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6 crucial tactics for using communication to build your career

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Communication can be the single biggest driver in your career. Are you doing it right?

semaphore communication for your career

 

Last month we talked about how having great communication skills can be a huge career asset, no matter what stage you're at in your career.  

But 'good communication skills' doesn't mean that you're good at spelling or that you don't faint when you're asked to give a presentation in front of a roomful of people.  (Though I will say that it's rare to see a senior executive who has atrocious spelling and grammar skills or who can't do at least a pretty good job of presenting material to an audience.  You don't have to be Ernest Hemingway or Russell Peters - but you do have to be confident and competent.)

In a workplace environment, good communication skills are really about being able to convey and receive the information/ideas/tone you want or need to in order to excel at your job.  Some of that involves good writing and presenting skills, but a lot of it involves being able to interact with co-workers and stakeholders on a one-to-one basis; participating productively in meetings with people from different departments or levels; and building up a reputation for positive interactions.

So how, exactly, do you do this?  Here are 6 crucial tactics to ensure you're not only a great communicator - but that you're also perceived as one.

1.  Know yourself (your strengths and opportunities for growth).  Chances are, like most people, you're better at some forms of communication than others.  Some people are great in meetings but terrible at email.  Use your strengths to your advantage (don't forgo important meetings, since they're a chance to shine), and manage your weaknesses (make an extra effort with email, or try alternate channels).

2.  Know how communication works in your corporate culture.  I've encountered companies where interoffice email is frowned upon ("If you need to speak to a colleague, try to do so in real time"); some companies see meetings as a waste of time; others want every step of every decision documented in triplicate.  Every workplace has its own communication culture, and you need to understand the one you're in if you hope to succeed.

3.  Learn from good and bad examples.  This is easy:  Pay attention to the good communicators around you, and don't hesitate to try to emulate them.  If you encounter a poor communicator, don't let them pull you down to their standard - use it as an opportunity to improve.

4.  Continuous improvement.  Communication skills aren't something you're born with or a 'gift' that only some people have - they're a skill, like any other, and can be improved over time.  In my 20s, I didn't understand why no one was bothering to really pay attention to my PowerPoint presentations, because I spent so much time on them.  Finally, a senior mentor took me aside and told me that I needed to stop writing novel-length documents and start using more concise bullet points.  It took a while, but eventually I was able to write in bullet points rather than paragraphs, and my presentations got a lot more popular - and much more effective.

5.  Keep the next level in mind.  Remember that old saying, "Dress for what you want to be, not for what you are"?  The idea was that even if you were a junior employee, dressing in suits would help people picture you in a more senior role.  The same is true for communication.  If you see that the people who are on the next levels up from you have mastered certain communication skills or media, make sure you're investing time in improving your skills in those areas.  It will make a huge difference the next time promotions are being considered and you're on the list with someone else.

6.  Be prepared.  All communication is more effective when you know your subject, know your audience, know what you want to say, and how you want to say it.  For day-to-day communication, this may mean simply making an extra effort to ensure you have pertinent facts at your disposal or that your files are in order.  For big opportunities like presentations, it means rehearsing the night (or even the week) before. Taking 10 minutes before an important meeting to make sure your laptop is well-organized with the correct documents or list the 5 agenda items you need to accomplish will not only make you look like a rockstar, you'll stand a better chance of emerging from the meeting with the outcomes you need.

The more you know yourself, your organization, and your communication advantages, the more you'll be able to use this super-skill to your advantage.  It may offer the single biggest boost to your career.

 

Read 17076 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 August 2017 15:30

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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