Last week I had a great coaching session with one of my new senior female executives who works for a US investment bank. But all was not well; she was working all hours to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of her family. She is highly educated, however, she was getting the reputation that she was hard to understand. She is from the Continent so people thought this was due to English not being her first language. But this was not the case at all.
She needed to restructure her messages – making the point first.
In my experience of coaching women this is not uncommon. I find we are more afraid of being cut off, or being seen to not know the answer, than our male counterparts.
My client found this fairly easy to grasp in writing:
- Start with the point/conclusion
- Followed with the action/what you want them to do
- Then in a second paragraph state what led you to that conclusion – give the reader the choice about how much supporting material they choose to read.
This approach worked so well for my client’s written communication that she wanted to perfect it in her spoken communication as well. But this she found much harder. She aspired to the way politicians come straight to the point when interviewed. From my observation they either pause, taking the time there and then to consider the question, before answering – it is alright to say “Let me just think about that” – or they have thought about it ahead of the interview and structured the message already to start with the point.
It is interesting to note that people educated outside the Anglo-Saxon system also don’t, as a rule, make their point up front when communicating. They favour a communication approach that is heavy on analysis and background, allowing the listener to come to their own conclusion. They argue that to give the conclusion or the point equates to insulting the listener’s intelligence. In the Anglo-Saxon world of business this is not the case at all. If you reach the upper echelons of the organisation it is because they trust your thinking and ability to analyse the data and make the necessary conclusions.