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Leadership Q&A: Thinking Clearly

One of the most universal issues that I have found in my work with leaders and their organizations is the issue of communication. I have yet to meet a leader or an organization that is not challenged by the demands of communication.IMG_0449

In this column, I want to address one aspect of communication, the need to think clearly.

Clarity of thought is not necessarily simply being rational, logical or descriptive.

Thinking clearly is a process of personal reflection and hard work at being precise in what we want to say.

I find that most people, including myself, are often muddled in their thinking. We are because thinking is not the origin of our thought but a response to stimuli that we receive through our senses and our emotions.

Our thinking is a function of the interaction of our senses and emotions with our brain’s attempt to bring order and clarity to what we are experiencing.

We are foremost sensory and emotional beings, and our rationality functions to make sense of the world around us.

Let’s put this idea into the context of a business leader who must communicate clearly with customers and employees.

The experience of customers and employees is a sensory/ emotional one. The leader’s communication with them must take this into account. As a result, it is important for the leader to be aware of the sensory and emotional context of his business. If an office is unattractive, it affects how a person feels about the business, and consequently what they “think” about the business.

One way of measuring this is our awareness of the morale of employees. If the staff has had to take on more work, as downsizing has trimmed the workforce, then an increased stress level needs to be taken into consideration when the leader communicates with the employees. How will they feel about the message that she presents to them? The more in touch she is with their feelings, the easier it is to be clear in addressing them.

Communication therefore is not just knowing the right words to say. It is understanding context.

The second aspect of thinking clearly to communicate is knowing what it is we want people to do as a result of our communication. What action are they to take? What decision do they need to make? What change of perspective should they have?

Lastly, we do not become clear thinkers by thinking by ourselves. We learn best in conversation with others. To verbalize a thought gives us an opportunity to get immediate feedback. We learn how to say with we feel and think when we have to speak or write our thoughts.  If you are not confident in this aspect of your communication, I recommend that you join a local Toastmasters club, as they will help you improve your ability to speak. As well, I recommend writing a weblog because it provides an ideal opportunity to learn to write well to communicate your ideas.

Thinking clearly to communicate is one of the most important skills a leader can develop. A clear thinker is a perceptive one. She understands context and the implications for the ideas that are to be communicated, and learns to communicate through the experience of speaking and writing.  Learn to think clearly, and your communicate will naturally begin to improve as well

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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