Why is it often so hard to just answer a question?
Why do people choose to obfuscate rather than clarify?
What is the connection between our clarity of message and our presence?
The more we try to code our language with buzzwords and jargon, the harder it is to be understood. That code may sound important and even convey a veil of confidence, but it doesn’t communicate anything real. People who do this are hiding the difficult details in a cloud of generality.
Let’s face it, details are hard. It is so much easier to say nothing and sound smart than to risk clarity and reveal what we don’t know.
The issue here is that when we obfuscate and misdirect, we ultimately lose the confidence of the people we would like to influence. In attempting to sound important, we run the risk of diminishing our own importance.
Leaders who are able to bring clarity and communicate calmly in meetings are better able to motivate, influence and direct others to a higher purpose. Those who make directions and expectations more complicated by speaking in generalized buzzwords or by overloading people with details tend to be seen as being less trustworthy or credible.
Now, if you are like me, you might be thinking “Hey, I know a lot of people who are Executives and who always talk in buzzwords. Yes. That is true, and yet if you really think about who are the leaders that command the most respect, are they the ones who bring confusion or are they the ones who bring clarity and communicate calmly?
In Rebecca Shambaugh’s piece in Harvard Business Review, she outlines elements that Executives need to have a good “Executive Voice.” Some of these elements are political in nature, meaning that they are about understanding your audience and the timing of how you share something with a group, while other parts of it are about the way you present information and how you are able to tie it to the overall business picture or the audience’s own motivations.
Either way, the key to having more of an “Executive Voice” is in understanding how to clearly and concisely outline your perspective and to respond to confusion or uncertainty with simple and clear direction.
Anyone looking for ways to be perceived as more “executive” in nature or who is looking to be respected as an authority figure that brings value to people outside his/her team, learning how to speak in this way will certainly help you and help your organization.