Our ability to communicate effectively has an impact on many areas of our lives. In business, assertive communication skills are a must if you want to be heard and earn the respect of your colleagues, employees and superiors.
Without clearly getting your message across ideas can be lost, misunderstood and dismissed. Never fear, confident communication skills can be taught. In today’s post we speak with The Colin James Method’s Executive Coach and Facilitator, Erica Bagshaw who shares some great tips on how to improve your communication skills and get your next idea across the line.
1. Put yourself in your manager’s shoesConfidence is a critical factor in effective communication. Erica says without it your message may come across as unformulated or weak. If you have an idea that you want to present to senior managers or executives, you need to put yourself in your manager’s shoes before you can present with confidence.
Before approaching your manager ask yourself:
- What are the priorities my manager has?
- What expectations does s/he have of me?
- What do his/her bosses expect from them?
- What are his/her priorities?
After answering these questions, where does what you’re hoping to communicate sit in your manager’s list of priorities? If it’s not a priority you need to consider the timing of your proposal. If you can link it to an objective on your manager’s priority list, you’ll have a much higher success rate. You’ll have a more confident mindset when you present if you know your idea or proposal is relevant at this stage. Timing can be one of the biggest factors in successfully getting the idea across the line.
2. Listen for the right language to communicate in
People don’t just communicate in different languages. We communicate in all different styles and if you want to get your point across, you need to communicate in the way your audience responds well to. Some people talk in facts and dot points, others in stories. To determine what language style best suits your audience, Erica says to think back to meetings and figure out what worked and what caused frustration. Now work on adapting your approach to fit in with how they best respond to communication. Often a key aspect for technology heavy communication is to turn the focus away from technology terms and focus on what your idea means from a business perspective.
3. Understand what you want the outcome of the conversation to be
By asking yourself the questions below you’ll can tailor your message and get your idea across clearly.
Ask yourself, as a result of this communication:
- What is it that I want my manager to feel? This could be informed, inspired, excited, provoked etc.
- What is it I want him/her to know and be thinking about?
- What do I want him to do? This could be more informed, make a decision, support an idea or initiative or change something in the business.
Having these answers in mind when preparing your presentation will help guide you to deliver a clear idea.
4. Watch your words
Clear communication can’t happen if your language is full of acronyms. For example, if you are a highly technical person and you’re explaining a new software feature to the sales department, don’t assume they understand acronyms. Some people don’t want to admit when they don’t know something and will pretend they do to avoid looking inept in front of peers. When this happens, the person is immediately offside and will live on quietly annoyed. Erica says here’s the time to keep the message effectively simple. While you shouldn’t oversimplify it and give the person the respect they deserve, you should use plain direct language to create quality communication.
Avoid language such as I’ve done, I will, I want, I’m talking about. Focus putting your language into the frame of the business by using words such as An idea we could consider, we’ve noticed this. This type of language creates a team dynamic that focuses on moving toward a common business goal, rather than a personal one.
When watching your words don’t underestimate the power of the summary. Don’t go deep into the details. It’s best to give an overview and let the audience know you can provide more information in an email. This avoids overloading the audience with superfluous information, which can lead to confusion.
5. Practice makes perfect
Framing your messaging is very important, but if you’re not confident in your delivery everything can fall apart. Erica says technical people can be too tentative and set in their ways, they must work on making the communication a confident suggestion rather than a dictation. To do this, practice your delivery out loud so you can hear the sound of the messaging. Don’t overthink it and overcomplicate things in your mind. Practicing will make you comfortable and help you find the best tone to deliver in.
Don’t forget to also practice your body language for the presentation, sitting up straight instead of slouching demonstrates confidence and commands respect.
Communication skills can be taught and we all learn through various experiences in our lives. But right now, if you’re working on your next big project and you want to improve your success rate of getting others on board, consider spending more time working toward mastering the above tips and tricks.
Ready to start your own business? Download our ebook How to start a start-up.