Business Insights

What a Brigadier General Taught Me about Communication

This week Dr. Minser shares a story about a very important lesson about communication from the retired brigadier general who taught him management theory.

The general asked the students to write a 10-page paper and bring it back in two weeks. When they did so, he sat down with them and skimmed through them right there in class. After he finished, he told them to cut out all the fluff and come back in a week with a five-page version of the same paper.

When they did so, the general once again sat down and reviewed all the papers during class. He then told them to come back in a week with a two-page version of the paper. Incredulous, the students did so, only to be told to come back the next week with a one-page paper containing all the important information.

The general then explained the importance of including an executive summary with every report sent to a superior, because no one has time to read 10 pages just to figure out what the main points are.This is even more true now that everyone gets hundreds of emails per day. Start with a summary that includes bullet points of the most important items and offer to provide more detail.

What techniques for effective communication have you heard or learned over the years? Share them in the comments.

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