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An executive’s ability to write, speak and present ideas and information clearly will either propel him through the executive ranks or hinder his career progression.

As an executive, and subsequently as a management consultant, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and participate in hundreds (perhaps thousands) of executive level meetings and conversations.  I’ve learned that there are some distinguishing writing and speaking characteristics executives use, and some they avoid, that are extremely effective:

  1. Every communication should have a specific purpose.  By the end of the communication, whether it’s a presentation to a group of people or an EMAIL to an individual, the purpose should be clear.
  2. Carefully consider the audience for any communication.
  3. Use language that’s professional, clear and pertinent to the conversation.
  4. Use positive language and communicate with passion and energy leaving no doubt where you stand on a topic.
  5. Write and speak with respect to everyone, regardless of their position.
  6. Know when and how to end a discussion or letter with grace.
  7. Listen without interrupting.
  8. Don’t write or speak condescendingly, dismissively, or use unprofessional language.
  9. Don’t write or display histrionics, grandstand, or display the “victim mentality” if you encounter resistance.

Writing, speaking, and presenting as an executive takes practice.  Like any other learned skill, the more you practice it, the more it will become second nature.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.