We all know the benefits of effective communication. So why do we struggle so much to achieve it? We’re distracted. We’re stubborn. We don’t know the difference between hearing and listening. This is just to name a few of the roadblocks we encounter when we try to communicate. Those external pressures and challenges will never go away, so how do you communicate effectively nonetheless? It’s time to change how you think about communication. Consider the four following steps on your journey to becoming a better communicator.
1. Recognize when it’s time to shut up.
We all like to hear ourselves talk, but the key to effective communication at work is knowing when to zip it. You’ll be surprised to find out how much you can learn from others when you don’t indulge the urge to immediately open your mouth every chance you get. Even when you think you’re the expert on the subject of a question, let someone else answer. Your entire team’s communication will benefit from this exercise. New contributors will have the opportunity to speak up, and frequent talkers will have a chance to listen. That brings us to the next step…
2. Listen mindfully.
We’re constantly overloaded with distractions. As you read this, you’re probably simultaneously doing your taxes and Tweeting about #DeflateGate. Another step toward being a great communicator is developing the ability to shut out the outside world when you’re listening. You cannot truly listen if your mind is somewhere else.
Practice this exercise next time you listen: imagine that the information you receive will direct you to a secret stash of treasure, buried several hundred miles away. You will only hear the instructions once, and you cannot record the information. There will be twists, turns, and complex passwords to unlock the treasure. In order to process and remember the information that you’re given, you’ll need to listen more carefully than you ever have before. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t think about what’s on television or what you’re having for dinner tonight. Just listen.
3. Keep your business’s vision in focus at all times.
When we implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) with clients, we work to establish vision and combine it with good project management skills. This key component of the EOS Model asserts that in order to be a successful business, the entire organization must be on the same page. Establishing a vision means determining the business’s goals and mapping out the path to achieving them.
Vision is critical when it comes to being a great communicator. Whenever you speak at a meeting, write an email, or ask for a favour, consider your organization’s vision. Is your message in service of the vision? Are you arguing for a change that will bring you and your colleagues one step closer to your collective goals, or because you like to be right? When you consider vision in the context of your communication, your conversations will be more streamlined (and you’ll stop sending those unnecessary, eye roll inducing emails).
4. Agree to disagree.
You and your colleagues are all intelligent individuals. When intelligent people come together to run a business, some disagreement is inevitable. In fact, disagreement can be useful in that it promotes thoughtful discussion. However, when clashes happen every time you sit down for a meeting, your organization’s ability to communicate spirals out of control. This brings us to another critical goal of the EOS Model: helping leadership teams be healthy. A healthy leadership team is a cohesive unit, a well-oiled machine. So, instead of clashing and clamouring to have the last opinion standing, consider this: agree to disagree. Some differences in opinion warrant discussions that lead to resolutions, but some don’t. Make a pact with your team – whenever you clash, step back for a moment and consider whether or not this issue is worth fighting for. Do you disagree on something fundamental to the vision of your organization, or is this a fruitless battle?
So there you have it, four simple ways to improve your business communication today. You know what else you can do today?