Being an effective communicator is a necessity in our industry, maybe now more than ever. There is no time like the present to take a crash course and reflect on your communication practices. I’m certainly not an expert on the subject, but I am fortunate to have worked with many speakers, mentors and colleagues from whom I have learned. Communication is a work in progress; I’m always trying to be a better communicator. Barbara Corcoran has said, “My biggest successes have been on the heels of my failures.” I think this is very true when it comes to communication. I have definitely had instances that I would consider failures and have learned the most from them. Regardless of your role within an organization, it is imperative that you represent yourself and your company in the best way possible. Here are five tips that I find to be helpful for my team and myself:
1. Internal Communication: The Good, the Bad, and the Grateful
My team has a document we share internally called “What’s GOOD?!” What’s GOOD?! is a tool we use in team settings. The document asks each team member to provide any information, good and bad, that needs to be relayed to the rest of the team. There are also categories including an area for a personal achievement or an update, the biggest problem they are facing this week professionally that we may be able to solve as a team, as well as something for which they are grateful. It’s always important to end on high note!
2. External Communication: Keep It Light!
Leading with negativity and selling with fear are highly frowned upon. Ultimately, we know that we have to be transparent, but remember that the first line of an email, phone conversation or document is your first impression. Find something to open on a positive note. Whether selling an idea or a product, use reasons that promote positivity and the benefits of the decision. As a rule of thumb, use humor or vulnerability when you can, and when it is appropriate.
3. Communication Is a Two-way Street
Be sure to be an active part of the communication process on both sides. Be sure to listen. An active listener is generally an effective communicator, and even more effective than someone who is always the person talking. I have learned from many mentors along the way about the importance of asking questions, not always having the answers and thinking before I speak (or write).
4. It’s Not About You!
We have heard many generational experts tell us how important it is to communicate to the generational stereotypes how they might process information. As humans, we all have preferred ways to communicate. If you have the opportunity, you can always ask someone what works best. Generally, you may also use the method that someone used with you as an easy starting point. I have clients that ALWAYS call me – so when I have information for them, I call them. I also have clients that email me back almost instantly and I know they are my inbox warriors!
5. Be Present
Regardless of your role in an organization, the most effective mode of communication is your actions. Be responsive, be knowledgeable, be honest and be ethical. Clients, colleagues or peers are reaching out to you because they need something from YOU, so be yourself. Any communication is an opportunity for a relationship; if you recognize that and treat each interaction as an investment in yourself and your own personal brand, you will be very successful.
I hope this is helpful, even though I may not be the expert. I have most likely learned something from one of you reading this; I can guarantee it. The wonderful dynamic of our industry, and specifically FICP, is that we have a network of peers at many different experience levels from whom we are able to learn. The purpose of this article may not be to teach anyone anything they don’t already know, but perhaps it’s a reminder of something you may have lost sight of. It was a reminder for me as well, and a reflection about being present even in the most uncertain of times. We can always remember that one thing we can control is how we communicate. Communication may be the thing that starts a new partnership, or builds on an existing one. I hope it is!