The United States and the world recently commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that landed men on the moon for the first time. It was unquestionably one of the greatest achievements in history, and according to NASA, it took the combined efforts of some 400,000 people to make it happen. How was this possible in light of the fact that NASA had less computing power available to them than you probably have on your cell phone? Well, aside from a lot of money, hard work, and brainpower, the Apollo 11 mission required a tremendous amount of clear and precise communication. Without everyone working together to complete their specially assigned tasks, no endeavor of this magnitude could have succeeded.
The same generally holds true within our own companies and organizations: Without effective communication among the people, our efforts are destined to fail. Therefore, it is critically important for owners, bosses, and managers to develop the skills necessary to clearly communicate with their associates. The following tips can help you improve in this vital area of leadership:
1. Actively and carefully listen.
This is perhaps the hardest yet most important communicative skill of all. Great interpersonal communicators know how to really listen to others. Many people have become adept at pretending to listen while just waiting for an opportunity to talk, but truly effective leaders know how to actually listen to what their people are telling them. Outstanding listeners also understand how to detect the implicit or connotative meanings behind the words used by the speaker (or author if the medium is writing) and can pick up on emotion conveyed through the speaker’s tone. Listening in such a manner will make your employees or colleagues feel more appreciated, which in turn will make them more likely to share their opinions and ideas with you. This may yield tremendous results as you gain more valuable insights and information from those around you. Furthermore, successful businesses hear the needs of their clientele and adapt to those needs.
2. Attentively observe nonverbal cues.
People provide feedback in a variety of ways, so picking up on nonverbal cues through body language can often reveal more than even the words being expressed. Small things like avoiding eye contact, folding arms, or sitting rigidly can speak volumes about how someone may be receiving the message you’re providing. Conversely, watch for similar cues as someone speaks to you to get a better sense of how they may be feeling about the situation. Because body language comprises such a large part of interpersonal communication, you should work hard to recognize it in others while being cognizant of how your own nonverbal cues may affect your coworkers.
3. Speak clearly and concisely.
A good speaker knows how to say what needs to be said in a succinct manner. Keeping your speech short while using easily understood words will reduce the chances of confusing your audience. Misunderstandings are more likely to result from being overly verbose or from using words that are not well known to those with whom you are speaking. For example, if your audience is unlikely to know what the word “succinct” means, you may want to come up with a different way of expressing the same idea. Monitor how well your messages are being received through both the verbal and nonverbal feedback offered by those you are addressing.
4. Write clearly and concisely.
Writing that is not clear will usually result in confusion as well, so every suggestion offered in tip three about speaking effectively also applies here. Choose your words carefully, and quickly proofread to eliminate major errors in sentence structure or punctuation that may make your ideas difficult to follow. Make sure that your writing is unified and coherent, which means that it stays on topic and is logically organized. Finally, tailor your language appropriately to the writing situation. After all, you will write a private e-mail to a close colleague differently than you will an official communiqué that goes out to the entire organization.
5. Make the most of technology.
We live in a digital age, and there are various communication platforms readily available for our use. People are increasingly accustomed to and comfortable with communicating via e-mail, social media, group text, etc. Take advantage of these tools to save time and document exchanges that can later be referenced. If a directive can be sent out through a mass e-mail, this will eliminate the need to convene a meeting that will cost the company time, productivity, and money. (After all, you will be paying those employees to sit there while you explain the directive in a meeting.) If you are in an industry that can allow staff to work remotely, you can increase employees’ job satisfaction by establishing routines and systems that provide this option. Using social media and the internet to advertise or blog can allow you to communicate directly with your customers and improve your brand’s image. These are just some ways technology can be used to make communication at work more efficient and beneficial.
Acting upon these recommendations will make you a better communicator and a better leader. These same skills were needed fifty years ago to bring hundreds of thousands of people together to accomplish one of the greatest feats in the history of mankind. This was only made possible through the close collaboration of individuals, teams, and agencies that understood their roles and responsibilities as clearly communicated by leadership. (A transcription from the Apollo 11 mission is available here if you’re interested in seeing what the control center in Houston and the astronauts talked about during the mission.) Developing these communication skills will help you and your business soar to new heights.
Leadership Excellence offers individual, team, and management communication skills training to help leaders become better communicators. Contact us today to find out more about our Effective Communication® Program for individuals and organizations in Cleveland and surrounding areas