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Leading by Example

Over the past 1.5 days, I taught a business writing course for internal auditors. Throughout the program the vice president of internal auditing participated wholeheartedly in every learning activity. He shared his knowledge, admitted his knowledge gaps, and communicated his hopes and expectations for his team's audit reports and other written pieces.

That is leading by example.

Often corporate leaders want their staff to write more effectively, but they don't invest the time. They don't participate in the writing course, so they don't have the opportunity to tune up their own writing skills. As a result, they may have old-fashioned views and incorrect assumptions about today's business writing.

When the boss doesn't attend the writing class, people who do attend often bemoan their leader's absence. They want to learn more about their boss's expectations. They wish he or she were there learning the same lessons about concise, high-value reports and presentations. They would like their boss to understand their writing challenges, and they would appreciate their leader's opinion on how to handle sticky situations. Although they don't voice it, I wonder whether their leader's absence makes them question the priority he or she places on business writing.

To leaders who want their teams to write better, I say this: Lead by example. Write well. Share your knowledge. And if you schedule a training program in business writing, attend enthusiastically, side by side with your staff. They will learn more, simply from your presence.

In your opinion, how can leaders inspire better writing? I would love to hear from you.

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

2 comments on “Leading by Example”

  • Hi, Lynn, I agree with ‘Lead by Example’, that’s a good idea.

    But the problem is, leaders like VPs of Internal Audit Dept. or Chief Internal Auditors do not have much time to invest on business writing course, actually they do have more important work to do.

    My suggestion is Chief Internal Auditors delegate the work to a Senior Internal Audit Manager (if any) and the Senior Internal Audit Manager lead the audit team to learn business writing course.
    I’m an internal auditor in a HK listed company which is based in Shanghai, and we write reports in English. We are a small team and no Senior Manager as mentioned above, our way is to review the audit reports by each other, from grammar to wording. After we revise the report three times or more, then we submit the report to Chief Internal Auditor for final review. I know this is not the best way, but it’s acceptable in our department.

  • Hi, Larry. I am glad to hear from you. It sounds as though your system is working for your group.

    I am interested in your comment about Chief Internal Auditors: “they do have more important work to do.” I believe learning to communicate more effectively is very important. I agree with your idea of delegating the work to a senior manager if one exists.

    Thank you for commenting.


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