Every now and then I will peruse job boards and simply keep my eye open for any opportunities that may be worth checking into. Each job has a wide assortment of requirements ranging, each specific for the posted job. Seemingly in all job posts that, usually there is a requirement that specifies that the candidate will possess good communication skills. Ironically enough, one common problem plaguing organizations today is the lack of communication abilities. Whether or not various departments are communicating within the organization, or whether or not the organization is communicating with customers, it appears that communication skills are in demand, but not fully realized.
Forbes.com recently had an article listing “ten communication secrets of great leaders” by Mike Myatt. Personally, I would have not listed them as secrets, as they are all grounded in common sense and basic principles. Yet for some reason, organizations seem to struggle with the message they send, or within organizations, efficiency is weighed down due to a general lack of communication. The article goes on to list the “secrets” as:
1. Do Not Use a Forked Tongue
Do not lie. This basic principle goes back to the dawn of civilization. When someone is not truthful, it will destroy their reputation. For someone who wants to send a message to others, if they are not well respected, that message will fall on deaf ears. Whether or not an individual is not truthful, or an organization, once viewed is untrustworthy, it will be extremely difficult to overcome the loss of reputation. Good communicators usually have an audience that respects them, and will listen to what they have to say. Even if the message is based on truth, if the source is not trustworthy, the content of the message will not be seen as trustworthy. Trust is not obtained through position or the desire of the individual, but is derived from their actions and character. All individuals would be wise to remember this before falsifying resumes, experience, or skills.
2. Get Personal
Good business practices have always been based on relationships. Whether it is company-customer, company-supplier, or simply management-workforce, when a relationship exists, communication is more in-depth and clearer. Receivers will not give much attention to messages sent by individuals or organizations that are not seen as caring. If no relationship exists, communicating becomes challenging.
3. Get Specific
Clear and concise messages will be remembered. When taking classes for my MBA degree, the most challenging assignments were research papers or reports that had a maximum length of a few pages. Going back to my days in high school, a short paper was always preferred, but sometimes there is simply too much information to be able to easily get into a short amount of space. People at work are usually busy and do not have time to read a full length email or memo and as a result, no matter how much quality information or time the individual put into creating their message, it may not be read. If a message can be stated in a few lines, there is no need to write up two paragraphs taking up half a page. Leave the descriptive and eloquent language to creative writing or poetry.
4. Focus on the Leave-Behinds Not the Take Away’s
The basic premise of communicating is to send your message to others. Learning from others is vital and a necessary skill for success, and when an individual can learn about others, they will be able to have a better understanding of the interests, needs, and desires that others may have. Mr. Myatt argues that an individual should adopt a servant mindset, which will shift their focus to others. This is the concept that an individual will learn much more about others when they are the focus rather than focusing on a predetermined agenda. In other words, a good communicator will be able to place the emphasis and priority on others before their own needs and desires.
5. Have an Open Mind
A closed mindset will prevent anyone from realizing opportunities. When others have dissenting opinions or ideas, if they are not considered because the manager already knows the answer, people may begin to tune them out. Why should they make efforts to come up with innovative ideas or alternative solutions to problems when their opinion will not be considered?
6. Be Quiet and Listen
Talking too much will drown out others. While having a message and sending it to others is very important, equally important is the skill to be able to listen to others. Engaging in meaningful and collaborative conversations is an attribute that all good communicators will have. Simply sending out a message over and over will only go so far. However, conversations will more effectively deliver messages. In addition, when engaged in conversations, messages can be modified and improved on based on immediate feedback or alternative ideas posed within the conversation.
7. Replace Ego with Empathy
Empathy goes much further than arrogance and selfishness. I am sure everyone in the work force has encountered individuals who thought highly of themselves and were not bashful about it. Personally when I encounter someone such as this, I do not give them nearly as much as they give themselves. This poses a problem in regards to communication. What if these individuals need to communicate with others, or to sell their vision? How will it be received by others? Individuals who are empathetic will be more authentic. Mr. Myatt argues that this will turn anger into respect and doubt into trust, for which I fully agree.
8. Read Between the Lines
What is said is important, what is not said is important as well. Taking over the floor is not as effective as yielding it to others. The art of communication is steeped in reading others. Determining body language or sensing tones of voice can allow individuals to be in tune with others as they are communicating. Listening and paying careful attention to others will provide more information and raise awareness.
9. Know What You are Talking About
When someone has little understanding on what is going on, they are not viewed as experts in the subject matter and their communications will carry little weight. If someone rises in an organization or takes on new roles, their primary responsibility would be to learn as much about the nature of the operations as possible. Groups of individuals will give more credence to people when they have an understanding of what they do, or the nature of their job. If people tend to gloss over their lack of understanding, or worse if they attempt to fake it, they will not be given much credit. These “smooth talkers” as what Mr. Myatt describes them as, will be limited in how well they will be able to communicate.
10. Speak to Groups as Individuals
The art of speaking to a group may be difficult for many, me included. The ability for an individual to speak to large groups, but yet deliver the message in such a way that members of the group think they are being spoken to directly takes great skill. When accomplished, the ability for a communicator to deliver a message en-mass will be very effective.
Many of these skills are rather common sense, but in light of human nature, if they are not natural behavioral patterns, they may not be practiced. In most organizations, communication breakdowns are probably a common problem. As individuals, we have the power to do our part to restore good lines of communication with others. The problem is significant, but if every individual focuses on these attributes, communication will improve for any organization. It is very difficult to calculate in tangible ways, but when done right, the quality of communication will definitely enhance any organization.