It’s that time again – when we make resolutions for how we might behave, act, and become better at what we do and how we do it.  As we consider changes for the New Year, I’d like to offer the following leadership communications wish list.

1)    Stop broadcasting and start engaging.  Remember that communications is a two-way street.  Far too many organizations want to trumpet their worth instead of engaging their target audiences in conversations. Try to walk in the shoes of your audiences and speak about what you do in relation to their concerns, needs, hopes, and dreams.

2)    Ban all PowerPoint presentations that are simply lots of words on paper.  There is nothing duller and more painful than to sit through dozens of slides packed with very long sentences – with most of them being parroted by the presenter. Research suggests that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than words, so use pictures or props in presentations instead. (And bullet points don’t count as images!)

3)    Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and formatting.   Even in the age of text and Twitter, grammar matters.  You wouldn’t go out of the house to a business meeting without combing your hair and wearing a clean shirt, so why not dress up your written presentation – whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or in a report?

4)    Say what you mean.  Don’t hide behind confusing language, the passive voice, and lots of jargon.  Be confident in what you are saying or don’t say it at all.

5)    Don’t assume that you are understood or that your message was heard.  How many times have you heard, “I sent you an email, so why is this a problem?” Maybe the email never made it into your recipient’s inbox or they didn’t understand what you were trying to say. Or maybe your message simply was overlooked in the flood of messages arriving in everyone’s email box every day.  If you send a communication and don’t get a response, follow up.

6)    Respond back to communications.  This is the flip side of #5.  Sure, all of us have bulging email boxes but it only takes a moment to respond back with a “Got it,” or “Will look at this,” or “Can’t respond right away but will get back to you in two days.”  By doing this, the sender knows where he or she stands and can act appropriately. (And then remember to follow through.  Email flags are so handy for reminders!)

In the end, good communication is really about setting and meeting expectations for your listener.  And in many ways that boils down to living the Golden Rule — communicate unto others as you would have them communicate unto you.