Whether we realize it or not, each of us communicates all day, every day: how we dress, how we wear our hair, how we walk, how we sit, how we stand, how we present ourselves, whether we make eye contact, whether we smile, whether we meet another’s gaze, how we speak, how we project, how we write, whether we use social media, how we take in information and how we respond.
These are some of the many decisions each of us makes consciously or unconsciously to project ourselves — to communicate who we are in the world and in the workplace.
3 communication tips to implement today
Tip No. 1: Be both strategic and tactical
What is our goal in communicating today, how do we want to come across, and what is the best way to do so?
- Set the goal. Determining the goal isn’t always easy. However, it is critical to achieving success. Start the day by asking yourself, “At the end of the day, my communication with, about or directed to will be successful if what happens?” In other words, think first, establish the goal, develop your plan and then execute.
- Once the goal is determined, set the tactics to get there.
- Execute those tactics. Be flexible if they involve others.
- Measure whether you achieved success.
- Do a retrospective.
Background: Juan knows he has completed three high-priority projects on time, under budget, and successfully. Juan is ambitious and wants to be promoted. Yet, boss Bryan hasn’t yet acknowledged his contributions.
Today’s goal: Get feedback (hopefully positive from Bryan)
Tactics, in order:
- Dress for success, e.g., wear kakis and a button-down shirt, vs. jeans and a t-shirt
- Get on Bryan’s calendar
- Jot down the bullet points to be made
- Open the meeting with “Bryan, I’m eager to move to the next position in the company, and want your feedback on my progress, especially your view of the three projects, and what advice you have for me . . . “
- Listen attentively, respond accordingly
Execute the tactics: Bryan’s assistant said Bryan couldn’t meet today. Meeting set for tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Measure success: Partial, will measure again tomorrow
Retrospective: Juan did everything he could. However, he was dependent on someone else, so he needed to be flexible.
Tip No. 2: Accept responsibility. Use “I” statements and banish “you” statements
- Use “I” statements. Communicate only on behalf of the person over which you have complete and total control — yourself. “I would like …” I guess I wasn’t clear.” “I am responding to you.”
- Banish “you” statements. “You didn’t understand …” “You didn’t do what I asked; what you need to understand is …”
Example: “You didn’t understand the assignment, and now it’s late” (implication “all because of you”). Change that statement to: “I guess I wasn’t clear. I thought I was, so I goofed. I’ll take over now and get it in. Next time, I’ll make sure I am being clear. I will ask that my instructions be noted in a return e-mail.”
Tip No. 3: Show gratitude
Thank someone for being helpful, and/or give out an attaboy or attagirl for a job well done. Don’t be phony or fake — that can be detected a mile away. Watch for opportunities to show gratitude.
- Observe team members and note their contributions. Ian handed in his assignment on time today; our team got a thumbs-up for the compensation project in which Julio and Juliana contributed.
- Show gratitude. “Thank you, Ian for getting this to me on time.” “Attaboy Julio and attagirl Juliana — the big boss liked our compensation recommendation and each of you played a part. Thanks.”
Adopt these three tips to improve your communication:
- Be strategic and tactical.
- Use “I” statements and banish “you” statements
- Show gratitude to individual team members — thank someone, and give out an attaboy or attagirl.
You can do it!
Diana Peterson-More, employment lawyer, corporate officer and consultant left a Fortune 200 to launch Organizational Effectiveness Group LLC. Her company focuses on aligning people with organizational purpose and strategy. She is the best-selling author of “Consequential Communication in Turbulent Times” and is a sought-after coach, facilitator and speaker.
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