010 - A Common Communication Mistake

In this episode:

  • The difference between the best IT people and the rest (!)
  • Why we get confused so easily
  • A key principle that drives understanding in communication
  • How to win someone's interest in hearing more.

Resources mentioned:

Online course: The Art of Influence.


We humans prefer things to be simple and can get easily confused by too much detail. In this cast, I suggest an approach that can help you avoid doing that to clients and colleagues. They'll love you for it!

You've probably experienced something like this: You're at work, and you're having a little difficulty using that spreadsheet to create a report. So you ask an expert to come over and help you out.

They begin to unload on you all sorts of steps and details you need to complete, bombarding you with information until you're quite lost, confused or both.

Or how about this: You attend an in-house seminar and, as you're sitting there listening to the presenter, you start to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data on the slides, and the number of slides, one after the other. Again, you lose interest and/or become confused.

The common mistake in both cases is that the information being presented to you is probably the wrong type and is being delivered in the wrong way.

Here’s my take on how to avoid those same mistakes when you’re the speaker, and instead be seen as a clear, helpful, and inspiring communicator at work.

The key is to think messages, not details.

Details are only useful once a person has bought-in to the overall message. That’s because adults need context in order to determine whether a message is worth paying attention to and acting on. Once they've understood the messages, they'll be ready to receive the details.

Here's an example:

Let's say you're presenting to senior decision makers, promoting the idea of changing to a newer computer programme. 

If you lead with details, you might say something like this:

"We need to do something. Last week, when we ran the report on application errors for our branches, we saw that over 27% of items were running at 5 errors or more. That's well above our CPD levels that we agreed to with Finance. It'll be because we're not linking the initial scans with the reports coming out of the SAP module and therefore the coding of the fields isn't aligning to..."

That is potentially clouding the benefits of the change, which risks your idea being given the cold shoulder. 

But details seldom achieve the buy-in.

If, instead, you lead with messages, then you might say something like this:

"In essence, we have an issue with the current software in that it wastes time and effort, and gives us an unusually high error rate. That's costing us our reputation. In short, it's working but it's like flying in a DC3 instead of in a nicer, quieter and cheaper modern jet. I'm suggesting it's time for a change."

Hopefully, you can see that this is easier to listen to, easier to understand and has an emotive aspect to it. It's likely to result in the decision maker saying, "Ok, what're you recommending?"


So, in your workplace communication, and especially when you're communicating with clients or customers, don't bombard people with endless details. It'll just overwhelm them. 

Instead, start with the key messages and win their interest in taking it further.

Here's an Option

This post is about a key technique that is central to being an effective leader and influencer. But there are others that are equally, if not more, important to influence.

If you think that building your influencing skills would be useful to your work and career, then consider taking my premium online course The Art of Influence. It has 5 modules, 20 short videos and free PDF downloads and is based on the same material I've taught in major corporates in New Zealand since 2010.

To find out what it covers, and if it's for you, click here.

Either way, have a sensational week.