MANAGEMENT TRAINING LESSON:
EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
ADDS VALUE TO YOUR ORGANIZATION
You've already proved that your business communication skills are professional and persuasive. How? Your organization has entrusted you with the management of their most valuable resource: their people. Now it’s time to dig down and put a fine edge on those skills.
Business communication is so critical yet it never fails to amaze me how few people take the time to give it a good “think”. Since we are communicating something to someone every waking minute of every day, awareness of whether the “how” and “what” we are communicating say the same thing tends to become part of the background noise.
The Four Basic Verbal Communication Styles
Before getting into the non-verbal elements of business communication, it is a good idea to understand the basics of verbal communication itself. By understanding the four different verbal communication styles, you are in a position to influence whomever you may be talking to, regardless of whether the conversation is taking place at work or elsewhere.
For purposes of this discussion, we are looking at how you will be able to lead and influence them by recognizing their verbal communication styles.
Make Your Words Count
Business Communication trainer Lee Hopkins teaches that all verbal communication should rest on three methods of delivery:
- Being empathetic, putting yourself in your listeners’ shoes so you can anticipate the impact of your communication
- Finding, establishing and expressing a common denominator with your listeners so you can bond solidly with them
- Creating an impact by projecting a strong, persuasive, powerful message
An article in “JobsAhead” takes requirements for effective business communication several steps further, recommending that it needs to be:
- Complete, so nothing can be erroneously assumed
- Concise, using a minimum of words to get the message across
- Considerate, sensitive to the needs of the recipient
- Concrete, key points are organized and nothing is vague or open to interpretation
- Clear, using familiar words to prevent misunderstandings
- Courteous, considerate of the recipient
If you combine the advice from those two sources, your words will be well received and carry influence as well.
How Does Business Communication
Differ From Communication in General?
It is unique in its purpose. You communicate internally with your team members, your boss, your peers and others. You communicate externally with customers, competitors and service providers outside the organization. In both cases, you communicate with one very specific purpose: to create and/or add value to your business.
Business communication within every organization reflects the corporate culture. Communication may be highly structured – communications occur within a particular layer of the org chart under specific circumstances – or everyone communicates with everyone else any time in small organizations or less structured larger ones. Your personality type determines your natural communication style. Observe the communications dynamics at work to ensure your style is in sync with the culture.
Fulfilling Basic Management Functions
Depends on Your Communication Skills
Become a savvy and dynamic business communicator and you’ll be taking a giant step toward long-term career success. Without effective communications skills, how will you be able to meet the following expectations of managers?
- Promote your ideas
- Share your knowledge
- Build collaborative relationships
- Give and receive feedback
- Resolve conflicts
- Manage difficult employees and customers
- Brand, market and sell your products or services
- Negotiate partnerships, contracts or the resolution of a problem
Some Startling Statistics on Body Language.
In her article, “Body Language in Business”, Linda Ramsey states that:
- Face to face communication is 90% more effective than written or printed messages. So when you have an extremely important business communication, deliver it in person!
- Body language communicates 93% of a message. The words themselves comprise only 7%.
- What people see makes up 55% of a conversation. This is a corollary of the body language part of communication.
- The tone of voice makes up 38% of what people hear in a conversation. So how you speak is almost as important as what you say!
Your takeaway from these numbers is that the “how” (your body language and tone of voice) of business communication is just as important, if not more important, than the message you are communicating.
How You Communicate
Distracts or Reinforces Your Message
What you communicate (your message) obviously needs to have merit, be appropriate to the situation and highly relevant to your objective. How you communicate has the potential to distract from, or even negate, a powerful, important message.
We’ve all tuned people out or just glazed over because of:
- The way they walked into a room
- How they shook your hand
- What their body language said
- The way they facilitated or participated in a meeting
- Their ability to make a presentation or speak in public
- The quality, quantity and timing of their writing
- How they came across on the telephone
- Their attention to business etiquette – or lack of it
- How they dressed
“What” is communicated, combined with “how” it is communicated, conveys a message to people that you respect them and their professionalism – and that you expect the same from them in return. Business communication is a two-way street. (Nobody has ever had a productive one-way dialogue.)
The “How To” of Business Communication
Starting with the first business contact you have with someone, we will look at the “hows” of business communication one application at a time. (I am making the assumption that you are well informed and secure in your knowledge of the “what”).
The business handshake
Historically, a handshake showed that both people were unarmed and had cordial intentions. Today’s business handshake is a barometer of confidence, trust, sophistication and mood. Eight tips from an expert will help you keep the upper hand (pun intended).
Probably the most complex element of business communication is ensuring that others are really getting your message – remember that 93% of your message comes from your body language. You need to be sure that your body language reinforces your message - at the same time you read the body language of those receiving your message to gauge how effectively you’re getting your point across. Be sure you’re aware of the elements of intimate, personal, social and public “space” to help you stay on the professional side of the line.
There will be two recurring circumstances during which you will be communicating a message to more than just one person at a time: public speaking and facilitating or participating in a meeting. (If you are lucky enough to be a Lioness – a lady Leo who naturally loves being in the spotlight - they shouldn’t present major problems for you.) But if you were born under a different sign, you may find these situations pretty nerve-wracking, especially at first. The simplest solution is to take Southwest Airlines up on their ad – “You are now free to get up and move about the country”. If that isn’t an option, learn how to minimize the jitters while getting your strong message across.
Did you know that there 11 million business meetings every day in the U.S.? Think of the number of hours that represents – hours during which meeting attendees could have been taking care of business in other ways. (If I had a dime for every hour I’ve spent in meetings, I would be a wealthy woman!) So the first key to holding a successful meeting is making a management decision: Is this meeting necessary?
Collect a representative samples of memos, letters, emails and faxes circulating throughout your organization to determine the style of business writing considered appropriate – how formal or informal they are, who is on which distribution list, the topics usually addressed in writing. Pretend you are the recipient and be sure you answer his or her first questions: How is this relevant to me? What do you want me to do? And, what’s in it for me.
While not as impactful as a face-to-fact meeting, a telephone call is a “real time” business communication and your caller deserves your undivided attention, difficult though that may be. As a manager, it is very possible that an administrative assistant will answer your incoming phone calls and screen them for you. Depending on your specific function within the organization, you may take many calls or only a few. Regardless, the rules of telephone etiquette apply whenever you take a call or your ability to add value to the organization during that particular communication may be lost.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Feedback connects everyone and their behavior to the organization around them, but can become an emotional roller coaster if it is handled insensitively. It is most effective when it is invited, which is why there is much discussion among human resources professionals about the best way to administer performance appraisals. Unfortunately, feedback has developed a negative connotation because it is too frequently provided only as a criticism and only comes from one person. Ideally, feedback should be used equally as often to complement behavior.
Negotiating is the ability to influence people and the art of letting someone else have your way! At the end of a successful negotiation, both sides of an issue feel that they got what they wanted, or are at least better off than when they went in. So it’s not about one side winning or losing, it’s about finding a way for both sides to win.
How good a negotiator are you? See if negotiation is one of your business communication strengths.
Conflict resolution is basically about personal courage. It may be easier to be an ostrich, but unresolved conflict tends to escalate and never disappears but rather simmers just below the surface and, at the worst possible times, may surface as an inappropriate outburst of anger. Today’s workplace is trending toward the importance of teamwork in which people with different opinions must work together. Your goal as a manager can’t be to eliminate conflict – it will always be there – but rather to manage it constructively. Your most successful strategy may just be to encourage meaningful conflict rather than conflict avoidance.
Conducting difficult conversations
Now that you are a manager, the chances are very good that one day you will need to hold a difficult conversation. People dress inappropriately for work; personal hygiene is unacceptable; flirtatious behavior can create a sexual harassment problem; use of vulgar language draws complaints. This time, instead of waiting to be asked for feedback, you need to proactively seek permission to provide the feedback.
The “Art of Saying No”
Depending, again on your corporate culture and your personality type, saying no can be a very difficult part of business communication! You may be uncomfortable having to tell others you can’t do something, or you may feel obligated when a co-worker asks for a favor, or you may feel pressured when someone above you on the org chart tells you they need something done. When this happens, it’s because a little voice inside you is saying that “if I say ‘no’, I am rejecting the person making the request”, when if fact, you are simply rejecting their current request.
Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” can become a major stressor in your job and waste an awful lot of time. So it’s well worth some initial discomfort to become comfortable learning to saying “no”.
Using Humor at Work
Laughter really is good medicine! It’s been proven in the medical community to raise your immune system and release those wonderful endorphins. No wonder the benefits of laughter are actually being harnessed by businesses in laughter workshops and formal “chuckle sessions” as part of their business communication training.
The problem is that it is way too easy for humor to go wrong! One person’s idea of a good joke is another person’s insult. How do you avoid humor that has the potential to offend your co-workers? There is one simple answer: Use jokes about situations, not people. Why? Because regardless of age, hair color, sex, national origin or anything that distinguishes us as humans, we all can identify with a situation.
Wordplays and puns
Another potential issue that comes with the use of humor is wordplays, puns or anything else based on figures of speech, slang or jargon. Be sure the humor is in the concept, not the words themselves. Co-workers whose first language is other than English may not understand them and will be left wondering what they missed. For example -
Unacceptable: “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity” is about word use.
Acceptable: “The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was” is about a concept
Suzan St. Maur, a leading business and marketer based in the United Kingdom, suggests that humor be used as a “spicy condiment” in your business communication. As with cayenne pepper, use it in moderation if you don’t know your audience well. If you know they have sensitive palates, don’t use it at all!
Everything you communicate during your workday reflects on your organization. Be sure what you say (your message) is relevant, timely and accurate. Be sure how you express say it reinforces your message. Above all, be sure all your business communication creates or adds value. Whether you are speaking to a community group, negotiating with a supplier, conducting a performance review or just answering the phone, for that period in time, you are your company.
Return to HOMEPAGE from BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
Proceed to BUSINESS HANDSHAKE
Proceed to BODY LANGUAGE
Proceed to PUBLIC SPEAKING
Proceed to BUSINESS MEETINGS
Proceed to SAYING NO
Proceed to CONFLICT RESOLUTION