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Career Advice: How Focused Are You?

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"Describe yourself," one CEO asks job applicants, "in three words or less."

What would you say? Probably not, "I'm wordy and verbose. Also repetitive."

On the other hand, the U.S. President just hired a new Secretary of State whom he regards, at times, as "long-winded."

But I don't think that's what clinched the job for the new Secretary, unless, one day, after listening to him ramble on and on, the President got desperate.

"This fellow talks too much," the President concluded. "Obviously, the only thing to do is hire him, and then, immediately, send him to 112 different countries."

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How focused are you?

"You seem to have 29 ideas at once," an executive told one of his managers. "And I feel like I'm hearing them all, right this minute."

Ever gotten feedback like that?

Sometimes, we get mired in details. "You wouldn't believe what happened to me last Thursday," we say—"no wait, it was Wednesday. Actually, now that I think about it—this thing I'm about to tell you—it didn't really happen at all. I dreamt it. Last Monday."

I work with several companies where executives, after taking a communication assessment, will gladly tell you their preferred style. Each style has its own color.

Let's say you walk into an office and see the color red. That means, in essence, "Get to the point. Then get out."

But most execs aren't that direct.

Your boss probably hasn't asked you to say it in three words or less, or given you feedback about your 29 ideas, or flashed the color red in your face.

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Maybe she hasn't said a thing about valuing conciseness.

Tip: Assume it.

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