by Ryan Tan
Effective communication skills are one of the most sought-after transferable skills in business.
Communication plays a big part in our lives. We communicate everyday all the time. Face-to-face conversations, phone/video calls, emails, instant messages, and even our social media updates. With productivity on the rise, people need to do more but with less time to offer. Having clear and effective communication has become ever more crucial, and it's a skill to be learned. (When Twitter was first launched, we were all struggling with getting a "tweet" out in only 140 characters!)
This is also evident in our work environment: Effective communication skills continues to be one of the most sought-after transferable skills in business. In our latest 2014 Leadership Survey, 63% of our business leaders indicated a "high" need for "Leaders who communicate effectively" in their organizations.
In fact, you'll find that effective communication is also fundamentally linked to other leadership issues shown in this chart: You can't inspire trust if you can't communicate genuinely. Without trust, it will be difficult to build an effective team, or to coach/mentor your people.
So how can we communicate more effectively?
5 Things Great Communicators Do [Infographic]
The realm of "communication skills" surpasses beyond just writing and speech. It is also about a thought, your attitude, your body language, as well as cultural and political elements. So here are the 5 tips on different aspects of communication that you can work on to boost your effectiveness in your next presentation, client meeting or team discussion. We've included some external resources that helped to explain why that skill is important and how you can master it to become a great communicator.
If you'd like a summarized version, download our "5 Things Great Communicators Do" infographic.
1. Plan and structure your message for clarity and influence
The most basic and important step in everything you do – whether it's writing an email proposal or talking to your team about this month's growth strategy – is to "know your audience". Know who they are, what they need/want to hear from you, and why. Then, structure your message in the most suitable format that adds clarity to the what and why components. For instance, in an email, use bullet points to breakdown your main topic into parts. If details are required in your communication, such as a business proposal, you can add a how to achieve component in your message.
2. Create (and advocate) a common vision for all
Great communicators, who were also great leaders (e.g. Ronald Reagan, United State's 40th President), led a vision that spoke to the hearts of their people. They created a uniform mindset that their people shared. Then through clear and open communication, people followed because they felt that they were part of that future.
3. Listen and probe for clarity
Listening legend, Dr. Ralph Nichols said, "The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." Knowing your audience, understanding their needs and to create that uniform mindset can be a challenge when your audience doesn't tell you what they need.
Active listening let you really hear what someone is saying, and interpret what they mean more clearly and effectively. When you listen with intent, you show your sincerity and care which helps to put the other person at ease. People communicate more openly when they feel comfortable. That's how you can understand them better – by listening and probing with the right questions.
Listening may seem like a simple thing to do, but it's not as easy to put into practice and actually master it. This article talks about the 10 most common and worst listening habits (and how to fix them) that prevent us from really listening to one another.
If you want more help on effective listening skills, download the sample chapter from our leadership competency development guide, "What Bosses Want".
4. "Speak" with your body language
Most people don't realize how much impact their body language has on making first impressions or telling someone something about yourself. Especially when inappropriate body languages can lead to negative or distractive experience for the person you talk to. If you are telling a potential client how much you value their business while laying back in your chair and not keeping eye contact with that person, he/she is probably thinking "yeah right" and then stops paying attention to what you have to say. No matter how great your content is, if your body language doesn't support it, you can't deliver an impactful message.
"Body language affects how others see us, but it also changes how we see ourselves." Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shared her research on how our body languages can affect our hormone levels, changing the way we feel about ourselves – such as feeling more or less confident. Watch her TED Talk and try it out yourself:
5. Be sensitive to cultural and political considerations
Your sensitivity to cultural awareness and political judgment within an organization can determine how well you can leverage on various resources to get things done. It helps to remove communication barriers between cultures and increase your options for effective results when dealing with different parts of the organization. It helps you know who your audience are, what to say and to who. You can learn how to be more culturally and politically aware by starting with an open mind, observing and listening to others. Use your active listening skills!
Now practice these communication skills at your workplace and observe how you increase your impact and effectiveness as a boss and leader. Use the infographic as a reminder whenever you communicate. Share this article with your colleagues or talk about your communication experiences in the comments below!
Topics: Communication , Interpersonal Skills , Leadership Survey , Listening Skills , Presentation Skills , What Bosses Want , Writing Skills