When asked recently, ‘What is the key to business success?’ I was forced into thinking about all the necessary skills and attributes that leaders need in business today. When you look at the typical areas that we associate with good business leaders such as having a degree of acumen, work experience, a good level of intelligence in all its forms, knowledge of the company as well as the market and industry-wide knowhow; it’s all good stuff. But I can’t help thinking that there is one ingredient that turns a good leader into a great one and that is the ability to communicate skilfully.
Being a good communicator in business is going to help with every aspect of what you do as a leader. It is probably the single most important skill that you can master. As it affects so many other areas of your working life. Think of the meetings you attend and the presentations you are often called upon to give. Having a high degree of competency as a communicator with help with all these aspects of business.
It’s also important to go looking for opportunities to practice your skills too. Like any other skill you will become better at it the more you do it. So, if you are presented with an opportunity to make a presentation or chair a meeting then take it. Sometimes this may mean that you have to go looking for the chance to speak out, but the more you hone that skill then the better at it you will become.
As Bob Monkhouse famously once said. “all my best ad libs are very well prepared”. He was referring to the fact that by exploring every possible heckle he might get from the audience he would be able to come back with a witty remark effortlessly. We can learn from this when we prepare any form of business communication. A proposal document or presentation can be re-written and drafted several times before you are completely happy that you have got it right. This will help with expecting the unexpected when dealing with audience questions too!
In a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ a line often quoted reads, "The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening". Whilst this has some apocalyptic undertones it does rather help us to understand that being a good communicator is just as much about paying attention to what is going on a round us than actually speaking ourselves. I suppose the trick is to not let outside influences distract us from whatever form of communication we are engaged in; so, put down your phone, don’t look at email when speaking, meeting or interacting with others and stay focussed on what you are doing.
Talking of others, it is also important to listen carefully to how other people communicate and learn from them. I was on a car journey recently with a business colleague and when after apologising for having to take the call he spoke with another senior person in the business for around 40 minutes. All I could do was listen. What was fascinating about that call was that the caller had several harsh opinions on a number of different subjects which my colleague clearly did not agree with. However, rather than simply say ‘you’re wrong’ he used very careful language to say the equivalent of “You may be right, but have you considered …”. On almost every point he turned the other person’s viewpoint around to think differently about the situation and on most points, he ended up agreeing with my colleague. We can learn by listening to how others communicate and applying the same strategies for ourselves.
In the same vein, although it is something of a cliché, we communicate much better when we listen as well as speak. I was in a shop recently when a salesperson said to me, “this is what I’m here for, I’ve got two ears and one mouth”. He then spoke for the next 4 minutes without drawing breath and still had no idea what I’d gone in there for. Being willing to really hear what the other person is saying without interrupting can be quite difficult, but as we have already explored, simply practising this skill is a good way of getting better at it and avoiding misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
Here at Maguire Training we have classroom-based courses and programmes that can help you with understanding how to communicate skilfully. We are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules on our website which covers a range of leadership, business management, communication and related topics. Have a look at our elearning section on ‘Communication Skills’ as the modules in there would be the prefect complement to our classroom-based programmes.
If you need further information then you could always call us of course on 0333 5777 144 for a no obligation discussion about your training requirements. Alternatively, simply hit the ‘Contact Us’ on any page of our website at www.maguiretraining.co.uk and we’ll get right back to you.
Either way it would be great to hear from you.