We all want to balance our lives and spend less time at work, but the work needs to be done so we can’t leave it. We could delegate, but often we fear asking someone else to do it because the task is done badly and we have to do it all ourselves anyway. The point of delegation is to free up our time so that we can focus on other jobs that only we can do, so how can we overcome this fear? With clear, concise communication – That’s how.
Communication is key in all walks of life, but none more so than in business. To have people buy into what we are saying we need them to buy into our vision, and as business leaders, we need to be able to effectively communicate with people verbally as well as in writing, so clarity is vital.
As the heads of an enterprise, we need to think and act passionately. Think about it. When you listen to business leaders past and present speaking; Steve Jobs, Carlos Ghosn etc. as well as the worlds past and present political leaders; HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the former President Barak Obama, you can see and hear their passion. We all believe in them and what they say. These are the great communicators. Now I am not saying you instantly have to take on the world stage – far from it- but as the leader of your own empire, you have to get everyone in it, and around it, to believe in you and follow you in the same way… and you can only achieve this with communication.
Admittedly, all those named above are likely to have had communication training, and this is often expensive and time consuming – two things you want to avoid when you are getting your business off of the ground, but there are some simple steps that you can follow to help you communicate more effectively.
Know who you are speaking to
Do you know everyone you are talking to? If you are in a board meeting, you will know everyone and their roles within the company. If you are leading a business-wide event, you will understand the business and therefore the staff that will be listening to you. Alternatively, you know if you are speaking as VIP at a seminar, that the people in attendance are there to learn from you. You need to remember your audience at all times. If you are being positioned at a seminar as a thought leader, then you need to think of interesting facts and lessons that the audience can take away with them. If you are talking to the board, then have an agenda printed and issued prior to the meeting so you only stick to each point and don’t get side tracked. To be nice you can always give those in attendance of the meeting the opportunity to suggest other topics. Ask for questions and appoint a team leader of any tasks so that you know the job will handled correctly as they will have the responsibility. Encourage questions to be asked as this will help with clarify the objective.
Speak without making a sound
Body language is a great way to communicate without saying a word. Your body language will tell others if you are angry, happy or sad, so you need to ensure that you are not mixing messages with the incorrect body language. The same can be said for the other person to whom you are speaking – Is their body language defensive or open? Are they smiling and nodding in agreement or frowning yet saying that they “completely agree with you”. If it is the latter, then you have a bit more convincing in order to be able to achieve what you want.
Hear what is being said
More often than not, we are listening to others, but not really hearing them, and lets be honest, there is nothing more frustrating than being the person doing all the talking yet not being heard. To win your colleagues over don’t try to butt in or think of our response first. Listen to them. How can we know what they are really saying, if we have not listened to them in the first instance?
Making an ass of you and me
As my mother used to say, “To assume something means you are making an ASS of U and ME.” Dr Marcia Sirota, M.D. says, “It’s also no big deal for us to decide, arbitrarily, why an event has taken place. We don’t base this decision on observable evidence or factual knowledge; we just make the decision and believe it, as if it were fact.” Assumptions could lead to wasted time as people don’t have the clear parameters of doing a job so they go off in completely the wrong direction. Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Ask them what do they need from you? How long will the task take? Would they like you to show them any part of the task? The more questions you ask, the more they will prove that they understand what it is you are wanting from them.
Whatsapp, email or phone?
Communication is very personal and people often like to communicate in different ways. Some may think a text is OK for friends, but is it professional to respond to a business matter by text? The same can be said with email, as globally email is not considered as a reliable communication tool to the same extent that it is here in the UAE. Respect the person you’re trying to contact, and use the method they appear to prefer. If you’ve called a client several times and always get their voicemail, but conversely they are always quick to respond to email, switch to email instead.
Always think of the tone
Tonality is vital in any communication, but more so in emails and whatsapp. Tonality in written coms, is the equivalent of body language in face to face conversations. Remember that email where you thought someone was upset with you, but when you spoke to them they weren’t? Well this is the problem with email and social media. According to techdirt, tone is misrepresented in half of all emails. Jokes can be difficult to convey in written emails, as can sarcasm. On whatsapp though, the use of emoji’s makes it easier to convey these feelings and these are used, but does the person that you are communicating with want you to use whatsapp for business? But, back on emails, what you mean to be a joke could come off as being angry.
If you are angry, always leave an hour or two after writing the email before sending it, and re-read through it to make sure that the content, and tone is correct. Never immediately reply when you are angry. Yes create a response, but reread it when you have calmed down and then make a decision whether to send the email or not. Ensure your language is clear. If you are angry, try to meet with the person instead.
Paraphrasing points that people are saying to you illustrates that you are listening to them. It will also give both parties the chance of correction if there is any confusion over the points. Ask for feedback and if in a meeting, summarize the main points so everyone knows where they stand.
Know what you want
If you know what you want exactly, you can ask for that and then sway the conversation in that direction. For example, if you want a colleague to work in a certain way, find out how they would do it, so you can formulate the points of the argument against it.
Spell check is there for a reason
In business, should you really be using text speak? It smacks that you don’t think this is important enough to be professional in your communication, so why should the person on the other end of the email, whatsapp, be professional and put everything into the request that they can? All correspondents, regardless of the format, need to be proofed with the correct spelling. If you are communicating in a language other than your own, maybe have someone else do the proof reading for you. A sloppy email can damage your reputation.
Get to the point
No one wants to hear or read blurb. Be polite and get to the point.
Keep criticism constructive
When you manage others make sure you keep your own emotions out of any conversation you have them. Stick only to the facts, and make sure they understand that you are just giving feedback. Alternatively reinforce a job well done and find ways to add in tips for improvement without being “that boss.”
Positivity is key
Keep your comments and question upbeat. Give praise where it is due and encourage at all times. You don’t want someone to be defensive at the start otherwise you will get now where fast when you are trying to get them to do something to make you time.
Related: Find the Balance