I tell my clients they must put an end to informing each other.
Because inform is a Treadmill Verb™. And like other Treadmill Verbs™, such as report and review, it has no destination. There is no way to know when you are done. It is an open invitation to talk on and on with no particular outcome in mind. It leaves people listening, assuming they are listening at all, for nothing in particular. Thus, it accomplishes little, encourages smartphone tinkering, and leaves most people bored and disengaged.
Unfortunately, inform remains a favorite agenda item. Even die-hard fans of mine who have memorized the six clarity kernels still argue that it is important to simply inform people.
So let me offer some alternatives that are much more productive. Let’s replace those treadmill discussions with destination-oriented approaches. In doing so, we will dramatically shorten the conversation, increase engagement, and improve results.
The most common use of inform is to explain efforts to-date and plans for next steps. Thus, you begin with “This is what I’ve done and this is my plan.” Right? But tell me, what do you really need? And why should they care?
Once you know the answer to those questions, you have a destination – a purpose. That destination will make it easier to provide the right background information. It will also make it easier to get what you need.
Here are six substitutes for inform that will make people sit up and take notice. Each begins with “Here is my plan.” [Note: clarity kernels are shown in italics in these examples.]
1. Here is my plan. Am I messing with your plan? Does either your plan or mine need to change?
2. Am I missing anything? I need a list of missing tasks or resources.
3. What could go wrong? I need a list of potential problems that I should consider.
4. Am I on the right track? I need confirmation before I continue.
5. May I proceed? I need authorization so I can continue.
6. I can not succeed without your cooperation. I need confirmation that you can support my plan.
I don’t care if you are using email or a meeting to inform, I guarantee that you will accomplish far more if you replace your treadmill informing with one or more of these outcome-oriented approaches. If you aren’t pursuing a clarity kernel, you’re just talking.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on September 4th, 2016.