Mark Twain once received this telegram from a publisher:
NEED 2-PAGE SHORT STORY TWO DAYS.
He sent this response back:
NO CAN DO 2 PAGES TWO DAYS. CAN DO 30 PAGES 2 DAYS. NEED 30 DAYS TO DO 2 PAGES.
Twain’s point is as important for leaders as it is for writers. Being concise takes discipline and, ironically, time.
All of us put ideas together in different ways. Some leaders like to just write it all out. Others think best by talking things through out loud. Some of us do our best idea generation while out on a long run.
Regardless of how you do your thinking, make a clear distinction between thinking and messaging. The burden is on you to parse out what’s most important in your communications. Don’t leave that effort and interpretation to others.
Start by discovering the length of your communications right now. Go back and do a word count on the last staff email you sent, or check the total time on your last voice message. Maybe even have somebody track how much you talk in a few, critical meetings.
Once you know where you land, set a boundary that encourages you to be concise. For example, my own boundry for the audio of these journal entries is five minutes.
If you are willing to take the burden off others to parse your message, they’ll be much more likely to hear what you’ve said and act in alignment with your intentions.