Being conscious of how you communicate and having a well thought-out strategy is key to being an effective and influential communicator.
You come into contact with so many different people during the course of a normal week that you can’t just have one mode or style of communicating. Your boss, direct reports, partner, clients, colleagues — they all need and expect different things from you. Being able to communicate in the appropriate way and matching those needs will make your life easier.
I call this 360 degrees communication. Here are a few tools and techniques you can employ to deal with:
When your boss interacts with you, he wants to hear about what you have been doing.
When dealing with your boss, you should:
Stay positive. If you have a challenge, come up with a solution as well.
Make sure there are no surprises. If you’ve made a genuine mistake, admit it and give your manager a chance to prepare for any possible fall-out. Depending on what it is, your manager may be as much on the line as you, so have him as your ally instead of your enemy.
Be inclusive. Don’t complain about other people to your boss. Don’t be seen as self-serving or obsequious. It makes you sound desperate, like the “comedian” who can only make people laugh by poking fun at others. Be credible and great at what you do without maligning your colleagues.
Your direct reports
Just as you will want to impress your boss, your direct reports will want to do the same thing with you. They also need something in return — they need information about the business from you, how their job fits in with it and how their work contributes to the bigger picture. They also need to know you care about them and their development.
To meet those needs, you should:
Set the communication temperature. Set up regular briefings with your team members, informing them of things happening in the business, within their department and even the industry. Let them know that open communication is a given and that you are committed to sharing things with them and giving them an opportunity to share their own ideas.
Set up regular engagement interviews. These need to only be once a quarter or maybe twice a year, depending on how many people you have in your team. Spend at least one hour speaking to individual direct reports about their passion, what they enjoy about their job, why they stay with the company and how you can make their lives easier. This information is like gold dust and will give you great insights into how your team can be more productive and how to keep them engaged.
This can be one of the more difficult relationships to manage as it really is about positive influence, without any positional power. You need to rely on your personal power — the traits that set you apart and make you someone your client wants to do business with.
Be a person with integrity, who can be relied upon to do good work. Build a track record based on success and delivery. Be an expert in your field and use your knowledge and network to add value to your client.
To put this in practice, you should:
Be a skilful enquirer. Ask lots of questions, gather information and understand your client, the needs he has and where you can help and add value. Have a question strategy — think about the questions you will ask at the next meeting, use open questions to encourage your client to talk and share and make sure you plan enough time so it doesn’t feel rushed and like an interrogation.
Know his style. Everyone has a preferred style of communication. Some prefer data while others value relationships; some like to make quick decisions while others prefer to consider from all angles before making a well-informed decision. There is no “right” way — certain people have more in common with some styles than others and that can impact how well they communicate. Understanding your client’s preferred mode of communication could be the key to closing the deal.
So, ultimately, it is all about knowing how to change your communication style to suit others and having an arsenal of tools and techniques you can readily deploy for any given situation.