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Writing Skills for Executives

Writing Skills for Executives

Writing skills for executives, alongside personal presentation skills, are hugely important. The more senior your leadership responsibilities the more advanced your written communication skills are expected to be. Many a promising career has been derailed by poor written communication skills. And many have blossomed after the acquisition of skills to produce compelling writing. 

How to develop your executive writing skills

Many courses are on offer to help improve writing skills for executives. How can you assess if any of them are going to help? How can you assess whether 1:1 coaching aimed at improving the writing skills for executives will be effective?
Awesome PurposeMost certainly you will want to determine that the coach or tutor can demonstrate writing skills for executives at the high level you would expect.
Perhaps you would prefer that s/he is a best selling author, or you might want to read some of their work. You can read some material written by Prof Nigel MacLennan at the end of this section.
Confirming that the coach or tutor has advanced writing skills for executives, is one thing, establishing that s/he can teach or coach the skills is another.
Coaching and MentoringYou may want to consider whether the coach or tutor has a sufficiently long-track record as a coach or tutor. Perhaps the ideal is that they have written and published books on coaching or training, too – thus demonstrating writing and coaching skills.
So that you can assess whether PsyPerform has the right combination to help you, here are a couple articles outside of our usual area of performance psychology, written by Prof Nigel MacLennan.
If you wish PsyPerform to coach you in writing skills for executives, you can contact PsyPerform here.
Samples of writing skills.

Meat deceit: a British corruption recipe

Prof Nigel MacLennan rounds on the recipe for a very British form of corruption and chucks a few blows at its ribs and loins.

‘Where deep fried truth was invented; the place where integrity pie is a great British tradition.’ If you have traveled extensively you’ll know that is how the majority of the world sees us.  Yes, really! We are comparatively well-trusted.

Corruption, we tend to think, happens (according to the UN listings) in places like Nigeria, Indonesia, and India, not here in the UK. Hmmm?

You probably thought that what you ate and fed to your family was wholesome bovine meat. You had good reason to believe that the Hillsborough Disaster was caused by drunken Liverpool fans, the same reasons you believed that Jean Charles de Menezes (a Brazilian man of clearly Brazilian appearance)

“lept the turn-styles” at Stockwell Tube Station and was thus shot dead as an Islamic terrorist.

For similar reasons you believed that no British politician would fiddle their expenses, nor would you think for one moment that BAe had been involved in ‘cash for contracts.’

‘Cash for questions,’ during the Major Government, was obviously just a political smear, as was ‘bungs for gongs’ during the Blair Government.

Each of the good reasons you had came from someone you trusted, and should have been able to trust; they gave you every cause to believe that they were telling the truth. Instead they were acting corruptly; serving their interests at the expense of yours.

We use the word loosely, but what is corruption?

Is corruption when a lawyer, carrying a few too many horse lunches, advises his or her client in such a way that serves the lawyer and harms the client? If you’ve commissioned a lawyer at any time in your life you will almost certainly have experienced or suspected the same. (Have you noticed that the words liar and lawyer sound alike, and, communicate similar points?) Are liar-lawyers an example of corruption? According to Transparency International, which annually publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index, (CPI), corruption is: “the misuse of public power for private benefit.” We publicly authorise and give lawyers the power to practice, so a solicitor advising in their own best interest is corrupt.

Surely such near universally shared experience of lawyers as self-serving liars is one isolated example of British Corruption. Compared to our European neighbours, we are perceived to be more trustworthy; that’s what most of us think, or would like to.

Alas, there are 11 European countries that have much less corruption than we do, see the CPI. Looking further, when you learn that places like Hong Kong and Barbados are less corrupt than the UK, you know we have a serious integrity problem.

By comparison, how corrupt are we? In India, a country where our ancestors put in place the systems of law and government over a 200+ year period, around 1/3 of politicians have outstanding criminal charges against them. In some Indian states more than half of all politicians have criminal convictions!

Of course (?) the idea that a politician in the UK would be committing criminal offences or involved in any form of deceit while in office is completely out of the question. We would like to think so.

Reality forces other thoughts.

If we started a ‘C list’, for corruption,

of British politicians who have been involved in… how shall we say it diplomatically…  ‘alternative forms of integrity,’ it would be thicker than the best-selling book, ‘The Politician’s Principles of Integrity.’

Not a difficult challenge, since such a book has, unsurprisingly, never been written. Alleged or actual cases of ‘alternative integrity’ include: Huhne (perverting the course of justice), Archer (perjury), Major (Curry), Aitken (perjury), Morley, Chaytor, Devine, Hanningfield, Moran and many others (false accounting): just a tiny number from the ‘C list.’

Of course, as you know (?) immediately that the expenses corruption was uncovered, the entire government machine moved to address the problem. If memory serves, Harriet Harman proposed a motion in the House of Commons that MP’s expenses would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The first law of corruption was invoked: where there is no possibility of scrutiny there can be no corruption. Like the tree falling in the forest, if nobody hears it, it makes no sound. Kill the scrutiny and the corruption ceases to exist. Fortunately, what may have come to be known, had it passed, as the ‘MPs’ Corruption Charter’ was defeated after a huge public outcry.

Equine Beef Are Us and similar companies have benefited from

the first law of corruption, probably for decades.

There has been no scrutiny; amazingly no-one ever conducted DNA tests to check whether what was being sold was beef, dog, cat, or worse, and when tests were belatedly conducted for the first time, corruption was uncovered.

Are you wondering what other corruption will be uncovered by a little scrutiny? Relax, you won’t have to wait long.

Back to our corruption recipe: actually (?) it so useful as a method that it works on things other than food.

Take our preferred, very British, corruption modus operandi: deceit (a willingness to lie about something, anything in order to promote our best interests at the expense of others), and add a little of our much used locus operandi, (any location devoid of scrutiny), and prepare to enjoy our tasty proceeds.

Ah, there is one final ingredient to be added, with a note of caution: the recipe creates a sour outcome if any form of conscience is present while cooking.

To avoid inadvertently rustling-up an otherwise unappetising treat, choose one or more from the following tried and tested conscience repelling incantations:

‘No-one will care if a few elderly people are left on trolleys to die, at least we’ll meet our targets and keep our jobs.’

‘Who is going to blow the whistle if we bolster party funds in exchange for an MBE? Certainly not the recipient, and who else would know?’

‘Who will know how Hillsborough was caused, particularly if we change the testimonies and destroy the records?’

‘It’s only a white lie about some petty speeding points?’

‘Clients are muppets.’

‘Well, if we don’t pay a little sweetener to get the arms contracts someone else will.’

‘Who will ever know that my legal advice was designed to serve me?’

‘Well, with my salary being so low who can blame the master of the house for making up a little on the side?’

‘No-one will notice if we re-label something bovine as equine; most of them don’t even know what the words mean!’

There you have it; deceit with lack of scrutiny and some conscience repelling incantations and you can eat well on corruption, for life.

Happy cooking!


Sample 2 of writing skills.

A taxing word in your ear

Psychologist, Prof Nigel MacLennan takes a tongue-in-cheek, ironic look at tax, its name and the factors that influence our attitudes to it.

Since the 13th century, when the first taxes were introduced, we’ve all loved paying tax; we wake up every morning, leaping out of bed with ‘How I love paying taxes’ as our inspirational mantra.

Each of us has total faith that governments of any principle, and none, always has spent and will spend our hard earned taxes with the most serene wisdom imaginable. Who could possibly accuse the noble civil service of wasting our money, ever? Unthinkable: how ridiculous! No, the paragonic UKBA (UK Border Agency) were saving tens of thousands of unanswered letters, in a darkened room, in the name of philatelic appreciation.

Entirely misunderstood were their benign motives for globally broadcasting that the UK is closed for higher education business; savings had to be made on the increasing costs of handling the annual October influx of cash-carrying overseas students arriving at Heathrow immigration counters!

While we love being forced to pay tax, for such reasonable improvements, most of us hate giving our money to help others. Who of right mind would offer hard earned money to actually help someone?

Juxtaposing our emotional reality, (never knowingly described as irony), may illustrate a powerful principle: we hate paying tax, but love helping people.

Seizure and subsequent squander of more than half our yearly earnings, is, of course, the right way to make people feel emotionally positive about paying tax. It makes us better appreciate reaching ‘tax free day,’ (approximately the 7th of July in the UK), after which time everything earned in that year is ours to keep. People should be grateful that we abolished full slavery in 1833; now they are only forced to work for half a year for no pay. Surely they know that semi-freedom tastes much better than no freedom.

Paying tax, as with all coercion, leaves us in emotional deficit, but it need not; we could turn that affective loss to feel-good gain. How? It’s in the name, stupid! Cut our losses on the use of negatively perceived ‘tax,’ and start making gains on positively viewed Social Contribution. We feel

good about giving, we feel bad about seizure.  By emphasising the social contribution made by our payments going in to the collective pot, we might even get a little high!

Tax is a taxing word. Social Contribution does what is says on the tin and gives us a sense of well… making a social contribution.

“Oh, you’re just playing with words,” yelps Mr. I-Have-No-Knowledge-of-Human-Nature, with unintended irony from behind his pompous septi-barrelled name. Of course we are playing with words; that is, believe it or not, how we communicate!

Words shape our world, and we use them to shape how others see their world. To wit: while I’m persistent, you are stubborn; I’m a self-made woman (only on Friday nights at Trannie D’s), you are a LIBOR-fixing, PPI mis-selling, sub-prime mortgage conning, country bankrupting bankster; I used to be a demi-slave paying taxes; now I make a worthwhile social contribution.

Of course, this concept of naming an act to help people see what it is intended to achieve is entirely new, and radical. At no point in history has it ever been thought of, let alone used successfully. No, David Lloyd George, in 1908, when he proposed ‘National Insurance’ was (?) completely clueless of the notion.

Really, why would anyone ever want to name something so that people would know what it was used for? The idea of making people feel good about the common good will never catch on!

Tax needn’t be taxing. Indeed, making it more of a pleasure can be as simple as the addition of one plus one.  Clinton’s campaign slogan: ‘It’s the economy stupid,’ plus, Lee Atwater’s observation ‘Reality is perception,’ equals people feeling good about making Social Contribution: It’s in the name, stupid! 

If there is an outbreak of common sense we might decide to remove that taxing word tax from our soundscape! Will such a plea be heard? In all probability, the wax in the ears of those who tax us for years, is too thick.