As managers, we need to have a number of manager skills in order to be successful in our job. We know what most of them are: ability to communicate, ability to lead, ability to make decisions, and so on. However, it turns out that there is one very important skill that we often forget about – the ability to write well. When was the last time that you took a course on writing? Probably sometime back in high school and even then it was probably only part of the course. What can managers do in order to boost their writing skills?
Always Have Boundaries On Your Writing
Have you ever heard the phrase “Never use four words when three will do”? It’s a classic. What managers need to understand is that writing is a craft that we can get manager training for. When we are writing we need to remember just how important it is to be precise. Every word that we put down has to count towards the point that we are trying to make. That’s why when we are writing, we need to take the time to set up constraints.
I’m pretty sure that we all realize that our writing will fill the space that it is given. No matter if you are writing a set of requirements for a project or a year end evaluation of one of your team members, you need to keep in mind that it’s not necessary to fill the space allotted. The good news about limiting your self is that constraints will improve your writing. We do need to realize that writing a short document is harder than writing a long one. It can be easy to ramble on and on about your subject. Choosing the precise words to make your point is difficult.
Be Your Own Best Editor
Managers need to learn to start writing and then edit their work ruthlessly. We should always sit down and just start writing – we can come back later on and edit our work. Managers will discover that eliminating extraneous information or unnecessary words is easier than adding. This is why it’s important to just start writing. Editing comes next. Good writing requires ruthless editing.
If we are to edit our work, then how should we go about doing this? A good suggestion is to cut the big stuff first. If your writing was a tree, then you should prune the big limbs first, then shake out the dead leaves. Look for major chunks of content that you don’t need.
It’s Easier To Edit Yourself If You Can Hear How You Sound
A great way to make your writing better is to read it out loud. This technique is called it the ‘read aloud’ test. Reading your words aloud is a good tip. For example, if you run out of breath when reading your sentences, they’re probably too long. In business writing, most sentences should be short and declarative.
Most sentences that contain more than 25 words are hard to read and difficult to digest and so it’s best to keep each sentence to 15 words or less to help the reader. Sentences with more than 25 words are hard to digest. Keep your sentences to 15 words or less. Good writing is hard, but it’s a skill worth taking the time to build.
What All Of This Means For You
Managers always want to be looking for ways to become better at what we do. We’ll go to classes on leadership, we’ll study how to improve diversity, and we’ll read up on the latest team building exercises. However, it turns out that there is one skill that is critical to our long term success that we might be overlooking. That skill is the skill of writing.
In order to be a successful writer, one of the best things that you can do is to set boundaries on your writing. Your writing should be precise and you don’t always have to fill up the space that you have been given. You are your own best editor. When editing, cut the large parts first and then cut the smaller parts. One great way to edit your self is to say what you’ve written out loud. If it’s hard to say, then you need to edit it.
Even in the digital age in which we are all living, it turns out that mastering the ability to write well and write clearly is a critical manager skill that we all need to have. In order to write well, we need to develop the ability to read what we have written and then make edits to make it even better. If we can master these skills, then we’ll become a manager who can clearly communicate with others.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: What’s the best way to determine how well you write today?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
I’m pretty sure that this has happened to most of us: we saw a job that we wanted, we interviewed for it, and we ended up not getting the job. Dang. So just exactly why did we not get the job? It turns out that the reason might not be what you think that it is. In some cases what the people interviewing you may have appreciated your manager skills but they thought that what you missed was a mysterious quality called “potential”. The people interviewing you might not be able to explain exactly what that looks like, or why they think you don’t have it. So what can a manager do about getting some of this potential stuff?
One of the toughest parts of being a manager is building a great team. It is our responsibility to find ways to get the best people to want to join our team in the first place. It turns out that that is a tough thing to do. However, it doesn’t stop there. As managers, once someone has joined our team, we now have to find ways to make them want to remain a part of our team. None of this is easy to do. All of us could do with just a little bit of help in finding ways to do it better.