Be a good communicator — listen and share information
The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. It often doesn't happen because of a lack of effort from both the transmitting and the receiving parties. Invest in communication, and care enough to listen.
Former CEO of Procter & Gamble A.G. Lafley once said his job was 90 percent communication--communicating the next point especially.
Here are 8 tips for developing your communication skills.
1. Think it through:
There are many communications frameworks, but if you want to improve your communication skills, start by getting in the habit of thinking through these 5 questions for any communication you create:
Why are you communicating?
Who is the receiver, audience, or participant?
What is your goal or objective?
What do you want the recipient to do as a result of the communication?
What format will best accomplish your goal?
If you struggle to answer these five questions, you should spend some additional time thinking about how and why you’re communicating. Then, test your understanding with co-workers or your manager.
2. Give it time:
Plan what you want to say and review your communication to make sure it’s actually doing the job you need it to. For written communications, especially, this means: revise, revise, revise. Remember, great communication might seem effortless, but it rarely is.
3. Make it easy
Workplace communication almost always has a larger goal. People are busy. Don’t make them work too hard to understand what you are saying and what you need them to do. State your objective and main point from the beginning of a presentation or written communication so that your audience knows where you’re going. Then fill in the details.
While you don’t want to condescend or “dumb it down,” in everyday work communications, be mindful of not making the other party work too hard to understand. Find a clear, simple phrasing to encapsulate your point. Repeat it at the beginning, middle, and end, and consider using a simple visual or metaphor to make your point clear and memorable.
5. Experiment and diversify
Work on developing different tactics for different communication needs. Focus on experimenting with one aspect of your communication at a time. For example, spend a week paying extra attention to how you structure informal communications. Then spend a week trying different structures for formal meetings or updates.
6. Practice and reflect
Be deliberate about reflecting on what goes well and what doesn’t in your day-to-day communications. Maybe an email to your manager didn’t go well. Can you see how it might have been misinterpreted? What would you do differently next time? Similarly, if a conversation with a co-worker didn’t yield the expected results, try to identify whether you clearly communicated what you needed.
7. Consider the full package
Consider recording yourself through a few interactions to gain insight into what your full package is communicating in your daily interactions with your team. Do you make eye contact? Is your facial expression relaxed and confident, or tense? How’s your body language? Do you leave time for questions and clarification?
8. Seek feedback
Ask a few trusted co-workers and your manager to rate your communication skills. Start by asking them to rate (i.e., on a scale of 1-10) your written and spoken communication separately. Then ask these 3 questions:
What one thing should I start doing to communicate better with you?
What one thing should I stop doing in my communications with you?
What one area or skill should I work on to improve how I communicate in this organization?
Here are a few areas to consider to improve remote communication:
1. Clarify expectations
State expectations upfront and repeat them at the end of a communication. Even better, ask the other person to restate their understanding of your expectations.
2. Engage in 2-way flow
Being remote can make it easier for employees to check out and disengage. Be deliberate and creative about giving others a role in communication. Ask questions, use polling and ranking tools, and solicit responses in the form of emojis, gifs, or one-word descriptors.
3. Remember the power of in-person
A lot can be misinterpreted in the flat space of text without additional cues like tone of voice and facial expression. Don’t default to communicating solely through text or chat. A well-crafted team Zoom call or in-person meeting can establish a better connection and shared understanding, giving others a chance to surface areas of misalignment.
4. Focus on quality
People may feel protective of their time when working remotely, so make sure that live events are well-thought-out. Send agendas, meeting objectives, or background reading ahead of time to help people prepare to have productive conversations.
5. Create an informal space
Assuming good intentions and a sharing culture are both foundational for effective day-to-day communication at work. That said, they’re hard to build and maintain without opportunities for casual interaction like happy hours or non-work Slack channels.
6. Show you care
You don’t have to spend a lot of time checking in with people and asking about their personal lives. But, now more than ever, it’s worth reminding yourself that the recipients of your communications are real people who have their own challenges, distractions, hopes, and fears. Before getting on a video call or firing off an email, try picturing that person on the other end.