Workplace Success Starts With Effective Communication
When you consider the most important elements that factor into the success of a business, you might think about the quality of your product/service, the effectiveness of your business strategy, your IT infrastructure, and more. However, the success of arguably all of these elements hinges on one thing: effective communication.
Without effective communication, you’ll have a tough time running your organization efficiently and getting the most out of your carefully crafted business strategy. Poor communication can hurt the productivity of your employees, result in mistakes throughout your organization, cause you to miss important deadlines, and even damage the quality of your product or service.
What Is Effective Communication?
Effective communication is when someone within your organization is able to deliver, receive, and understand messages to and from other members of your organization in an efficient and effective manner. If you have effective communication within your company, there should be no bottlenecks when it comes to sharing information in a timely and clear way.
What Is the Difference Between Communication and Effective Communication?
Every company has communication within its workspace; however, not nearly as many companies have effective communication. Enabling effective communication is vital to the success of your business. Regular communication is simply the delivery of a message from one individual or group to another. This process is often muddled and inefficient, which means it’s not effective.
Communication that is effective is communication that is targeted to a relevant group or individual, that is clear in its message (to avoid misunderstandings), and that is efficiently sent (to ensure that the message isn’t lost). Effective communication also refers to your ability to communicate your message clearly and to choose the right method of delivering the message, such as via phone, email, chat, or in person, to name a few.
For example, if someone in a higher leadership position sends an important message via email that’s meant for a specific department but sends that email to everyone in the company, people could become confused as to who the message was for. This could keep the message from getting to the right department. This is especially true if this keeps happening since many employees will begin ignoring the emails assuming that it’s not relevant to their jobs, and causing them to skip over emails that actually are relevant to them.
Types of Communication
There are three major types of communication throughout your organization. All three of these genres should be implemented to help ensure effective communication throughout your workplace.
Verbal communication refers to any messages that are delivered by voice. For example, speaking to someone in person, speaking to someone over the phone, speaking to someone over a video conference, or leaving someone a voice message are all forms of verbal communication.
Non-verbal communication is the term used to define body language. It’s how you speak when you’re talking; for example, the way you move your hands when you’re describing something or the expressions your face makes as you speak or listen to someone. Non-verbal communication should help reinforce your verbal communication to ensure that the message you’re delivering is clear.
Written communication refers to all forms of communication in which the message is written and no verbal or non-verbal communication is used. For example, writing a letter, writing an email, writing a text message, and even using online chat features (such as Slack) are all forms of written communication.
Benefits of Effective Communication In The Workplace
So why exactly is it so important to communicate effectively and to enable effective communication among your employees and managers? The following are some of the major benefits of ensuring effective communication across your organization:
Develop Strong Client Relationship - A lack of communication often leaves clients in the dark. If they feel like you’re not keeping them in the loop, they’ll think less of you. They’ll just assume that all you care about is the bottom line. Regular communication with your clients will help to foster a strong relationship with them, and ensuring their return business in the years to come. Effective communication with your clients goes a long way toward establishing loyalty to your brand.
Improves Employee Engagement and Morale - Letting your team know when they are doing a good job and providing positive feedback can help lift morale. There’s nothing worse than feeling like the work you do is underappreciated and that the only time you’re recognized is if you make a mistake. If your team knows what the goals of the company are and what it is that they’re working towards, they will know their place in the big picture and will likely be more engaged with what they’re doing. When everyone is engaged, their jobs will be more fulfilling, which means that you’ll have a more positive working environment.
Builds Trust Within The Team - Effective communication doesn’t just refer to upper management’s ability to communicate with employees. It also refers to enabling employees to communicate with leadership. Not only should employees have several methods for communicating with their managers, but they should be encouraged to do so. Many employees will avoid speaking with management about mistakes they made in fear of being punished or will keep their ideas to themselves because they assume nobody will listen to them. Encouraging employees to speak with their managers will help to build trust, and help them feel more at ease about reporting mistakes, issues, or even ideas that can improve your company. Effective communication within actual teams can help build the trust that employees have with each other and improve their ability to work together.
Minimizes Organizational Conflicts - Miscommunication or a lack of communication can result in organizational conflicts. For example, a major mistake causing a deadline to be missed can result in two different departments blaming each other. This only hurts morale and diminishes the level of trust throughout your organization. Not only can effective communication help to reduce the number of organizational conflicts that can arise, but it can also help solve such conflicts much easier.
Increases Client/Customer Satisfaction - Better communication throughout your company will lead to higher quality customer service and can also help you get new products out to the market faster. This will have a direct impact on the satisfaction of your customers or clients. Effective communication within your company will also help ensure that your clients/customers have their questions and needs addressed quickly. Companies with poor communication often take too long to address the questions or concerns that clients raise -- and may even providing them with poor information to boot.
Increases Productivity - Poor communication can cause bottlenecks as employees wait for questions or messages from other team members to be addressed. Delays in work can occur as a result of mistakes that are made due to miscommunication. The more effective communication is amongst your employees, the more productive they will be.
Essential Communication Skills
Now that you have a better understanding of how beneficial effective communication can be, let’s explore what it actually means to communicate effectively. Consider these essential communication skills to build a better workplace culture:
People often make the mistake of thinking that effective communication refers to how well they can deliver a message; however, listening is just as important. Not only does active listening allows you to receive messages in a clear way to ensure that they are not misunderstood, but it also allows you to determine whether the message you were trying to deliver was clearly understood by the recipient. To actively listen to someone, you should listen twice as much as you speak. Focus on what the other person is saying, avoid interrupting them, and reflect back to them the message you received to make sure you’ve understood it.
Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. They give the person you’re speaking to in person much more insight into what you’re saying. Your tone of voice, the way you move your hands as you speak, whether you sit up straight or lean over your desk -- these are all types of non-verbal communication that reinforce the message you’re trying to deliver.
Non-verbal communication is also essential to active listening. After all, your facial expressions provide the person that’s speaking with you with an idea as to whether or not you’re understanding their message. Things like your posture and the way you move your arms and legs are both forms of non-verbal communication that inform active listening.
Lastly, non-verbal communication can help you understand how the person speaking with you is feeling, which can allow you to adjust your verbal communication accordingly. For example, if they’re constantly straightening their clothes or accessories, they’re likely nervous. If their hands are clenched, they may be anxious or angry. If their arms are crossed, they’re defensive.
Probing questions are important for several reasons. When speaking with someone, they give you an idea whether they understand your message. When listening to someone, it shows them that you’re interested in what they have to say as well as giving them an indication of whether you understand their message and whether you’re both in agreement on what you’re talking about.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person so that you can understand their thoughts and feelings about certain issues. For example, say an employee asks for a day off work because their child is graduating high school. You may not want to give it to them because of a project deadline that’s coming up soon, but through empathy you understand how important it is for them. Instead of just denying them the day off (resulting in an unhappy employee), you could work together to find a solution, such as giving them that day off and in return they come in during the weekend.
Don’t mistake being assertive for being aggressive or demanding. Assertiveness is all about honestly expressing your needs, feelings, and thoughts in an open manner. It’s about standing up for yourself while still respecting the other person. By being assertive, you’ll give your message more punch. Just keep in mind that good communication isn’t about winning an argument. If you have something negative to say, being assertive can help as long as you try to express your negative thoughts (such as if an employee has made a bad mistake) in a more positive and respectful manner.
Show respect for the person you’re talking to and for their ideas. If you don’t, they’ll be less likely to take your message to heart or will be disgruntled following the conversation. Besides using a respectful tone when you speak, there are signs of respect that you can employ during a conversation, such as making eye contact, letting them speak, using their name, and actively listening. Such signs of respect help the person feel more appreciated. Signs of disrespect you’ll want to avoid include not asking or listening to the other person ( resulting in a one-sided conversation) and becoming distracted by things that take away your eye contact (such as your phone, computer, or watch).
Whether you’re delivering a message or receiving one, you should go into the conversation with an open mind. Having an open mind means being willing to accept feedback as well as listening to the other person’s point of view. Even if you disagree with what the person’s message is or what their opinion about your message is, having an open mind means that you’re willing to enter into a dialogue. By being open minded, you’re much more likely to have honest and productive conversations.
Giving positive and negative feedback gives employees a better idea of how they’re doing. However, it’s very important that if you have negative feedback to provide, deliver it in the form of positive criticism. You want to encourage your employees to improve their work without them feeling like they are being reprimanded. On the other hand, it’s also important that you know how to accept feedback. Customers may give you positive or negative feedback. Whichever it is, use it to measure your performance and find ways to improve what you’re doing.
Responsiveness refers to how you respond to the message that someone else delivers to you or to their reply to your message. Being responsive shows that you are listening to them and that their concerns, feedback, or general reply matters to you. Unresponsive people will often just change the subject, resulting in a conversation that’s off-message. When someone within a conversation isn’t responsive, it generally results in feelings that the conversation was pointless. Both parties can end up being annoyed with one another as well.
Volume and Clarity
If you speak too low or you mumble your words, it will be difficult for the person you’re talking with to understand what you’re saying. This can muddle the message, resulting in miscommunication. They may also be more likely to forget what you said or dismiss it as being unimportant because poor volume and clarity can make you seem less confident about the message you’re trying to relay.
Confidence is something you need to show when delivering a message -- especially an important message. The more confidence you showcase, the more serious your message will be taken. If you’re not confident in your tone, expressions, or how you deliver your message, it may be disregarded or not taken seriously.
As a leader within your organization, you should display all of these communication skills to help set an example for the rest of your company. These are communication skills that everyone should have, and use, from the top on down.
Smart Tips To Be An Effective Communicator
A well-rounded set of communication skills can be enhanced by these additional few tips to enable effective communication:
Focus on the conversation at hand. A lack of focus will make it difficult to retain any thoughts and opinions provided by the other person. If your mind drifts off, odds are your attention will too. Don’t catch yourself looking at your phone in the middle of a conversation -- this indicates that you don’t care about what the other person is saying. Your focus can be demonstrated through eye contact and body movement (such as nodding your head in agreement). And if another person can tell you’re not focused on the conversation when you’re the one delivering the message, they will be less likely to respond with their own thoughts, feelings, or opinions.
Use Your Right Ear (fun fact backed by science
Active listening is extremely important, whether you’re in a one-on-one conversation or a meeting with a group of people. Unfortunately, if you have a lot on your plate and a lot on your mind, it can be difficult to pay attention at some times. Researchers have found that people generally understand what’s being said more effectively when they use their right ear. This is because sounds entering the right ear are processed by the left half of the brain, which is responsible for language development, memory, and controlling speech. This is much more prevalent in children, but still occurs in adults. Leaning in with your right ear can help you to take in more information and make it easier to respond.
Do Not Interrupt The Other Person
There are two main reasons you should never interrupt someone. First, it shows them that you don’t care about whatever it is that they have to say, which leaves the conversation completely one-sided. Secondly, it interrupts their train of thought. Accidentally interrupting someone because you had a quick thought or realization can happen, but when you do so, the person you’re speaking with may forget what they wanted to say.
When someone is speaking to you, show interest. With customers, this shows them that you care about their needs and you want to find a solution to whatever issue they have. With employees, it shows them that you think of them much more than just another cog in the machine. Employees who feel like you have an interest in what they have to say often feel encouraged to be more productive and to come up with more ideas that could benefit your company. They’ll also feel more invested in your company and will be less likely to jump ship for another job opportunity.
Set Aside Personal Opinion
Any conversation you have can be influenced by personal opinions that you have about the person’s thoughts or feelings, or about the person themselves. If you expect to have a productive conversation, then you will need to set aside your personal opinion. Otherwise, you may have difficulty accepting their point of view as being valid, resulting in a quick dismissal of everything that they have to say. If you do this with a customer, it can severely hurt your relationship. With an employee, it can hurt their confidence as well as their job performance.
Make Eye Contact
Always look at the person when you’re speaking or listening to them. While you don’t have to stare daggers at them, maintaining eye contact shows them that you’re engaged with them and care about what they have to say or how they are responding to what you have to say.
Even if you’re the one delivering a message, asking follow up questions -- even if it’s just to ask the person you’re talking to if they have any questions -- shows them that you don’t want the conversation to be one-sided and that you value their point of view. When someone else is delivering a message to you, asking questions ensures clarity, avoids miscommunication, and shows interest.
Respond In A Timely Manner
When it comes to written messages, always respond in a timely manner. A slow or late response indicates that you didn’t think the message was important. As you can imagine, this can hurt relationships with your clients as well as hurt the self-esteem of your employees. And late replies can hurt the productivity of employees who are waiting on an important response before proceeding with their work.
Empathy helps you relate to the person you’re speaking to. By showing empathy, you’ll show the other person that you care about their thoughts and feelings. For example, if you’ve given negative criticism to someone, show empathy to how they respond. This will help them feel like even though their work was criticized, that you’re still behind them and that you are trying to encourage them to do better, not trying to make them feel bad for making a mistake. Being empathetic is very useful when it comes to dealing with customers as well since it shows them you care.
Be Clear and Concise
No matter how you’re delivering a message, it’s essential that you are as clear and concise as possible. Don’t try to bundle several messages together or the main purpose of your message will get lost. Be clear about what you want or what your concern is so that the person you’re speaking with or writing to knows what they need to do. Avoid being vague as this can just confuse people, leading to mistakes or inaction.
Building A Successful Workplace Starts With Effective Communication
It can’t be overstated how important effective communication is within your company. Effective communication helps keep everybody on the same page, provides employees with the confidence they need to be more productive, ensures a positive working environment that encourages clear communication, and helps reduce mistakes made. Effective communication makes it easier to build personal relationships with employees and customers that will help contribute to the success and growth of your business. However, it all starts at the top. The sooner you begin communicating more effectively with employees, leadership, business partners, and customers, the quicker everyone will follow your lead and the greater the impact it will have.
Learn how to master interpersonal communication, read this next article, How Perception Influences Interpersonal Communication.