Tailor your message to your audience. Consider who you’re talking to and adjust your message to be relevant and relatable to them.

We are all competing in an attention economy. From pings and dings to blinks and rings, companies and content constantly compete for our limited time and attention. How do great leaders turn down the noise and tune in to the messages that matter most? What does it take to be heard above the noise? And how do we create communication that cultivates community and connectedness in a distributed, distracted world? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Will Yang.

Will Yang is the Head of Growth & Customer Success at Instrumentl an institutional fundraising platform that helps nonprofits find, track, and manage their grants in a single place. Our software saves users three hours a week and helps them apply to 1.5X more grants within a year.

Thank you for making time to visit with us. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is one of your most memorable moments, and what made it memorable?

Some of my most memorable moments are reading first-time customer feedback on our product. Getting to see the relief and ease it brings them gives me purpose in what I do.

What is the most unexpected twist in your career story, and what did you discover from your detour?

I’ve always loved to think big in both ideas and impact. At the start of my career, they all seemed intimidating and sometimes even scary to do yet as time went by, I discovered my passion for making things grow and creating meaningful experiences with people and in my own industry.

According to a recent Harvard Business School study, the most essential communication skill for leaders is the ability to adapt their communication style. How do you adapt your communication style?

One of the best ways to adapt communication styles is being flexible to how the other people communicate. This may be done by simply paying close attention to their body language or adjusting your language to your audience. In communicating with others, I find that it’s also great to ask clarifying questions just to ensure that you understand what the other person is saying.

Clarity is critical as well. What lessons have you learned about how to communicate with clarity in our distributed world of work?

Communicating clearly takes a lot of feel and adjustments. In a disturbed work environment, people from different backgrounds constantly work with one another which make it difficult to communicate in a way everyone understands. This is why the best lesson I’ve learned when it comes to communicating is to adjust according to who your audience is.

We often discover what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Tell us about a time when your communication didn’t lead to the desired results and what you learned from the experience.

There have been times in my life where I thought I had done everything I could to make sure that my message was understood across the team, yet it was otherwise. From misunderstood messages, and lack of visualization of what both parties meant, we dealt with setbacks that eventually could have been prevented if we had led with empathy. The main takeaway from this experience is to be patient and open with how people communicate to see things from their perspective.

Leading a distributed team requires a different communication cadence and style from leading a team in person. What are five strategies any leader can deploy to improve communication and clarity when leading a distributed workforce? Please share a story or example for each of you can.

  1. Tailor your message to your audience. Consider who you’re talking to and adjust your message to be relevant and relatable to them.
  2. Be clear and concise. Avoid adding too much fluff to your message and be direct to the point by using a language understood by the audience to avoid miscommunication.
  3. Encourage honest feedback. Hearing your team’s ideas will make everyone feel comfortable in collaborating more and will help you improve to better meet the needs of your team.
  4. Reiterate your points. By repeating your points, you ensure that everyone received and understood your message.
  5. Set appropriate expectations and be transparent with them. By setting your expectations early on with your team, everyone can work towards this goal with full confidence and trust.

What are the three most effective strategies to diminish distractions when there is so much competing for attention?

  1. Emphasize the most important information. Being straight to the point will avoid confusion.
  2. Break large tasks into smaller, more specific tasks and prioritize the most important ones. By implementing this technique, you’ll be more motivated to do tasks as they seem less intimidating.
  3. Set time blocks for productivity and breaks. Practicing the Pomodoro technique among others is great for pacing yourself between work and play — allowing yourself to complete your tasks without burning yourself out.

What is one skill you would advise every leader to invest in to become a better communicator?

In my opinion, empathy is a character skill that is above everything else. As a leader, when you try to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you understand how they want to be led, what motivates them, and how they learn the best. Empathy is the key to people’s hearts — once you understand how you can empower people, you can have a profound impact on the lives you choose to lead.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Having an open pantry in your community is an excellent way to help people who don’t have a roof over their heads. I believe that a lot of us have the privilege of having excess clothes, food, water, and other necessities that these people don’t have access to. When people come together as one community to give what we can so they can take what they need, the world can be an easier place for everyone to live in.

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.

You are all doing some amazing things here. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be a part of this. I really appreciate how you bring the voice of leaders to the world and appreciate you having me.