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Give it to ’em straight: How to communicate clearly and effectively Featured

11:10am EDT March 1, 2012
Give it to ’em straight: How to communicate clearly and effectively

Few tasks are more central to effective leadership than communicating well and making sure your charges are doing so too. Communication pitfalls are rife in business. Maybe you have a tendency to rush through strategy sessions, or to be too subtle, to not spell things out clearly enough. Maybe you find yourself becoming so dependent on a PR person or group of PR people that you start to feel inaccessible. Maybe you have a manager who’s basically good at articulating his thoughts, but when his mouth opens, his ears snap shut. Here, from the pages of Smart Business Dallas, are some ideas from business executives on how to avoid such missteps and keep everyone in your company connected.

“When most people hear [communication], they’re thinking of transmitting, so we really tried to put the emphasis on receiving. It’s making it a part of the leadership culture to emphasize listening well and asking appropriate questions to enhance absorption of what’s really being attempted to be communicated. That’s not a natural skill. People typically default to being better at transmitting than receiving. You can see that in a variety of ways, but one way you can see that is when a discussion of reasonable intensity is going on and one party is communicating to another, you can almost see that other party stop listening to start formulating what their response is going to be on what they’ve heard so far.” — Carlos Sepulveda, President and CEO, Interstate Batteries

“Communicate early and often. You can almost overcommunicate. Make sure you’re sharing the vision — that it’s not just that there is a vision, there is a strategy behind this. …You overcommunicate and begin to share capabilities and really point out the most important thing to both cultures, and that is we’re a client-first organization. I try to compare it to something the group has been through before, if it’s possible. It’s not always possible, but if you can compare it, make it relative; I do find that to be helpful in many ways.” — Jeff Markham, Regional Managing Director, Texas Region, Merrill Lynch

“I don’t have a PR agent. I’m probably the easiest CEO in America to find and e-mail and get ahold of. It’s more efficient and takes less time to deal with things directly via e-mail than it does for someone to go through your e-mails and not know what you’re missing and then have them communicate to you and you communicate back to them. The time it takes for you to answer an e-mail or hit the delete key, if it’s not worth responding to, is probably about 20 percent of the time it takes to go through one, two, three assistants. I go into Hollywood and I see four assistants sitting outside somebody’s door, and I’m like are you [expletive] kidding me?” — Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks Owner and HDNet Chairman, President and CEO


  • Emphasize the importance of listening.
  • Don’t cocoon yourself with intermediaries.
  • Hit the nail on the head; repeat as necessary.