Although there are many skills and personality attributes that contribute to a person’s success in the business world, my best educated guess is that writing and communicating well is just one part of the success equation. But I believe it’s a big part of that equation, and I’m not alone.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, takes writing so seriously that a “group reading” of six page memos (or “narratives” as the company calls them) precede every senior executive meeting. Bezos and other top executives believe that communicating ideas, problems and solutions in writing requires the focus necessary to think through difficult problems and present solutions in a clear, logical manner. And when you’re forced to think clearly and logically, your writing usually mimics your thoughts, and vice versa. As Bezos says, “There’s no way to write a six page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”
And isn’t clear thinking the foundation of clear and precise writing? At the very least, a business person has to communicate their thoughts to employees, colleagues and customers either verbally or in writing, and often through both mediums. There’s a good argument that writing is the better way to communicate in business because it leaves a literal paper trail of your thinking process—an invaluable legacy for your company and its employees.
There are many strategies to improve your written business communications and most focus on clearing a path for your ideas to take center stage. It’s all about communicating your message so that the intended audience “gets it”, and perhaps most importantly, understands what their response should be. Here’s a four step outline that will help you clarify and strengthen your thinking process and in turn, clearly communicate your ideas:
1. Sketch out your main idea before you start to write and ensure that this one idea remains the focus of your communication.
2. List the facts or evidence that support this one idea.
3. Explain exactly how this evidence supports your main idea. In other words, clearly connect the dots for your reader.
4. Issue a “Call to Action” by specifically telling your audience what you expect them to do with this idea.
The connection between superior writing skills and success in business is not a mystery, it’s simple logic. In any job, you must communicate your ideas in a way that your employees, colleagues and customers understand. And your clarity of thought provides the basis for the precise, written communication that follows. Let us know what strategies you use to clear your head and precisely communicate your ideas. We’d love to share them!