Every line of work can benefit from a workforce that knows how to communicate clearly and effectively. A free and comprehensible flow of information among colleagues, across departments, and between customers and companies leads to optimal productivity and profitability. Conversely poor communication diminishes competitiveness and quality of service.
Normally we think that mastering a specific skill set is the surest way to advance one’s career. Obviously the better you can advise clients on financial plans the better a financial planner you can be and the greater your command of building cabinets the more proficient a cabinet maker you will be. But a competence that is of equal importance in boosting your career across all industries is the mastering of communication.
Speaking, listening, writing, reading, and viewing are the typical communication methods that come to mind when defining what communication is. However if we investigate these activities more carefully to see how they can affect workplace functioning we can be more mindful of how to enhance our careers by increasing the quality of work done for our employers.
I was recently read a blog, in which the writer does an excellent job of identifying 21 communication mistakes to be avoided at work. Whereas all of this long list of weaknesses could be noted as important there were some themes in particular that stood out to me as warranting further elaboration. For example:
Taking the time to self-examine the role our individual egos play in how we communicate is well worth the effort. Look at how often we get consumed by trying to save face at work. No one wants to be seen as incompetent, which is natural, but this can lead to poor communication habits. For example, think of all the times we didn’t ask for clarification or help on a project or task, because we didn’t want to look stupid or weak. “I’ll figure it out on my own”, we may tell ourselves only to find out that we went too far off on a tangent instead of getting to the heart of the problem to be solved. Rather requesting clarity or assistance can be approached from a position of competence and as part of commanding style.
In writing resumes for clients I sometimes come across performance reviews that they share with me. Here is a communication error I see managers complain about a lot-overuse of email. It may seem that we can increase the quantity of communication with email, but that doesn’t always translate into quality. Getting on the phone or meeting face to face may take more time, but in many situations it means better listening is occurring, leading to more cogent points can being made by both parties.
Determining who is in the loop and keeping them abreast of developments in a timely manner is a sound practice. Participants on a project work best with open collaboration. It’s fine for there to be a moderator, but using the “Reply To All” feature in all forms of communication is often the best policy. Good communication promotes strong teams. Given the workforce evolution toward greater teamwork, applying coproduction communication techniques is a win / win for employees and employers alike.
Perhaps the most harmful communication mistake is going negative. So many workplaces are drama factories in which grown adults communicate with the level of sensitivity and self-awareness found in a junior high school cafeteria. Put a bunch of insecure and immature egos together in the same building and watch out. Management can have a big task ahead trying to herd cats. Martin Luther King, Jr. probably addressed this issue best when he advised that before we say something about someone else we should test the comment by applying three conditions: Is it true? Is it fair? Is it kind? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then best to keep it to yourself.
Getting ahead with your career can often be little more than becoming a strong communicator. Do that and you’ll be noticed.
By Bill Ryan