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Successful workplace communication is potentially the most important indicator of a successful business. It is as important for leaders as it is for all staff to understand the tools and practices of positively impactful communication. Whether communicating a business-critical change to the entire workforce, or an informal piece of information to a colleague, consider these six steps for effective workplace communication.

Plan your Communication

Whilst this isn’t always possible due to the nature of informal or unplanned workplace communication, where you do have the opportunity, spend some time reminding yourself of what you want to achieve from the conversation. Work out who needs to know what information and when they will need to know it.
If the conversation could potentially spur disagreement, spend time considering possible concerns or objections, and formulate sensible and thought-provoking points of view.

Choose your Delivery Method

It’s just as important to choose your method of delivery, and this should be done carefully to ensure the likelihood of maximum positive impact.

  1. Meetings are a great way to display your enthusiasm – whether you’re communicating upwards, downwards or sidewards, this type of forum helps your audience see and feel your message. It also ensures you have fuller attention from your audience. Consider whether a one-to-one conversation or an open meeting is more appropriate.
  2. Emails are an effective method of communication as they provide a formal record of conversation. They also enable you to pass messages on more urgently and without disrupting colleagues’ working time. However, be aware of the tone of your emails and how this might be interpreted across your audience.
  3. Presentations can be highly successful in conveying more complex messages, and can be referred to as a point of reference. They can of course be used in meetings, however can also be sent with emails to support a more involved or multi-faceted message.

Listen – Don’t Assume

Whilst the primary objective of your conversation will likely be to communicate your message clearly and obtain a positive outcome, don’t let the urgency to convey your point of view cloud your listening ability. Listening to feedback from your colleagues is a vital part of the communication process.
Communication is a two-way street – whether you’re speaking to a manager, team member or subordinate, encourage your participants to open-up during the conversation. Often you can end a conversation feeling pleased with how you’ve expressed your message, but if a participant hasn’t answered the questions they needed, or raised their thoughts at the time, you’ll find yourself back to square one with them at a later date.

The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication

There have long been statistics about how body language impacts our audience more than the words out of our mouth. Here are the ‘golden rules’ that can help you to deliver your message in a positive and powerful way. Remember:

  1. Comfortable and direct eye contact.
  2. Open arms, as opposed to closed across your chest or with hands clasped.
  3. Hands kept in sight, avoiding placing them behind you or in your pockets.
  4. If sitting, legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor.

Tone of Voice

Just as important as your body language is your tone of voice. Always speak at an appropriate volume and speed in a confident and pleasant manner.

If you’re a leader, don’t be tempted to use a harsh or unpleasant tone to intimidate your listeners/colleagues, as this will only lead to discouragement and demotivation. If you’re communicating upwards or sidewards, be articulate and succinct, and avoid mumbling and repetitiveness.

Consider using humour. This can help an unfriendly or intense atmosphere but shouldn’t be overdone, and should remain appropriate (and professional!) to a workplace.

Follow up

Crucially, end a conversation by reaching an agreement on next steps, even if you haven’t agreed a plan or resolution. Make sure that you follow-up appropriately.

Steven PAUL is a global business leader. Find him on Twitter: @rush2steven or at www.stevenpaul.info