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My Journey To Improve Articulation
Dec 26, 2010
As a leader, have you ever come out of a meeting feeling that your articulation of a point did not reach all the audience? Did you find it hard to get alignment? I have. Most of us do. If leadership is all about changing the way people think, feel and act, then powerful articulation is an important skill. People need to follow what you are saying before they can decide to follow your thinking and vision for change. When you have authority along with leadership position, people learn to tolerate you and will be nice to you even if they don't follow you.
My ability to articulate my thoughts improved when I changed my approach as below.
Improve the foundation
Initially, when I was frustrated with my ability to articulate, I felt that I lacked support material. So I embarked on a journey of reading books and taking valuable input. Most of us do this by default. When we fail, we feel that we were inadequately prepared (and this is so not true when you look at it relative to your intended audience). These were books on self-help, leadership, management and storytelling. I stopped only when a respected coach said I was totally missing the point. Therefore I changed my strategy. Reading is a strategy of taking material in and becoming more resourceful / refined. It is important but not obviously sufficient.
Effective articulation requires output. So I embarked on a strategy that required only my time and resources for improving output. I started writing for 20 minutes each day. Initially, my approach was to read the editorial column from the English daily each morning. I will write that same editorial in a diary before I went to bed - in my native language. Reading what I wrote after a few days will highlight my hits and misses on the salient points. I used that feedback to improve my writing. At the end of one year, I fine-tuned my strategy. Instead of writing what somebody else wrote in a daily, I started writing about events in the day and how I could have dealt with them differently. Even today, I continue to write for 20 minutes before retiring to bed. I write about the changes I am required to trigger and my accomplishments and results for the day.
First build the right platform to receive your idea
When you want to convey an idea, first you need to know your starting point. The key stakeholders who need to support your idea have their beliefs and experiences. Hence they have their own perceptions. Those perceptions are the realities irrespective of what you think or know are reality. In any journey, it is important to know where you started, if you ever want to measure your progress and to know whether you are moving forward or backwards. When I started doing pro-active research about people’s current thinking on a given subject, I was able to determine my starting points better. Once I knew it building a platform to convey my ideas in a non-threatening manner became easier.
After presenting your idea, it is important to ask each of your key audience individually how they felt about your idea. Ask simple questions first. Ask if the session was useful. Ask if the articulation made sense to them. If you do this instead of making your own assumptions, you first demonstrate that you care for other peoples input. Second, you get valuable insights that will help you shape your idea better next time.