Five good communication skills that few people talk about…
Here are five good communication skills most people don’t talk about that can improve your messaging and content:
- Thinking clearly and strategically within a comms framework
- Knowing how to work your organisation’s communication channels
- Having a methodical approach to developing and delivering comms
- Seeing and referencing the underlying structure in your content
- Reviewing, learning and getting better at your craft
Let’s take a look at these and why they are so important.
1. Thinking clearly and strategically
The first of the five good communication skills to develop is something that your audience will probably never see. Yet it has the greatest impact on the overall effectiveness of your communication. You need clarity in your thinking behind a piece of comms, particularly when it comes to your:
- Business outcome
- Communication purpose
- Subject matter
About your business outcome
Remember that communication in business is one of several tools that people use to achieve a business outcome. Therefore, you need to be clear on this when planning your messaging and comms.
To see how this works, let’s say that the chief executive officer (CEO) of an organisation needs to see the financials in a report each Tuesday morning. However, the accounting department can not get these to her in time. Not because the accounting department is sloppy, but because staff are not submitting their timesheets in time to run a comprehensive Tuesday AM report.
So the chief financial officer (CFO) has a problem on his hand. He wants a “business normal” where all staff submit their timesheets by close of business on Friday. This provides enough time on Monday morning for managers to approve submissions before the finance team runs a report on Monday afternoon.
This “business normal” in this case is a business outcome.
There are several ways to achieve this business outcome depending on what is causing it. If the cause is multiple efforts to complete a timesheet based on the poor entry, training might be a solution. If the problem is a slow software system on a Friday afternoon when everyone wants to leave work quickly, perhaps a technical solution is in order. Finally, if people are not aware of the issues they are causing by submitting timesheets late, perhaps a piece of comms will help create awareness and desire for timeliness.
This is where communication as a tool to achieve a specific business outcome comes in. Note that solutions involving people typically require some form of comms. To ensure effectiveness, that comms must support the business outcome.
As a professional tasked to create and deliver comms, you need to be very clear about the business outcome. This will help you think clearly about your communication purpose.
About your communication purpose
Comms is typically used to achieve the people side of business outcomes. This is mostly about getting people to think, feel or do something.
For example, you might need a new staff member to understand how a process works so they can perform it properly. (Understanding, in this case, is thinking activity.) As a leader, you may want to make your team feel good about the company’s current position and future opportunities. Or you might simply want to persuade prospects to do something, such as buy your products or services.
These examples each represent a different kind of purpose. You need to be clear on the purpose of your comms before attempting to craft it. You need to spend time thinking this through so you can be very sure of what you’re trying to achieve. Also to make sure your purpose fits into and supports your business outcome.
Let’s take the earlier example from “business outcome” a little further. You’ve agreed that your business outcome is “for staff to complete their timesheets by Friday close of business”. And you’ve decided that the best way to achieve this through communication.
This is now where you need to get clear on your purpose. The best way to reach this after due thinking is to summarise it in a short sentence. (You won’t be able to write this down unless you’re clear on it.) It needs to be easy to understand and measurable. For example: “Persuade staff to complete submit their timesheets by Friday close of business”.
Note that this purpose description supports the business outcome. It also creating clarity on what you want people to think, feel or do after they’ve consumed your message. This will guide you when crafting your comms and act as a checklist to measure your comms after delivery.
Clarity on purpose will help you in all sorts of ways throughout the development process. This includes researching and gathering the right subject matter.
About your subject matter
Often in business, we get thrown in the deep end with a task to communicate something we know little about. Perhaps it’s explaining a new software tool in an email to staff, or sharing information about the business’s latest sales success.
Simple fact: you can confuse or even misdirect your audience with confusing comms if you don’t know enough about your subject matter.
Yet it’s not always realistic to know everything about what you’re communicating in a business environment. Instead, you have to pick up things on a “needs to know” basis – fast!
How can you do this effectively?
By having a clear purpose that can shape your research into the subject matter. That research should focus on what you know, what you don’t know and what you need to learn. Limited by how the subject matter can support you in achieving your communication purpose.
This will save you a lot of time from getting lost in the detail or getting distracted. It will also help you develop enough knowledge develop to craft a message that suits your purpose and resonates with your audience.
Business outcome, communication purpose and subject matter are just three examples of clarity in think you need to have as part of five good communication skills to develop. Clear thinking does extend beyond the three and remains important across the full planning and crafting phases.
2. Working your organisation’s communication channels
Every organisation – large or small – has a unique way of sharing messages through formal and informal channels.
Formal channels can include a company intranet site, a regular email from a senior leader or town hall meetings. Informal channels can include lunchtime gatherings or coffee-room chats.
The effectiveness of these channels relies on having good senders of information and savvy use of the chosen medium.
Therefore, one of the five good communication skills to have in business is knowing how to identify these channels, rate them for their effectiveness by audience and sender, and using them to deliver your message. This requires a certain “smarts” for understanding how organisations works plus an appreciation for preparing messages to suit different media.
To see why this is important, ask yourself this. What’s the point of crafting a great information sheet that nobody ever sees? If you aren’t using an effective channel, your great piece of comms is not going to be doing its job.
Therefore, once you’ve identified the formal and informal channels in your organisation, milk this knowledge for all it is worth. In larger organisations, this can include getting friendly with the corporate comms team and work with them to make their job – and by default your job – easier! They’ll appreciate it.
3. Being methodical in your approach
A lot of people are scattered in their approach to developing a piece of comms.
For example, some people will sit down and start writing a team email first before they think about the message. Others respond to a crisis by automatically choosing “comms” as the solution, without considering if this is the best approach. Others will start thinking about their audience after they send an email.
This lack-off-an approach wastes time and leads to ineffectiveness comms. That’s why I’ve included it as one of the five good communication skills to develop.
There is a sequential process for developing effective communication. It involves planning upfront (not at the end) before developing a different aspect of the comms in a way that avoids wasting time. And it includes a proper review! You’d be surprised by how often people fail to give it a good review.
A good approach saves time and increases the effectiveness of your comms.
4. Seeing your comms from the perspective of structure
Smart communicators don’t just see their comms pieces as a collection of sentences or nice-looking PowerPoint presentations or great personal delivery. They also see a message or piece of content in terms of the structure.
“Structure” is one of the five good communication skills to develop because holds the subject matter together logically to suit the purpose and audience. It also helps you explain ideas and concepts.
Therefore, start seeing your comms in terms of the structure that sits behind the text or visual messaging. After a while, you’ll also discover certain structures are the same and can be used to save time when drafting comms later.
5. Reviewing, learning and getting better
The last of the five good communication skills to develop is reviewing and learning.
Crafting a successful piece of comms is not like balancing an account book. The effectiveness of your comms depends on a whole range of moving parts.
For example, you may have the same message. But the changing communication context amongst different audience could require a different style or medium.
Further, since communication is created by humans, it’s prone to mistakes.
Ensuring the best result
I heard one writer say that it’s when you can’t see an obvious mistake in your pdf file after sending the final to the publisher that you should start worrying. Because it’s going to be a big mistake. She was operating off the premise that no matter how much you perfect a document, you’ll still miss a few minor things.
So does that mean you shouldn’t review your work?
Not at all!
Reviewing is important to ensure the best possible output for the best outcome.
Instead, you need to approach reviewing properly. You need to know what to look for and how to find common errors that in a way that helps achieve the overall outcome. You also need to know how to measure the effectiveness (hint: it’s a lot more than just typos and spelling mistakes.) Plus you need to be skilful in distancing yourself from the comms to review it objectively.
Growing from your reviews
Further, you need to be humble enough to learn from the mistakes you pick up. You’ll discover more than what’s “right” and “wrong”. You’ll develop a sense of what works more effectively in different situations with different audiences to get your message across. Let this expanding knowledge and experience inform your approach in crafting comms. You’ll grow as a communicator.
Developing these five good communication skills through the Bullseye Method
These five good communication skills to develop are built into the Bullseye! Method, a proven approach for developing effective messages and content. This university validated approach offers a framework from which to understand how effective communication works. It then leverages this into a practical workflow to plan and craft effective messages and content.
The Bullseye! method has been university validated and used to successfully equip people in the education, corporate and small business sectors. The Bullseye! Method courses focus on helping you grow in your skill as a successful communicator.
Check out some of our online communication courses to help develop the five good communication skills mentioned above and more. Or talk to us at Con Moto or Halls Global about tailored communication training or coaching for your organisation.