Back to Basics: Communication 101
We spend hours weeding through our in-boxes, preparing reports and attending meetings. We talk, we text, we tweet. But, for all of the channels we have to reach each other — many of our most impassioned messages remain “lost in translation.” Why? One explanation is that we simply haven’t built the required skills to ensure that we are communicating effectively. We invest in strategies to design engaging office spaces, flatten bureaucracies and build the technological capacity to receive those messages. But have we devoted ample time to the development of our communication skills?
The answer is likely “no” — and sadly, this limits our potential to share best thoughts, and convert those thoughts into action. The truth is, we think little of how we are doing communication-wise.
It is difficult to over-estimate the power of well developed communication skills. As described aptly in a recent HBR post, it is unlikely we’ll hear of an individual that has “communicated too much or too well.” With communication prowess comes confidence and self-efficacy, a win-win for contributors and organizations alike. However, while communication skills sit high on the list of valued workplace skills, they remain a challenge for many of us. Whether we are considering the pitfalls of presentations, addressing the power of body language, or lamenting the e-mail epidemic — having the skills to communicate effectively matters.
It is difficult to over-estimate the power of well developed communication skills.
We can begin to address this shortfall in a numbers of ways. A few to consider:
Set the tone.
Communication skills should be re-discovered as a core competency in today’s organizations. Building awareness concerning the so-called “softer skills” sends a strong cultural message. Identify “communicating” as a priority within your organization or team. Re-focusing on this skill set (effective collaboration, presentations skills, etc.) can build confidence and empowerment.
Make room for development.
Building and maintaining strong oral and written communication skills is critical to success. Unfortunately, we work under the assumption that these skills develop spontaneously — and we all have weaknesses. How will this affect an individual’s ability to manage others? When was the last time you completed a skills refresher in this area? What are your “communication” shortfalls? Make plans to work on them.
Communication skills should be re-discovered as a core competency in today’s organizations. Building awareness concerning the so-called “softer skills” sends a strong cultural message.
We all value innovation — and there isn’t a single idea, waiting in the wings, that wouldn’t benefit from a healthy dose of effective communication. We must have the ability to convey our thoughts completely to others. Communication techniques that help us present our ideas, and the inspiration behind them, could figure prominently in launching the next great product, service or start-up.
Communication skills directly impact the quality of our daily work lives. We should all have the skills to relay what we need from our work, even if these conversations are difficult. On the other hand, managers need to be skilled at delivering meaningful feedback that directs behavior.
Build in face time.
If possible, build in opportunities to meet in-person. If you’ve ever received a cryptic e-mail (What?) or experienced an awkward conference call (Has she finished speaking?) — you realize how the absence of facial expressions and body language, limit the quality of a conversation. By and large, context is key to understanding.
Borrow a page from the “effective listening” handbook, to determine if you are open to absorbing sent messages. Often our own “filters” can impact that reception.
There is the receiving end of the communication spectrum to consider, as well. We receive just as many messages as we send. Borrow a page from the “effective listening” handbook, to determine if you are open to absorbing sent messages. Often our own “filters” can impact that reception.
Complete that “sound check.”
Take time to determine if your message has been fully understood. Ask more questions: Is there anything that you do not fully understand? Do you need to hear more? All in all, communicating your ideas should always be considered a valued workplace opportunity. Having the skills to feel confident that your message was clearly heard — that’s priceless.
Do you agree that we should invest more in communication skills? What are the basics that we should cover? What skill would you like to develop?
This article is by Dr. Marla Gottschalk, an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist and contributing writer, at switchandshift.com.