Communication is a strength that spans experience.
In nearly all job postings, regardless of industry or seniority, “good communication” is listed among the necessary skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or working your first job in an ice cream shop. Your path to success is heavily dependent on how well you can interact with your team, clients, and customers.
Communication is something we all do on a regular basis, but getting good at it can make a real difference. For the CEO, bad communication can lead to confusing directives, unhappy staff and a diminished product or service. For the part-time ice cream shop worker, it can mean frustrated co-workers, lines out the door and a stressful work environment. Even though the stakes may be different, great communication is the foundation that leads to so much more.
Here’s why: Good communication can help you achieve a lot and build momentum, from improving complex systems to making staff feel heard and appreciated. Good communicators, regardless of their title, know that it’s not just their words that are important, but also how those words are delivered and interpreted.
The basic definition of “communication” is “to impart or exchange information or news.” So it’s important to remember that it’s not all about being heard. Communication requires conversation, listening, understanding and compromise.
Regardless of what your own personal definition of success is, working on communication skills can be a big boost in getting there.
Making important connections
Mastering the art of communication means that you’re able to closely work with different personality types, people in other departments with different jobs and, ultimately, bring people together – which serves both on a micro and macro scale. You’ll find that being able to communicate with others will help you grow (both as a person and an employee!) and show leaders you can handle more responsibility. But on a more general level, good communication makes for stronger teams.
“Research shows that effective communication can significantly impact team performance. According to a study by Deloitte, companies with effective communication practices are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover rates than those with poor communication practices. Additionally, companies with highly engaged employees experience a 21% increase in productivity,” writes business coach Sheida A. Rad.
“In contrast, a lack of communication can negatively impact team performance. For example, a survey by the Project Management Institute found that ineffective communication was the primary cause of project failure in 56% of cases. When communication breaks down, team members may become disengaged, and projects may suffer delays or errors.”
The importance of great communication serves both you and the people around you. Sometimes, it might look like keeping a group updated about tasks and projects but it also can look like:
- Listening when things are tough
- Asking questions about how to make the process more efficient
- Making sure communication goes beyond word of mouth (put those meetings on the calendar, share notes, etc.)
- Accepting and building on feedback
Those elements of a great communicator tend to attract positive attention, whether it be a team, a boss or a client. In turn, those connections can lead you to more or bigger opportunities.
Leveraging the power of simplicity
Some leaders have found success in being able to communicate big, complex ideas to others who might not necessarily get it, but are important stakeholders. Investors, for example, are people you want to have good relationships with, but they might not necessarily share all of the training or knowledge you do.
This is when great communication will serve you well. Experts point to being able to break information into more manageable concepts as a critical communication tool.
“The classrooms in the Harvard law building where I taught last year have both the latest digital education equipment and old-fashioned chalkboards. I suggested to the students with the most complex subjects that they should sketch out their ideas on the chalkboard. At the end of the class, students in the audience gave better reviews to the chalkboard presentations than to most of the PowerPoint presentations,” says professor and communication coach Carmine Gallo. “Going retro forces you to simplify your idea. People cannot act on something they don't understand. If anything, they'll tend to ignore it.”
Gallo’s example is a good way to start chipping away at intricate ideas that are more difficult to communicate. It can also be good to have a person you trust to give honest feedback act as a sounding board. Communication, afterall, takes practice.
Reaching beyond speaking
You’ve already probably picked up on the fact that communication involves a lot of other skills, too. Being a good listener, practicing empathy and honesty are also important aspects.
Becoming a great communicator won’t happen overnight, but you can work on these skills, build upon them and see the positive effects they have.
If you want to work on communicating, think about:
Listening: A lot goes into being a good listener. Remember to make eye contact and avoid distractions during conversations. You want the person you’re with to feel like you’re dedicated to them and what they’re saying.
Showing compassion: You can communicate anything, but if it’s not done in the right tone or manner, you may run into bigger problems. When you’re communicating to somebody about a tight deadline, project hiccup or any other matter, do so by also thinking about their point of view. This skill isn’t only important for leaders and managers. It can help any person approach tough conversations.
Feeling confident: A lot of the benefits of being a great communicator tend to be about building relationships and getting ahead, but it can also make you feel a lot more confident, and that has a host of other benefits. When you feel more confident and capable you’ll find that so many more doors open for you. Confidence attracts opportunity! Not only do you notice it, but so do the people around you.
Written by Kara Mason.