Do you ramble when you speak, packing in too many irrelevant details? Perhaps you skip from one idea to the next with no connection between them. The first conversation pattern makes you boring and the second makes you confusing. Either one can have a negative impact on your ability to influence others.

Powerful leaders get their message across. They don't beat around the bush - they're clear, concise, direct, and expressive. They tell you what they think and how they feel. Their tone of voice is appropriate for the message being delivered and they make room for the listener to ask questions and clarify what's been said.

Okay. It sounds easy, but how do you do it? It's simple.
Here are 3 quick and easy steps to help you become a clearer communicator and a more influential leader:

1) If you're anything like me, you have a tendency to think out loud. Make a change. Think before your speak. I hate trying to tell somebody about a book I've just read and find myself getting bogged down in the details. To avoid this, I have to first think about what ideas I want to convey... then speak. You can do the same.

2) Focus the listener’s attention…then summarize to close. Let's begin with
three examples of how to focus attention (and an example of a more complete introduction).

An attorney in a courtroom says, “Let’s go back to the night of January 15th,” to focus the attention and thinking of the witness.

A District Manager for a direct sales company says, “Let’s look at our staffing quotas for next month,” to help sales managers change gears.

An architect speaking to a group of ophthalmologists says, “Architecture, when designed properly, will do two things. First, it will increase your patient flow, and, secondly, it will radiate an image of care and concern for your patients,” to let the doctors know that the architect will be addressing two issues - patient flow and image.

Sometimes you'll want to give people a more detailed introduction. This is especially true if the other person doesn't know what to expect or when anxiety is apt to be high.

For instance, a corporate Director confronting an employee says, “Thanks for taking time to meet with me, Ed. I know how busy you are and I wouldn’t be taking up your time except that I’ve been handed a problem that we need to fix. It seems you’ve been late getting critical information to the IT Department and, as a result, shipment to customers is backed up; they’ve been calling to complain about late orders. I got an earful this morning from the IT Director and it seems like all the complaints are focused on your area. I’d like to figure out what kind of problem we’re having, and what we can do to keep our customers satisfied. I sure don’t want to go through another meeting like I had this morning. Does this make sense?”
This introduction does several things:

a) it lets the employee know the purpose, the intended flow, and the parameters for the meeting,

b) it identifies the intended outcome, and

c) it lets the employee know that the meeting won't be one-sided, but rather a cooperative effort.

When you summarize to close, you simply recap briefly the important points from the discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3) Use metaphors, examples, and analogies. Appeal to both hemispheres of the brain and maximize learning efficiency. Words appeal to the left hemisphere (the logical side) and pictures appeal to the right hemisphere (the creative, concrete side). Once a message is concrete, it's memorable. For example, I could compare habits to waterbeds - easy to fall into but difficult to get out of.

There you have it – three steps to clearer communication and greater power to influence:

- think before you speak,
- focus listener attention, and
- generate understanding by making the abstract concrete.

Communication clarity is a hallmark of a leader who has the ability to powerfully influence others.


Copyright 2004-7 © Mary Jane Mapes, CSP All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Mary Jane Mapes is co-owner of The Aligned Leader Institute, LLC, a leadership consulting and training organization specializing in helping turn managers become leaders who inspire others to voluntarily go above and beyond expectations to acheve extraordinary results.

Besides consulting and training, Mary Jane is a keynote speaker to thousands of people annually throughout the US and Canada on the topics of Speak Up with Confidence, The Art of Leadership, Communicate for Positive Results, and S.T.E.P. UP to Service: Providing Royal Treatment. To contact her for more information, email her at, call 1-800-851-2270, or visit her website,