The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. — Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American father of management theory.
One of the things separating us from the animals is our ability to communicate easily and clearly. If fact, communication has helped us greatly widen that gap in the millennia since the first meaningful words left a human throat.
We’ve even adapted to speech biologically, with a special bone (the hyoid) that exists mostly just to support the tongue. If a clear communication method had never come about, we might never have invented writing, and our culture would have stalled in the Neolithic—if not earlier.
Every day, communication methods continue to improve, in ways both cultural and technological. (Tweet this!) In this blog, I’ll suggest three basic ways to improve your ability to get your point across with increasing precision.
1. Hone Your Team Communications Skills
I can’t overstate the importance of open communication with your team. Unless you work for a corporation where client confidentiality requires compartmentalization, keep all team goals, imperatives, initiatives, and strategic alignments as transparent as possible. This helps your teammates find reasons to own their jobs and increase their engagement and discretionary effort. Learning which communication methods work best for each team member; using simple, clear language; listening to what others have to say; creating and maintaining a receptive atmosphere; and avoiding repetition will all save time and ensure productivity.
Encourage all these concepts among your team members, as well; and needless to say, act as a role model. Along the way, focus tightly on what you’re trying to say, say what you mean—and never let your body language undermine your verbal message. If you have a nervous habit or tic someone might construe as negative body language, get it under control.
2. Embrace Technology
For all its faults, technology has changed the business world vastly for the better. Only those who’ve become overworked as a result or overwhelmed by all their messages might argue otherwise, and you can handle those issues if you use the right tools and/or approaches. No wonder we all have computers on our work desks now. For similar reasons, workplaces have begun seeing the value of providing all team members with smartphones. I remember the days when convincing the leadership to provide a field team with a simple cell phone was like pulling teeth; now few leaders could imagine work life without them.
In fact, every facet of telephony and telegraphy, from the telegram to the fax to the phone and email, have made it easier to get business done at a faster and more productive pace, creating entire new industries that have employed millions of people in the process. Small-group communication in particular has become easier, especially when one includes texting, instant messaging, and similar tools in the mix. The fact that we have fingertip access to whole libraries of data hasn’t hurt, either.
If you haven’t already added IMs and texting to your business “commo” repertoire, test them out. Almost everyone has smartphones these days. You can even teleconference and have face-to-face video chats, either on the phone or on a tablet. Added to this ease of communication is freedom of movement, so business travelers don’t fall out of touch for hours or days at a time.
3. Prepare for the Future
Stay flexible, and be an earlier adopter when it comes to both communications methods and technology. Communication may soon become even easier than it already is. Wi-Fi is basically everywhere now. Even if you can’t find a hotspot, most smartphones can create one if you’re near enough to a cell tower… and how often aren’t you, these days? I mention these options not just because of their contribution to ease of communication, but also because they’ve contributed to a newly developing battery free
Believe it or not, clever engineers have figured out how to tap into the “ambient backscatter” energy of our electronic communications, using small devices with strong filament antennas. The result? Enough power to send text messages for up to several miles—even when your device’s battery is dead. The technology isn’t quite ready for prime time, but there may come a day when you can exchange messages with teammates without using any power at all. That opens up the possibility of cheap, wearable communications technology, among other things. Add whole new ways to suppress interference, and in the next few years it will surely become easier to communicate with scattered coworkers than at any time in history.
There’s no telling what might be coming down the pipe that you and I can’t even imagine at the moment. So don’t be a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to new ways to communicate; test them as they come online, and adapt the ones you think will work for you and your team.
The Bottom Line
Apply transparency, techno-savvy, and forward thinking to upcoming tech solutions, and the likelihood of poor communication clogging your productivity processes will begin to approach zero. We may never achieve perfection, but we can come very close.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.