The One Skill You Need To Develop, Starting Today
Did you hear that? You can barely hear the words. It sounds as though a baby bird was whispering in your ear.
You can’t make out the words because you hear your own voice. You’re thinking. Not listening.
It’s the sound of someone else talking. We have a communication epidemic.
"Communications is the No. 1 skills gap across major cities in the United States,” Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn told CNBC. “… interpersonal skills is where we're seeing the biggest imbalance.”
It just happened to me, and my team and $264,000 was on the line.
We had multiple teams dealing with a project issue, and in doing so, we had numerous meetings.
Everyone was communicating something different. No one was being clear and concise on the current problem. In one conversation I’d get pieces, and in another, I’d get something completely different.
It was frustrating and could have been a $264,000 communication mistake. Talk about a potential harsh lesson.
In a world where cross-company, cross-state, and cross-country collaboration is essential, it’s scary to think we’re falling short in communication.
In a world where we need effective communication the most, we’re drifting away from the very thing that makes us uniquely human.
It’s an easy skill to fix if you get out of your own head.
Actively listening, asking good questions, being clear and concise, having emotional intelligence, and having business acumen can fix the problem.
Here are a few quick steps you can use today to savvy up your communication skills.
To be heard, you must hear. It all starts with active listening.
I was standing with a team member explaining a key concept he needed to apply in our sales development efforts.
This small fix would change the way he created immense value for our potential clients.
Something was wrong. He was looking at me, but it didn’t feel right.
He was looking through me.
You know the look. As if he wasn’t all there.
I stopped my coaching and asked…
“How can you possibly learn if you’re not listening. You’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, aren’t you?”
He replied with an honest, “yes.”
Often, you’re too busy thinking of what you want to say next and not actively listening to your counterpart. Or even worse, you’re thinking about something completely different.
Take a few slow breaths, look the other person in the eyes (please don’t stare that’s creepy), and listen to what they have to say.
Give a few verbal cues like “mmm hmm,” “yea,” “that’s correct,” “great,” to stay engaged with the conversation.
Once the other person is done, recite what they said back to them, like this…
“So you think we should, x, y & z, did I get that right? Those are great ideas. What are your thoughts on pushing x forward?”
Developing emotional intelligence will help you stay calm in the face of disagreement.
EQ gives you the ability to understand and relate to other people’s emotions, just as you want to be understood.
There have been many situations where I’ve wanted to yell and scream because I didn’t agree with the other person.
It’s never about their idea or what they were saying, but how they were acting and treating others.
But in those situations, you must ask, what’s going on in their world that’s making them act that way?
The answer is often profound. When you dissect their motivations and feelings, you’re able to relate. There are many times you’ve felt the same way they have.
Understand their emotions, and you’ll understand them.
Speak clearly and concisely.
If you can’t be clear and to the point, you’ll lose your audience.
Whether it’s someone you’re speaking to or a person on the other side of your email, being scattered will make others tune out. Or hit the delete button.
I delete emails and LinkedIn messages all day long of people trying to use me and my time for their own benefit.
They’ll send me a glob of text that’s very hard to read in an effort to tell me how great they are.
When communicating, you first need to know what point you’re trying to get across. Then, with as few words as possible, relay that information.
In order to make emails more manageable to read and reply, your subject line needs to be clear, your first sentence will explain why the email is important to read, and you’ll use short sentences and bullets to break down your point.
Both written and verbal is the same. Be concise and speak/write clearly.
Develop your question asking ability.
To get great answers, you must ask a great question.
Whether it’s in sales, if you’re a manager, speaking to your spouse, whomever, questions are the key.
Once you start asking better questions, you’ll start getting better answers, and you’ll become a much better communicator.
Develop your business acumen.
If you’re in sales, how can you diagnose a client’s pain if you don’t have a business acumen?
Business is an accumulation of competing demands and priorities. From managing a team, controlling expenses, developing a strategic plan, reducing costs, resolving issues, diagnosing and correcting various balance sheet ratios, the list is endless.
This isn’t just sales.
If you’re an employee, knowing why a company does something will help you better communicate how to achieve the desired goals you’ve been hired for.
You’ll understand the “why” of many things.
Work on your strategic thinking muscle.
I met with a few members of our sales team who are new to my organization and new to sales.
One of them recited how he emailed a potential client with a plethora of details, asking the busy man for various answers to various questions.
He touted he wasn’t getting any responses.
I looked at his email and said it’s because nobody replies to a sleazy salesman. We provide value. We genuinely care about the client, and with what I read, you’re doing the opposite.
I asked him if he called the contact.
No, he replied.
We discussed different ways to fine tune his approach, but in many situations, you’ll need to think strategically.
If you work on autopilot, you could be using lousy communication tactics simply because you’re not thinking strategically. There’s no one size fits all. Every situation is different.
When you communicate, be clear. Speak with passion. Ask great questions. And close it all off by thinking outside of the box and find ways to be incredibly helpful and valuable.
Become an expert communicator. That’s one skill we should all develop.