The Happy Engineer Podcast

157: Learn to Say More with Less Words | Executive Communication

Want to project authority and decisiveness in your communication? Communication skills and executive presence are ALWAYS development areas for engineering managers. You can never be too good at communication!

In this episode, I reflect on a recent coaching session with an engineering leader named David, who struggled to articulate his career challenges concisely.

I share how, despite his impressive background, David’s long-winded communication hindered his progress. From experiences like this, I’ve learned the critical importance of clear and concise communication in career advancement.

I delve into how engineers, like myself, often fall into the trap of verbosity, but mastering concise communication is essential for success. Whether it’s in emails or conversations, brevity saves time and fosters clarity. By adopting this habit, engineers can project authority, autonomy, and decisiveness, crucial qualities for effective leadership.

Join me as I discuss the power of concise communication and its transformative impact on career growth.

Download the free 10X-Habits Checklist, part of our New Career Acceleration Scorecard for Engineering Managers!

So press play and let’s chat about leveling up your communication game!

Want free coaching, LIVE? Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community!  HAPPY HOUR Workshop Live with Zach!


The Happy Engineer Podcast

The Power of Concise Communication in Engineering Career Growth



LISTEN TO EPISODE 157: Learn to Say More with Less Words | Executive Communication

Previous Episode 156: Why Some Engineers Should Definitely Start a Consulting Business with Jay Aigner


Top Takeaways on Concise Communication for Engineering Managers

In this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast, we re-think communication habits for engineering leaders.

Here are the top three insights:

1. Being concise is key: Engineers, like David, often struggle with using too many words to communicate something simple. Mastering the art of clear, concise, and brief communication is crucial for career advancement.

2. Shorter emails, better results: Sending long narrative emails can be time-consuming and ineffective. Instead, opt for one-sentence emails that clearly communicate the desired response. Save time for both the sender and the recipient.

3. Habits matter: Consistently getting results aligned with your highest dreams and goals is reliant on developing and leveling up on habits like concise communication.

To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, listen to this entire conversation.



Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: So last week I had the privilege of meeting with 12 different engineering leaders for the first time in coaching. And one of those was an amazing engineering manager named David. David and I got on our call together. We were just meeting for the first time. And I asked David a question that I always ask with a new engineering leader who I’m working with.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:22] Tell me what’s going on in your situation right now. Made you want to reach out for a session today. Why are we here? What’s the situation that makes now the perfect time to start coaching? And David proceeded to respond with a typical answer I hear a lot. He said, well, Zach, let me back up a little bit and give you some context so you can understand how we got here.

[00:00:47] You see, eight years ago, I moved from company A to company B. And when I got to company B, I thought I was going to have this really outstanding opportunity to build and develop my career. my boss told me I was doing very well. I worked a lot on my development plans and I picked up some new skills. I actually got my MBA on the side while I was there.

[00:01:09] But after three years in that organization, I realized that things just weren’t happening as they promised. The, the culture was a bit toxic. I wasn’t getting the support and sponsorship that I needed. And I started to wonder if things were going to happen there or not. So I took a lateral move into this other area of the company where I thought maybe the projects would be more aligned with my strengths and.

[00:01:33] Oh, man, I don’t know about you, but you’re already feeling that glaze come over your eyes and you’re just not sure where the story is going. I interrupted David and said, Hey, I really appreciate what you’re saying, and this is really interesting, but help me understand what’s most important with how that context relates to right now.

[00:01:56] What is it that made you want to reach out and get support? Where do you feel stuck? What’s the real. You said, Oh yeah, absolutely. Well, you see, so after that job, then I moved to my new company and I’ve only been here for six months. And in these last six months, I’ve been trying not to make the same mistakes as I made before.

[00:02:16] And I cut David off again. I said, Hey, I hear you bottom line it for me. What is the reason that we’re here today? And he finally said, well, I’ve been seeking a director promotion for several years now, and I’m unable to figure out why I’m not getting it. Ah, perfect. Now we can have a conversation. About what’s going on that’s holding him back from his director of promotion.

[00:02:53] It’s not to say that the context doesn’t have some value, but engineering leaders like David often struggle with using way too many words. To communicate something that is simple and concise and can be delivered in a single sentence. Zach, I’m here today because I’ve desired a director promotion for years, and nothing I’m doing seems to be working.

[00:03:25] I need help figuring out. What’s missing using less words, being more direct speaking and writing in a more concise way is a critical skill. It’s a habit to develop, and I do consider this a habit. It’s a conditioned way of communicating full candor. Happy engineer. This is an area where I still, to this day, must be intentional.

[00:03:58] The engineer in me loves to take the long road to the point. You’ve probably heard that on this podcast before. I enjoy taking the long road sometimes. I’m guilty, I am guilty, but in many contexts, fewer words, direct, concise communication is the most important thing you can do. It saves everyone’s time.

[00:04:26] It helps us get to the contrast and the clarity of the point that really matters. If you want to advance in your career, and if you want to be seen. As a leader, if you want people to notice that sense of authority, autonomy, decisiveness, power, build respect, all of the things that we look up to in leaders in our organization, one of these habits is clear, concise communication.

[00:04:56] Let me give you another example in email, I was speaking with Pramit the other day about an email he was sending to one of his, team members, and he was reading to me the email that he had written.

[00:05:10] And I stopped him after several paragraphs and said, We need to completely rethink your strategy here. What’s the reason for the email? Why are you sending this? And his answer was, well, they have not been delivering their part of the project for several weeks now and we’re starting to fall behind and I need them to respond.

[00:05:35] I need them to do their job. That’s a really normal problem, by the way. I’m sure you can relate. There’s somebody who you’re relying on who has part of the deliverable and you need to get their support. This long narrative email was so long that I couldn’t even focus in listening to it. What are the odds that that person who’s clearly already so busy that they’re not even doing their job is going to take the time to read this long email?

[00:06:03] I said, Pramit, if the real objective of the email Is to simply get them to respond. Let’s send them a one sentence email. Hi, so and so. It seems that you’re too busy to get back to me on the deliverables for our project. When can we speak on the phone about our next steps and get the project completed?

[00:06:31] Or when can I expect those deliverables to land in my inbox? What is your target for when this will be done? Question mark. Permit. Done. One sentence. Ask for the response. Ask for the very thing that you want. Deliver this novel that bores people and wastes everyone’s time. Here’s the real kicker. It’s not just wasting their time, it’s wasting your time too.

[00:07:01] I can’t tell you how many engineers spend hours redrafting, rewriting, rereading their own emails. that they’ve written before they hit send because they don’t want to send something that’s incorrect or might be misconstrued, and they agonize over every word. Being more concise is a habit. In the spirit of that, I’m going to be concise with you right here, right now.

[00:07:30] In your career, over the long haul, you do not consistently get the things that are aligned with your highest dreams and goals. The things that you consistently get are the results aligned with your habits, your standards, what you’re willing to tolerate, and leveling up on these habits, like concise communication, and a dozen other things that we cover in our scorecard for how to accelerate your career.

[00:08:03] All of these little habits matter. Be quick, be concise, develop great habits if you want sustained and compounding growth in your career. It’s that simple. If you need more of these tips, go grab the whole scorecard. The link is right there in the show notes. We talked back in episode 153 about calendar mastery.

[00:08:27] We talked in episode 155 about rethinking networking. And today We’re talking about habits, building those 10 X habits. And specifically one of those you must master clear, concise, brief communication, send shorter emails and listen to shorter podcasts. So let’s wrap this up. I love you. Get out there, go crush comfort. Let’s do this.