Notice: This post provides a new communication tool that I would like you to try at least once today!
A week or so ago, I began a phone conversation with a leader who had been referred to me. With very few opening pleasantries, this leader launched into his story about all the challenges he was encountering during his first month at a new company.
I listened carefully, straining to follow all the people, events and problems he was describing. But about 10-15 minutes into the phone call, I realized I had no idea where his story was going. Nor what he wanted from me. Finally, I had to interrupt. “Could you please tell me what you hope to gain from our call?”
Leaders need to be good communicators. The more clear and concise their voice, the better chance they have of getting what they want from others.
The BLUF is a little tool that can help you communicate better. I learned it from some millennial leader friends. Apparently it originated in the military.
BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
In short, using BLUF, you lead with the most vital information. Use BLUF to:
- Make a request: “I need the completed board deck by 3pm Thursday.”
- Give direction: “Subj: Action Needed — Register for this conference by tomorrow”
- State objectives: “We have a lot of updates and a lot to discuss, but by the time we leave this meeting, we need three solid ideas for how to jumpstart sales in the Southeast Region.”
Never leave it to your listener (or reader) to figure out what you are saying — especially if the listener is your boss! People don’t enjoy wading through the chaos in your mind. And they tend to tune out a chronically verbose leader.
LESS is MORE.
When you use BLUFs, people appreciate that you respect their time. They respond faster because your objective is clear. On the whole, your organization will be more efficient and execute more quickly.
To begin using BLUF today, plan ahead. Take time to ask yourself:
- What is it that I need from this meeting?
- What exactly do I want others to do?
- What is my bottom line?
Dennis Roth, an American author and diplomat, said, “If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind…give it more thought.”
Great leaders put thought and effort into communicating clearly. Don’t make your listeners suffer because of your lack of preparation. Lead with a BLUF.