Our Chairman, digital marketing influencer Rob Stokes, unpacks and tackles why communication is such a critical business skill. To live up to our promise of adding value, we’ve set the scene with Rob’s video (thanks to uChief), followed by 5 key tips for improving your communication skills.
‘Communication’, as defined by Oxford dictionary, is limited to ‘The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.’ A definition that, while accurate, belies the nuances and complexities associated with human dynamics and context.
[bctt tweet=”The power of ‘communication’ to change/influence outcomes doesn’t rely on ‘exchanging information’, it’s based on ‘recognising a need’, and proposing a solution.” username=”redandyellowed”]
Socially, a good catch-up with an old friend is all about sharing stories and enjoying time with a like-minded human who just gets you. Neither party has an agenda, or an intended outcome. When it comes to the business world, however, the rules are very different.
Why communication in the business world is more tricky
While social, non-work interactions are about having a pleasurable experience, business interactions tend to come from a personal “win or lose” approach for both parties.
Aside from casual water-cooler chit-chat, our work-based conversations are usually about gaining ground: be it campaigning for a strategic direction, negotiating for budget, or getting buy-in from another team member – it all boils down to want, authority and being right.
Have you ever been gobsmacked when something you believe you couldn’t have made more clear, is met with the confused response of ‘I don’t understand/what do you mean?’ Or had the awful realisation that, despite your best intentions, you neglected to inform key role players about their role in your initiative?
Yes, we’re human. So this stuff happens. But for those that want to be better, we need to reframe our approach: from being determined to ‘serve our personal interests/ego/biases’ to ‘what will work best for the company/how can I add real value’.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE MORE EFFECTIVELY IN BUSINESS
Come from a noble intention: your focus needs to be on finding the best outcome for the organisation- at a strategic level, rather than serving your own self-interests or getting your own way.
Consider the dynamics: some people are comfortable and easy to relate to, while others are hard work. Gather and nurture the first batch – they will support and energise you. Then, change how you respond to the difficult ones. They tend to operate from a place of fear or inadequacy, which is why they get defensive or combative. All they actually want is to be heard and recognised. This doesn’t mean you need to agree with them, it just means you need to acknowledge their concerns and allay their fears.
Make a real difference: If you have any influence over how consumers experience your brand, think hard and be considerate about every single touchpoint. Don’t make or facilitate empty promises like “your call is important to us” when the caller has been on hold for 12 minutes. Consider offering a on-hold message that offers value to the listener instead – give them a helpful tip or snippet of information that makes them laugh. Don’t send them a completely irrelevant promotional offer, when your brand has all the data they need to make it relevant and compelling. More so, when customers engage on social media – listen. Hear what they are saying and act accordingly.
Listen more, talk less: achieving a mutually beneficial outcome is not about you banging on about the things that are important to you. It’s about understanding how the other party feels, and finding a common ground that’ll facilitate moving forward. It’s not about ‘giving in’ or ‘just saying yes’ but about finding a way to move forward with both parties on the same page, rather than getting stuck in a loop of ‘proving your point’.
Have an open mind, and be objective: in business, we are exposed to a variety of cultures, attitudes and expectations we don’t necessarily identify with. But here’s the newsflash: we either resist and fight (which just creates drama and inter-personal strife) or choose the more productive route of putting our biases aside, in the interests of forging a new way that caters to all the stakeholders. Consider the long-term impact of your decisions and think before you act.
If this resonated with you, we’d love to hear your comments or personal experiences.