by Peter Luscombe

The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success are concentration, discrimination, organization, innovation and communication.

– Michael Faraday

Faraday, a renowned English scientist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry knew that communication was crucial in any venture. Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language. Good, effective communication facilitates while poor, ineffective communication impedes. This is most evident in the workplace.

So, what makes for effective communication?

  • Content – The audience are addressed with relevancy, clarity and concision, and in an organized manner
  • Context – The audience is orientated according to the intent of the ‘message.’ They comprehend what’s being asked of them to consider
  • Method – The audience is addressed in the most suitable way whether it be electronic, face-to-face, by telephone, at a meeting, by newsletters, bulletin boards, over coffee, …
  • Timeliness – The audience feel they are addressed in a composed and even measured way with time to consider
  • Tone – The audience feel addressed in language, and with an attitude, that’s appropriate to them; which may need to acknowledge their individual needs and style

Then, for the communicator, reflection is an important step.

Did I successfully get across what I had to say? How well did I communicate?

What are my strengths and what need I work upon? What could I do better?

As far as attendance to audience is concerned, then there’s no going past this advice from Einstein:

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

As an interesting side-note about the importance of non-verbal communication, Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, has declared that 55% of non-verbal language makes for how we communicate. That counts for tone, pitch and body language; just to mention a few salient features. While misquoted at times, which is a case of irony concerning communication, such findings are backed by other research. Understanding, recognizing and managing your non-verbal communication makes for a more effective communicator.

What then does get in the way of effective communication?

One thing which doesn’t serve well with effective communication is habitual behaviour. Going down the same road because it’s known doesn’t always serve the purpose. You truly need to branch out. Communication, at heart, is a dynamic force and influence. For those who have the time, and interest, then I’d suggest reading a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ The telling lines are:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Successful communicators understand the communication process.

According to Debbie Zmorenski in her article – Keys to Better Workplace Communication – these involve:

Sender: The sender must establish credibility by displaying knowledge of the subject, the audience and the context of the delivery. The burden of responsibility lies with the sender to ensure that the message is understood and that expectations for deliverables are clearly defined.

Message: Consider the message being sent. Written, verbal and non-verbal communications are affected by the sender’s tone, method of communication and what is included or left out of the message. If you choose to send a written message, be sure that it is professional, precise, clear and written in simple language.

Always keep in mind that written communications are open to interpretation.

Proof your written communication for typos, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure to reduce the chances of miscommunication and to ensure that you maintain professional credibility.

Method and Environment: Messages are conveyed through channels. These channels are affected by the method and environment with which you choose to communicate. Potential channels include verbal communication, face to face, telephone, video conference, written communication, meetings, etc.

It is wise to consider the method of communication prior to communicating your message. For example, an e-mail, letter or memo may not be the best way to communicate critical information. All written communication is one-way communication, meaning that there is little to no opportunity for people to ask questions, express concern or gain clarification in a timely manner.

If the message that you are sending is informational in nature, sending it in written form, such as e-mail, is a very efficient way to communicate quickly with many people based in a wide geographic area.

However, if the message conveys critical information – such as changes in policies, processes, procedures or organizational changes – the best method of communication is face to face. You will have to give some thought as to the right environment for the face-to-face communication, e.g., one-on-one individual communication or communicating the information to a group in a meeting.

Receiver: Messages are delivered to your audience, the receivers of the message. Your audience enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that influence their understanding of your message and dictate their response.

Often, the receivers have pre-conceived ideas or opinions about the topic of your communication. For example, you may be communicating a new initiative, but the audience is already tuning you out because this idea was tried two years ago and did not work.

As the sender, you must also consider the barriers that may interfere with the receivers’ ability to understand the message. These barriers include language, ethnic cultural beliefs, level of education and/or level of experience, to name a few.

Is it time to consider changing a work habit and communicate more competently?