What do you think makes your company successful? Your newest hardware or software? The newest system you've put into place? The best location in town? Although these are important, they are not the key to success.
Today it's not enough to produce a product and get the work done. There are big challenges in running a business. Competition isn't just local ? it's coming from all over the world; there's always some new piece of equipment to buy; your customers have critical needs; systems can always be improved; employees have challenges you need to respond to and there are constant changes in technology.
All of this means that being a good leader, manager or employee is a tall order. Being an effective communicator is just one way you can make a difference.
Communication affects every part of our lives. Whether it's at work or in your family you are constantly interacting with others. Both areas involve the need for cooperation. Discussing ideas, solving problems, making plans for the future all require good interaction skills.
For your interactions to be effective, you need to understand some basic needs and bring that understanding into your interactions.
? We all need to feel valued, respected, trusted and appreciated.
? We need to be listened to and have our thoughts and ideas heard.
? We like to collaborate on solving problems and get ideas and information before making decisions.
Here are three suggestions on how you can make a difference.
1) How would you act differently if you really believed that all of your co-workers wanted to and were capable of being successful? Would it be possible to trust their intentions even though your styles or methods of accomplishing a task may be different? This attitude of positive regard for others increases their self esteem and is essential to good work relationships.
"I'm really impressed Judy. This new system you came up with has all the information right where we need it. It's going to save the whole team a lot of time."
"That's a great idea. I can see how that could reduce our
costs and make a difference in our budget this next year."
"Thanks for taking the time?."
2) Listening and responding with understanding is at the very core of open communication. This is very important when someone is expressing feelings, either positive or negative. Responding with understanding shows that you understand what someone is feeling and why.
Reflecting negative feelings helps defuse those feelings before they cause problems that might otherwise have been avoided. Ignoring them, hoping they will go away or trying to argue them away usually makes the person more emotional. When we are not being heard, we will often "turn up the volume" in order to be heard.
It's equally important to reflect positive feelings. It's a great way to acknowledge another for how they feel about getting a difficult job done. This reinforces their good work and helps the other person feel even more successful.
"It's frustrating trying to please people who change their minds and you're getting mixed messages."
"Being acknowledged like that at the meeting has to make you feel really good".
"I understand how disappointing it can be to ??"
3) When you value someone's opinions and want their help in solving a problem, they are almost always willing to help. Two minds are usually more creative and lead to better solutions and decisions than if you try to do it alone. That might mean asking someone to get involved and work with you or it might mean asking someone to take responsibility for the task and take it through to completion. Involving others in developing ideas and carrying out the tasks builds their commitment to what you're trying to accomplish.
"You work with these forms a lot, Susan. What ideas do you have for how they could be redesigned to work better for us?"
"In the meeting the other day you came up with some good ideas. Would you be willing to work with me on getting some of them implemented?"
"How do you think we could handle that?"
Opportunities to practice these skills happen frequently and sometimes unexpectedly. Even though the business challenges may not have changed you may be having a little more fun! At the end of the day, stop and think about how you might have made the difference.
? 2004 Julane Borth
Julane Borth is co-founder of EWF International?, an Oklahoma based firm providing personal advisory boards for women business owners and executives. EWF International also offers leadership training for women. EWF International franchises are available throughout Texas.