How much time do you take to get your point across to others? Do you rely on detailed explanations or are you a “one-word-response” individual? While you should always strive for quality, both forms of communication are proving to be relevant and as with anything based on human nature, finding a balance can be an integral element for success.

There are a variety of reasons, including chemical, as to why it may take one person longer than another to “get to the point”. However for most, a little “cleaning-up” of our verbal minutia can actually go a long way, and even increase an organization’s value.

Last week I came across the Toronto Star’s coverage of TheNorth American Debating Championshiphosted by the University of Toronto’s Hart House. The championship title of this year’s 64-team and three-day event went to the students of Canada’s own Carleton University. I could write for days as to the incredible examples of diversity that this competition encourages, but for now I’ll stick to my focus on communication and, in turn, leadership.
In Kenneth Kidd’s article, he concludes, after witnessing the U.S. Republican Party debates, that if any of the GOP nominees were to enter the North American Debating Championship, they would be annihilated by their collegiate competition.
You must admit, the potential of witnessing a young debating champion locking horns with any of the current line-up of politicians in the debating ring would be intellectual gold spectator sport.  This article is absolutely correct. In this debate forum, the politicians would most certainly not prevail.
So why are political leaders utilizing compact points to communicate their vision?
“They’re not interested in winning the argument,” said Sam Greene, a U of T student and one of the North American Debating Championshiporganizers. “They’re interested in sound bites that will be talking points.”
We are a world full of “LOL”s and “BRB”s. Whether it’s a headline, a text message or a 140 character Twitter update, all around us we can see signs that bite-sized information is becoming the popular norm when it comes to communication. Public figures such as politicians are banking on it.We can fight this progression all we want, but I firmly believe if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Even Stephen Harper and the Obamas are on Twitter. Clearly there is something to be said here.
Now, I am not suggesting that we begin speaking with abbreviated text. While humorous to imagine, I wouldn’t wish that world on anyone! But I have come across organizational leaders, whose goal should be efficiency, not applying this “short & sweet” mindset to their own communication skills.

Leadership communication should be used like a sword. When we thrash it about extraneously, it’s bound to hurt innocent people. But when used with distinction and precision, the effective impact can be long lasting.

As a leader, it’s imperative to be able to deliver a powerful, well rounded, memorable message, without wasting anyone’s time. Time management is a proven key factor when doing business successfully.

Things that I encourage you to consider when communicating, especially in a leadership role:


  • Is this communication method appropriate for this audience?
  • Am I offering more information than is necessary in this moment?
  • Is what I am saying relevant?
  • Am I answering the question at hand?
  • Is my response moving the conversation forward?
  • Is there a more effective way to convey my message?

We can use these questions in every situation from the lunchroom to the boardroom. Learn from our debating youth, and from our political leaders: develop your details and know when to “bring it home”.

“Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.”– Edsger Dijkstra , Award winning Dutch Computer Scientist (1930-2002)

about the author - Elaine

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