Genuine communication is a two-way reciprocal process, not one-way information delivery. It's as much a matter of human relationships as it is about transmitting facts.
Poor communication is a major, yet avoidable, obstacle to business productivity.
Unfortunately, many managers and executives take their communication with employees, and even customers, for granted. Many of them instinctively assume the role of a teacher who knows everything, and expects others to passively imbibe their knowledge.
Most employees rate their managers as average to poor presenters. Here are the most common communication errors made by managers.
Presenting without a purpose. Many people seem to be communicating just to hear themselves talk, because those they are presenting to can't discern a relevant purpose to the presentation.
Presenting without complete understanding. Many employees report that their managers present information and ideas that are either extraneous or irrelevant, because they don't really understand their circumstances.
Being dull and monotonous. Or even worse, attempting to open a presentation with a lame joke or anecdote.
Saying too much. Many employees (and customers) report feeling overwhelmed by a flood of information that seems random and disjointed.
Assuming the listener/audience agrees. Just because a presentation ends with loud applause doesn't mean that the audience agrees with the speaker, or buys into their perspective.
Ending with a loud thud. Both one-on-one communications and group presentations too often end with little more than polite smiles and applause, and both parties being grateful the ordeal is over.
So what can you do to avoid these errors? Here are effective strategies to help you communicate in a way that's clear, concise and relevant to employees and customers:
Begin at the end
Almost every effective business communication is in some way a "call to action" and you should predetermine the specific outcome or action you want to achieve. Do you want an employee to change their work habits? Do you want a customer to buy your product? Do you want the shareholders to approve the merger?
Decide in advance a specific objective that requires action or commitment on the part of your audience. If you can't think of a specific outcome that requires action of commitment, then maybe you should be asking yourself if the communication is really necessary at all. Because if the only purpose is delivery of data, there are probably more efficient ways of doing it.
Listen first, speak second
Every presentation, every conversation, and virtually every other interpersonal communication should begin with questions that enhance the speakers understanding of the other person (or group). Admittedly, this rarely happens. Most speakers and presenters are so focused on their message that they forget the real priority is the other person.
Of course questions take time, and listening to answers takes even more time.
Even so, if we want to consistently communicate in a way that's relevant to others, we have to make sure that we truly understand their perspective.
Part two of this column next Tuesday will focus on additional solutions for improving communication.
Jan Kantor is a Southwest Florida business consultant and executive coach. For more information, or to contact him regarding workplace solutions, his website is www.jankantor.com.