Corporate settings are often busy places where good decisions need to be made fast. They are places where staff and colleagues need to work well together and where misunderstandings can be problematic. Many factors contribute to good working relations with colleagues and staff, but a significant one is good communication.
This can take place in a variety of forms. It might be in person or on the phone or via video link. It could be in the form of a quick text message or a longer email. One may be speaking to an individual or to a large group, and the purpose may be to share information, give instruction or to learn from the other participant or participants in the conversation. This means that to get ahead in the corporate world, it is necessary to be skilled communicators.
Good communication, in all forms, does not always come naturally. However, like any other business skill, it is one that can be honed and developed. There are many different forms of communication and each has its own way of being mastered.
What makes good communication?
In good communication, whether spoken or written, one should aim for clarity. Without clarity, it is all too easy for misunderstandings to occur, or for the wrong information to be transmitted, perhaps offending. It should also aim to avoid or solve conflict rather than cause it.
It should also always be remembered that communication is at least a two-way street. There should always be space in communication for the other participants, whether it is for them to put forward their own point of view or simply to clarify the purpose of the communication.
We use communication throughout our daily lives within a family or social setting or in the many businesses and organizations we might interact with when purchasing goods or services. However, communication in a corporate setting can be very different from other relationships. Being good at this communication can help people get ahead in the corporate world and if they are aspiring for a leadership role, the importance of good communication grows even greater.
While leaders will have developed many of the communication skills necessary for business leadership through working in business, gaining further qualifications is a good chance to learn from the experts and develop skills. A DBA is a good qualification for those hoping for a leadership role, and these courses are readily available at universities across the country.
They are also available from online providers. A good example of an effective Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program can be seen at Marymount University. With courses designed to help future business leaders develop their skills for the modern world, including a course on maximizing digital transformation, this program strengthens students’ capabilities as business executives and empowers them to face the challenges of today’s corporate world.
How to communicate
There are many ways to communicate today. People can speak in person or over the phone or via a video link. There are also many written methods of communication including email, text messages, instant messaging services or even old-fashioned pen and paper. Different forms of communication suit different types of communication.
For colleagues and staff one sees every day, verbal communication in person may often be the most effective method. It happens in real-time, allowing people to respond to each other promptly and in this way quickly resolve whatever the purpose of the communication was.
However, even with those who work closely, there may be times communication needs to be written. The precise details of a verbal conversation can be hard to remember if they are long or complicated. In this case, an email or other form of written communication can be used to follow up the conversation.
Text messages and other forms of instant messaging are often used for shorter bursts of communication such as a single query or instruction or as a written form of conversation. For longer communication, an email may be better.
If one is not in the same location as the person they need to communicate with, then in-person communication is out of the question. However, if the matter still requires a conversation, a phone or video call can be used. Video conferencing software is particularly handy if communication needs to happen between multiple people at once, and these people are in different locations.
Where to communicate
Another matter to consider when communicating verbally, either in person or on the phone, is where the conversation should be held. The nature of verbal conversation means it is designed to be heard and so one will need to consider which people are able to hear the conversation and whether the nature of the communication means it should happen elsewhere.
Communicating with a small group of people in a large space may be counterproductive if it makes it difficult to hear. On the other hand, a large room with good acoustics is ideal for speaking to a larger group. If speaking on the phone, consider the background noise and make sure it is not going to make it difficult for the other person to hear.
One should also consider whether it matters if the conversation is overheard by those not in the conversation. A busy office may be fine for informal communication, but some conversations in a corporate setting will need to be confidential. In this case, a private office would be more suitable to ensure that no unauthorized personnel overhear. It is also important to consider the feelings of the other person or people in the conversation. If delivering feedback to employees, it is best to do this in private.
Tone of voice can do just as much to communicate as words, so it is important to make sure one’s tone is appropriate. If leaders speak too loudly, they may come across as aggressive, while mumbling will simply make them sound unconfident, as well as making it difficult for people to understand.
Different tones are needed for different settings. During a presentation, one will want to sound confident and authoritative with the voice pitched so everyone can easily hear them, but not in such a way as it can seem to be shouting. In a more direct conversation, it may be more appropriate to keep the tone friendly.
Another matter to consider is how enthusiastic and authentic one sounds. If a leader sounds like they do not believe what they are talking about, why should their audience believe them? Equally, if they do not sound enthusiastic, it is likely that their audience too will soon be bored.
Not all communication is verbal. Body language can also convey information, and one will need to be sure it is conveying the right information. Be aware of how factors from outside of work, such as stress at home, can impact body language.
Folding arms when talking can make someone appear defensive or unapproachable. This is a particularly poor look if you hold a senior position, as a leader needs staff to feel confident in approaching them to alert them to any problems or to ask for any information they need to carry out their work.
Fidgeting while talking will make a leader appear less confident and is also distracting to one’s audience. Moving too close to the other people in the conversation may seem intimidating, while standing too far away conveys a keenness not to talk for too long, implying a lack of interest.
Generally, one should try to keep their body language relaxed and stand sufficiently close so that it is obvious they are in a conversation without needing to invade someone else’s personal space. One should also make regular eye contact to ensure that everyone knows who they are addressing and to convey interest in what they are saying. Avoiding eye contact can make people appear disinterested, intimidated or as if they have something to hide.
Communication goes at least two ways
Even if giving a presentation, one should still consider the other people in the communication. An audience may give off non-verbal cues that suggest the presenter has been talking for too long, or perhaps they have not been clear. One should also make time for questions and observations on their presentation and genuinely listen and respond to what the audience is saying.
In conversation, it is important not to talk over other people or talk so much that people cannot get a word in. Instead, one should look for ways to draw the other person into the conversation, a skill that is particularly useful when talking to new colleagues or staff who may be feeling less confident or unsure of when they should speak.
In communication, listening is as important as talking. When others are talking it is important that one genuinely listens to them and can respond to their questions or any points they have made. This will help keep the conversation productive and boost the confidence of others in the conversation. If one uses the time when others are talking to let their mind wander, they will likely come across as rude which can damage good workplace relations.
If there are more than two people in the conversation, make sure that everyone has the opportunity to speak. Particularly if one holds a senior position in the corporate setting, they can guide the conversation and prevent some team members from dominating to the detriment of others.
Adapt the conversation
When talking, consider the existing knowledge of the audience or the other people in the conversation. So, for example, if a leader is talking about finance to their finance team, they can assume they are talking to people with expert knowledge and do not want to talk down to them, treating them as if they have no understanding of finance.
On the other hand, a similar conversation with a marketing team may need to be different. They may have some knowledge of the company finances, but it will not be as in depth as that of the finance team. If in doubt, one can always check on occasions throughout the conversation or presentation whether anyone has any questions in case they need to clarify their knowledge.
No matter how difficult the conversation or message, there is no excuse for rudeness. Perhaps a leader may need to tell someone their work is not up to standard, but they should still do this in a way that conveys respect. Ideally feedback, although critical, will be constructive, to hopefully support them in improving in the future.
In the corporate world disagreements and disputes are commonplace. But discussions should be focused on how to resolve them, not in flinging insults. Swearing at someone who disagrees may make someone momentarily feel better, but it will do nothing to resolve the dispute or move it forward. Instead, listen to the points of view of others and see if a compromise can be achieved. Even if an agreement is impossible, if one is in a position to pull rank, they should do so in a gracious manner that will at least make others feel they were listened to even if ultimately their views were not acted upon.
If a situation has got heated, take steps to address this and calm it down at the earliest opportunity. If necessary, apologize for words spoken in the heat of the moment. Hopefully, this will prompt others to respond kindly.
Putting something in writing, whether it is a quick text, a memo left on someone’s desk, or a lengthy email, has an advantage in that one can spend time choosing their words unlike in a verbal conversation when one needs to respond quickly. However, this means there is even less excuse for poor communication.
Someone does not need to be an expert writer to send an email, however, they do have a responsibility to make sure their email can be easily read and understood. This means checking spelling and punctuation to ensure it makes sense and that there are no embarrassing typos. In the event of a memo left on the desk that might be handwritten, make sure the handwriting is legible. In the fast-paced corporate world, no one has the time to waste trying to decipher a scrawl.
When sending short messages such as texts, it can be tempting to use abbreviations. These can be effective, but only if everyone understands what they are. There may be some common ones that are used in the workplace but do make sure these are continually up to date. Using J.S. to refer to James Smith may be fine, but it will not work when Jane Shaw joins the team.
In writing, as in talking, one must consider their tone. A quick reminder to the team one knows well can and probably should use a friendly tone. However, a formal request to a recipient one knows less well would be better with a more formal tone. As with verbal communication, always be polite and professional.
And remember, unlike verbal communication, written communication is more permanent. It is often a good idea to ask someone to put something in writing so there is a record of the communication. When doing the writing, one should make sure there is nothing that will embarrass or portray them in a bad light further down the track.
Special forms of communication
In an inclusive workplace, one may have colleagues or staff who have visual or hearing impairments, and if this is the case communication should be adjusted to meet their needs. Today, this is easier than it has ever been with text-to-speech or speech-to-text technology helping the visually impaired with written communication.
Hearing loops can be used to help those with hearing impairments, and one should also take care to avoid external noise when communicating. Many with hearing impairments are skilled lip readers. In this case, one needs to take even greater care to make sure their face is visible when talking.
In today’s global workplaces, it is also worth remembering that not everyone has English as a first language and one may have colleagues who do not understand all the idiosyncrasies of the English language. In a large global corporation, it may be worth providing English lessons for those with other first languages, or lessons for English speakers in the languages most used if they are working in other parts of the world.
Good communication skills
While it may seem as if corporate communication is full of pitfalls, for the most part, it flows smoothly. Those in the corporate world tend to be good communicators and become even more skilled with experience. Communication is also one of the skills that can be developed when achieving business qualifications such as a DBA. If in doubt, maintaining a polite, professional manner at all times can help avoid causing any offense and will aid in actively listening to others. And from this good communication, many aspects of the business will also run smoothly.