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!
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.