How Mandi Ellefson Became an Effective, if Imperfect, Communicator

Ah, perfection. Have you ever turned down a speaking engagement because you tend to trip over your words? Have you ever ended a conversation before getting into the meat of it because you weren't sure how to start? Have you ever struggled to find the right words or completely misread the room? 

We've all been there. But if it feels like these challenges might be holding you back, it might be time to take a slightly different approach. Even with the best intentions and great communication tools (which I can teach you), conversations can still fall apart. We can only control our side of the interaction. And so, we need to let go of our need for perfection.

Five steps to unlocking the secret to effective communication

As CEO of Hands-Off CEO, Mandi Ellefson helps consultants scale their agencies, creating rapid growth while reducing reliance on the principal. She is a successful businesswoman and a sought-after speaker, but she struggled with communication for most of her life. She missed a lot of unwritten social cues and was once criticized, in front of a live audience, for her public speaking skills. "I've had to learn so many things to overcome what the rest of the world would consider such huge flaws," says Ellefson. "I found mechanisms to be able to communicate using my own strengths. It compensates for not being as eloquent and allows me to be effective without being perfect."  

How did she do it?

  1. Show up to serve. "I show up to serve, add value, and build social equity. I ask deep questions, listen to their answers, and make room for both of us to be vulnerable. That way, when I say the wrong thing, which I will, they give me the benefit of the doubt."
  2. Enroll people in your vision. "Focus on what you are here to create in the world and enroll people in your vision. I have an important message to share, and I'm not going to let anything get in my way."
  3. Keep your commitments. "When we're working with a new client, we show them each step of our process and let them know what they can expect from us and what we expect from them. We set concrete agreements and follow through on our agreements."
  4. Lean into your strengths. "I'm good at building trust with other people, and I used to be a graphic designer, so I'm very good at communicating visually. I lean into those strengths, whether I'm teaching a workshop or on an enrollment call with a prospective client."
  5. Stay curious. "When I'm criticized or critiqued, I choose to be curious about it instead of taking it to heart." 

When we consistently show up authentically and with integrity and turn toward the other person, letting them know that they matter to us, we build trust and credibility. You don't have to be the perfect communicator. That does not define who you are.

Your message, your mission, and your work are what matters. And if you're stuck in a perfectionistic cycle, consider the other person's needs rather than staying stuck in your internal negative dialogue. 

People work with people they trust, even those with imperfections. "You don't have to be perfect," says Ellefson. "Bravely take action forward, ignore the noise around you, and just keep going because you are on a mission. You're here to change the world."


©Copyright 2022 Debra Roberts, LCSW All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced without permission from the publisher.

A version of this article was initially published on as: You Don't Need to Be Perfect to Be an Effective Communicator