Rambling presentations, low-yield meetings and FYI emails are a global brain drain of time and money. These bad habits encase an organization in layers of fat that weigh down its capacity to deliver value effectively by making it hard for people to do their best work.
I've spent more than half my time, during my 10 years as a coach, listening to, observing, and interviewing leaders and executive teams. The amount (and weight) of unnecessarily elaborate communication is literally stunning.
Public service: if you can say something in three sentences or less, then do it.
Of course details and nuance are critical to success, but so is knowing when to keep it simple. That's where good things come in threes. While some would impose a blind-logic “rule of three” to emails and other executive communication, I think it’s best to consider specific situations where threes that are particularly useful:
Giving critical feedback
1) Observation - here's what I noticed you doing / not doing. 2) Impact - here's the impact that's having. 3) Suggestion -- here's what you can try going forward.
Presenting a problem or tough issue to your leader
1) Problem - here's what happened / is happening.2) Action - here's what action we took / are taking / are planning to take.3) Result - here's the outcome (intended or achieved).
Explaining your product or service
1) What’s most compelling about who you are and what you do. 2) How it works 3) Why this is relevant to your audience’s needs.
Writing an "Informational Email"
1) Subject line is the headline - why you need to read this. 2) Next sentence is the supporting statement.3) Final sentence is where to get more information if the reader is interested, even that means the extra detail is directly below under a heading (e.g., "Detailed Discussion," or "Further Information," etc.)
Communicating your vision
1) What a home run / amazing future will look like in the context of what we are doing. 2) Why this needs to happen / why you should care.3) How it will happen.
Pitching / communicating your value proposition
1) Here's where you are today. 2) Here's what’s great about where you can be if I / we help you get there.3) Here's how I / we will help you make that happen.
This is not an all-inclusive list, so you should find your own opportunities to communicate in threes (or less). Try it, and the world will reward your succinct leadership communication with the clarity needed for greater speed and execution.