Thursday, April 9, 2009

Improving Personal Communication Skills

Improving leadership abilities is intrinsically connected to improving communication skills.

Factors that improve personal communications include the following:
  • face-to-face communicating
  • listening to others
  • speaking well
  • presenting effectively
  • writing clearly
Most staff interactions, like most business communications, occur one-on-one and in small groups. You should try to increase the quality and quantity of these small encounters because they are the most effective means of delivering his message.

The following four suggestions can be used in this setting:
  1. One key in getting people to come to you when they need your help is to be approachable. Do this by adjusting your speaking style to more closely resemble those to whom you're speaking.

  2. Be understanding and sincere. Being empathetic towards others and trying to understand their motivations and concerns helps create a two-way relationship.

  3. Consistency in the way you communicate to others improves communication. If your approach to others is erratic, this sends confusing and conflicting messages.

  4. It's also valuable to repeat your important messages from time to time to make sure that they are received and understood. Also, having your instructions mirrored back to you helps when you're having a difficult time communicating with certain people.
In addition to the face-to-face communication skills, there are other skills that would improve communication abilities:
  • Leaders should aim to spend more time listening than talking. This is an active, not passive process in which you try to understand the other person's perspective. Let your ears be the gateway to others' strengths and concerns.

  • Leaders need to communicate clearly. Proper speech and grammar, along with easy-to-follow points are vital to your effectiveness. Seek help if this is a problem for you.

  • Making presentations is part of being a leader. Being natural, using visual aids, and including humor are all part of good presentations. Rehearse with someone whose criticism you value.
Writing skills are another area that should be considered important to your development as a leader. Learning to write correctly takes time, effort, and a real commitment. The following are tips to improve your writing:
  • Visit a library or bookstore to see the resources available. In addition, write whenever possible.
  • Make note of the purpose and main points of your document before you begin to write it.
  • Consider who will be reading what you write, what they know about the subject, and what you want them to do after they read the document.
  • Avoid using phrases that make excuses, lack confidence, or suggest incompetence.
  • Keep your language simple, use a minimum of jargon, or specialized words, and be as brief as possible.
  • Reread what you've written at least twice and make whatever corrections or improvements you can.
  • Have an assistant or associate review the document for effectiveness, clarity, and correctness before you send it.
Finally, you should learn to improve your awareness of what you communicate nonverbally.

People are naturally aware of your physical actions when they are contradicting or working against what you're saying. Tapping your pen out of nervousness, avoiding eye contact, or looking bored all work against effective communications.

On the other hand, you can use nonverbal communications to your advantage by relaxing, maintaining good posture, staying energetic, and directly addressing others. Videotaping one of your presentations can help you correct bad habits.

The continued success of your company is due, in part, to the effectiveness of your personal communication skills. Consider which of these skills would improve your abilities.

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