The art of communication is the language of leadership.                   —James Humes

I was interviewed earlier this week by a young lady attending Purdue University. She had contacted me to participate in a class assignment that focused on careers and required the students to ask a working professional a set of questions soliciting input on duties, education, skills, etc. relative to a current job. One of her questions centered on what I did during the day – a very open ended question that really forced me to think about my daily activities.

In my role as CEO, my day-to-day activities tend to be very broad and varied. I wanted to net it out for her so she could more easily capture the essence of my day but it was a bit more difficult than I expected. As I sifted through a typical day in my life, I realized that I spend most of my time communicating. There are some tasks on which I work, but the vast majority of my time is spent writing, emailing, talking, and listening – not necessarily in that order. It makes complete sense to me but I had never really considered how much I live in the space of communication.

The next question she asked focused on the education necessary to be successful in my “career.”  Did the college courses I took relate to what I do today? Once again, I came back to communication. The classes I best remember are the ones in which I had to distill the essence of an idea and present it intelligibly – in written or verbal form. These were my most challenging and most satisfying courses. They required me to think, pull those thoughts together, and articulate them to another human being concisely. Some of that may simply be my preference but I think it goes deeper.

The classes I best remember are the ones in which I had to distill the essence of an idea and present it intelligibly.

Her final question was: what key skills would someone else need in order to be successful in what I’m doing? My answer didn’t change much. After getting past a few platitudes on perseverance (which really boils down to a person’s ability to take punches repeatedly), I came back to communication. To truly be effective in my role, I have to be concise and compelling in my outbound communication and I have to get to the heart of inbound communication. Not one-way, sermonizing, always-talking communication. Real, give and take human interaction. Effective communication with other people is the most critical aspect of my job.

I’m frequently asked how I find time to write these posts or my recent book. For me, it is an extension of what I’m doing all day long. Typically, I’m just relaying my experiences with other people. It’s what I do. However, writing about those experiences is just one element. The bigger part is being present in the many interactions of my day. Listening to reports, challenges, questions, concerns, ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears. As the CEO, my job is less about answering the queries and concerns and more about making myself available. Ultimately, communication IS my job and the more interactive, the better.

Effective communication with other people is the most critical aspect of my job.

 

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