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Leaders Letter 57 – Keep It To Post It Note Communications  

Keep It To Post It Note Communications  

Dear Leaders,

Recently I have been down a rabbit hole on how effective and elite leaders communicate.

Their styles and approaches are very different. There is, however, a common theme. 

Many are brilliant at pushing messages out, most are not very good at receiving them, this is down to a few things typically, time and cognitive bandwidth. 

The communication cheatsheet: Short powerful messages + repetition + simple analogies (+ repetition)  

Over my two-decade career, something I have observed numerous times and rediscovered while running a number of different workshops is:
Almost everyone can digest what is written on a post-it note. And I mean everyone. 

Why? It is short, sharp and has to be the point
-OR- big enough of a teaser to want to find out more. 

Winston Churchill is famous for never reading anything longer than one side of a short letter, aka only the front sheet of a letter.  

Have Comms Principles! When I worked agency side, we had a set of principles we rolled out, one of which was a stickler for subject lines, this ensured we knew what it was about, why it was important and how to treat it, alongside a smart filing system we used in Google mail. The same could apply in Outlook etc. 

Chat > Email? The reason why many team members appear to prefer chat apps over email is they make the conversation seem less lengthy and detailed, replies do not seem to zap time.
It seems shorter, more to the point.  
These chat apps are not better but it’s cognitive engineering.

An Exercise To Follow: An exercise I recommend to people who are creating important presentations and conference decks is to grab a pack of post-it notes,

  • Find a large space and to write down the messages they want to deliver
  • Then categorise under simple headings and move the post-it notes around (the key is helping them understand the importance of being able to move and remove post-it notes) until the order makes sense
  • Type these up (in PowerPoint, Keynote or Slides etc)
  • Lastly, then add imagery. 

Post-it notes simplify the message and help everyone to understand the key message. More than one post-it note per slide and you have to cut it down.
This process works well and helps people to shorter their messages and have a flow they know way before perfecting it within a template they didn’t design. 

Next time you think about writing or having to create a speech (aka communications design) maybe start with the post-it note approach, on email then use the BLUF (bottom line up front) method I recommended over on why over communication is a bad recommendation and put ideas, requests and ideas more simply.  

And remember if you struggle to get cut through or you need to simply comms, pick up a pen and a pack of post-it notes and write out what you need to say in the most simple way possible. 

Have a good week, 

Danny DenhardFocus 

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