by Connie Dieken

Are You a Communicator-in-Chief?

george-bush1Out with the old, in with the new. As we say goodbye to George Bush and his colorful, sometimes mangled communications, (can you say misunderestimated?) we usher in a new era of oratory.

We're shifting to a new Communicator-in-Chief. What do I mean by this? A Communicator-in-Chief is a leader whose messages are so pragmatic, on point, and invigorating that his words spark immediate actions. His/her messages unite, inspire and challenge others to reach their collective highest performance. Communicators-in-Chief make things happen. President Bush was at the top of his game when, with a bullhorn to his lips and a firefighter at his hip, he stood atop the rubble in New York City after 9/11 and rallied our country. Barack Obama promises to be an exceptional Communicator-in-Chief, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, let's focus on you. Are you a Communicator-in-Chief? You are if your job depends upon making things happen through others. There are three habits you must master to reach your highest performance:

  1. You must connect engagingly. It's essential to engage others straight away in today's distraction-driven, short attention span world. People tune out quickly today. You'll attract and earn people's attention by frontloading your communications with what's truly relevant and matters most to them.
  2. You must convey clearly. We're living in an information-overload society. Tossing too many facts and figures around is like adding empty junk food calories to your diet. Junk words dilute your message and lead to confusion, not clarity. You must make a conscious choice to pare down your words and deliver shorter, more visually stimulating messages if you want people to retain the information you share.
  3. You must convince specifically. It's not the talk that matters, it's the action. It's critical that you be ultra-specific about the step you want people to take. Now is not the time for assumptions or vagueness. What, precisely, do you want others to do? Make your viewpoint or request utterly actionable because that's the key to making things happen without delay in our busy world.

barack-obamaDevelop these three habits and you'll set in motion a transformative process to ensure that people listen to you, understand you, and take action. (These are the principles in my forthcoming book, Talk Less, Say More, which will be in bookstores this fall.) Incoming President-Elect Barack Obama has so far been an extraordinary Communicator-in-Chief which, ironically, his detractors hold against him. His critics call him "Mr. Podium." They argue that he merely talks a good game. I'm not buying that. While I agree that blowhards are not true leaders, from what I've seen, Obama's no blowhard. His words are based on visions that are implemented to unite and inspire action. Isn't that the opposite of empty rhetoric? Far from merely talking a good game, if you communicate your visions effectively, action is the endgame.

Top Communicators-in-Chief also choose interactive formats to help others feel invested and make their messages people-powered. In 2009, YouTube is the new fireside chat. LinkedIn is the new press release. Bloggers are the new reporters. Tweeters are the new cheerleaders. Barack Obama's team wisely used interactive tools to unite and invite voters to the polls. Even better, his incoming administration is promising to remake the stodgy White House website to invite citizens' feedback.

What about you? Are you using the right tools to communicate your messages in the 21st century ... or are you stuck in one-way, old-school memo style? Your messages can trigger immediate feedback in the Age of Input which, if you're smart, will supplement and improve your decision-making.

My challenge to you is this: develop your skills to inspire, unite, and move others to action. Choose a communication habit to improve (connect, convey, or convince) and write down 3 things you'll start doing immediately to master the habit. Take these steps, and you'll be on your way to becoming an exceptional Communicator-in-Chief.

Yes, you can.


Topics: Influence and Leadership :: Executive Presence :: Talk Less, Say More