What Winston Churchill can teach us about meetings

Sales expert Andy Bounds shares his top tips to improve your sales and communications (you can get more of his advice at www.andyboundsonline.com). This week’s is…

Here’s a memo Winston Churchill sent to his War Cabinet in 1940…

Memorandum by the Prime Minister

Brevity

To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.

I ask my colleagues and their staff to see to it that their Reports are shorter.

i. The aim should be Reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs.
ii. If a Report relies on detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an Appendix.
iii. Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress Report, but an Aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.
iv. Let us have an end of such phrases as these: “It is also of importance to bear in mind the following considerations….”, or “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect….” Most of these woolly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it is conversational.

Reports drawn up on the lines I propose may at first seem rough as compared with the flat surface of officialise jargon. But the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.

W.S.C

Looks like the human race has learned very little in 76 years.
And I reckon he’s right. Do you?

A quick question: if Winston Churchill – or your colleagues for that matter – reviewed your documents, what would he think of them?

Action point

Two simple actions – do one or both of these:
• Look backwards – review your most recent document. Does it satisfy his criteria for good comms?
• Look forwards – preview your next document. Ensure it does

 

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