10 Steps to Improving Communication Skills in Your Workplace

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Whether you are on the sports field and in the workplace, we rely on communication to align our responsibilities with the roles and goals of others. If communication at your workplace is faltering you can try these steps to improve communication skills across the board. This will lift the success and attitude of the team and improve your culture!

Foster transparency & accountability

Transparency in the workplace can seem like one of those HR buzzwords that ends up doing more harm than good. After all, security and privacy are as important as transparency and openness.

But a transparent workplace doesn’t have to be a place where every decision is made out in the open with 100% mutual consent. Fostering transparency can simply mean clearly articulating the reasons and rationale behind the decision making.

In a transparent workplace accountability works beyond the individual. Transparent organisations communicate across teams, creating success through collaboration. When things don’t go exactly to plan, we don’t point fingers, we work together to find solutions.

Don’t just appoint managers, hire leaders as well

Managers can be leaders, but they don’t have to be. Leaders are people who inspire your workforce to greater achievements by nurturing an environment where people feel safe to communicate and express themselves through expertise and creative thinking.
When you hire to fill leadership positions, go beyond the KPIs. Look for people who listen to others and connect with them, who demonstrate empathy and are willing to engage beyond the strict definitions of their role. Leaders are integral to collaborative teams and they thrive on strong communication.

Start with the headlines

If you’re the sort of person who loves to talk things over then chances are you consider yourself a good communicator. Sometimes though, talking isn’t the answer. In fact, somewhere between one third and half of your workforce are probably introverts that value less chatter and socialisation and more alone time and focus.

If you’re guilty of chronic oversharing, try starting with the headlines and work from there. What are the most important details you need to convey? Take the time to listen to the responses of your colleagues. You’ll be amazed at how curbing your own enthusiasm can encourage others to unleash theirs.

Reduce ambiguity across the board

Ambiguity is an anathema to a successful modern workplace. It can take many forms, from a lack of clarity in the organisational structure to confusing reporting processes or even what constitutes overtime.

Ambiguity can breed distrust and confusion, reducing communication. This is especially true with managers that are ambiguous in their reactions. Staff who are anxious about the consistency of their manager may communicate poorly, or worse yet stifle their communication all together.

Strive for clarity, be it in measureable goals or concise communication. Demand the same from others and you’ll find workplace efficiency will grow exponentially.

Demonstrate inclusive practices where possible

Encouraging collaboration and social interaction between various divisions promotes a culture of inclusivity. Opening up problems to solutions outside the silo takes the suggestion box and turns it into a troubleshooting powerhouse.

Meanwhile staff get the opportunity to interact with colleagues who they don’t normally cross paths with on an average day. The Agile Movement may be for software developers, but all businesses can learn from this process of working together through inclusive communication.

Everybody gets feedback

Everybody should receive feedback and all staff should feel comfortable giving it as well. Feedback can be as simple as telling a coworker you appreciate the effort they put into the latest sales report. It can also be an opportunity to air issues or grievances without judgement or fear of reprisal.

Bad news should be to the point

Bitter pills are hard to swallow, and to extend the metaphor a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down. Bad news doesn’t need to be blunt, but the delivery of a poor performance review or news on impending retrenchments should focus on facts and outcomes. Good communicators take ownership of their role within an organisation, even if it’s sometimes tough.

Listen as much as you talk

This should go without saying, but the best communicators are often the ones who pay the most attention to what other people say. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that “A poor listener is not necessarily an unintelligent person. To be good listeners we must apply certain skills that are acquired through either experience or training.”

You can develop your own experience more by actively listening. Be engaged with the other person, try and empathise with their situation. You’ll be amazed by what you discover when you connect with someone through listening to them, rather than talking at them.

Hold regular team meetings or ‘standups’

In Agile software development the Scrum Master hosts a daily ‘stand up’  where team members gather around to talk about what needs to be achieved that day. Scrum and Agile methodology is a pretty extreme example of regularly bringing the team together for communication, but there’s definitely something we can learn from the software development industry when it comes to collaboration. Yvette Pigeon suggest these tactics for improving your team meeting:

  • Distribute agenda prior to meeting
  • Start and end on time
  • Open with a check in of all attendees
  • Establish ground rules at commencement (not half way through).
  • Summarise decisions made and assign action items.
  • Distribute meeting minutes promptly after running the meeting.

Be the example

Finally, don’t wait for someone else to turn things around. be the change you want to see in your workplace. Once you start to listen, engage, collaborate and communicate, you’ll be taking the first steps to improving communication skills in your workplace.