Communication is central to the work we do-regardless of industry, geographic location, or culture. At every moment throughout our day we are communicating a message to our colleagues and clients around what we value and what we disapprove of. We express satisfaction, disappointment, jealousy, and so much more without even opening our mouths. As leaders, we continuously fail to recognize the impact our communication has on how we are perceived both on a personal and professional level. By raising our awareness in this area and improving our ability to send messages that are aligned with our intentions we can build stronger relationships and achieve outcomes more effectively.
1. KNOW YOUR OWN STYLE! In order to communicate effectively with your colleagues and clients you must become familiar with your own particular communication style. Are you direct and outcomes oriented? Do you pace yourself and reflect deeply on everything that is being said to you? Does your style reflect heavily on that which is relational and people focused? Is your communication always based on the “rules” and “what’s right?” A good understanding of your own style is a critical first step in knowing how to relate to others in your office. It requires a great deal of introspection and a commitment to self evaluation. As you explore your communication style further it may be helpful to get (honest) feedback from loved ones who can provide insight into how you come across to others. The DISC personality profile is a tool that offers great information on various communication styles for you to consider, identify with, and learn from.
2. GET A SENSE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S STYLE! Now that you are familiar with your own communication style, it’s important to understand the style of your colleagues and clients. You can do so by paying close attention to their mannerisms, their facial expressions, and body movements. Most importantly, examine how they get their point across when communicating with others. Do they speak slowly or quickly? Do they seem to take 5 hours to reach their conclusion? Do they always spend some time making small talk before getting down to business? These are all helpful clues for identifying a client’s natural way of giving out information. Warning! Identifying each team member’s communication style requires patience and a great deal of work. The investment, however, will prove invaluable.
3. STOP ASSUMING! Miscommunication often occurs when we assume that our colleagues and clients know what we want or how we feel. We assume that “right” and “wrong” are absolute and that everyone generally sees things the way we do. WRONG. In the game of business we cannot assume anything about anyone. We must look at everyone in the office as a blank slate and take the time to get to know them individually-understand their history, their culture, their experiences, and their way of doing things. When we do so, we open the door to more effective communication which is based on inquiry rather than assumption.
4. BE TRANSPARENT! In order to be an effective communicator, you must ask questions. Not sure what someone meant when they asked you that weird question during yesterday’s meeting? ASK. Curious how to approach someone in the office who comes from a totally different background than yours? Approach him and be honest about your anxiety! Transparency will almost always elicit a positive response from the person with whom you are communicating. It sends a message of respect while demonstrating a sense of humility-both qualities that go far with folks of varying backgrounds and experiences.
5. CHECK IN WTH PEOPLE! Effective communication goes far beyond asking questions and learning about people’s needs. Being an expert in this area requires that you check in regularly with clients and members of your team. You may be thinking, “Monica I see these people all the time. Why do I need to check in with them?” Here’s why: “Checking in” is quite different from holding a conversation with someone about the status of a project or asking someone about their weekend as you pass by their cubicle. Checking in is an intentional act that involves two or more people assessing their pattern of communication and its’ effect on the relationship. During these conversations the following questions may prove helpful: 1) In what ways has our communication been helpful/not helpful? 2) What can I do to ensure that our interactions are productive? 3) Describe a time when I have not approached you in a helpful manner; what about it was not helpful? The point here is to check in with each other regularly to assess how each person is doing in his/her communication. If you don’t have time for this, MAKE the time.
Effective communication is critical to both personal and professional success. If you or your team need help in this area reach out to me to schedule a free executive coaching consultation. Don’t let poor communication ruin your relationships or your bottom line!