We all get those emails at work—the ones that go on for several paragraphs, and when you get to the end, you still don’t know why they emailed or what they want you to do.


Communications like that are tough to get through, aren’t they? Have you, yourself, perhaps authored a less-than-focused email or two? Uh, oh!


In business you don’t want to be thought of as the guy or gal who rambles. Not when you write, and not even when you speak—whether that’s when you’re in a meeting, networking, or presenting. It can be a serious career derailer if people perceive that your communications don’t quickly and clearly get to the point.


If you suffer from the rambling affliction, the good news is there’s a cure, and it consists of asking one question when you’re preparing to communicate with someone: Why are we here?


Why are we here? That is the question


I teach an MBA level class in business communication in which we constantly reinforce the concepts of Purpose and Importance. If you’ve read some of my past articles, you probably know that I’m all about you knowing your Purpose and getting clear on what’s truly important to you. And I believe these concepts extend nicely to communicating effectively.


Purpose gets at the bottom line of why you’re communicating. You could say something like:


  • I’m here today to tell you about an opportunity.
  • I’m writing to let you know that we slightly underperformed last quarter.
  • I’d like to tell you about a problem I’ve noticed and offer some suggestions on how to address it.


Importance gets at what’s in it for the person or people you’re communicating with. Think of what you’re wanting to communicate to your audience and make sure you can answer “yes” to questions like:


  • Will it help them do their job better?
  • Is it the type of thing they’d want to hear from me and not someone else?
  • Would they find it interesting or enjoyable?


Purpose and Importance both try to answer the question “Why are we here?” They just answer it in regard to two different people:


  1. Why are YOU here communicating this?
  2. Why would YOUR AUDIENCE want to be here receiving this information?


Be clear about Purpose and Importance in what you’re communicating

This may all seem basic and obvious, but I can tell you that many of my clients are NOT clear about why they’re communicating (Purpose) or about what’s in it for their audience (Importance).


Why is being clear about Purpose so critical? Because whether they’re reading something you wrote or listening to you, your audience will not relax until they know WHY you’re trying to communicate with them. They want to know: What’s your agenda? And I don’t mean that in a cynical, “everybody has ulterior motives” kind of a way. I mean that it’s human nature to want to understand context, and it’s hard for us to concentrate on the message before we understand that context.


And once they get why you’re there, your audience will want to understand why THEY are there too. Tell them quickly why it makes sense for them to read or listen to what you’re communicating. Show them that you’ve given thought to what they stand to gain by also being there.


Next time you have to communicate something for work, take the extra time to get clear on Purpose and Importance, and raise your communication game to the next level!



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high achieving professionals communicate more effectively and experience more fulfillment at work.