You might have expert technical skills, but if you can’t communicate effectively with co-workers, clients, superiors and subordinates, you’ll diminish your chances of moving up the ladder and might even find your job in jeopardy. Using a multi-stage approach to developing your communications skills will help you create short- and long-term goals to improve your workplace performance.
One way to improve your communication skills is to outline and organize your thoughts prior to sharing important information. Whenever you need to send an important communication, whether it’s verbally, electronically or in print, create a brief list of items you want to cover. Even if you’re just sending an email, jot down your key points and put them in order of importance to help you create the most effective message. Keep the list in mind when you are speaking or writing to someone.
Ask for Confirmation
Don’t assume that because you’ve sent a message it got through. If you send an important email, for example, ask for an electronic receipt or tell the person you’d like a response to make sure she received and understood your message. If you’re talking to someone, repeat the message she gave you to confirm you heard her correctly and understood what she said. Whenever possible, get a deadline for important tasks you need to complete to ensure everyone knows what to expect, and when to expect it.
Strive for Professionalism
The easiest way to look unprofessional when communicating at work is to use poor grammar or to misspell words. It only takes a minute or two to spell check most written documents. All it takes is one typo to change the meaning of a message, or several grammar errors to make you look unprofessional. Spell check written documents and emails to reduce errors. If your email client or word processing program has a grammar checker, use it. In addition to having electronic programs review your work, ask peers to proofread important documents you’ve created before you send them.
Hold Regular Meetings
If you’re a manager, schedule regular team meetings to improve communications among your subordinates. This way you can keep everyone up-to-date on important matters, ensure that everyone is on the same page, and prevent miscommunication due to a lack of information. If you’re an executive or business owner, have department heads meet each week to update each other on their progress. Weekly meetings help you head off problems by updating key stakeholders instead of having them work in vacuums.
Get More Training
Take seminars on business writing, public speaking and listening to improve your communications skills. Even if your company doesn’t pay for it, a communications course can help you improve your value as an employee, which might lead to promotions. Ask if your company reimburses for professional development, or offer to split the cost of courses with your employer to show your commitment.