It pains to see leaders do what they hired their teams for.
Addressing customer issues, micromanaging tasks, fire-fighting.
These are important. But if they’re all a leader does, she becomes an overpaid employee (and the first in the line of fire if layoffs begin).
As a leader, your role is not to do people’s tasks better than them, but to empower them to do their tasks better. When they grow in their roles, you can do what a leader should: take strategic decisions and steer the company towards larger goals.
Whether you achieve this or not depends on your ability to communicate.
Communication is (much) more than vocabulary.
It’s the transfer of ideas, information and messages from one mind to another and breaking all obstacles from the way.
Poor communication alienates people, creates confusion, engineers crises, and prohibits things from getting done.
Good communication connects people, provides clarity, and gets things done meaningfully.
Writing is the most rampant form of communication today, especially for leaders. Emails, marketing content, memos, texts, company newsletters.
I’m not talking about writing that helps you earn better or makes people drop their jaws in amazement. I’m talking about writing that makes you a better leader.
Here are three indisputable ways.
1. Improves Communication Skills
Gregory Ciotti writes that people believe the aim of writing is to impress others.
That’s why many leaders either pepper their writing with glorified words or leave the task to “real writers.”
But good writing is crisp, clean, and simple.
When you can write well, you can find the right words to engage with your readers, who include your people, customers, the board, shareholders, and partners.
Good writing provides clarity to your readers on the next course of action and its reasons without being overtly verbose.
If we tweak David Ogilvy’s legendary “advertisement” quote to suit business writing, we get:
When I write an email, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so clear that you take action. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’
Good writing empowers you to inform, entertain, and persuade.
2. Brings Self-Awareness
Clarity and inspiration aren’t just for your readers but for yourself as well.
Leaders rarely get time to collect their thoughts and take stock of activities. As a result, they let the ship drift aimlessly, often in the wrong direction.
Self-awareness is a crucial leadership quality. And it comes in abundance with writing.
Writing streamlines your thoughts so that they sound as convincing when shared as they do in your head, and saves you from knee-jerk responses.
Writing helps you generate new ideas all the time.
Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated. — Paul Graham
Writing is also cathartic. Merely writing down what you’re anxious about illuminates the way forward and makes you feel better. Research shows that writing for just two minutes (even in a diary) reduces stress and lets you constructively process your emotions.
Good writing enhances emotional intelligence, a quality that makes you a better leader.
3. Builds Thought Leadership
“Leaders are influencers and good writing influences.” — Tonya Thompson
People don’t want to hear about companies through paid advertisements and press releases anymore.
They want to hear from real people. They want to put a face to the company. They want to know what the company stands for (and whether it’s more than just profits).
Good writing lets you display the human side of your company by sharing personal stories that trade magazines and online portals are eager to publish.
You can articulate perspectives and insights useful for your industry and engage with influencers who’ll spread your message to a larger audience.
Good writing is genuine. And genuineness helps you earn your audience’s attention and trust, and turns them into your advocates.
Thus, good writing enables you to create an authentic brand for yourself and your company.
How to Write Better
Good writing is not about showing off your vocabulary or knowledge. It’s about telling people what they need to know quickly, clearly, and succinctly.
Here are 11 proven tips (with examples) to make your writing crisper and sharper.
1. Write in active voice.
Sentences in active voice use lesser words.
E.g. “The task which is lengthy can be completed by you tomorrow” becomes “you can complete the lengthy task tomorrow.”
2. Delete ‘that’.
You can often eliminate ’that’ from a sentence without changing its meaning.
E.g. “She promised me that she would be here,” becomes “She promised she‘d be here.”
3. Share stories.
According to research, people are 22 times likelier to remember a fact when it’s part of a story.
Stories make us relate to a topic and feel like we’re part of the event. Hence, we grab the gist of an idea faster.
4. Keep your sentences short.
Cut your sentences. Add a full stop each time you feel like adding a comma.
Keep your paragraphs short too. 2-3 sentences are ideal.
Readers love white space.
5. Delete “I think” and “according to me”.
It’s clear that what you write are your thoughts. Such phrases add nothing except more words.
E.g. “I think that you will like this,” becomes “You’ll like this.”
6. Avoid words ending in -ing.
The -ing does nothing to strengthen your point. Cut it out.
E.g. “I’m going to call him at 11,” becomes “I’ll call him at 11.”
7. Get rid of ‘very’.
Each time you feel like using ‘very’, replace it with ‘damn’. If your sentence creates an impact without ‘damn’, remove the ‘very’.
E.g. “I was very tired,” becomes “I was exhausted.”
8. Cut the fat.
Nothing drags down writing more than spreading good ideas over too many words.
out words and sentences that don’t get you closer to your point, or those that repeat your points.
It hurts, but it also makes you a better writer.
9. Give your reader substance.
Don’t write for the sake of writing. Write because you want to share something valuable with your reader.
10. Replace adverbs with strong verbs.
E.g. “The child cried loudly,” can become “The child screamed.”
11. BLUF — Bottom Line Up Front
As writers, we want to build a case for our ideas. But smart writers put the bottom line upfront and state their conclusions and recommendations upfront.
Present critical information before providing context. People who don’t have time to read the entire writeup will still get the bottom line. And those who read the writeup won’t get confused.
Writing is not complex or overwhelming. It’s the art of getting your message across as clearly and simply as possible.
Don’t deprive yourself of a wonderful opportunity to connect better with yourself and others. Nobody can communicate your thoughts and ideas better than you.