Effective communication is one of the most important skills you need to learn to be a strong business leader. Improving your communication skills can save you from costly mistakes, and misaligned expectations, and also helps your business run more smoothly and efficiently. Think about it, if an employee or a collaborative partner isn’t clear about your business objectives or how you operate, they are likely to produce a product that doesn’t cohesively align with your brand or standards.
While it seems like a no-brainer, improving your communication skills may be harder and entail more than you think. Here are some tips that can help:
- Be an active listener. Effective communication isn’t just about talking or telling others what you want. It means being a good listener as well. Focus all of your energy on the conversation instead of trying to multitask.
- Encourage input and feedback. Listening to and taking action on feedback is critical to business success. Encourage others to provide input and pay attention when they do. If an employee points out a flaw in a procedure, it’s important to not just brush it off as a complaint. If you are losing customers, ask why. Those invested in your business need to feel that their input is valued. They may have some great ideas, but you’ll never hear them if you aren’t listening.
- Be mindful of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal cues can be more telling of someone’s true feelings than their words. Conversely, the nonverbal body language you display could be misinterpreted in a way you don’t intend. Eye contact is a great example. Making eye contact with a person demonstrates attentiveness and interest in the conversation. It can also help influence people to view you as trustworthy. Eye contact creates a feeling of intimacy with the other person.
- Evolve. We don’t still speak in grunts like cavemen because the language has evolved, and it continues to evolve. Stay current on the latest trends in order to stay effective at communication. As a business owner, you must always be open to learning new and better ways to do business and communicate. This action applies to all facets of business, including technology and business practices.
- Overcommunicate. Too much information is always better than not enough. Efficiency is not about using fewer words; it’s about making sure that something doesn’t need to be redone over and over before it’s done right. Detailed instructions help avoid errors. Likewise, repetition is essential, especially when it’s crucial to your business. Routinely repeating important information helps ensure that others will hear and understand it.
- Ask for understanding. We all have different communication styles and that can cause misunderstandings. What one person says can be heard or interpreted differently by the other party in the discussion. In order to avoid disappointment and misunderstanding, check-in with the other person. Repeat what you think they said and ask for validation or clarification. If you are the one giving instructions or asking for something to be done, ask the other person to tell you what they heard, what they need to do, what the expected outcome is, and when it is due. This small action will help you identify most miscommunications before they cause problems.
- Keep emails brief. Most of us have overflowing email inboxes. As we seek to over-communicate or ensure that every expectation is documented, we inundate one another with too many emails and too much information. Emails should be brief and concise. Consider emails as the highlight reel or a checklist of to-do items and avoid as much irrelevant information as possible.
- Use appropriate communication methods. As with most things in business, you reach the highest efficiency when using the right tool for the job. It’s inefficient to have employees sit through a meeting or presentation when you can convey that same information through a few emails or a quick phone call. Taking away from an employee or collaborator’s productive time ultimately costs the company. Also, pay attention to how the other person prefers to receive information. Do they prefer a call, email, text, instant message, or an in-person meeting? You’ll be more likely to get a response if you connect with them in the way they prefer.
Miscommunication, at best, is an unnecessary frustration that you can avoid by sharpening your communication skill set. Businesses succeed with strong leaders, and strong leaders are strong communicators. Learning to communicate effectively isn’t just a practical business skill, it is a life skill.
Empowered Leadership helps businesses find freedom through business coaching, executive coaching, assessments, and training. Stacie is an entrepreneur who helps business leaders balance their time to run an effective business and enjoy their life.