By Barb Ward
You know that communication is essential for success. You know this because in every area of your life, communication plays a key role. You have most certainly experienced the chaos and misunderstanding a simple miscommunication between spouses, children, relatives, friends, bosses, or even the barista at Starbucks can create. Now, place yourself in charge of 100 employees who look to you for communication and answers, and the importance of effective communication becomes crystal clear. So, if we know how important it is, why is it so elusive?
As a leader you gain your employees’ trust and respect through engagements that make them better people. How you communicate directly affects how they perceive you, how they feel about themselves, and ultimately how they feel about the organization. Employees that perceive that their leaders understand them and care about them are more engaged, willing to work harder, and are generally more productive. This has positive benefits for everyone concerned… happy employees, high-performing, collaborative teams, and a successful organization.
Consider this, according to Gallup engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work — highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged workers also are more likely to stay with their employers. Additionally, highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. When combined, the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.
What’s more, one of the top 10 reasons employees leave a company is poor communication. So, this is where you need to start to build engagement.
While some of these tips may seem obvious, when you commit to continually learning and building on your skills you can reap benefits that last a lifetime for you in both your personal and professional life.
Listen Actively. Being fully present and attentive when listening allows you to read body language and determine what is being said, and what is not being said so you can ask questions to clarify the intent. Additionally, when you are fully present in the conversation, you show that you understand, and you care about the person speaking, an important component of building trust.
Ask Powerful Questions. By asking open-ended questions from a place of curiosity and desire to listen and learn, you open a pathway for others to confidently express their insights and opinions. Open-ended questions guide others toward solutions without giving them the answers or telling them what to do. This can bring forward new understanding, ideas, and perspectives that you may have otherwise not tapped into.
Build Trust. By actively listening and asking questions, you begin establishing and growing trust. Trust impacts every encounter in your life. It is the foundation of every personal and work relationship, business endeavor, communication, and situation. Trust builds connection, loyalty, good-will and enduring relationships.
Give Feedback. Giving and receiving feedback effectively requires you to use all the skills outlined above. To effectively offer feedback you must have solid relationships of trust, exercise awareness and presence in your conversations, use deep listening and powerful questions to understand, and be willing to address difficult issues with care and compassion.
Keep it Simple. Make sure you are communicating clearly and concisely, and at an appropriate level for the people you are speaking with. For example, if you are an engineer, you should probably find an easy analogy rather than using technical jargon to explain your project to a non-engineer. Talking in everyday terms that everyone understands is paramount to clear communication.
Just remember, you have control over the way you communicate, and that impacts nearly everything else in your life. From a career perspective, communication is a powerful tool that can propel you towards success. Your hard work in building this skill can help you create a high performing, engaged team, build enduring relationships, achieve your goals, and ensure success for your organization. And what could be better than that.