I admit it. I am a shameless ambassador of transcendent communication and believe it is the single most important skill you can ever develop for business and career success.
There is a reason that concepts such as emotional intelligence, networking and candidate experience continue to trend across all industries. All of these terms emphasize building rapport and connection with people and have a major impact on personal and business outcomes.
Whether you are a kindergarten teacher trying to get your kids hyped about learning their ABCs or an executive trying to guide your employees through a merger and acquisition, your ability to communicate in an effective, efficient and elegant way has been shown to have a major impact on your success.
In this great Forbes article, “Emotional Intelligence Will Turbocharge Your Career And Just Might Save Your Life,” written by Travis Bradberry, author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart, Mr. Bradberry explains:
Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we’ve found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.
Personally, I have observed throughout my career that the most inspirational leaders—not to be confused with anyone merely possessing a leadership title—are almost painstakingly conscious of the content and tone of their messaging.
For instance, if a supervisor is seeking to provide constructive criticism to an employee via email, he or she is usually very selective about the words, word order and even punctuation of their correspondence.
Even better, they have a keen awareness of what conversations are ideal for phone or email (Hint: Almost ALL feedback that contains constructive criticism is better delivered via phone or in person).
So the question becomes “What are ways we can improve our communications to become more effective leaders, partners and participants in business?”
5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Read, Read, Read….Did I Say Read?
When you examine some of the most impressive leaders and speakers in history such as Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey and more, you will see all of them are or were voracious readers. Some may ask “Is fiction or nonfiction better?” My suggestion is to start with whatever builds your excitement for reading if you do not already have an urge for it. After establishing your love for reading, incorporate nonfiction books such as history, biographies, self-help or business books as they will offer specific strategies and blueprints for molding the right mindset and developing peak performance in life and career.
2. Do the WRITE Thing
You may be traumatized by writing 20-page papers in college and may not want to pick up a pen unless paid to do so. However there are a million FUN avenues for writing and a billion things to write about! For one, journaling is not just for 12-year-old hormonal girls anymore. You can write about your daily experiences, keep a gratitude journal or start a blog. By the way, keeping a gratitude journal will not only improve your writing skills but will undoubtedly give you a heightened appreciation for life. Perhaps you have a talent for telling tales. In that case, you can write a movie script, short stories, a novel or a business or self-help book. Not to mention the obvious—how about writing a LinkedIn article? You can demonstrate your expertise in a certain area and establish yourself as a subject matter expert! There’s no shortage of creative ways to improve your writing skills. Just pick one and START.
3. Take a Time Out from Text Speak
CU, B/C, TTYL, BRB, IMO, FYI, EOD. Being fluent in text speak and acronyms can sometimes hamper your ability to master the English language. More to the point, it can often find its way into formal correspondence or conversations with influencers. I recently had an HR professional tell me that he has experienced interested job candidates reach out to him using text speak and if we believe in the power of first impressions, then that does not leave a very good one. It especially negatively affects your prospects for career opportunities and promotions if you will be expected to write company-wide memos or make public presentations. In order to sharpen your communication skills, I highly suggest simply spelling out your acronyms. This also has the added benefit of making your message clearer. After all, readers will not always understand your shorthand.
4. Take a mental trip to the future
Often times, you can tell an email was written with no real thought as to how the reader would react. “Jessica, I don’t know what you want me to do with this!” may seem like a harmless enough sentence if you genuinely just need further instruction on a spreadsheet that requires further review or editing. Yet context is everything and it may be a different story if she feels extreme pressure from several different demanding bosses and underappreciated for her hard work. Under those circumstances, a plea for help may easily be translated as a rude remark. The simple kindness of projecting yourself to the future and imagining how Jessica may respond to the email may prompt you to reword it or simply call her on the phone to gain a better understanding. This allows for you and Jessica to collaborate optimally and apply hyper focus to the mission at hand.
5. Get Training
Most of us are comfortable with the idea of enrolling our children in little league if they have their sights set on becoming a major league athlete. We eagerly invest in a music instructor if our child has the potential of becoming the next Billie Holiday or Mozart. We do so because we realize that our children highly benefit from a coach or trainer that will assess their strengths, identify their weaknesses and use this information to hone our child’s talent to position them for greatness. This is an area where we can lead by example by investing in ourselves as we do in our children. We can join our local Toastmasters. We can align ourselves with a mentor whom we admire as a masterful communicator. We can take a creative writing course or seek out a coach that specializes in communication cultivation.
As you can see there are numerous ways for us to perfect our communication skills but I would LOVE to hear your point of view on this. Take the time to comment answering the questions below or add your thoughts in general.
Question #1: What impact do you believe poor or excellent communications has on team or organizational effectiveness?
Question #2: What other tips or techniques would you suggest to improving communication skills?