He had already won a gold medal and was on the threshold of a historic second gold in the shooting competition at the 2004 Olympic Games in Beijing. Then, the unimaginable happened. American Matthew Emmons, with only his final shot remaining to capture the gold medal, took aim and shot the wrong target. He dropped from first to eighth, and the opportunity of a lifetime evaporated.
Even a bullseye counts for little if we are aiming at the wrong target. Unless we have clarity on what we need and want to hit, our efforts are in vain. It is like the old illustration of the lady using a map of Detroit to find her way around Denver. She can get up earlier, drive faster, maintain the most optimistic attitude, but she is not likely to get to where she wants to go.
How many businesses have failed because they failed to keep asking the simple clarifying questions: What is our business? How is business?
As the iconic actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee said, “The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.”
What Did He Say?
There is nowhere clarity becomes more paramount than in our communication. Whether personal or professional, communication makes the difference between positive synergy and discouraging conflicts.
Yet, we see it all the time. The American economist Alan Greenspan, who led the Federal Reserve Board for nearly two decades, once said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Coming from an individual who set economic policies that impacted the world, that statement really gives one pause.
Effective communication can galvanize a company or a nation. The true master of this art in the last century was Winston Churchill, whom John F. Kennedy said “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” In the book The Innovators, Walter Isaacson makes a convincing argument that even technology advances are dependent on the ability to collaborate effectively. Therefore, to innovate, one must go beyond disruptive ideas and master the art of communicating them, something Joseph Tesla, Steve Jobs and Alibaba’s Jack Ma were all able to do.
Effective Communication Involves 4 Key Elements:
1. Focus on your story, not your product or service. People connect with dramas about lawyers, doctors and the police, not because we are so interested in law or medicine, but because we are drawn to story. The best communicators use story to capture and hold attention.
2. Start with your audience or client, not with yourself. The difference between typical marketing and extraordinary marketing is that the hero in great marketing is not the company, it is the client. Identify the problem, explain how you can resolve it and clarify what the benefit will be to the client. In other words, be like Yoda, not Luke Skywalker.
3. Keep it consistent. With the proliferation of multiple communication platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn — keeping your messaging coherent and uniform ensures harmony in the minds of others. People who read Jack Reacher or Jack Ryan novels do not want to spend 400 pages on the character’s romantic life; they want action and adventure. The same should be true of your brand.
4. Check for understanding. Don’t assume people understand. Ask, test and verify you are coming in loud and clear.
A motivated and engaged workforce and client base comes from clarity. Like the worker who asked for a pay raise and got this note back from his supervisor: “Because of the fluctuating predisposition of your position’s productive capacity as juxtaposed to standard norms, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate your requested increment.”
The puzzled worker went to the supervisor and said, “If this is about my pay raise, I don’t get it.”
“That’s right,” said the supervisor.