Career success requires three essential skills and the ability to answer ‘yes’ to four key questions. In other words, 3 + 4 Equals Success. After reviewing the first skill, Thinking, in our last blog entry, let’s move on to the next essential skill, Effective Communication.
The first challenge to clear communication is that fact that communication is between at least two people who have different needs and expectations. For example, when I tell my son, “Please clean your room soon,” I’m thinking a thorough cleaning by the time I get home from work (expectation) because Aunt Linda is going to use his room when she visits this weekend (need).
What does my son think? Sometime in the next week he can shove everything into the corner (expectation) because he “needs” to play video games for hours. So, different needs and different expectations result in a communication disconnect.
Effective communication is also challenging due to the different parts of communication. Most people think of communication in terms of words, tone, and gestures, which is true. But listening? That is certainly part of effective communication. In fact, I believe it’s even more important than talking! Why else do we have twice the capacity to listen (two ears) than to speak (one mouth)?
We also communicate by what we do. “Actions speak louder than words.” It might be cliché-ish but it’s a cliché for a reason. As a manager, when you tell your people to be on time to work yet you are habitually late, what are communicating?
As if all of the above doesn’t make communication difficult enough, throw in technology and it’s a wonder we ever make a clear connection. We’ve gone from face-to-face conversations to phone conversations to emails to texts. And now we must send a message using only 140 characters!
So, given all of the above, how can you communicate effectively? Start by using the first skill in the 3 + 4 equation, Thinking. What do you want to say? Who is your audience? What’s the best medium to use?
Then make sure all of your communication “tools” are lined up. Are your words, tone, body language, and actions all saying the same thing? Or are you sending conflicting messages?
Finally, are you listening for feedback? If you’re checking your smart phone for the latest Facebook update, probably not. So put the phone down and pay attention!
We live in VUCA world. VUCA, originally used by the military in the 1990s, stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. In addition to explaining today’s geopolitical world, VUCA is also a great description of today’s business world.
So how can employees find success and satisfaction while working in this VUCA business environment? As described in our book 3 + 4 = Success, a rich and rewarding career requires just three skills and four questions to ask yourself. Over the next few blog posts, we’ll briefly explore each of these skills and questions.
The first skill needed for success in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business environment is the ability to think critically. The problem is most people take thinking for granted. In other words, many people don’t think about thinking!
There are many types of thinking. Future Work Skills 2020, a report from The Institute For The Future, points out several types of thinking needed for success in the year 2020:
Adaptive Thinking: proficiency at coming up with solutions beyond that
which is rule-based.
Computational Thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into
Cognitive Load Management: ability to filter information for importance.
Transdisciplinarity: ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
Did you ever think thinking was so complicated? Thinking “well” requires many “inputs.” For example, an article in Inc. magazine said the simplest way to get smarter is to be healthy. It’s hard to think when you’re not getting enough sleep, not eating correctly, and not working out.
Technology is having an impact on our ability to think deeply or to concentrate. Our ability to focus is severely hampered when we’re constantly checking on the latest "important" tweet or Facebook update. Technology is also ruining our ability to spell correctly and think creatively.
Are you a positive person? An optimist? That can help you think critically as research has shown people with a positive outlook on life are better thinkers than pessimists.
Thinking doesn’t just happen. Or maybe it does and that’s the problem. If you want to take your career to a new level, become proactive at improving your thinking ability. Schedule a regular time to just think about your work and your life.
In fact, why don’t you start now? Grab a fruit smoothie or some other healthy snack, turn off your smart phone (which is most likely not making you smarter, by the way), and spend some time contemplating how you can be a better thinker.
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.