Copyright 2006 Logical Writing Solutions, Inc
What is success? The answer to that question is both personal and institutional for those of us who work in the business world. In essence, success is the ability to accomplish the task at hand. Technically, it is “to achieve one’s aim to prosper”.
You need thriving business relationships to prosper. In fact, we can measure much of our business success in terms of the viability of business relationships. Relationship health is directly affected by the quality of communication. Use the following steps to achieve communication success and to strengthen your critical business relationships.
Step 1: Identify a few communication weaknesses.
Can you think of any communication challenges that you face? It’s time to brainstorm and quickly make a written list.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about your own communication challenges: * Are your employees happy and satisfied? * Are your clients glad to provide referrals? * Are your partners and stakeholders well-informed and confident? * Do you feel motivated and inspired? * Do your conversations flow?
As you review the bulleted list above and consider your communication challenges, identify each challenge but don’t get bogged down with other details.
Step 2: Decide to address the most bothersome communication weakness.
This choice is yours to make. However, whatever challenge you choose, you will find that the other relationships are naturally strengthened as you develop proactive and positive communication skills. You do not have to fix everything at once in order to benefit from this exercise!
Now that you have selected your challenge, it’s time to stop and think about what makes it so challenging. In other words, if success was easy you wouldn’t be working on this right now. Many leadership or business management challenges are a result of busy-ness. Leaders don’t realize that others need communication that is: * Professional * Complete * Positive * Concise, and * Wholly relevant without any irrelevance
If you are a leader or a manager, communication is your job. People expect you to do it and do it well. The responsibility for communicating is yours. It would be literally impossible for others to compensate for your poor attention to communication.
In spite of the advice of gurus world-wide, there seems to be a reluctance to buy into this idea. We all want to believe that we can just do our jobs well and receive the kudos. We want to believe that we are responsible for our own success. The truth of the matter is that most of us will be hindered, more or less, when we ignore communication or become passive.
Communication may not come naturally, and you may need to work on it. Communication brings power to your professional and personal life. Critical relationships can thrive with your attention.
To gain an understanding of how to resolve the weakness, you need to look at your communication patterns. You will develop communication that is regular and has flow. Communication, however, is not just about giving out messages. Communication is listening and speaking, receiving messages and conveying messages. Typically, listening is the thing that gets us into trouble. We don’t do it.
Step 3: Listen to others for a week.
I know you’re grumbling! Is a week really necessary? Yes. We’re not just talking about passive listening either; you will ingeniously create opportunities for listening. Listening must be practiced, and acting on incomplete information may be more harmful than doing nothing.
Consider how long you have been without the power of listening, and realize that a week is a small price to pay. While you are listening, you are reserving judgment and allowing the answers to come to you. Others often already know where the problem lies. They may even have ideas as to how you can fix the problem. Active listening requires practice, so be patient.
You may politely and nonchalantly ask for input during this time, but keep things casual and neutral by not being too intense and by refusing to form or give your opinion. This gives others the freedom to develop their thoughts and express them without disagreeing with you. Be sure to take notes on potential solutions.
Step 4: Define success and the benefits in this area.
After a week, you will probably have many ideas about how you could move forward. First, take a moment to define your ideal outcome. This is your defined target. You may not feel that you can make the mark on the first try. However, you need to choose to believe that success is possible and likely, and that you will have a reasonably positive response to your efforts. Your attitude affects your motivation and your outcome.
In addition, think about what benefits you hope to achieve. How would life or business be better as a result of your desired outcome?
You are painting the picture of what you’d like to see. For example, “Our clients know that we value their relationship as well as their business. We don’t tell them this; we show them. Every call is answered in a polite manner. Each concern is personally addressed. We listen when they speak. We thank them for their input. We keep them informed of new products and company news. We are considerate in our pricing. We thank them for each purchase. In return, they have no interest in checking out other providers, and they remain loyal in spite of the efforts of our strong competitors. We have steady growth in our revenue.”
Step 5: Make your proactive communication plan, being sure to establish checkpoints.
This plan will come out of your definition of success and your listening activities. Some examples of proactive communication would be providing customer service seminars for your employees, taking on a visible role that reaffirms your commitment to personal service, starting a service blog discussing best practices, scheduling individual meetings to check in with employees, or establishing standards of excellence and rewarding employees who excel or improve. Notice that these items are not remedial. You are not resolving past problems, but establishing a firm foundation for the future.
Also notice that you would choose one activity to plan. For example, if you choose to focus on a customer service seminar, you will define the necessary tasks and place those tasks in your planner. Choose your communication activity based upon whether you need a long-term or short-term effort. Also, consider the availability of resources and plan accordingly.
You may have to practice needed skills. For instance, if you are planning to present a customer service seminar yourself instead of outsourcing, you may need to schedule time to develop your presentation skills. If you are nervous about your skills in an area, practice those skills until you become calmly confident.
Step 6: Implement your plan.
Implement your plan, keeping your ideal outcome in mind as you go. Review checkpoints frequently to ensure that you are on track. Involve others in the plans when possible, or have an accountability partner. As things fall into place, you may be surprised at how well everything is going! Once your activity is complete or the communication fix is in place, it’s time to take a realistic look at what you’ve accomplished.
Step 7: Evaluate the results.
Congratulations! How did you do? If you look at your definition from Step 4, you will be reminded of the gains have you have achieved. You may also note unforeseen obstacles that you overcame. Remember to thank those who helped you along the way, and make sure to reward yourself for your efforts.
Now you’ve seen the power of communication at work. Communicating will become easy (or easier) as you go through the 7 Steps to Business Communication Success again. Communication is the key to your success.