In an era where more people trust infomercials than company leaders, trust-enhancing communication skills, at any level, stand out. Below you'll find a few I learned in my twenty years in management. Some I learned the hard way, while others took me nearly a career to recognize. So, in the interest of saving you learning-years, I've put them into six tips:
First: think never-ending. Effective communication is a continuous process. It's not a faucet with an on/off handle, but an open pipe with a filter. You're a conduit in a never ending stream of information. But that doesn't mean you should pass on everything you hear. There's a balance between protecting confidential or proprietary interests and sharing needed knowledge. When you have information that others need to effectively, creatively and competently do their best work, as a conduit, your role is to share it.
Second: share what you know, when you know it. Don't wait to package information. Effective communication is timely. Keep bosses, staff and peers in the loop on issues that pertain to their responsibilities. That includes the good news and the not so good. In less than a minute, a phone call, email, voice mail or text message can alert people to direction changes, emerging problems, new perspectives or meeting results. People can filter what they don't need, but not knowing critical information is a trust-buster.
Third: expect and give honest answers. Communication that builds trust is a dialogue, with a foundation built from integrity, forthrightness and honesty. It's more trust-enhancing to honestly tell a staff member or co-worker, "I can't share that information right now" than to tell a half-truth or to lie. Trust comes from being authentic, which requires a genuine communication approach.
Four: link the whys. Most people do a good job of communicating the what, i.e. the basic information and direction. But few communicate the why behind the what. We're told we need to do something, but the understanding of how that fits into the bigger vision is left out. Tasks without purpose are passionless. Work without reason leaves people guessing. Deadlines without the thinking behind them are empty. If you want to build trust, spend time communicating the why behind the what.
Five: enable others. People with good information make better decisions. People with no information make ill-informed decisions. If you're winning at working, you're playing on the bigger best-life team. Your role, then, is not just to offer your best-self to the world, but enable others to do the same. You see, when we're all winning, we all win. Effective communication is a strategy that enables. And helping others, helps you.
Six: own your message. It's difficult to deliver messages of serious critique, shortcomings, employment termination, unpopular policy or organizational change. It's difficult to own up to your mistakes. But how you handle the difficult communications is, itself, a message. Don't delegate the delivery. And a caution about word choice. Words matter. When you're accountable for your words, messages and pass-along communication, and when you don't hide behind email or voice mail but handle the difficult messages face to face, your actions convey the bigger message of respect, caring and compassion. While people may like not the message, they can respect the messenger.
People who are winning at working understand the trust-enhancing power of effective communication. They use active communication practices as a cornerstone for enhancing relationships, building trust, and impacting results.
(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Receive a copy of 21 Winning Career Tips (a free download) at http://www.winningcareertips.com. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a columnist, writer and speaker. Visit http://www.nanrussell.com
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