Having just conducted 103 assessments of students entering a Master’s degree program, here’s the bottom line. How you communicate is a measure of your credibility. It makes an immediate impression on the listener or reader. No matter how brilliant the content may be, it is diminished if your communication skills are lacking. Flip that around – if your presentation is masterful, even if the content is not brilliant, you can make a positive impression. Be clear, direct and “ruthless’ in your own self-assessment. Have you ever noticed, there seems to be a correlation between unrealistic self assessment and not being able communicate very effectively? Or that people who have the most masterful presentation, often wonder if they could have done a better job? If your audience doesn’t understand what you’re communicating, it’s your fault, not theirs, according to Seth Godin.
“If officials can’t even get my correspondence right, how can I trust them to manage the Immigration program?”
When I heard a Canadian Minister of Immigration say that to the Deputy Minister, it piqued my curiosity. What if officials approached the task of writing as a measure of their competence or credibility; how different might their attitudes and products be?
I share that exchange when I’m delivering public sector training programs because most officials don’t have first hand experience of how Ministers think. Unless you’ve worked at the top of organizations, around Ministers’ and Deputy Ministers’ offices or regularly attended meetings of the federal Treasury Board committe of Ministers. But those are other stories, for other posts or trainings.
For now, remember that practice and training can improve public sector writing. What else can it do? Ask yourself, could how I write be a metaphor for how I script my life? Do I pay attention, am I clear and direct? Do I get the point? Can I effectively communicate the point of it all, to myself and others?
If the person reading your briefing note doesn’t understand the issues, blame yourself. Although it’s easier to say it’s the reader’s fault, my friend Kirsten Farris reminded me: as the writer, you are responsible for the response you get. That’s one of the presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): “the meaning of your communication is the response (feedback) you get”.
So, for example, if you write a briefing note or a blog post, and the reader has to ask all sorts of questions, you are responsible for having missed something.
And, according to marketing guru Seth Godin, if you are a student in my class and you don’t learn what I’m teaching, I’ve let you down. So once again, if you don’t get what I mean by all this, it’s my fault!