Simple Is The New Smart for Leaders (and Everyone Else, Too!)

11/05/2016 10:01 am ET | Updated Nov 05, 2016

The other day , I had the privilege of attending a very good keynote by Garrison Wynn (@garrisonwynn). He was funny, high energy and made a lot of very good points about leadership. Nothing too original, but that's ok because there's not much new to say. There will always be a market for people like Garrison Wynn who can deliver these messages in engaging ways because there are too many leaders who haven't heard, or internalized, these messages in the first place, even though both the leaders and the messages have been around a long time. Garrison made a good point about how leaders must make sure the people around them FEEL they are being heard. He said, find out what people value and you'll know what you have to work with. He said lead by example and make others feel valuable.

The biggest take away for me was his point about being clear. He says clarity is the foundation of value and If you are easy to understand, you have more influence.

SIMPLE IS THE NEW SMART

He says, most people believe if you can't simplify your message, you don't understand it well enough yourself. I am one of those people who firmly believes that. 

I've seen a big change in how people communicate over the last few years and you will probably start to notice it more after reading this. There's this trend towards more words, louder tone, and dominating the conversation, and … uptalk.

And these things, my friend, do not lead to more clarity. 

I'm not sure when it all began, but I started noticing it with sales people and vendors, and now I see those in leadership positions and even TV pundits are starting to show this odd behavior as well. They end their sentences with a rising inflection (also known as uptalk), signaling to others that they are not finished so they continue to speak. They speak at a rapid rate, jumping from one unfinished thought to another, often repeating themselves until they run out of steam. 

Most people today are consumed with being right and telling people their stories, but not listening. Early in his presentation, Garrison made a point about how most people will go down in flames just to be right. They'd rather be right, than hear good ideas. They'd rather be right, than have change. They'd rather be right... and they will keep looking for ways to make sure they keep being right. 

So, if you're in a position to affect change for others, here are some tips:

  1. Say less, listen more.
  2. When you do speak, be clear. Would your message read well on a poster?  (If you have trouble simplifying your message, keep reading because there’s a resource for you.)
  3. Be sincere. Everyone knows when you're faking it.
  4. Ask for 360 feedback. (Read this post first: 7 Reasons Why 360 Feedback Programs Fail)
  5. Act on that feedback.

Need more help? Here's a great (free) resource for you:

Lee and Sachi LeFever from Commoncraft are very smart people who share their knowledge in really simple ways. They create extremely short videos that explain things in simple terms that anyone can understand. You may have seen some of their videos such as their 2 min. Twitter explanation or maybe their latest on Gamification

If you like the way these concepts are explained in simple terms, you can now enroll in their free mini-course, Explainer's Secret Weapon. The course is offered in Common Craft Style - an engaging mix of words, short animated videos, original visuals, and an exercise to try yourself. There's even a downloadable guide to take with you.

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