Get Over It: Good Business Writing is Easier than You Think (and more important than you can imagine)Read Now
When people hear we run a business writing consultancy, they often respond with a grimace or uncomfortable smile and say things like:
Wow, you must be really smart.
Oh, I’m a terrible writer.
I’ll have to watch my grammar around you two.
Oh, don’t look at my website.
And so on.
Very few people launch into a discussion about having written a great proposal or grant or rallying a team with a stellar call to action through email. Even fewer dive in with questions about how writers work or what it takes to write with success. Instead, we hear about the barrage of ill-written emails and ‘just good enough’ proposals.
But we’re here to tell you that writing well can be one of the most gratifying and powerful skills of your career. In fact, good business writing can lead to promotions, improved relationships, client retention, and higher profit margins for companies. Empirical evidence suggests good writing matters especially in business. (Read more in our Newsworthy section.)
So it makes sense to care about writing and foster better provisional communications. It makes sense that anything we write should take priority if we want to make money, be promoted, or retain clients. So why do so many shrink away from writing better or writing at all? It could be that the very thought of writing poses a bigger problem rather than an opportunity, despite the obvious benefits.
This tendency is the likely result of having a fixed mindset about writing. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has explored and developed a theory of fixed versus growth mindsets. In a nutshell, Dweck discovered that people have two perspectives when it comes to intelligence and abilities. “Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait—they have a certain amount, and that's that. In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence over time."
Those with fixed mindsets, according to Dweck, fear looking bad in front of others. They believe that things (like writing) should come easily without effort. This comes from being overly praised for the result rather than the process. On the other hand, those with growth mindsets, are less worried about how they look. They tend to see difficulties as opportunities to develop. Dweck writes, “Instead of thinking they were failing (as the students with a fixed mindset did), they said things like ‘I love a challenge,’ ‘Mistakes are our friends,’ and ‘I was hoping this would be informative!’ This more productive perception results from being praised for actions versus results and understanding that failure is part of a bigger process. Ultimately, Dweck believes that once you identify a fixed mindset, you can convert it to a growth mindset and take charge of the situation or activity. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept10/vol68/num01/Even-Geniuses-Work-Hard.aspx
Here are some tips for finding your way around a fixed mindset with writing:
Starting with the basic incentive of profitability is understandable, but for real change you need a commitment to being a more powerful writer and communications leader. Instead of thinking about the bottom line, consider the results of good business writing: increased confidence, engendered trust, greater collaboration, innovation. Imagine knowing the communications produced by you and your team with provide the platform for growth, and yes, profitability.