Someone once said, as soon as you hire your first employee, you’ll have your first communication issue.
Communication problems are so commonplace in the workplace that they’re almost viewed as a fact of life. Inevitable. Unavoidable.
Even with all the technology and modes of communication we now have available to us, the problems persist. We just have new issues added to the pile, from information overload to not using the “right” communication method.
In our recent Communications and Influencing Skills Webinar, we asked attendees what their most common communication challenges were, and here are some of the broader themes that emerged:
1- Getting a clear and consistent message across the organization, including having a clear and measurable vision, clear instructions, a central way to communicate important information, and streamlining and directing communication accurately and appropriately
2- Breaking down silos and promoting open communication across functions and throughout levels, including discussing critical issues, sharing insights gained from customers across departments and agreeing on priorities
3- Listening, from general leadership capabilities to showing interest and having a realistic view of customer needs
4- Time and efficiency, critical in today’s complex, challenging work environment
5- Handling emotions, including interpersonal problems stemming from communication style differences, issues around Emotional Intelligence, making assumptions and inappropriate comments
If you’re working or leading in any kind of organization today, some, if not all, of these likely resonate with you. But you shouldn’t consider them inevitable. And you shouldn’t minimize their importance as something to “work around” or put up with. There are too many serious, well-documented business costs associated with poor communications, and they are likely eating away at your competitive advantage.
Improving Communication Skills: It’s an Inside Job
When we talk about what it takes to succeed in the world of selling, we often say, “Selling is an inside job.” What we mean by that is simply this: your perspective affects everything. If you view selling as helping someone and adding value instead of doing something to them, it’s a completely different lens through which to view your role.
This also applies to the way view your abilities, values, commitment and beliefs. All have a cascading effect on how you behave, your overall work satisfaction, and ultimately, your performance. If there are gaps anywhere along the way, though, this process breaks down.
The same is true for communicating. From the Latin word, communis, which literally means “to make common,” communication isn’t about doing something to someone; it’s about finding the common ground. That simple change in perspective can make a huge difference.
So often, the communication chasm comes from messages and intentions getting lost in translation because people didn’t recognize and adapt to the behavioral styles of others. Or they failed to approach an issue from a common set of values or a positive attitude about the solution being proposed.
The messages might end up garbled, but the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs behind them will be utterly transparent.
As you’re looking at how to improve communication skills in your organization, the best place to start is to recognize where there are gaps in these dimensions and then give people the awareness, systems and skills to take control of the communication problems that are getting in the way of everyone’s success.
Because whether they’re internal, external or both, communication breakdowns are causing your organization significant harm. Don’t simply accept it as a cost of doing business. Minimize the damage by taking steps to bridge the gap now.
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