Two and a half years ago, Kevin Selch left his government job and started Little Brown Jug Brewing Company, located on the edge of Winnipeg’s Exchange District.
But he soon found entrepreneurial life could be isolating. In his old job, Mr. Selch had many colleagues and daily communication opportunities. Now, he was on his own when meeting with vendors and hiring new people, and he felt he needed to beef up his interpersonal skills.
About six months into his new life, Mr. Selch enlisted the help of Padraig Coaching & Consulting to help him communicate effectively with his staff.
“We started with three [employees], and now we have 18, so it was important to learn how to communicate,” says Mr. Selch. “It was part of building the right culture, which you need to do at the beginning because it’s much more difficult to change it later.”
For Mr. Selch, improved business communication skills have meant better connections with his team and his external contacts.
“We looked at not only how we communicate, but what motivates people,” he says. “And how do we adapt our communication style or delivery to get our messaging across to others?”
Whether it’s about making connections to grow your client base or getting noticed for that big promotion, these three tips can help ensure your voice is heard.
1. Know your audience
Following the golden rule – treating others how you would like to be treated – may sound like a reliable practice. But it’s the wrong approach when it comes to business communication, says Patrick O’Reilly, president at Padraig Coaching & Consulting.
“Treat people not how you would want to be treated, but instead treat them how you think they want to be treated,” he says.
Think about the most effective way to deliver your message, Mr. O’Reilly says. For instance, if you’re presenting an idea to a colleague who responds well to facts and spreadsheets, “you want to get specific and avoid using a lot of emotion,” he says. “Take a moment to think about how people will best receive the information you want to convey.”
Kaylee Houde, a career coach based in Calgary, echoes this advice. Whether you’re speaking to an auditorium full of people or one-on-one with a colleague, “make it about them,” she says.
“Think about what they care about and keep it simple.”
Even when sending out LinkedIn requests or job queries, your delivery matters, says Ms. Houde. “If your e-mail query or LinkedIn message is more than three sentences, it’s too long,” she says.
2. Don’t forget to listen
Experts agree that while talking is a big part of business communication, listening is just as crucial.
“People tend to think it’s what they say that really matters, but sometimes it comes at the expense of really good listening,” says Wendy Pentland, a life and executive coach in Kingston, Ont.
By asking a few simple questions before conveying your thoughts, you can create a more focused, thoughtful delivery and conversation: Who is taking part in this conversation? What is really going on here? What’s already been said?
“This, in turn, enables you to better frame what to say when you do choose to speak,” Ms. Pentland says.
Another important part of listening involves checking back with the person you’re speaking with and finding out what they actually heard, she adds. What they took in may be a much different message than you intended, and this gives you the space to make any clarifications.
3. Ditch your assumptions
Before you even open your mouth to speak, there are likely many assumptions you and your audience have already made about each other. It’s imperative that you try to work around or rid yourself of them, says Mr. O’Reilly.
When interacting with a work colleague, challenge your expectations of who they are and what they want from the conversation, he says.
“What is the story in your head? Because it might not be the full story from this person’s perspective. What’s driving you in this conversation?”
Secondly, don’t assume people at work know what you do. Laying out your role at the company, especially to those that act as gatekeepers between you and a promotion, is often something that gets overlooked, Ms. Houde notes. Fortunately, that’s something that can be rectified with a few succinct sentences.
“Communicating your role and exactly what you’re up to on a daily basis is important,” says Ms. Houde. “Managers don’t always know the ins and outs, which means your contributions to the company could be getting missed.”