Jim Rohn stated, “if you can just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles”. This statement continues to prove itself true in all aspects of human interaction, especially in organizations that rely on teamwork, communication, and understanding to succeed. The art of communication is one of the first things we learn as babies but many of us spend a lifetime doing it wrong.
Communication skills are important to organizational success because it is through this process of transmitting, receiving and processing information that a team or group can convey its' plans, values, and other vital information to team members and internal and external customers. Effective communication from all levels of an organization, in particular for management, provides transparency into what the big picture/end game of the organization will be. It provides team members an understanding of how their work will contribute to the big picture and gives them confidence in their ability to support the team effort. Clear communication is also a means of dispelling uncertainty and rumors that tend to arise when team members are faced with many questions but few answers.
Unfortunately, communication does not always flow as it should in the workplace. When there are problems with communications, it can lead to frustration, lack of trust and the blame game between team members and management. Management's messages can get lost somewhere in translation. Team members can lose their connection to the organization's big picture as messages are not properly relayed.
Whether you are an expert at communicating or you could use a refresher, here are some tips to improve your communication skills in the workplace:
- Know your Audience: Tailor your message's tone to match the person you are communicating with. For example, the way you speak with your best friend should not be the same way that you speak with a client or manager. This is not to imply that you should be stiff or fake in your communications; it only means that each audience requires a slightly different tone and approach to ensure you properly reach them.
- Have face-to-face conversations: As we have become more and more dependent on technology, our main means of communications are texts, instant messages, and emails. A lot can get lost in translation as the receiver tried to interpret tone, inflection, and intention when reading messages via these popular mediums. In a face to face conversation, you can interpret not only the words being spoken but also the non-verbal in the form of facial expressions and body language.
- Clarity is key: If you have ever played the game “Telephone”, then you know how quickly information can get misconstrued as it passes from one person to another. Ensure that your messages are clear and concise to avoid misunderstandings. If communicating via email, avoid jargon and confusing acronyms and keep the email on the subject.
- Diplomacy goes a long way: Conflicts are inevitable when you have different personalities working long hours in close quarters. Prevent minor disagreements from turning into major meltdowns by promoting an open-door policy, practicing conflict resolution techniques and validating everyone's opinions. Allow all parties in the dispute to be heard while ensuring personal attacks and gossip are avoided. Work to find the best solutions where all parties are satisfied but do not capitulate to ideas that would put your business in a compromising position.
- Listen vs. Hear: Communication is a two-way street where we send and receive information. Oftentimes we are so busy preparing to send information/respond that we do not listen to what is being relayed to us. This can lead to misunderstandings. Instead, we should listen intently when someone is communicating with us, avoiding distractions and asking questions as needed for clarification.
With something seemingly as simple as communication being able to make or break an organization, it is no wonder that strong communications skills are often listed as one of the top ten desirable skills employers look for. The growing trend of employees from diverse backgrounds, experiences, etc. in the workplace has placed greater importance for recruiters to look for candidates who can effectively communicate across all modes of business communication to properly convey the necessary messages. It is easier to teach a new hire a business process than it is to teach a seasoned employee how to properly communicate with team members.
Whether an organization has two teammates or two thousand, effective communication will always be vital to the growth and sustainability of the organization. It can also provide a competitive advantage. A willingness to openly discuss and address issues is also important in the workplace, as is having the right agents in place to relay the needed information.