Effective communication is the key to almost everything
A young man, fresh out of his MBA, went back to his former college professor to ask him a question that had always intrigued him. He asked: “What do you think is the most important quality for someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
The professor answered communication, without hesitation.
“The leader who cannot communicate cannot create the conditions that motivate, and the genius who cannot communicate is intellectually impotent,” he added. “The organization that cannot communicate cannot change, and the organization that cannot change is dead.”
My good friend Nido Qubein, President of High Point University, shared the example above with me.
Mark McCormack, the late founder of International Management Group, now IMG, and writer, said something similar: “A manager’s personal style – their ability to exchange information – contributes more to the effectiveness of “a service that results from a structured process. or organizational brilliance.”
The word communication comes from a Latin word meaning “to share”. We share ideas, thoughts, information and concerns. Communication can create friendships or make enemies.
And if we don’t communicate effectively, we’ve wasted our time.
As a business owner, author, and speaker, I consistently preach that clear communication is of the utmost importance. Confusion is bad for business.
Research psychologists tell us that the average one-year-old has a vocabulary of three words. By age 2, most children have a working knowledge of 272 words. A year later, that number has more than tripled. At age 6, the average child masters 2,562 words.
As adults, our accumulation of words continues to grow. We can speak up to 18,000 words a day. But that does not mean that these messages are clear or correctly received. In fact, words can often obscure our messages instead of clarifying them.
Don’t confuse using swear words or technical jargon with appearing to be smarter. Fancy language is not synonymous with clarity.
From time to time, you should reevaluate your performance in these fundamental areas: speaking, listening, writing, leading meetings and resolving conflicts.
- When you speak, ask if there are any questions about what you said. Ask, “Was that clear?” or “Does that make sense?” Invite your audience to rephrase what you said and listen to their perception of your message. If you hear something other than what you thought you said, use other words.
- Listening is also work; it’s so much more than hearing the other person’s words. Watch for cues, ask for clarification if needed, and repeat or rephrase their messages to make sure you’ve understood them correctly.
- Writing often presents opportunities to revise your communication before sharing the final product with others. I have a “kitchen cabinet” of trusted associates whose opinion I seek when preparing my columns and books. If the writing is unclear or potentially offensive, or if it could be interpreted differently from what I intended, they swear to challenge me.
- Leading meetings requires organization and discipline. Prepare an agenda to stay on topic and not waste time. A final summary is a good reminder of any decisions or actions that need to be completed.
- Resolving conflict often requires combining all of the above communication skills.
Effective communication is a necessity for every profession I can name.
Here is another story to illustrate my point: A geography teacher was giving a lesson on map reading. After explaining latitude, longitude, degrees and minutes, the professor asked, “Suppose I ask you to meet me for lunch at 23 degrees, 4 minutes north latitude and 45 degrees, 15 minutes east longitude. ?”
After a long silence, one student replied, “I guess you would eat alone.”
Mackay’s moral: A few small words can teach big lessons.
Harvey Mackay is a businessman from Minneapolis. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or by email at email@example.com.