What You Say When You Write An Order Or Command
by Gene Griessman
The name of Zachary Taylor will not be found on any list of great American communicators. But if U.S. Grant had anything to do with compiling the list, Taylor’s name would be near the top.
Zachary Taylor–the 12th President of the United States who became a hero as general during the Mexican War–is scarcely thought of today for any reason. Yet Taylor was immensely popular in his day, and became the role model for General U.S. Grant who served under him as a lieutenant.
Taylor’s communication style as described by Grant in his Personal Memoirs could serve as a guide for any high-ranking leader in the military, in business, education, or politics.
Here is the way Grant described the communication style of his old leader: “Taylor was not a conversationalist, but on paper he could put his meaning so plainly that there could be no mistaking it. He knew how to express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words, but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of high-sounding sentences.”
Taylor became Grant’s role model. Taylor hated wearing a uniform and often dressed like a common soldier. So did Grant. Taylor hated pretension. So did Grant. Taylor was a fighter. So was Grant. And, for our purpose here, Taylor communicated with few, well-chosen, words that could not be misunderstood. So did Grant.
If you find yourself in a command and control situation, the communication style of Taylor and Grant is the way to communicate. “High-sounding sentences” have an important place in poetry, a political speech, and a sermon—-where words are chosen for their beauty, the images they evoke, and their power to entertain.
But when action is required, you must choose words that there can be no mistaking what they mean.
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