The Art of Making Your Point–Avoid Getting Lost in the Sauce | Smart Communicating

Take a listen. There’s a lot of “noise” out there. Words fly around indiscriminately. We phone, we write, we text, and we post. We’re yak, yak, yakking, almost non-stop.

Communication is a discipline that has potent impacts on our careers. What we say and how we say it is an indicator of our:

  • grasp of business issues and objectives
  • commitments and loyalty to the team
  • ability to see beyond our own self-interest

We may want to think that some things we write or say at work will be taken with a grain of salt, but that would be naive for employees and bosses alike.

What’s the point?

It’s easy to get lost in the onslaught of information, data, and voices that pierce the quiet we need for clear thinking. When we do, we allow ourselves to get distracted from what really matters in our work.

If you want to stand out as a real asset in your career, you’ll get serious about zeroing in on bottom line messages that convert confusion into clarity.

The biggest complaint that leaders have about managers and employees in their organizations is that they don’t have a big picture perspective that drives their performance.

Whether or not you have that perspective shows up in what you communicate and how.

Consider these two scenarios:

1.) As the boss, you regularly communicate to your work group how you continue to track data on group and individual output compared to industry and national norms, assessing how effective the team is in terms of corporate goals and achievement. (Wow, that’s a mouthful!)

The boss gives no clearly stated reason for crunching all these numbers. As a result his/her manager and employees are left to draw conclusions about the boss like s/he:

  • Is a control freak
  • Doesn’t have enough to do
  • Wants the “mystery” around this data to drive employee performance
  • Is using this analysis to avoid leading
  • Has a secret plan for the future

It isn’t unusual for supervisors who are more comfortable with data than people to believe that gathering hard data will give them answers to otherwise “soft” problems. So they allow themselves to get lost in that sauce.

2.) As an employee, you’re asked to explain to your boss or colleagues what took place at a project meeting you attended as the group’s representative. Your explanation is about agenda items, who was there, what certain individuals said, what you said (if anything), and when the next meeting will be.

This kind of summary is essentially a data dump where the details and not the point of the meeting are what’s communicated. The result is perceptions that label you as:

  • Lost in the details and boring
  • Unable or unwilling to identify what mattered
  • Lacking in summarizing skills
  • A weak team representative

If, instead, you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff at that meeting, it is a sign that you do the same when it comes to your work. That’s how you build your communications credibility.

Look past yourself

Too much time spent in the sauce can drown a career. That means, to improve your communications effectiveness, you need to avoid:

  • Getting caught up in the details for detail’s sake
  • Getting lost in the drama of workplace relationships
  • Keeping book on what others have said or done
  • Keeping score on who’s got a leg up on whom

Refocus yourself so you can see how your work makes a difference, no matter how big or small, by:

  • Explaining your work in terms of its impact on the company
  • Offering your ideas as ways to improve things
  • Telling your boss/employees/coworkers about concepts and processes you’ve learned that can help the team
  • Summarizing the input and feedback swirling around and suggest actionable next steps

At work we all need someone who can turn the clutter of words into a clarity of understanding we can act on. So avoid getting lost in the sauce. Instead become the strainer!

Photo from Marken Phreely via Flickr

12 thoughts on “The Art of Making Your Point–Avoid Getting Lost in the Sauce | Smart Communicating

  1. Dawn – Great advice for life in the “information overload” era. In 30+ years, I’ve learned that my value often comes from organizing & understanding information from a wide variety of sources and being able to recommend what actions to take. Crisp communication is a skill that will serve you well.

    • You are so right, Darryl, about the need for “crisp communication.” I love the notion that if we know what we want to say/what we actually mean, it doesn’t take many words to say it. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been an Ernest Hemingway fan. To him it was all about the economy of words. I hope others have followed your lead about building their value through “organizing & understanding information” and synthesizing it. Let’s both keep fighting the good fight! Thanks for your great comment. ~Dawn

  2. It is said after all that the devil is in the details. There are times when being meticulous is a good thing, and times when it’s the meat of the matter that really counts. You have to learn how to sift through the available information, and managers must learn to stop getting too caught up on the details.

    • Well, you’ve got that right, Susan, about the devil being in the details. Like you said, it works both ways–to ignore the details creates problems and to get lost in them can blur reality. I love your point about how “managers must learn to stop getting too caught up on the details.” When they do, they can create a lot of misery and often very little output of real value. Great comment…thanks for taking the time to write. ~Dawn

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      • No problem :) I realize you help individuals, small and solo business owners build the success they want. What tip will you give to someone in their 20s for after their college graduation?

        • Thanks for your question, Tippy. My tip for grads in their 20s is to think about what kind of success THEY really want for themselves…not what their parents want for them or what their friends are shooting for or what other people say they should want based on their capabilities. That’s a hard thing to do when we don’t really know what we can do. That said, most of us know inside what makes us feel whole, satisfied, proud, and fulfilled. I spend the first chapter of my book discussing this topic and then go on to talk about what it takes to be prepared and ready to achieve it. Then there’s chapter about building momentum followed by the model for achievement. In the final analysis, it’s important to think about the impact and implications of our choices, since where we end up is a function of those choices. Be your own person, understand what’s really going on around you, and make good personal business decisions. Sorry, I couldn’t make that sound easier. Hope it helps! ~Dawn

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