If you’re like most business owners, you’ve probably invested a lot of time and money in improving operations and processes, offering extensive training programs to team members, and/or implementing complicated software systems that require a PhD (and a wing and a prayer) to implement.
But the thing is, no matter how efficient operations are, how well-trained employees become, or how many bells and whistles your software has, if your communication skills aren’t up to snuff, your business is going to suffer.
According to research by the Center for Talent Innovation, career success is based on three things: projecting gravitas, maintaining a polished appearance, and having great communication skills. But a study on communication in the workplace found that poor communication is the most common problem among businesses, no matter how big or small they are.
Is your communication in the workplace killing your business? Here are some common mistakes you might be making:
- You’re Reacting – Not Responding
They seem interchangeable but reacting to information is not the same thing as responding to it. Reactions reveal emotions, and 99.9999999% (okay, let’s just call it 100%) of the time, emotions should be left out of workplace communication.
Here’s an example:
Your business partner tells you he found some payroll discrepancies and asks you to come in on the weekend to go over the books. You can either:
- A) React by dropping the F-bomb and throwing the water cooler at him, or
- B) Respond by saying, “Sounds good. I’ll bring the bagels.”
In general, emotional reactions block discussions and increase the likelihood of misunderstandings. Always take a minute to collect your thoughts and form a professional response, even (or especially) when hearing information you don’t like or agree with.
- Using Cookie Cutter Communication
Are you using just one style of communication regardless of the situation or people involved? That’s like trying to cook an entire meal with only a butter knife. The same communication approach simply won’t work universally.
For instance, you might have weekly meetings that are informal, but that same style won’t work in meetings with investors. It’s important to learn to adjust and adapt your communication style to each specific situation and group of people.
- Sharing Sensitive Information
In some ways, technology makes life much more convenient. In other ways, it complicates things. For instance, thanks to social media and mobile phones, there is aggressive transparency and the boundaries of privacy have gotten all gray and fuzzy. Whenever we use technology, we risk oversharing sensitive information about ourselves, coworkers, or the company.
Make it a habit to be discreet with sensitive information, and ensure your employees understand how sensitive information is expected to be handled. A good rule of thumb is to only share sensitive information that is absolutely necessary and relevant, and only to those who need to know it.
- Assuming Someone Understands What You’ve Said
When you share information with an employee, partner or vendor, do you assume they’ve understood what you’ve shared? You may think you’re the world’s clearest communicator, but what if, just what if, you’re not?
It’s really important to check in with employees and other business partners to make sure your messages are heard loud and clear.
- Being an Autocrat
Remember back to your high school or college days when you were expected to sit there silently while your professor droned on and one and on? Wasn’t a whole lot of fun, was it?
Don’t be an autocrat and expect everyone to sit there and listen to your ideas. Open the discussion to other team members. Listen to what your staff has to say. You never know where the next great idea for a product will come from or how a new employee might be able to offer a point of view that helps your team implement new protocols. Be open to hearing what others have to say.
Honesty is perhaps the most important characteristic in any leader, and yet most employees think they can’t believe anything their boss tells them. That’s a problem – and a big one.
The surest way to get people to completely disregard what you have to say is to habitually offer up complete BS. Be honest. Be open. Be real.
- Putting People to Sleep
Do you like listening to boring people? No, you don’t, and neither does anyone else. If you want to be heard then be engaging. Tell meaningful stories that inspire staff and coworkers.
- Not Listening
Communication in the workplace means speaking and listening. If you don’t actively listen to others, how can you ever be sure what is really going on in your company? Only by listening to employees, partners and customers can you understand the health of your business and the real value of what it is you are offering.
Effective communication is not easy. It’s a skill you will need to continually work on. But the time and effort you put into it now will allow you to reap big rewards in the form of happy and productive employees and a bigger bottom line.
Guest post courtesy of LaQuita Cleare. LaQuita is a communication expert and public speaking coach who travels the world speaking and preparing CEOs, executives and other public figures to enhance their on-stage, on-camera and media presence. Through her company Clear Media Communication Academy, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, companies with billion-dollar acquisitions, and entrepreneurs paving a path for themselves. She has also represented top brands like Samsung, Chase Bank, Cover Girl, Jameson, Hallmark and others at events across the U.S. as a speaker and developing key narratives for marketing teams. LaQuita’s work has enabled her to make appearances on NBC, ABC, FX Network, Lifetime, LA Talk Radio, and various web-based shows. She has performed on stages across the country making her a trusted resource for stage presence skills. With degrees in both Psychology and theatre, she uses her background to help clients become more dynamic speakers and to create both their personal and business brands. She works in one on one sessions, small-large group sessions, tours where she designs unique training programs, and as a key note speaker. Are we connected yet? I’d love to share even more communication tips that will help you thrive professionally and personally.