Five Common Mistakes Made by Leaders When They Speak

Many of the failures in leadership are failures to communicate well. No matter how smart we are or how good our strategies are, they are doomed for failure if no one understands them.

In previous articles, I dealt with poor written grammar, so much so that some of my friends refer to me as “the grammar cop.” In this article, I deal with five of the more common communication mistakes made by leaders when they speak.

  1. Poor grammar. Grammatical mistakes are not limited to written communication. They are much too common when leaders speak as well, including some leaders who are highly educated and in positions of great influence. The most common speaking grammatical error that I have noticed in recent years is the incorrect use of reflexive pronouns. For example the reflexive pronoun “myself” is used improperly in this sentence: “The award was presented to Janice, John, and myself.” The correct pronoun is the non-reflexive “me.”
  2. Too much information. An audience can only absorb a limited number of facts in a given presentation. Some leaders attempt to cover a multitude of items, leaving the hearers bored, confused, and frustrated. Speak to the essential issues and provide supplementary written material if necessary.
  3. Too many visuals. PowerPoint and other visual aids can be either a help or a hindrance to a speaker. Too often leaders try to put too much information in visual aids. At that point the aid becomes a barrier to communication. Consider having no more than one visual aid for each three minutes of speaking. You might be surprised how much the retention of your listeners improves.
  4. “Insider” language. Acronyms should be banned from speaking presentations. At my organization we have one acronym for every molecule that exists in our building. Those who are on the inside may think it’s okay to use acronyms with other insiders. The problem is that the pattern of speaking develops into a habit that will creep into external presentations. Indeed, good speakers avoid acronyms and insider technical words unless they are clearly explained to the audience.
  5. Insufficient pathos. Aristotle divided the means of persuasion into three categories. Ethos is used to establish the credibility or character of the speaker. Logos means persuading by reasoning or logic. Pathos means persuading by appealing to the readers’ or hearers’ emotions. Too few speakers attempt to speak to the hearts of the audience through personal illustrations, humor, or captivating stories. As a consequence, the presentation is often deemed dry and boring, regardless of the quality of the content.

I continue to be a student of effective communication. I still have a long way to go. What could you add to this list? What stories or examples do you have of either effective or ineffective speaking?

Read more from Thom here.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
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Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

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