in Communication, Improvement & Development, Leadership, Leading People, Leading Projects, Leading the Self

Clearing the Fog in Communication

Our communication at workplace needs a lot of simplification. Have you seen leaders who throw jargons and so called “hot words” that leave people more confused?

When a boss says, “We need to get this done soon”, people are left to wonder what soon actually means. I once observed a senior leader who was approached by his team member for some help on an issue. After thinking aloud for a while, the leader ended up saying, “You need to somehow close this ASAP.”  For a struggling team member who needed direction, words like “somehow” and “ASAP” added ambiguity and needless urgency leading to frustration.

In one instance, a manager delegated a report creation task to his team member with a note of “urgent and important”. The team member worked hard to deliver the report created the report in shortest possible time but then received no response from the manager for days. Was it really important? If not, how can it be urgent at all?

I have seen managers who request “quick calls” that go on for hours together. Meetings to “touch base” end up being meetings that “drill down”.

I see a huge need to simplify our communication – our words and our actions have to convey very specific (and congruent) messages. Jargons and hot words break the communication, creates barriers, robs understanding, adds clutter and leaves people guessing. “I need to get this report by 12:00 PM tomorrow so that I can review and send it across to customer by 4:00 PM” is much better than “I need it ASAP”. Next time you call something as “important”, make sure your subsequent actions also demonstrate the importance.

What if we stop using jargons where we need to be specific? If we clarify expectations relentlessly? Our work will be free of foggy messages and hence simpler. Clarity and congruence in thoughts, words and actions are first pre-requisites of being excellent at anything – more so if you are a leader.

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Photo Courtesy: Gavin Liewellyn’s Flickr

  1. Tanmay,

    Really nice article. You have put one of the pain points of the corporate culture very nicely.


  2. Nice post, Tanmay. You hit the nail on the head about the degree to which non-specific language trips up communication and, therefore, slows organizational progress. In my book, The Outstanding Organization, I refer to these as “fuzzy words” – those words that lead to ambiguity and confusion. Same goes with improvement – orgs have to break their habit of non-specific language when describing a problem – “a lot” can mean two very different things to two different people. Thank you again for sharing your perspective. Words matter. A lot. 🙂

    • Hi Karen, Congratulations for the Shingo prize for your outstanding book.

      They say, “A problem well defined is half solved.” – Using Fuzzy words, as you rightly call them, when defining a problem is a waste because it keeps us away from correct articulation of problems.



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