Sometimes we are so close to a subject that we just can’t see it. Sometimes we are so convinced that it just comes naturally there is no need to learn more about it. Sometimes we just get it wrong.
What am I talking about? Well – the fact that if you want to be professional in whatever it is that you do; then you are going to need to communicate. No …. I don’t mean speaking – I mean communicating. And there’s a problem, there are not many of us who do it properly.
A simple reason is that we have been talking since we were babes in arms, and because we have been doing it for so long we seem to think that we don’t need to learn anything more. But truly – what did we learn about communication at the family dinner table? Probably not a lot. We may have had a real in-depth training in inter-personal skills; we could have picked up quite a bit about conflict avoidance and the occasional resolution. We maybe a dab hand at generating conversation – but real communication? I doubt it.
Robert Kent, former dean of Harvard Business School said, “In business, communication is everything.” In fact in a normal working day managers spend 75 to 80 percent of their time involved in communication; and if you are lucky enough to make it to the top management team, it could be as much as 90 percent of your time. However, in regards to training, communication has often been referred to as a “soft” skill, and many companies have not viewed it as important. But that was in the past, today it is considered the most critical skill leaders need..
So why do we manage reasonably well around the table; but get it so wrong in business? It is because we confuse conversing with communicating. There are whole rafts of cultural rules that govern the way we speak with and to each other. There are taboo topics, there are certain ways of addressing people that are considered down right rude, and often we use euphuisms to disguise our message and to lessen its distressing impact. “Our cat passed away last night, and we don’t want the grandchildren to know.” Instead of saying “The cat died”.
Sometimes we will tell a downright lie, especially if the truth will get us into trouble! “How do I look in this new dress” is an exercise in terror. If I tell the truth I am going to be in it up my neck, and if I lie I am going to feel guilty for the rest of the day. What to do??? (Answers in the comments please – I am dying to know how you get out of it)
Now we can’t do that in business. Here is one place where we should be able to tell it like it is; lay in on the line; let it all hang out … oh! Perhaps that’s a step too far.
However, communication in business needs to be clear, concise and most important of all it must be correct! We can’t dress it up in nice little boxes and pretend that it’s something else. And yet, that is what so many people actually do. They take the conversational skills that they have learned through family, school and friends and try to create a communication style that answers businesses’ needs. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Used within the business environment conversational communication can create chaos – at best it leads to costly misunderstanding and mistakes.
If you are trying to maintain the credibility and professionalism of your organisation then you absolutely must apply some critical appraisal of your communication standards. If you are, or you recognise that your staff are trying to communicate important instructions, essential information and critical data in the incorrect way you will be one of those businesses whose communication is ineffective.
How to recognise if this is happening to us – or in our company? Ask yourself some simple questions … how many times do you have to restate your requests? How much time is being wasted by staff members incorrectly carrying out your instructions? How often do you have to re-explain something you thought you had already covered – twice? How many times do you have to ask for further clarification about an important task?
Give that some thought; and answer honestly. They say there are two different life styles that we lead – the one that we think we have and of course, the one that we actually live. So don’t answer the way you would like it to be, answer the way it is.
Time, they say, is money – and time wasted in ineffective communication is money wasted. Can you afford to waste money in business today?
So what’s it all about, Alfie? Well it’s all about communication; effective, concise, clear and positively correctly understood. So don’t waste time with conversational tactics when what is really needed is communication skills.
Michele @ Trischel
The experts in communication training!