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Communicating Your Way to Better Results!

By Carol Rovello, MA, SPHR

Communication is a basic skill that is relevant for all roles, both personal and professional. As we grow up, we learn to talk; but rarely are we taught to communicate effectively. Have you ever been talking (and quite happy with what you are saying) when you suddenly realize that the other person has completely tuned you out?

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 As a business leader, you can’t afford to waste your time. Sending the “right message in the right way the first time” helps you make the best use of your time AND it improves your chances of getting the results you want.

It is possible to influence others through our communication style. While this is helpful for everyone, it is particularly critical for business leaders. Your primary leadership communication objective is to produce action: to get employees or colleagues to understand what is expected, when it is needed, why it is necessary, and sometimes how to do it. In order to make communication work for you, you must:

  • Learn which communication techniques will get the results you need.

  • Assess you own communication effectiveness.

  • Practice new skills with someone you trust.

  • Slowly, but surely adapt your communication style to incorporate these new skills into your daily interactions with your employees, customers, and colleagues.

Most verbal communication processes share similar characteristics. Some experience, fact, object, or idea is observed by an individual (the sender) and these observations are translated into a message and sent. The message is received by another individual (receiver) who interprets it and responds to the sender. The receiver lets the sender know that the message is received and understood (verbally or nonverbally). Because effective communication is a process that results in the same understanding of the meaning, the role and skills of both the sender and receiver are equally important. What does all this mean to you? Good speaking skills are only the first step - you also have to be a good listener to be an effective communicator.

An effective communication process is dependent upon a free flow of information. Sometimes, however, problems disrupt the flow. These barriers can develop within the sender or the receiver, or they can be caused by other factors. Some common barriers to communication are:

  • assumptions related to differences between the sender and receive

  • resistance to change

  • lack of credibility

  • poor timing

  • defensiveness

  • emotional reactions that lead to judgment

  • lack of feedback

  • tendency to not listen

  • differences in status

  • lack of trust

  • a noisy or disruptive environment

  • and the list could go on…

You may be surprised to know that your face-to-face interactions are influenced more by your tone of voice and body language than your words. This has been confirmed through many studies. In fact, one study discovered that words only accounted for 7% of the meaning in face-to-face interactions, while tone of voice and body language accounted for 45% and 48%, respectively. Why is it helpful for you, as a business leader, to know this? Paying closer attention to all of the information that you receive from your employees, customers, and business peers will help you to better understand them. This understanding will help you to anticipate and prevent communication problems before they occur.

If you are a supervisor, you are constantly influencing employee behavior. When you first develop a supervisory relationship, you must establish and communicate clear expectations. Then, you must provide effective and consistent feedback on a regular basis. This feedback reinforces and encourages positive employee performance/behavior that results in greater efficiencies and more effective operations, product development, and/or customer service. Effective feedback is essential for your other professional as well as personal relationships. In order to use feedback to positively influence the behavior of others, be sure that it is:

  1. Descriptive rather than evaluative,

  2. Specific rather than general,

  3. Considerate,

  4. Directed toward behavior that the person can control/change,

  5. Well-timed,

  6. Checked to ensure mutual understanding, and

  7. Reciprocal.

Remember that your current communication patterns have formed over the length of your relationships. You may be surprised at how much you have contributed to a troublesome pattern in the past and how much you can change it going forward. Change is possible, but take your time and stay with it. Since effective communication is best learned by doing rather than reading, consider this article just an introduction to the topic and look for hands-on opportunities to put this theory into action.

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Carol Rovello is the President of Strategic Workplace Solutions. She helps organizations align human resource initiatives with business operations, anticipate and resolve HR challenges, and institute the structure needed to support organizational change.

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