This is the final installment of a 3-part series on company communication. So far we’ve discussed four “Cs” that make communication more effective. We said communication should be Clear and Concrete, Concise and Complete. I didn’t realize until I finished the last post that those rhyme. That may help you remember the first four. Sorry to say, though, the rhyme ends there. Though the next two don’t rhyme, they are equally as important as the last four in conducting effective company communication.
Collaboration literally means “co-laboring,” working together. We’ve all heard the saying “Teamwork makes the Dream Work.” On the other hand, have you heard the saying, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee?” Both can be true and often the difference is communication. The team that realized the dream most likely had much better collaboration than the committee that somehow put a hump on the back of a horse!
Celeste Headlee, NPR radio host and author, listed the following 10 pieces of advice in her TEDx talk on how to have a good conversation. Good conversations is how collaboration happens.
- Don’t multitask – be present in that moment, all in
- Don’t pontificate – enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Bill Nigh said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”
- Use open-ended questions – Who? What? Etc. not yes or no questions
- Go with the flow – thoughts and stories will come to mind while someone is talking. Let them flow right out. Let the conversation be about the other person.
- If you don’t know, say you don’t know
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Conversations are not promotional opportunities
- Do not repeat yourself – It’s condescending and boring
- Stay out of the weeds – no one cares about the names and dates you’re trying to recall.
- Listen – the most important skill you can develop. Buddha said, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning? Calvin Coolidge said, “No man ever listened his way out of a job.”
- Be Brief – “A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, long enough to cover the subject.”
I think we would agree that most great work is accomplished in teams. Following Celeste’s advice on good conversations will help your team avoid the hump and achieve the dream.
My late father-in-law had a way of telling the truth about food he didn’t like without hurting the feelings of the person who had prepared it and asked, “How do you like it?” He would say it was “tasty.” That was true. It definitely had taste. Everything we say should be true, but not everything true should be said.
Effective communication should help in some way. It should add value to the person or to the conversation. Some people speak seemingly just to hear the sound of their voice. Their comments are irrelevant or counterproductive. Don’t be that person. The value you add may indeed be constructive criticism but the key word there is “constructive.” Our communication should aim to build up the other person or the group. In the wise words of one ancient ambassador, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” He was saying you will be prepared to respond to anyone appropriately if your words are always gracious and salty.
Gracious Words – our words should be courteous, kind, and pleasant. The “grace” in gracious implies we behave this way especially if the other person isn’t or doesn’t seem to deserve kindness. Some people refer to this as being professional.
Salty Words – (not the cussing-like-a-sailor kind of salty) Salt does several things. First, salt preserves food. Second, it enhances the flavor of food. Third, salt makes you thirsty. Salty words preserve relationships regardless of the content of the communication. Salty words are delicious, people desire them. I remember a man coming out of my Dad’s office and saying to me, “Man, that’s the first time I’ve ever been reprimanded where I actually enjoyed the conversation.” I’m sure he was ready to hear whatever my Dad had to say to him after that. Finally, have you ever heard someone say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? The follow-up to that saying is, “No, but you can feed him salt!” Our words can and should invite people to ask questions, explore, grow and contribute. Our words should make people thirsty for more.
The Six “Cs” of Company Communication are Clear, Concrete, Concise, Complete, Collaborative, and Contributive. If you master those, you may be on your way to the “C-Suite.”