How well do you communicate with others?
How do you know for sure?
Would your leader agree?
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
– Paul J. Meyer
Good communication is a continuous process intended to produce clearer focus, assist collaboration, and build consensus, build trust, relieve stress, reduce rumors, reduce confusion, ensure shared understanding, reduce misunderstandings, and most of all – to get things done!
It’s painfully true that you could have the best planned and organized project on the planet, but without good communication you’re bound to have problems. You could also have a weak, non-existent plan and still be successful, if the communication is good.
The best reason to develop good communication within your unit (and with your Leader) is to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings. Interpretations, like assumptions, create miscommunication which will stop or delay the successful completion of projects.
How good is your communication system?
Any good communications system in an organization should have these components:
- Clear:Easily understandable and free from ambiguity
- Cyclic:Sent periodically to members telling them what’s going on
- Focused:Delivered to the right people at the right time
- On-Demand:Info posted on a shared drive to answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), 24/7
- Timely:Information is provided in sufficient time to take action
- Two-way:The ability to receive input and feedback from all members
- Redundant:Delivered via several different means
Does your current communication system include all of these? If not, why?
How can you find out what’s REALLY going on?
Create ways to find out what’s really going on in your unit. The two best sources of information on how your unit is doing are your people and your customers. Listen to them and act accordingly. It’s amazing the number of high-priced consultants that just come in for a few days, talk to a few employees and customers, submit a report, and management thinks they’re brilliant.
If only the leader or a member of the Leadership Team would have done the same thing and listened with an open mind, without being defensive or passing judgment, the same results could have been achieved – for free. Keep your people informed. Listen and respond to their concerns!
The most important ways to find out What’s Really Going On:
- Blog: Post questions you would like members to answer. Ask for feedback
- Break bread together: Have a meal with members selected at random
- Sensing sessions: Meeting with members selected at random
- MBWA(Management By Walking Around)
- Visits: Spend one day a week, visiting a different location unannounced to talk to your members
- Open Door Policy: Provide a time when members can come see you privately
- Skip-level process: Randomly select members, several levels below you, for a private meeting, non-attribution, to ask for problems and solutions
- Suggestion box: Receive anonymous suggestions for improvement
- Surveys: Send out a survey and assess the results
Have you ever struggled to get a simple decision from your leader? Have you ever felt certain that your communications with your team members were effective, only to find out later that this was untrue? If so, maybe it’s time to learn how to better communicate.
Communication is the glue that holds it all together. Good communication is a continuous process intended to produce clearer focus, enable collaboration, build consensus, build trust, relieve stress, reduce rumors, reduce confusion, ensure shared understanding, reduce misunderstandings, and most of all – to get things done! Interpretations, like assumptions, create miscommunication which can stop or delay the successful completion of your projects.
It’s painfully true that you could have the best planned and organized project on the planet, but without good communication, you’re bound to have problems. You could also have a weak, non-existent plan and still be successful, if the communication is good.
Here are a few suggestions on how to enhance your communications:
Have you ever received a message from someone that was vague, unclear, or confusing? How did that make you feel? Put yourself in the position of the listener. How often have you assumed that the person you’re speaking with understood what you were saying only to find out later that they were thinking something different?
Here’s an example:
One day one of Bob’s Direct Reports (John) walked up and asked, “Bob, did you get my email?” Bob responded, “Huh? What are you talking about?” John then realized that he wasn’t on the same frequency. So, he said, “The email I sent you about travel costs. Was it okay?” Bob then responded, “Oh, now I know what you’re talking about. But, please wait for my response, because I’ll probably forget this conversation.”
There are two important lessons here about better communication:
First, whenever you start a conversation, ensure the listener is on the same frequency. To do this, you might have to preface your initial remarks with, “Concerning the email I sent you about (Topic of conversation like the email you sent about travel costs), I have a question”. Now, pause and wait for some form of confirmation that the listener recalls the email (past communication). Then ask your question.
Second, if you sent the email to your leader, don’t stop him in the hallway and ask him if he got your email. He will probably not remember it, and he won’t be able to answer your question fully.
Bob will need to go to that specific email, among the 547 emails he’s received in the past 24-hours, before responding. If you have questions, pick up the phone, or see him in his office. If the question isn’t time-sensitive, ask your question in an email. This way you’ll get the correct answer, and his response will be documented.
Use an “FAQ SITE”
Have you ever found yourself answering the same question over and over? If so, post these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) with answers on a shared drive so everyone can benefit. Delegate this to a team member.
Get Consensus on the meaning of Commonly Used Terms
Some words and phrases are open to interpretation. Clearly define commonly used terms. One of the biggest problems I noticed as I spoke to executives from different offices in the same organization was that they lacked a common language. They all had different definitions for the same term, which could lead to serious miscommunication. The solution was simple; collaborate to create a list of commonly used terms with one mutually agreed upon meaning. When the list was Staffed to all Key Players for review, this created a few new terms. Further clarification was added to the definitions, and the list was Staffed again until consensus was achieved. Problem solved!
Avoid leaving Unclear or Incomplete Voice Mail or Email Messages
Please call me back I have a question for you.
I have a question about our meeting tomorrow.
I need to know where and when the meeting is tomorrow.
I need to tell you something.
I need to tell you about the meeting tomorrow.
Meeting is @ 7 AM on Feb 28 in our conference room.
Did you get my email or message?
Did you get my message about the Staff meeting?
Wednesday, I sent you an email asking if you’re coming to Friday’s Staff Meeting at 11 AM.
Avoid using Unclear Words and Phrases
Bring it, send it, do it, etc.
Avoid using the word it. Instead, identify what “it” means.
They, Them, Their, He, She
Mary, Bob’s, John
State the name of who you’re talking about?
…with the other one.
With my red coat on my bed.
What’s the other one mean?
Next week, next month
Thursday, April 12 at 11 A.M.
I need it ASAP
I need your report delivered to my home no later than 5 P.M. on Friday, October 22
When do you want the task completed? Be specific!
Make sure Project Alfa gets done!
What is “this” or “that”?
Best: 14 November
Best: 10 AM
Meeting is moved up 1 hour
The meeting is at 11 A.M.
What does “move up” mean?
Let me know what you think
I need your comments of what gets added, deleted, or changed no later than Feb. 22
This one is hot or high priority
I need your comments/response no-later-than Feb. 22
When is the deadline?
9 out of 10 times
Less than 10%
Use Critical Reasoning & Creative Thinking
“Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for
the most part governed by the impulse of passion.”
– Alexander Hamilton
Critical reasoning and creative thinking are nothing new. They’re things you’ve practiced many times. It’s just that you’ve not given any thought to how you went about it, nor how the process can enhance your communication skills. Effective people have standards which they use to evaluate their critical reasoning and creative thinking process.
Critical Reasoning requires that you analyze the task, identify your goals, and clarify the problem you need to resolve. This includes considering the many perspectives influencing the task. Recognize that the data (information, evidence, facts, observations, or experiences) may be incomplete. Examine assumptions, along with inferences, conclusions, implications, and consequences of these assumptions. For example, is abortion always wrong? Are there times when abortion may make sense (like incest or rape)?
Creative Thinking challenges you to stretch your mind to see new possibilities or different ways of doing things. It asks you to identify those inhibitors that focus your thinking along predetermined paths. Inhibitors include perceptions, culture, environment, emotions, intellect, and idea killers, which are usually expressed by, “We already tried that, it would take too long, the leader would never support it,” or “I have enough information.” Creative thinking doesn’t take place in a vacuum – it builds on critical reasoning skills.
The critical reasoning and creative thinking standards help you evaluate your reasoning and thinking for relevance, consistency, accuracy, fairness, and completeness. When you apply critical reasoning and creative thinking principles to your writing process, you’ll enhance your communicative skills.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually
listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill
Have you ever had a conversation with your leader about solving a problem, only to find out later that what you thought your leader wanted or told you to do, was incorrect? You totally misunderstood what your leader told you. If not, you will. Misunderstandings are part of human nature. Since listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken or nonverbal messages, misunderstandings will occur.
Active Listening is a communication technique which requires the listener to paraphrase what he heard, saw, and felt in his words, to confirm what the speaker intended to communicate. Pay attention to their body language and gestures to understand the complete message. By watching their actions, you can identify the emotions behind the words. Not all actions are proof of feelings, but they should be considered.
- Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact without staring helps show sincere interest. Occasional breaks of eye contact are normal and acceptable, while excessive breaks, paper shuffling, and clock-watching may be perceived as a lack of interest or concern.
- Body posture: Sit up straight and lean forward slightly. Being relaxed and comfortable will help put them at ease. However, a too-relaxed position or slouching may be interpreted as a lack of interest.
- Head nods: Occasional head nodding indicates paying attention and encourages them.
- Facial expressions: Keep your facial expressions natural and relaxed to signal sincere interest.
- Verbal expressions: Offer neutral comments like “Go on”, “Okay” or “I see”. Don’t agree or disagree – initially. Refrain from talking too much and avoid interrupting. Let them do the talking while keeping the discussion on the subject.
- Reflect Back: Reflect back to them what you hear and see: “It sounds like…,” or “It looks like…,” or “Do I understand you to…”
- Ask questions: Rather than making judgments or stating your opinion, ask questions. Stay alert for common themes. Their opening/closing statements as well as recurring references may indicate their priorities. Inconsistencies and gaps may indicate an avoidance of the real problem and may suggest additional questions.
Pay attention to their body language and gestures to understand the complete message. By watching their actions, you can identify the emotions behind the words. Not all actions are proof of feelings, but they should be considered.
The most important things to look for when observing body language and gestures are:
- Boredom: Is he drumming the table, doodling, clicking a pen, or resting the head in the palm of the hand
- Self-confidence: Is he sitting tall, leaning back with hands behind the head, with steady eye contact
- Defensiveness: Is he glaring at you, making sarcastic comments, or crossing his arms in front of the chest
- Frustration: Is he rubbing eyes, pulling on an ear, wringing hands, or frequently changing body position
- Interest, friendliness, and openness: Is he moving toward you while sitting
- Anxiety: Is he sitting on the edge of the chair with arms uncrossed and hands open
- Sorrow/depression: Is he looking down
What message are you sensing, regardless of what he’s saying? Assess the non-verbal message you’re sensing and ask him what your sensing means. You might say, “I get the feeling that…, or I’m sensing that you… Is this correct?”
Note: Empathic listening means first seeking to understand the other person. You might say, “If I understand you correctly, you…. Is this correct?” “Now I understand you”. But, you don’t have to agree. Heated discussion is okay if it doesn’t lead to a personal attack, name calling, or swearing.
Enhance your Email
“I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously.
I’m really good at email.”
– Elon Musk
Here are a few suggestions to help you enhance the effectiveness of your email communications:
- Use Flags: Flags are helpful when tracking what’s important and what’s not.
- Request a “Read Receipt”: This lets you know that your email has been displayed.
- Add the Deadline to your Subject Line: Add the Deadline in your subject line, so the recipient knows you need a response and by when.
- Track your Deadlines: This method works great if you have several members to contact, all at distant locations. Within your email, create a new folder called DEADLINES. Every time you send an email to a Direct Report or Key Player, with a Deadline in the subject line, go to your SENT folder and transfer that same email to your DEADLINES folder. Now, when you go to your DEADLINE folder, you can manage all your Deadlines together. Ask your Direct Reports and Key Players to email you when they have completed what you asked them to do. Then, when you receive their email, just go to your DEADLINES folder, and delete that email.
- Use the “Reply All” feature more frequently: “Reply All” is one email feature that’s underutilized. When answering incoming email, this feature will help you the same as if you were physically in a room with all the addressees.
- Always ask, “Who Else Needs to Read This?” This differs from “Reply All.” Before sending outgoing email, always ask, who else needs to read this information and act on your answer. Also, should this new ‘question and answer’ go into your FAQ site for the future?
- Get better use from your Subject Line: People get lots of email every day. Most of these emails get deleted. Because of the sheer volume, folks don’t know which emails are important and/or urgent. To help the reader, consider using these additions to your subject line:
In Subject Window
Meaning to Receiver
Immediate Action Required!
Act on this NOW!
Read ASAP! Acknowledgement required
Read when you get a chance
Please come see me now
See my comment
Let’s talk, when you get a moment
Close of Business (normally 5 PM)
Use the 2-Person Rule
Are you Ready to “Send” what you’ve written? How many times have you sent an important email, only to read it later and find sentences left out and spelling errors? Did you receive dozens of questions from members because you left things out of your original email/document? If you use the 2-Person Rule, it will save you from major embarrassment later.
The 2-Person Rule states that anything you write, must be
reviewed by a second person, someone on your team,
before the document goes out.
The purpose of this rule is to make sure the document makes sense (clear and understandable), didn’t leave anything out, is appropriate for the audience, is correct and error-free, and includes and/or excludes the right members. Who’s your Second Person?
Master the Dying Art of Conversation
“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” – Walt Disney
The power of personal conversation is the secret to making and keeping relationships, and relationships are the foundation of effectiveness. Many of us are losing the art of conversation because of email, texting, and social networking.
These new systems have made us good at talking AT people, but not WITH people – and there is a big difference between the two. If you intend to build lasting and meaningful relationships with members, take the time to really get to know them through open and honest face-to-face conversation. This will pay big dividends later.
I went to a family gathering recently and observed something strange. Everyone over 30-years of age was engaged in an actual conversation with another person. Everyone under 30 as sitting quietly on the floor with their nose in some sort of device. I was astonished. Could it be that thanks to cell phone technology, our future generations are trading conversation for the opportunity to have a virtual conversation with their BFF? OMG!
Practice Device Etiquette
Whether we like it or not, devices (cell phones, laptops, tablets, or any electronic device) are part of our daily lives. However, they can be detrimental to your ability to build lasting relationships.
Here are some things to keep in mind about your devices.
- If you’re with others, and you’re using any device, you’re ignoring those around you, and that’s how others feel. So, don’t be rude, disrespectful, or annoying. Instead, get into them, build lasting relationships, and enjoy yourself. Focus on them and put your toys (devices) away.
- If you’re in a restaurant, turn your cell-phone to vibrate. But, what about emergencies? Tell your spouse, kids, and boss, if it’s a real emergency, call you twice, and then you’ll answer. Now, put you phone on vibrate and view the number if it vibrates. Don’t accept any calls unless these special people call twice. Problem solved! If you must take the call, get up and leave the group and talk using your inside voice.
- If you’re in a meeting, turn your cell phone to vibrate. Get involved in the meeting; give your 100% attention, and participation. Be a contributor, encourage, and help others. Do everything you can to support the Team.
- If you’re in your office, and someone comes to visit, put your cell phone in a drawer/close your laptop. This sends a clear message, “I respect you enough to give you my undivided attention. You are important.” Do the same thing in your private life with your friends and especially your spouse and children.
Speak the Truth
“None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who
have a high opinion of themselves.”
– Charles Spurgeon
Have you ever been asked for your opinion in the middle of a meeting or other gathering? Throughout your life, you’ll be challenged to step up and take a stand; to pick a side, to express your opinion. Once you’ve picked a side, your credibility will either be strengthened or weakened by the quality of factual support you use. You won’t win every argument, but you want to be remembered for the way in which you argued.
When asked for your opinion, you have several choices. You could ask for more time to think about it, be brutally honest, saying something non-committal, take the Fifth (Amendment), give the politically correct response, say that you don’t have a clue, or you could give a thoughtfully brilliant answer using the 3Bs. No one likes being unexpectedly asked for their opinion, with no time to prepare before answering. And, it usually happens when you least expect it.
For example, you bump into your leader’s leader in the hallway, and he asks, “What’s the effect of XYZ on our organization?” He’s asking for your opinion. Chances are that you don’t know for sure. But, in your best judgment, what’s your opinion? First, ask if you can think about it overnight and respond first thing tomorrow. If this doesn’t work, and you want to be remembered for the right reasons, remember the 3-Bs.
Here’s the Secret: To add value to your opinion,
use the 3 B’s; be Brief, be Bold, and be Believable!
Brief means Bottom-line, up front. Get to the point in 20 seconds or less. Bold means be compelling. Make it memorable for all the right reasons. Believable means be credible. If you expect to be believable, provide facts to support your opinion. If you have no facts, state your opinion is a just a gut feeling, intuition, and can’t be substantiated with facts.
How well do you conduct a Conversation?
Answering these questions can provide insight as to how well you can conduct a meaningful conversation.
- Give 100% attention? Silence/put away your devices?
- Listen more than you speak?
- Ask about family, likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.?
- Linger longer? Don’t be in a rush.
- Maintain strong eye contact?
- Ask open-ended “How” and “Why” questions (ones that can’t be answered in one word)?
- Not make judgment, admonish, or belittle?
- Keep personal information private?
- Demonstrate a willingness to actually help?
Note: If you answered “No” to two or more of these questions, you have difficulty with personal conversation and should consider making some needed changes.
Question: What did you learn? What are you going to change for the future? Be Self-Correcting!
To be continued: If you’d like to learn more about enhancing your ability to communicate, you can do so by adding this book to your professional library, today!
YOUR GUIDE TO BETTER COMMUNICATION
Here you’ll learn:
Chapter 2: Enhancing Your Communications
Chapter 3: Writing to Convince
Chapter 4: Collaborating to Achieve Consensus
Chapter 5: Power of Persuasion
Chapter 6: Speaking to Inform and Convince
Chapter 7: “Tell Me Your Plan”
Chapter 8: “Give Me Your Opinion”
Chapter 9: Listening to Understand
Chapter 10: Conducting Meetings That Matter
Chapter 11: Providing Feedback to Champions
Chapter 12: Most Important Communications Skills
You now have the chance to enhance your career by learning how to become more effective tomorrow than you are today.
Or, you can take advantage of our Special Offer below.
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Here’s what you’ll learn:
CHAPTER 1: BY BECOMING A BETTER FOLLOWER
CHAPTER 2: BY BECOMING A BETTER DELEGATOR
CHAPTER 3: BY BECOMING A BETTER PLANNER
CHAPTER 4: BY BECOMING A BETTER ORGANIZER
CHAPTER 5: BY BECOMING A BETTER COMMUNICATOR
CHAPTER 6: BY BECOMING A BETTER PROBLEM SOLVER
CHAPTER 7: BY ENHANCING YOUR AWARENESS
CHAPTER 8: BY BECOMING A BETTER TRAINER
CHAPTER 9: BY ENHANCING YOUR ABILITY TO MOTIVATE
CHAPTER 10: BY ENHANCING YOUR CHARACTER
APPENDIX A: PLAN OF ACTION EXAMPLE
APPENDIX B: REAL WORLD PROBLEM SOLVING EXAMPLE
APPENDIX C: ADVANCE PROBLEM SOLVING WITH VUCA
APPENDIX D: CAREER ADVICE
APPENDIX E: CREATING MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS
The Effectiveness Guide is the best investment you’ll ever make in your career.
Also, if you feel this information could help someone else, please take a few moments to let them know. If it turns out to make a difference in their life, they’ll be forever grateful to you – as will I.
Let’s make a difference together – one person at a time!
All the best!
Founder of TheCAREERMaker.com
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The 10 Core Competencies of Effectiveness
Followership | Delegating | Planning | Organizing | Communicating
Problem-Solving | Awareness | Training | Motivating | Character