Communicating effectively – for a large-scale process improvement initiative, about new standard work, even just scheduling a meeting – is always a challenge, but it’s never been more of one. We’re deluged every day with information from a wide range of sources competing for our attention that can make our lives as leaders harder even as they bring unprecedented ease to our lives as consumers.
The Center for Operational Excellence is focusing on this challenge at its upcoming Leading Through Excellence summit by dedicating an entire keynote session to the challenge of communication in today’s fast-paced, distraction-rich world. Taking the stage at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, is Debra Jasper, founder and CEO of Columbus-based Mindset Digital. Jasper is an award-winning investigative journalist who’s now a leading authority in honing how we communicate in a digital world, making the complex simple.
Jasper, who’s focusing her summit keynote on communication essentials inside organizations, spoke to COE about what’s in store at her presentation.
COE: We live in a world of high-volume, high-speed demands on our attention. How has that changed the game for communicating as a business leader?
Debra Jasper: In a world of information overload, we have become a nation of skimmers and scanners. We have 147 emails coming at us each and every day, and that doesn’t count all of the text messages, posts, tweets and invites. So at Mindset Digital, we teach business leaders how to adopt an “SOS” approach — everything must be short, organized and skimmable.
COE: What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when communicating internally to colleagues?
DJ: So often we’re so busy, we think “I’ll just rush through my emails and get them off my plate.” In reality, we have to write with clarity and impact, or even our own colleagues will tune us out. Ask yourself: Are your emails too confusing, too detailed or just too tough to puzzle through? If your colleagues are taking a long time to get back to you, it may be more on you than on them.
COE: One of your big passions is getting people to change how they communicate via PowerPoint presentation decks. What common misconceptions are out there regarding best practices in this format?
DJ: One big issue with PowerPoint is that it was invented in the ’80s, but many of us are still using it as if it still is the ’80s. Today’s audiences are much more visually sophisticated, which means that to tell a great story today, you must tell a great visual story. I sat next to an executive on a plane the other day, and he had been going to Toastmasters to improve. I told him: “If you want to be a great storyteller, spend more time crafting a great story.”
COE: You’ve written before about “the curse of expertise.” What’s the downside of being extremely knowledgeable in your field?
DJ: “The curse of expertise” is when you are speaking to impress, rather than inform. Sometimes we think that speaking in our lofty language makes us seem smart and credible. Instead, all of that jargon can simply drive away your audience.
COE: You speak to audiences in a wide variety of industries. What can our group of process excellence-minded “change agents” expect to walk away with when they hear from you at our summit next month?
DJ: In today’s world, it’s easy to get a message out. It’s tough to get a message in. We will show people how to write and present with clarity and impact.