Create A Stellar Work Environment With Sound Business Communications
Business communications can take many forms and must be managed carefully. You are judged by potential customers and coworkers constantly based on your verbal as well as your non-verbal communications – intentional and otherwise!
For example, showing up on time for a meeting communicates trust to the other attendees – even if they’re late. They know they can depend on you. In addition, it is important to look appropriate and use appropriate manners. At a recent networking breakfast I attended, attendees were seated at round tables and served. One person at my table was waiting for a special meal while everyone else was already served. 7 of the 9 remaining people began eating before his food arrived. These bad manners communicated disrespect and could cost someone business. Then there was the person who was cleaning his fingernails during the presentation…
Demonstrating your knowledge must also be handled carefully. Take care not to use jargon or big words to make yourself look good. This behavior could backfire by communicating a big ego and/or a lack of confidence. Instead, when encountering individuals or informal groups, ask them about their business and what types of customers they’re seeking. You will discover a lot of very useful information and can sometimes see if this person would be a good customer for you. You will usually get your turn to talk about your business, and now you can customize your pitch to their needs. You also come across as a caring, attentive business person.
When talking in front of a more formal group, make the talk as interactive as it is logical to do so. This tells your audience you are there to give them what they need. Whether you’re giving information to people in your own company (who might review or promote you) or to prospective customers, it is again important to use language they will understand. Coming across as a know-it-all turns people off.
Speaking too quietly or with a thick accent can also work against you. If people have to try too hard to understand you, they may just give up. An easy way to work on this aspect of communication is to leave messages for yourself or friends on answering machines. I knew a salesperson from another country who made dramatic improvements in being understood using this technique. Speaking too quietly could also communicate fear or a lack of confidence. That is definitely not going to get you customers.
Often, comments made at work are taken personally, and there are many legitimate reasons for this. Managers are trained to evaluate employees based on many personality traits – sometimes more so than the evaluation of the actual work. This process makes it difficult for the employee to separate work comments from personal comments. While it is important for employees to get along and work in a team environment, the employer can take responsibility for a substantial part of the existence or lack of a team culture based on how and what s/he communicates.
In our culture, competition, winning and the importance of being right are taught. These behaviors are not conducive to good communication and teamwork. Therefore, the employer may need to evaluate the importance of good communication and teamwork and teach these concepts. One additional concept that partners well with these is the benefit of diversity. A group with differing opinions and backgrounds, listening well and asking questions without assumption, with the same goal in mind, will ALWAYS have a better result than the individual – no matter how intelligent and experienced s/he is.
Listening is half of communication, but is not usually given half of the attention in perfecting communication skills. A great exercise to use for improving listening skills is ‘mirroring’. This involves having a conversation about a non-confrontational subject. As the first person states his position, the second person repeats back what she perceived was communicated. Using this exercise really helps participants recognize how much their beliefs influence what they perceive.
Other important components of excellent communication include the ability to let go of ego and the need to be right. This does not happen overnight and is often an evolution. Also, this ties in with taking comments personally and working in a team. When one understands that a great result is more important than being right or being the star, the great result is achieved much faster and easier.
For example, let’s say you’re a member of a project team created to solve a problem. If there is not a listening, team focus on your team, you may be hesitant to bring up ideas for fear of being embarrassed. Or, when you bring up what you believe to be the best idea ever, you hold onto it for dear life. If the team then wants to change your idea to improve upon it, it becomes an insult. This is not conducive to creating the best possible solution and implementing it with the full support of the team.
Respect is another critical component in effective communication. By treating others as you would wish to be treated, you can learn a great deal, make better decisions and build relationships. For example, say you are trying to have an important conversation with a co-worker, but they seem distracted. At this moment, you have two options. You can continue to try to have the conversation immediately, which is what’s important to you, or you can not have the conversation right then, and consider why your coworker is distracted. Respecting others’ time can build great relationships, which benefits everyone in the long run.
Business communications is complex. A great way to begin improving communications in your workplace is to pay attention to all that’s going on around you and motivations behind current behavior. Ask questions and listen to the answers without judgment – you can learn a lot.
About the Author
Audrey Burton, Business and Life Coach. Audrey is a caring, but no-nonsense coach. Audrey’s ultimate goal is to help women to be happy with their work and life. She keeps you focused and motivated by helping you set priorities according to only your agenda. To sign up for her free, monthly email newsletter and to better understand how she works, visit her website at http://www.audreyburton.com. You only live once – love your life today!