding the words and the meaning that will move your audience to action. If you want to be clear in your communication, be creative.
- CLEAR (CONCISE) – “FIRE!” – That’s a pretty clear instruction. But am I telling you to pull the trigger or grab a bucket of water!? If every word comes loaded with preconceived ideas and the history of experience then communicating with an economy of words is critical. Wait – I can say that better. Be CONCISE. More words don’t always lead to better understanding or greater buy-in; fewer words don’t always create clarity. When casting vision or communicating methods don’t just say anything, say the RIGHT thing, say it well and be CONCISE. It’s the power of the sound bite. CLARITY is strengthened by a CONCISE message.
- CLEAR (COMPELLING) – Nothing brings clarity like a compelling message, “Dial 911!” – Clear, concise, compelling – the creative element of that message would be the circumstance you’re in. A compelling message is one that requires action. It forces the one listening to make a choice. “Based on the message I just received, what will I do now?” CLARITY and COMPULSION are twin brothers that work together for a common goal. A clear message without a compelling conclusion is simply an entertaining story.
- CLEAR (REPEAT) – “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun!” I can tell you the ingredients of a Big Mac by memory for two reasons. First – in the late 80’s McDonalds mastered the art of the message that is clear, creative, concise & compelling, but they also added one more critical element. REPETITION. I never sat down to deliberately commit those ingredients to memory. But Ronald worked hard to insure that I would see it when I watched TV and hear it when I listened to the radio. If your message is worth saying once, it’s worth repeating. You know you’ve been CLEAR, you know you’ve repeated it enough when those around you almost mockingly say it with you as you say it! It’s the Department of Redundancy Department. If it’s worth saying, say it well and say it over and over and over again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I hope that today you’re not arrogantly trying to build a tower for your own glory. Whatever you’re trying to build, I hope we can learn a lesson from the builders of the Tower of Babel – Clear communication is the key that will unlock virtually unlimited potential in you and those you lead.
So here are a few questions:
- Which part of being CLEAR do you struggle with the most?
- Which words and phrases do you regularly use that people may misunderstand?
- How can you say it better?