I'm in beautiful Hawaii right now, shooing some geckos away from my drink. My wife and I are visiting for her birthday, and I'm taking a few moments before we head off on another hike. If you're a paid member, thank you very much for your support. There are now hundreds of paid members supporting my newsletter. I love that my articles have helped so many people with their careers. If you're just visiting, skim through my other articles (half my newsletter articles are available to the public for free) and see if you'd like to stick around!

Strong leaders communicate necessary information in as few words as possible. They plan what they want to say. They immediately answer questions asked, or communicate the necessary information. Then they stop talking.

They tailor the breadth and depth of their communication to the situation and audience.

If you notice you frequently get follow up questions in interviews or meetings, you may be missing relevant details when you explain things. Concise without relevant details gives more work to others.

If you notice others try to interrupt you a couple minutes into your answers, you may need to work on being concise. Spend a few more moments planning exactly what you want to say, and force yourself to stop talking once you've said it.

As your career advances, your communication skill becomes a more important aspect of how you're perceived by other leaders.

Interviewing - Answering the Question

"Have you ever used Photoshop?"

"Well, in the past I used to use a lot of tools. I've used Gimp, Illustrator, Lightroom, and Darktable in addition to Photoshop. I really like Lightroom's interface over Darktable because it's easier..."

I understand this provides more information. More is not necessarily better. Plan what to say. What was the question? What are you sure they would like to know?

In this case, "Yes" might be ok, but awkward. Perhaps you don't know why they're asking, but giving them your life story is also not useful.

"Have you ever used Photoshop?"

"Yes. I've used it extensively for photo editing as well as marketing materials."

The interviewer has asked a question. You answered it, including some brief clarification details. It's possible this is all the interviewer wanted to know. Now the interviewer can ask a follow up question if they would like, or they will move on.

Interviewing - Expecting the Next Steps

"Have you ever fired someone?"

"Yes, multiple times. It's always a pain to do so, but sometimes you have to do it."

Great, you've answered the question. Starting with the answer is perfect.

Yet it's incredibly unlikely this is the end of their questions. Tailor your answer to the question, and the situation. In this case, in an interview, it's likely they're going to want more details.

"Have you ever fired someone?"

"Yes, multiple times. Would you like me to explain the most recent situation where I had to let an employee go?"

Now you answered the question. You considered the situation, and think it's likely they're going to want an example situation. Rather than immediately explaining however, you ask the interviewer. Any long winded answer must always be offered, not given.

Work - Answering a Question

In a project status meeting - "Is project X on track?"

"Well, at the moment we're working on a long list of tasks. The QA team is working hard on validating the next steps in the schedule, and we're looking at restarting the test cycle..."

Answer the question! And importantly, answer it first. Don't proceed into a lengthy explanation when a yes or no question was asked.

In a project status meeting - "Is project X on track?"

"Yes, we're green."

Perfect. No need to elaborate when things are as we all expect. It drives us all crazy when someone needs to explain why nothing has gone wrong yet.

In a project status meeting - "Is project X on track?"

"No, we're red."

Clearly this isn't enough. Red is a problem. Red requires clarification. Think through your answer and imagine the minimal explanation which requires no further follow up.

In a project status meeting - "Is project X on track?"

"No, we're red. Our QA cycle discovered 3 blocking bugs. The team is working on all 3 bugs. We don't immediately know how hard they will be to resolve. We'll have updates on these bugs and a new estimate on a launch date by end of day and will communicate all information then."

This answers the question first. In the most clear way possible it summarizes the situation (What happened? Are things being handled? When do we hear about it next?). If anyone needs more information, they can ask.