Via LiveMint : Learn to communicate at all levels or perish
Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are
For too long, communication has been looked at as a “soft skill” that relies on flourish and flair. It’s time we punctured that connotation. Communicating well is hard.
Sure, logical thinking and multiple perspectives lead to tangible action for ideas to move and solutions to be implemented. But any chance of success for a solution begins with getting colleagues, managers and clients to buy into and align with your solution. This is tough and only possible if you engage people in a constructive and inspiring way.
This is why communication plays a crucial, indispensable role because the best thinking is no good if it can’t be absorbed by others.
Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are. Effective communication—especially in the workplace—is about being able to convey your thoughts lucidly so that the people being addressed immediately get what is being said. In fact, some of the best communicators we know don’t speak good English.
The recipe for great communication is similar to what we said in the context of problem solving. To solve a problem, you need to logically structure issues. It’s the same with words and thoughts.
We are poor communicators because we don’t reason, debate and question enough. To communicate and reason better, you need to read. Then, you need to reason and think through better. Inculcating reading, writing, and, through this, reasoning as a habit is the only way to get at this.
Take a unit of work, whether it is problem solving or execution. You begin by reading, hearing or watching something or someone. This helps you comprehend the situation. You apply your analysis and judgement to this understanding, and reason through to a certain decision or outcome. To get this communicated or implemented, you now need to write, speak or present, and the reading-writing-reasoning (the 3 Rs) communication loop begins again.
Along with structuring the content, understanding your audience is the biggest aspect of communication that people miss out on. Connecting with different groups, and different kinds of people, is very important. This goes beyond just communicating. It’s the difference between how you would talk to your grandmother, and how you would talk to a college friend.
Taking the time out to understand the key motivation, or set the objective, for a conversation helps establish a connect, as does recognizing which modes of communication people prefer, what response times they expect and how formal/informal they are in their communication styles.
Finally, as with reading, learn to listen. People think taking up airtime is the core of communication. They must speak and be heard. But the best communicators are great listeners. Listening is actually a form of reading. Spend time not just hearing, but actively listening.
An important impact of communication is its ability to inspire and motivate. It’s only through communication that you show your leadership, or experience somebody’s leadership. The way people perceive you is built conversation by conversation, LinkedIn post by LinkedIn post and email by email. Or, speech by speech, when it comes to political leaders and opinion makers.
At our workplaces, we experience people’s leadership in the way they conduct a meeting, persuade people in a debate, carry out an awkward conversation, resolve a conflict or address their teams. Often, it’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. The words they stress, the tone, or even how often they communicate become data points we gather subconsciously. It influences how we look at them. Others are watching you the same way.
Take charge of your communications imprint. Begin by auditing yourself. Get help from a friend, peer or family member whose communication abilities you admire. Use it to lay down a road map for improvement.
It could be the most important investment you make for your career.
Via The National : Workplace doctor: How to handle personal relationships in a professional environment
Managers have to be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason.
I am the manager of a large team of salespeople at a major outlet in Dubai. Recently, I have become aware of a relationship between two members that seems to be impacting their work. While I do not want to ban them from having a relationship – they have until recently both been exemplary members of staff. How do I resolve this delicate issue?
Although personal relationships may be viewed differently by different people, generations, religions and cultures, consideration should be given to what is seen to be both respectful and lawful of the local culture and religion where one resides.
Internationally, it is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of people have dated a co-worker and that up to one third of these work relationships have resulted in marriage. Alarming statistics for some, and given that the line between professional and personal lives are becoming thinner, maybe not that surprising for others. Given that we spend, on average, one third of our lives at work whilst working longer hours than ever before, it may be understandable that work is increasingly becoming the primary social environment that many find themselves in.
Traditionally, relationships at work have been frowned upon for various reasons. Many take the view that the workplace is a professional environment where it is important to maintain professionalism at all times. This is particularly relevant to work relationships, as they can be a real distraction not only for the parties involved, but also for their co-workers. Other than potentially affecting productivity, work relationships can cause additional strain, embarrassment and perceptions of favouritism or discrimination.
Depending on who is involved, workplace relationships can change the dynamics of an entire organisation. At the very least, they tend to generate excessive gossip and can complicate important collaboration and trust, necessary for effective teams and cross functional relations. It can also affect decision making, where the involved parties are likely to put each other’s needs before that of the company. Furthermore, work relationships are not limited to co-workers and can impact relations with vendors, competitors or other external stakeholders.
From a different perspective, experts have more recently found that workplace friendships are good for employees and as such, for organisations. This is especially true for Generation Y, who value working with like-minded people that they get on well with. Friendships at work can increase productivity and reduce employee turnover.
According to a 2013 survey in Australia, good relationships with co-workers were more motivating for people to stay in their current job (67 per cent) compared to job satisfaction (63 per cent) and surprisingly, their salary (46 per cent). A workplace is a community, and a closeness amongst staff members can be a competitive advantage for an organisation.
Although, personal relationships are more complicated, they can be viewed in much the same way. Rather than resisting the phenomena, employers are best placed to have a clear policy that governs personal relationships at work. The focus should be on creating a positive work environment for all. Employees must not allow a personal relationship to influence their conduct at work.
Be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason. It is also best to have a rule that prohibits an employee from supervising a person they are in a relationship with. Include a requirement to disclose any relationship that may give rise to a conflict of interest.
How may you handle this situation going forward? As you and others have noticed behavioural changes, it is time to address the situation with these individuals. You mention that they have both been exemplary members of staff until recently, so appeal to their professionalism at work.
Communicate your concerns that their personal actions are causing professional issues. Specify that personal lives should be conducted outside of the workplace, and that romantic gestures are not appropriate at work. Help them to establish some boundaries – for instance, not to spend too much time on their own, agreeing not to use terms of endearment, or be seen to make physical contact with each other.
Maintain an atmosphere of trust by respecting their right to a private life, whilst ensuring your right to protect the interests of the business and fellow staff members. Residing in the UAE, they also need to be aware of the laws of the country and respectful of the local culture and customs regarding all forms of relationships.
Via Business News Daily : Proper Workplace Communication in the Age of Chat and Text
Communication tools have made leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. We have moved from phone calls and faxes to emails and text. With those changes came a new language and new rules for professional communication etiquette. Experts advised leaving humor out of emails to avoid misinterpretation, and arguments ensued over the use of salutations and signatures in replies and forwards, not to mention the battle over personal quotes in signature blocks.
Flash forward to today. Now many productivity tools include instant messaging in their team spaces and have taken that challenge a step further with the introduction of emoticons in their systems. While many of us use smiley faces, sad faces and “LOL” in our everyday informal communications with friends and family, should they be used in professional correspondence?
“Those types of communication tools allow for flexibility,” said Dennis Collins, senior director of marketing at West Unified Communications. “Many times the communication tools get blamed, not the user, for inappropriate use. Instead, managers should focus on the results of increased and immediate communication, and not the means of getting there.”
The pros and cons of digital communication tools
There are many positives to using Slack, Teamwork Chat and the wide variety of similar communication tools. Sharon Schweitzer, an international business etiquette expert, author and the founder of Access to Culture, said collaboration tools provide teams with a designated platform on which to discuss and develop projects, allowing everyone to share and consolidate their ideas.
“The open exchange between co-workers allows them to transmit and receive information as quickly [as possible], amping productivity and cross-team communication,” she said. “For a project that includes multiple teams or people working remotely, these apps help reconnect employees, provide progress updates and facilitate collaboration. The apps also provide a designated platform for workplace communication without the distractions of Facebook Messenger or Google chat, allowing for greater office efficiency.”
Guiding that open exchange can be a challenge. While Collins encourages small business owners and managers to embrace the technology and go with the flow, he also encourages setting parameters.
“Set expectations,” he said, “and provide guideposts for their use. The appropriateness of different media makes a difference. You may ‘talk’ one way in an email and express the same sentiment in a chat message, only differently because of the more informal nature.”
This includes the use of emoticons. Collins has several reasons why using emoticons in chats is a good thing, primarily when it comes to context.
“Content that is not relevant is just noise,” he said. “We are being flooded with content. But when content has context, it is easier to understand. Emoticons provide that context, making one-dimensional messages more robust and showing inflection.” It gives what the person is saying a visual communication feel, adding an extra layer to tell if the words typed are meant as a joke, serious or sarcastic, for instance.
Instant communication has other benefits as well. It breaks down hierarchal boundaries. Instead of an email to a boss, then another one to their boss, one to the big boss and back down again, now a question can be asked in real time. Because people don’t have the attention span they used to, shorter messages at greater frequency elicit better and more immediate responses, keeping a project moving forward instead of waiting on a question and answer that is traveling up the ladder and back down.
There can also be a downside to the use of emoticons, inside or outside of your organization. According to a new study from Amsterdam University, including smiley faces in your email correspondence leads readers to view you as less competent. If that is a concern, Schweitzer has some advice: For professional exchanges, leave out the emojis, LOLs and memes.
“Remember that your online work platform is first and foremost a professional sphere designed to facilitate efficient and effective dialogue,” she recommended. “Spamming your co-workers with GIFs is a sure way to cause problems and irritate your teammates. Keep your messages short and sweet.”
She also endorses using professional communication platforms internally only. “External tools risk exposing private, confidential, trademarked, financial, or other sensitive information to the public or competitors. Open the channel to the in-house groups that are collaborating together, and be sure to close the conversation to all not involved in the project.”
Another negative is the use of the platforms for personal business. It shouldn’t be used to send messages to co-workers about non-business topics such as weekend plans or personal problems.
Advice for managers and employees
Within an organization, however, the use of common emojis, memes and GIFs can promote familiarity and foster that teamwork feeling. The key is to provide and enforce the guidelines for appropriate types of communication over the workplace communication tool and channel.
“Use it as a leadership opportunity,” Collins said, “not a boss action. Sit down with the team and explain protocol for inside and outside communications and work on those protocol points together. Explain what is OK and what isn’t. Once determined, monitor and engage – practice what you preach.”
“Management can coordinate with HR to prepare written guidelines for use of the platform,” added Schweitzer. “HR managers can train and debrief employees on the platform’s function, tools and guidelines so that its use remains professional. Guidelines prevent personal and unauthorized use (for example, office gossip). Instruct employees to refrain from sending personal or sensitive messages; be clear that, as with any online messaging system, messages are not private.”
Also, to prevent your team from distraction by notifications, create a management override or policy requiring them to adjust their settings so that they only receive alerts pertaining to them and their workgroup. This cuts down wasted time and increases productivity.
Finally, emphasize that a messaging platform is not a substitute for in-person meetings, phone calls or video conferences, all of which are more personable and effective communication. While online apps are convenient, they should never take the place of real-time interpersonal interactions. It is OK to instant-message to see if someone is available to talk, but discussions of substance should still take place in person. No electronic smiley face or “LOL” can take the place of a true smile or a team laughing, discussing and working together.
Via International Business Times : Body Language At The Workplace: Tips To Boost Confidence Through Non-Verbal Communication
It is well agreed upon that in a workplace, exchange of ideas or communication that leads to formulation or discussion of issues is what prompts a healthy and conducive environment. However, when one talks about communication, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is the verbal aspect of it, forgetting that non-verbal communication is equally important.
Huge amounts of research conducted over the years have proved that when properly used, non-verbal communication can make an instant impact on the other person, and can be key to greater success.
According to Tonya Reiman, author of “The Power of Body Language,” powerful non-verbal communication skills can tell your audience that you are energetic, engaged, confident and honest. However, poor non-verbal communication skills may also give an impression of low self-esteem and a lack of interest. “Is this 100% fair? Not necessarily. But it is how humans are programmed,” she says.
In an article for the Conversation, David Keatley Lecturer in Psychology at Curtin University, Australia, says body language was difficult to analyze given its complex nature and could also be easily misinterpreted as a particular gesture can carry many meanings.
Many experts highlight some basic rules to follow in order to send the right kind of non-verbal messages while at your workplace that could project confidence.
Communication expert Carol Kinsey Goman, in an article for Forbes, suggests keeping your posture erect and your head held high. “If you stand you will look more powerful and assured to those who are seated. If you move around, the additional space you take up adds to that impression,” Goman says. While sitting, she recommends keeping feet flat on the floor and keeping your arms a little further away from your body.
Reiman, in an article for the Business Insider, also endorses Goman. “This does several things. It changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality,” she states. Slumped shoulders are a strict no-no according to Reiman, as they give an impression of “insecurity, laziness, and a general sense of unhappiness.”
Hand movements and gesticulation also play an important role in non-verbal communication. Reiman says rather than big hand movements small gestures tend to have more of an impact on communication. “It is rare to see the alpha of the group wildly flailing about,” she says. “Powerful business people tend to use smaller, more subtle hand gestures to demonstrate their point with authority.”
Fidgeting with your hair or your hands can also be perceived as signs of weakness and lack of confidence.
A handshake can also tell volumes about your confidence. Sarah Perugia, communication skills trainer and executive coach in a piece for the Guardian suggests extending your hands a little further while going in for a handshake and keeping it firm. Goven also stresses the importance of the right way to shake hands: “Since touch is the most powerful and primitive non-verbal cue, it’s worth devoting time to cultivating a great handshake. The right handshake can give you instant credibility and the wrong one can cost you the job or the contract.”
While in an office space, controlling your facial expressions is also important when, say, reacting to a certain piece of information. Both over-reacting to a piece of news and holding expressions that show no signs of interest can be detrimental to relationships.
Patti Wood, body language expert and author of “SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma,” is quoted in an article saying: “We often express interest through raised eyebrows, smiles, head nods, vocal utterances. If you don’t give feedback physically, people think you don’t care, that you’re stuck up, and host of other negative attributes.”
The ability to maintain eye-contact is another important component that can make you seem confident and certain. Lack of eye-contact may portray you as shifty and deceptive. Goven suggests: “Whenever you greet a business colleague, look into his or her eyes long enough to notice what color they are.”
The final component, but in no way less important than the others, is smiling. A simple smile could portray you as someone who is approachable and trustworthy and even increases your sense of well-being. However, smiling too much can also be trouble, as it is perceived as “insincere and misleading,” Reiman says.
Via Forbes : How To Standardize Corporate Communication
Corporate communication has never been an easy or straightforward matter. The business world sees professionals from all different backgrounds interacting in bustling, stressful environments — the sheer diversity of languages, rhetorical behaviors and personality types is enough to make one’s head spin. This Tower of Babel-esque situation has been dramatically compounded in the modern age, with modes, mediums, technologies and platforms of communication proliferating at breakneck speeds.
Whether it’s public relations or internal communications, directors, managers and executives who oversee the written and spoken words of an organization face one doozy of a task. Rather than discussing specific social media marketing tactics or another listicle on how to speak to your employees, let us take a moment to evaluate general tactics and considerations that help to identify balanced, efficient common-speak in today’s corporate landscape.
Adaptation: A Two-Way Street
An effective, centralized communications strategy balances how much the business adapts to the employees entering the workplace and to what degree those professionals will be expected to adapt to the communications culture of the company. Despite sitting at the foundation of corporate communications, this balance is seldom discussed and (likely) rarely discussed in a corporate boardroom.
I work at a company that certainly falls into the territory of a Babel-esque communication risk, as countless backgrounds and personality types are represented – techies, salespeople, literary types, nerds, jocks – you name it, we got it. Internal communications are one matter, but client interactions are an entirely different story, as we primarily work with some of the finest rhetoricians around — attorneys. Long proposals, quick emails and all communications in between are scrutinized in epic fashion, especially given the sensitivity of the work we complete.
Somehow we managed to find ways to speak the same language, all while building and maintaining exceptional relationships with our clientele. Like so many other businesses that made the jump from startup to midsize in the proverbial blink of the eye, the communications culture crept out of the primordial ooze and blossomed into this cosmic, unified language that (incredibly) worked for everyone.
As a business grows, its language and communications culture will have to adapt and transform but remain standardized at any given time to avoid minor to major issues with corporate efficiency, performance and progress.
This is where the two-way-street element of corporate communications culture comes into play. First, the language needs to grow and refine itself naturally. Then, leaders must take purposeful, substantive steps to keep it all under control, adding in some clear definitions and essentially turning abstract culture into firm policies of sorts.
Standardization: People, Process, Technology
Any strategy will live and die with its functional ability to unify people, process and technology. As such, communications policies and strategies must swiftly and coherently cover all bases in this triad of management frameworks.
A few elements that might be helpful for each include:
• People: onboarding, training, and monitoring frameworks that help all employees adapt to the corporate culture of communication and stay on the same page throughout their tenures. Employee feedback and perspectives can be invaluable when building these frameworks out.
• Process: policies that govern everything from email and conference-call etiquette to information sharing and knowledge management. There should be a governance web that guides communication in each department and across the business as a whole.
• Technology: management and governance statutes that control the use of devices and applications as they relate to both internal and client-facing communications. Chief technology officers should be highly involved in the development of such rules.
At the end of the day, communications managers, directors and executives will need to customize the governance of people, processes and technologies in accordance with their unique corporate cultures. There is no cut-and-paste solution to the Babel-esque challenges faced in each business environment today.
The goal here should always be standardizing and unifying the communications culture of the business, building off of strengths and learning from weaknesses every step of the way. These policies should be viewed as agile yet steady compasses for directing all personnel.
Justification: Attaining Buy-In
Directors and executives alike will often run into issues when trying to gain buy-in from the C-Suite, floor-level employees and everyone in between. Once communications strategies have been properly standardized, buy-in will be the final challenge that needs to be hurdled, and it is arguably the most difficult.
This is where employee feedback and insights will be invaluable. For example, if three-quarters of personnel prefer to use a specific device that policies prohibit in the workplace, buy-in will be unattainable. Or if the C-Suite has not been involved in the manifestation of policies and procedures, chances are there will be some significant demands for adjustments and changes once the complex web of governance is already established.
So, communications directors and executives need to do what they do best: Communicate. Get feedback throughout the process of overhauling or establishing the standardized, unified, common language and communications culture of the business, and attaining buy-in will be a far more straightforward, speedy and seamless pursuit.
Do not let the threat of Babel-esque communication quandaries hinder your company’s performance. Adapt, standardize and modernize in every possible way to rescue your colleagues from the perils of modern corporate dialogue.