Communication skills, tops the list of fundamental skills needed to succeed in the workplace. TODAY, with the rise of social media networking and texting, communication is becoming more casual, even in situations where more formal ways of communicating are required. What this means is that people from the younger generation, may not know or even understand the importance of effective communication skills in the workplace.
Sasa, when you take a look at the greatest leaders, one of the traits they possess, is the ability to communicate effectively, which underscores the importance of communication skills. So here’s some ‘ujanja’ ways you can improve your communication skills in order to become a more effective leader.
> Learn the basics of nonverbal communication.
One study found that nonverbal communication accounted for 55 percent of how an audience perceived a presenter. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues.
To communicate clearly and confidently, adopt proper posture. Avoid slouching, folding your arms or making yourself appear smaller than you are. Instead, fill up the space you are given, maintain eye contact and (if appropriate) move around the space.
>You have to over-communicate just to communicate.
A graduate student at some University was able to prove that presenters overestimate how much listeners understand. In a study that become known as “the tappers and the listeners,” one set of participants was asked to tap the melody of 120 famous songs. The other participants were asked to guess what song was being tapped.
Tappers estimated that 50 percent of the songs tapped would be correctly identified. In reality, only 2.5 percent of songs were correctly identified. This study shows that it is important to communicate clearly, and to over-communicate when sharing new ideas. As this study indicates, it is likely that the audience will fail to absorb as much as you expect.
> Avoid relying on visual aids.
For example, Steve Jobs instituted a rule at Apple that banned all PowerPoint presentations….and other leaders also realized that PowerPoint presentations can hinder rather than help communication.
Be prepared to use words, compelling storytelling and nonverbal cues to communicate your point with the audience. Avoid using visual aids unless absolutely necessary.
>Ask for honest feedback.
As with most leadership skills, receiving honest feedback from peers, managers and members of your team is critical to becoming a better communicator. If you regularly solicit feedback, others will help you to discover areas for improvement that you might have otherwise overlooked.
>Engage the audience in discussion.
Regardless of how compelling the speaker is, all audiences have limited attention spans. To become a more effective communicator, make presentations and discussions interactive.
Ask the audience a question, encourage people to call out their thoughts during a brainstorming session or at the very least ask hypothetical questions to stimulate the audience.
>Start and end with key points.
Think back to the “tappers and listeners” study mentioned earlier. Clear communication is of paramount importance. To ensure that the audience understands the key takeaways from a presentation, reiterate key points at the start and finish. This can also be accomplished by providing attendees with a one-pager that includes key points the audience should consider throughout the presentation.
>Use the PIP approach.
A common framework used by most more business experts is the purpose, importance, preview (PIP) approach to presentation introductions. Following this approach, the speaker first states the purpose of the presentation, and then shares why presentation is important by reviewing implications and possible outcomes.
Finally, the presenter gives a preview of the topics that will be discussed. This framework is a useful way to get audiences excited about the presentation, helping them to focus on your message and on key takeaways.
>Record important presentations for posterity.
It can take a good deal of time and energy to communicate effectively. In cases where you may need to give the same presentation multiple times, consider recording it and sharing it in the future.
Recorded presentations can be especially helpful for communicators who need to regularly provide training in a company that is hiring employees quickly.
>Master the art of timing.
While some of their jokes might not be appropriate for the workplace, standup comedians are certainly effective communicators. Comedians are able to host compelling 90-minute comedy shows, in part because they have mastered the art of timing.
Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.
>Get comfortable speaking extemporaneously.
When lawyers present a case in front of the Supreme Court, they typically speak extemporaneously. That is to say, the lawyers write down a series of topics they intend to discuss, but they do not memorize what they would say word for word. This method of communicating allows the lawyers presenting a case to cover all of the necessary points, while giving them flexibility as to how to communicate based on audience reaction or questions.
Business communicators should consider adopting an extemporaneous speaking style. It takes practice, but it will allow for more natural communication, and can help with audience engagement.
> Get to know your audience.
To communicate effectively, it is important to get to know your audience first. Each audience is different, and will have different preferences and cultural norms that should be considered when communicating. A good way to understand expectations is to ask members of the audience for examples of good communicators within the organization.
>Add novelty to improve audience retention.
A recent study revealed that people generally retain more information when presented with novel, as opposed to routine, situations. To help audience members retain information, consider injecting some sort of novel event into a presentation. This might be something funny, or something that simply catches people by surprise.
>Focus on earning respect instead of laughs.
It can be tempting to communicate with others in a lighthearted way; after all, this can be a good way to make friends in a professional setting. But remember that the most successful communicators are those who have earned respect, rather than laughs. While telling a joke or two to warm up an audience can be effective, avoid ending a presentation with a laugh.
>Be a listener.
“Listen more than you talk.” To communicate effectively, first listen to what others have to say. Then you can provide a thoughtful answer that shows you have taken those ideas into account. People want to know that they are being heard. Really listen to what the other person is saying, instead of formulating your response. Ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings. At that moment, the person speaking to you should be the most important person in your life. Another important point is to have one conversation at a time.
> Be brief, yet specific.
For written and verbal communication, practice being brief yet specific enough, that you provide enough information for the other person to understand what you are trying to say. And if you are responding to an email, make sure that you read the entire email before crafting your response. With enough practice, you will learn not to ramble, or give way too much information.
>Write things down.
Take notes while you are talking to another person or when you are in a meeting, and do not rely on your memory. Send a follow-up email to make sure that you understand what was being said during the conversation.
>Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone.
If you find that you have a lot to say, instead of sending an email, call the person instead. Email is great, but sometimes it is easier to communicate what you have to say verbally.
>Think before you speak.
Always pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind. Take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. This one habit will allow you to avoid embarrassments.
>Treat everyone equally.
>Maintain a positive attitude and smile.
Even when you are speaking on the phone, smile because your positive attitude will shine through and the other person will know it. When you smile often and exude a positive attitude, people will respond positively to you.
Communicating effectively is a teachable skill, therefore following a few of the tips outlined above, will enable you to hone up on your communication skills.
Communicating clearly is one of the most effective skills you can cultivate as a business leader. Remember to communicate using nonverbal and verbal cues. Listen carefully to what others have to say, and over-communicate in novel ways to ensure the content of the conversation sticks with the audience.