How to Communicate with Clarity

How can leaders become better communicators?

Steve Woodruff is a well-respected speaker and workshop facilitator, known as the ‘king of clarity’ throughout the business world. Steve has over 25 years of consulting experience in the life sciences training industry. He is also the author of the Amazon best-selling book “Clarity Wins. Get Heard. Get Referred”.

 Steve joins me to discuss the challenges of good communication, how to network through story-telling, and the importance of personal branding.

The Importance of Acquiring Communication Skills

As leaders, we need to learn how to brand and position ourselves to succeed. This skill set comes naturally to some managers, but many struggle to develop a personal message and solid networking skills.

Fortunately, it’s a skill you can learn, and it all comes down to learning how to communicate with clarity. 

Steve began his consulting practice to meet a need in the commercial pharmaceutical industry. Steve focuses on principles of branding and communication and helps bridge the gap between vendor/manufacturer team relationships.

One of these core principles was the idea of keywords or hashtags; if you can own one or two words in people’s minds, you’ll be memorable. 

A perfect example is Steve’s branding. A few years ago, someone wrote on Steve’s Facebook timeline to wish him a happy birthday, writing “Happy birthday to the king of clarity.” 

When Steve saw that phrase, he realized it’d work great for his personal brand. So, he decided to use it, with impressive results.

In Steve’s words: “People may not remember a lot of things, but they’ll remember that there’s one king of clarity.”

How to Develop a Personal Brand

When it comes to personal branding and professional branding, communicating your value in the network is crucial. However, creating your brand can be challenging.

Steve’s advice is to think like a journalist writing a story. They ask the fundamental questions: who, what, why, how, and where?

In an organizational context, these questions may look something like: Who is my exact target audience? What’s the superpower that I bring to bear? What is the pain that I’m trying to solve? 

If you can answer those questions, you’ve got the foundation of a brand. Now you have a clearer idea of where you’re heading and your position.

However, there’s yet another challenge to tackle: how to stand out from the pack?

Steve likes to use an analogy that couldn’t be more perfect. We’ve all seen those nature shows with a bunch of penguins on the ice flow. They all look the same and sound the same – they’re all just another penguin. 

As professionals, particularly in a large company, we’re just another sales rep, another trainer- just another penguin.

It’s crucial to find a way to lift yourself above all the other penguins by saying: ‘this is my unique value, this is my superpower. This is where I’m going.’

So the first step that you need to take as a professional is to be in charge of the direction you’re going. You need to build your career on who you are, your unique abilities, gifts, and skills. Then, you just need to put that into words. 

Don’t write something generic like: ‘I’m a results-oriented professional’. The more specific you are, the better people will understand your brand. 

3 Networking Tips for Emerging Leaders

Steve spends much time teaching networking techniques to emerging leaders.

Sometimes it’s as simple as building an engaging LinkedIn profile or resume. But for Steve, the most critical part of networking is building relationships. 

Not everybody’s good at that. As an introvert, Steve had to discipline himself to learn to network assertively. Here are a few of Steve’s tips on achieving excellent networking skills.

1. Learn the Art of ‘Story Asking’

If you want to be a great networker, there’s one particular skill that you need to master: story asking. 

We all know about storytelling, which is an integral part of branding. But story asking is about building relationships by asking people to tell you their story. 

Once people start telling you their story, you have more questions to ask and build a genuine connection. People are much more open and invested in a conversation when you’re helping them tell their stories.

So if you’re going to be a great networker in an organization or even outside an organization, story asking is crucial.

2. Use Symbolic Language

If you want to be effective in an organization, you need to be memorable. 

Stories and keywords are great tools when it comes to networking. Using illustrations or analogies as symbolic language will help your message stick in people’s memory.

Your biggest competition in an organization is noise; the amount of sensory input surrounding us is enormous. Your challenge as a communicator is to gain people’s attention by speaking in a simple, concise, and vivid way.

3. Keep it Brief and Interesting

The brain has a filtering mechanism that sorts sensory input by relevance. It decides which information is vital in any given context.

The crucial first step in all clear communications is to gain people’s attention. You’ve got a lot of competition, so your message needs to be compelling.

It’s essential to speak about what’s relevant, new, and attractive. You need to condition all of your communications around something pertinent to the audience you’re talking to.

The trick is to get to the point in the first 10 seconds of any meeting, discussion, or email. Distill the essential thing that will secure attention as soon as possible, and you’ll become a much more effective communicator.

Key Takeaways 

– How to communicate with clarity (00:00)

– The inspiration behind Steve’s best selling book (01:37)

– The importance of personal branding (04:07)

– Essential networking techniques (17:45)

– The biggest challenge for communicators (23:37)

– How to secure your listener’s attention (30:23)

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About the host, Rob Fonte

Rob Fonte is the founder and President of Sarto Leadership Group, whose reputation has been built on being a transformational leader and inspirational coach with a passion for developing others. His twenty-year career spans across multiple disciplines including leading award-winning sales teams. Rob is an academically trained Executive Coach certified by The University of Texas and the International Coach Federation.