Seven Steps to Communication Success
By Tess Marshall
you’ve ever been in a committee meeting, you know that communication
skills vary from person to person. Some people talk and never listen.
Others don’t speak up at all. Some get angry and defensive. Others
calmly state their opinions. One thing is for certain: Most workers
could benefit from some further instruction on communicating
effectively. When everyone in your company achieves better
communication skills, your employees will gain a happier work
environment, better relationships with their co-workers, and greater
communication skills are critical to the success of any business.
Effective communication breeds creativity, innovation, cooperation,
and high performance among employees. Ineffective communication breeds
resentment, stalled growth, and unhappy employees. To become effective
communicators we need to learn the appropriate skills. We need to feel
comfortable expressing our needs, wants, likes, and dislikes. We need
to learn self-control to remain silent when we would really rather
speak. And we need to learn to speak our minds while not alienating
With good communication skills, employees and managers can
advance their organization’s strategic plan and attain their goals
in a positive and supportive work environment. Everyone will
benefit—from the employees, to the customers, to the shareholders.
To teach your employees the right way to communicate, start by putting
these 7 tips to use. When you do, your company will become a place
where honesty is valued, employees feel appreciated, and goals are
achieved much more quickly than before.
1. Listen to learn:
shows you care about what someone thinks. When you are tempted to give
advice, ask, “Would you like advice or shall I only listen?” Often
the speaker only needs to speak his or her thoughts aloud and then
draw his or her own conclusion. When you are listening, give the
speaker your undivided attention; push all other thoughts out of your
mind. Close your office door. Switch your cell phone to vibrate mode
and concentrate on the present moment. And don’t forget to maintain
good eye contact. All these little things add up to showing respect to
2. Think before you speak:
delay your reaction to what you hear. If you feel an urge to react,
stop; take a deep breath and count to 10. That pause will allow you to
clarify your ideas and present them in an appropriate way. Always
paraphrase what you think you heard and ask if that’s what the
speaker meant. If the answer is yes, and you still need more
information, ask the person to tell you more. Rarely do you walk away
from a conversation asking yourself, “Why did I listen so much?”
Any regret you feel is usually the result of talking too much and not
listening enough, so realize that some silence in a conversation is
3. Don’t be judgmental:
yourself in the other person's shoes. Listen to understand—you don't have to agree. Be open to others’ differences. People want to feel
heard more than they want you to agree with them. Respect the fact
that people have a right to different opinions than you. When you can
accept others, your communication skills will improve. The
conversation will flow and criticism will disappear. Let others know
that you care about them, thank them for sharing with you, and inquire
how you can best offer your support. Now you will have gained your
speaker’s trust and you can move forward towards a solution.
4. Build trust with honesty:
trust involves communicating openly and honestly. Honesty and
credibility lay the foundation for engagement and high performance of
your employees. Set a good example by always telling the truth. Give
employees opportunities to share their ideas. Establish time for
roundtable discussions. When you share information, involve others in
dialogue, allow time for questions, and give clear answers. When you
say you are going to do something, do it. When you forget to do
something you promised, take responsibility and ask what you can do to
make it up to them. Be a person of your word and be proud when your
employees model your behavior.
5. Give honest feedback:
pretend things are going well when they are not. People appreciate
sincere feedback. Without it, employees fail to grow and develop. When
you do give feedback, be honest—people will sense when you are not.
If a person becomes upset at the feedback, try to minimize the
discomfort. Realize that upset always involves fear. Address that fear
and work on a solution.
6. Admit what you don’t know:
No one has
all the answers all the time. Know when to say, “I don't know. I will get back to you on this.” Then don’t forget to
follow up by providing the answers. Give sincere apologies and admit
mistakes. Reveal your human side and other employees will feel
comfortable enough to do the same.
7. Voice your appreciation:
who are valued and accepted feel appreciated. Appreciated employees
are loyal, happy, and productive. The person expressing the
appreciation will feel good too. Let your co-workers know that they
matter as a person and the work they are doing is important. Don’t
just show appreciation to your favorite employees—difficult
employees typically need the most appreciation, yet they get the
least. Look for opportunities to show appreciation and use words of
kindness, encouragement, and gratitude. Write personal thank you notes
to your employees to acknowledge good work and success. Develop the
desire to excel in your company by praising employees in public but
offering constructive criticism in private.
Start Fostering Better
Set a good
example by becoming an effective communicator. Ask for feedback on
your own communication skills and be willing to implement positive
suggestions for improvement. Be approachable. Be honest. Give your
employees reason to trust you and encourage them to trust each other.
Then they will learn to cooperate and work together better as a team.
When you place a priority on good communication skills, you will be
rewarded with a healthy, motivated, and profitable organization, and
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