Why, you might wonder do effective communicators, like great leaders, need to operate more like psychiatrists than surgeons in the way they deal with people. Ronald Heifetz, Harvard professor of leadership, points out surgeons focus on solving patients’ problems. They tend to impose solutions that don’t necessarily take into account the patient’s view of their approach. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, allow patients to find solutions to their problems. This model of leadership developed by Heifetz fits well with how we need to communicate in business with clients.
Just as being a great leader ultimately isn’t as much about the person doing the leading as it is about the collective power of his or her followers, being an effective communicator is also about those on the receiving end.
This issue frequently comes up while coaching clients on their business communication. I find that some tend to get so wrapped up in their presentations, they actually forget about what’s key to their communication design — their audience! I have other clients, who write daily communications, e.g. emails, reports, and so on, with such haste that they leave out important information. Their assumption: the recipient will know what they mean or want. Unfortunately, the confusion this creates often leads to follow up emails and phone calls that result in a communication breakdown, and a loss of valuable time.
So, how do you act like a psychiatrist rather than a surgeon when it comes to your business communication? Here are my three key tips to make sure it’s not about you. It’s about them!
The Language Lab’s Top Three Tips for Making it All About Them, [Your Audience]
1/ Always ask: What does my audience need to know? How can I help them acquire that knowledge? Once you’ve figured out the answers to these questions, you can then begin to construct your plan basing it on the best way to meet to your audience’s particular needs.
2/ Never assume: Remember that tongue-in-cheek saying, “Never assume; it makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’”? Assumptions will surely get you in hot water. One manager with whom I’ve worked frequently left out key details regarding projects on which she was working, in her emails to clients and colleagues. The result: more messages going back and forth. When pressed as to why she did this, she’d say that she “assumed” that her recipients already knew the details, because they had been discussed at an earlier meeting. The problem is, as I pointed out to her, not everyone retains the same information or will know to what you are referring. So, never assume.
3/ Always consider: What are the key elements of effective communication when you’re writing or presenting? Here are my key three: 1.) Use persuasive language in a tone appropriate to your audience, 2.) Provide information and concepts your audience most wants, 3.) Grab their attention with a good hook, anecdote, or appeal — something that makes them want to hear or read more about what you have to offer.
If you’re a regular Language Lab blog follower, I am sure you already know that considering your audience is a topic I frequently touch on. I do this because a) what is communication if not an attempt to reach other people, and b) from a pragmatic, bottom line point of view, the consequence of not thinking about your audience is that time is wasted and money (and confidence in the communicator) may be lost.
To take a leaf from the book of leadership training, in It’s Not About You, by Bob Burg and John David Mann, regarding lessons shared, a leader is only the steward of others’ dreams. A good leader, the book suggests, shares success with his or her followers. In other words: It’s not all about you!
To learn more about how to communicate effectively with your target audience, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.