The term ‘communication’ now includes many activities associated with everyday organisational life – oral, face-to-face, formal, informal, personal, interpersonal, nonverbal, and written – which is why so many organisational headaches are attributed to ‘communication problems’. Indeed, a common finding of organisational reviews is that ‘communication needs to be improved’. We spend so much time ‘communicating’, but so few of us give much thought to the essentials of this key management activity…

1. Always work to establish rapport.

Without the trust and confidence of others with whom you are communicating, much of what you say will be lost. It is imperative, therefore, that you take time to establish and build rapport. Knowing your audience is a vital part of this process.

2. Attract the attention of your target audience.

It’s not what you communicate but how you do it. People are being bombarded with information and have become very selective. If your message is going to penetrate today’s highly critical market, you’ll need to make it stand out from the rest. Make your communications short, sharp, and customised to capture the attention of your target groups.

3. Demonstrate confidence.

A key quality in any communication is confidence. Research reveals that, if you sound and look confident, others are more likely agree to what you might propose. The converse also applies.

4. Give people your full attention.

communicate 2Not everyone who communicates with you necessarily wants your response. For example, he or she, may be using you as a sounding board from which to develop a proposition in more detail. For this reason:

  • ask questions instead of giving answers
  • focus on what the other person is saying, not what you’ll say next
  • focus on what you can learn instead of what you can teach
  • ask how you can help.

5. Opt for clarity.

The way others respond is a useful measure of the effectiveness of your communication. The messages we communicate must be specific, straightforward, unambiguous, consistent, and complete. The amount of information you communicate will depend on the recipients’ abilities to interpret and act on it.

6. Match saying and doing.

When communicating, there is a close link between what you say and what you do – which is why you can communicate personal values, ethics, and credibility. Messages go unnoticed if the messenger can’t be believed. So make sure you walk the talk and, when you don’t, explain why.

7. Be aware of your nonverbal communication.

Most meaning is communicated non-verbally. Although a long list can be found in topic 158, the essentials are to stand or sit erect, look directly at your listener, make constant eye-contact, and adopt an enthusiastic tone of voice. Learning to observe body language is also a skill; so keep your eyes, ears, and other senses attuned to nonverbal messages signalled by others.

8. Learn to listen.

Effective communication is a two-way process, which demands that you hear other people’s messages. Listening, therefore, is an essential and most demanding skill. In ancient times Zeno of Citium observed that we have two ears and one mouth to encourage us to listen much more than we speak. Others have emphasized that we learn more when we’re listening than when we’re speaking. The bottom line is that if employees think you’re a poor listener, they’ll stop talking to you.

9. Invite feedback.

Before obtaining the views of others, make sure that you can rely on them to provide honest feedback and that you can handle the truth when it is presented. Winston Churchill established a group whom he trusted to provide a balanced assessment of events – especially any ‘bad’ news. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein is alleged to have shot one of his generals for giving feedback that he didn’t want to hear. When people know that you appreciate feedback and are prepared to act on it, they will keep you well informed.

10. Ask the right questions.

Charles Darwin assured us that solving the mystery of evolution was a straightforward process once he knew the right questions to ask. Effective questioning is an essential problem-solving skill that can be used to help others solve their problems, too.

11. Capitalize on informal communicating.

The grapevine, that informal network that carries information faster than any known technology, survives and thrives in every organisation. Learn how you can use this means of communicating for the organisation’s benefit.

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