“I Should Have Been More Clear”

This phrase is one of my pet peeves. We’re all victim to it, and all ultimately help feed the cycle from time to time when we ourselves aren’t as clear as we should have been.

We must stop the madness, though. Any time you send or receive anything that later has an associated “I’m sorry, I should have been more clear”, it is really nothing more than a glorified waste of time for everyone involved. What it really means is that not only did a sender send something that wasn’t clear, but there was probably some level of interaction, work, or energy dedicated to the poor attempt by at least one other person (hence the confusion). And, ultimately, a need to go back and clarify – ultimately completing an extraneous re-work activity.

How do we battle this? Without stating the obvious (as I did recently – “proper planning prevents poor performance” blah blah), I’d like to suggest a couple ways that I’ve experienced success in eliminating confusion and avoiding “should have been more clear” syndrome:

  1. First, and perhaps most obvious, BE MORE CLEAR: this may seem juvenile of me to say, but let’s be honest – a lot of us suffer from a limited capacity to be clear and concise in our communications (avid followers of the blog probably understand that brevity is not my soul of wit, to pull in a Shakespearian reference)
  2. Second, ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT: this is a little less obvious, but organization of content, whether it’s a presentation or an email, can help quickly and succinctly convey key points or actions you wish others to take (think bullets, numbered lists, etc)
  3. Third, SPEAK WITH PURPOSE: try to eliminate any and all language (whether spoken or typed) that doesn’t help the story you are trying to tell; the words may clutter the recipient’s mind and create confusion on what action they may need to take
  4. Fourth, REINFORCE THE POINT: the saying goes “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then remind them what you told ’em”; in other words, reinforce your message or your “ask”, even going so far as referencing it in your intro and conclusion (in case your message has real estate for these)

At the end of the day, any investment you make on the front end to prepare for well-executed communications, the less time you’ll spend fixing or clarifying on the back end. So make the investment early and often to avoid confusion. And trust me, you’ll find your days are much less filled with “I’m sorry I should have been more clear” emails.

Til Next Time,


The Case For: Corporate Communications

Just the other day, I was participating in a meeting where we were discussing general communications strategies and what the best way to reach as many people as possible is considering the need to communicate as efficiently as possible all while keeping the information digestible, relevant, and timely. Scary proposition, huh?

At the highest level, I am a firm proponent of having a central, dedicated corporate communications team. It must be an organization that wakes up every day with one goal: telling your story. So often we get caught in situations in Corporate America where everyone in the building is going a million miles an hour in their own direction, without even 30 seconds to give you the latest on their neck of the corporate woods. I’ve seen it time and time again at clients and competitors alike where my friends and colleagues work.

My boss actually shares her thoughts on the matter really eloquently. Most of the time, the problem is not that people are not doing things. It’s that they are not telling people what they’re doing. Most organizations are mature enough by now to have (at least partially robust) policies and governing procedures to ensure that healthy business initiatives are prioritized, staffed, and funded. A lot of times what I have seen as the missing link though is a mechanism to allow for those stories to be told to the wider company. And, without a dedicated central corporate communications team, this will always be a challenge.

It’s the same reasons companies hire Public Relations firms. Do you think that, empirically, a company that specializes in metal piping really has any subject matter experts around that understand what good communications look/sound like? Probably not – or else they’re likely not very good at their craft. The fact is that people dedicate their life’s energy to these things, and it’s always the best idea to have someone telling your story that has the skill of great communication.

Til Next Time,


The “Art” of BS

After much reflection, I decided it would only be right to start my blogging career (on this site) with an early topic that is extremely near and dear to my heart: BS.  While on the surface, this can be a hotly-contested topic (some love it, some hate it), you can’t deny the fact that it is a huge part of the business landscape, in 2013 now more than ever.  And I’m not just talking about the “good ol boys clubs” or the brown-nosers at work.  I’m talking about everything from providing an executive level status readout to a water cooler conversation with the maintenance man.

So what exactly do I have to say about it?  In short, I love it.  I wouldn’t say this is because I’m particularly good at it, or that I think it helps organizations or people accomplish a lot of critical tasks (in reality, many times it may do just the opposite).    The reason I believe in it is because it calls us all to be on our toes at all times.  It forces you to be mindful of the tasks that you’re completing on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.  It helps you establish perspective and context for your placement in the “bigger picture”.  And it is these sorts of behaviors and reflections that will ultimately make you feel more valuable and help you determine your optimal career progression.

Still disagree?  Let me offer an illustrative situation where BS has played a huge role for me (or for others):

The Executive Elevator Pitch: Scenario – you get on an elevator to go down and grab lunch.  One floor later, your boss’ boss’ boss hops on the elevator.  Uh Oh.  Quick – what do you do?  “Hey Michael, what have you been up to lately?” she asks.  I can tell you that I’ve honestly never had much care for the people that say “Uhh, not much, just the usual – working for the weekend”.  Rather, you should always be prepared to list three to five things that you are actively engaged in and/or a few anecdotes about special things you’ve done (even if in your heart you know they’re not that special).  Why?  Because otherwise, your position and your role seem irrelevant or unnecessary to people.  Corporate America is driven by the perception of the value of someone’s work.  Hence, you should defend your corner of the business to the grave.  Or, if you really don’t feel invested or valued in your area – find somewhere else (within the company or externally) to work!  Also, working on something meaningful and being able to spout off a couple quick and (hopefully) at least partial truths, even if it feels like BS, helps you be more confident and ultimately happy with what you’re doing.

Hopefully this resonates with you or at least you can see where I’m coming from.  While many work environments may appear on the outside to be more casual, all bosses at the end of the day like to know that their employees:

  • feel valued as people
  • have enough work to do
  • are valuable to the organization
  • can articulate personal and professional activities

And I firmly believe BS helps reassure bosses that the aforementioned criteria hold true.  Listen, I’m not trying to paint myself as the ultimate con artist or admit some severe case of brown-nosing.  I understand that even publishing something like this may be taboo or reflect negatively on myself and my career, as if I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without the proverbial BS.  But – I felt compelled to put this topic out there as it is something we cannot avoid.  So maybe it’s time we started the dialogue on it so we can all start to better understand the pros and cons of it all.

At the end of the day, the ability and desire to BS is totally up to you.  In lots of situations in my life, I consider it to be an important skill.  In others, I find it annoying.  Just some things to consider.

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed it.

Til Next Time,