How we communicate with people develops the core of our relationship with them, said Linda Falcone during a Penn State Extension webinar. While it is especially important for team leaders to be able to effectively communicate values, priorities, and authority, every member of a workplace must be able to interact with their co-workers in a way that supports the mission of the organization. When that happens, conflict is reduced, trust is bolstered, and employee engagement is improved, described Falcone. All of those outcomes help reduce turnover.
Falcone, an extension educator in entrepreneurship, economic, and community development, recommended taking time to plan your communication efforts to help them be effective. She said this is an area we likely think about subconsciously, but putting it top of mind will help us relay our messages better. She provided these steps in planning communication:
- Identify your purpose: What is it you need to say?
- Understand your audience: What message do they need?
- Choose the right channel: Is your audience most likely to respond to an in-person conversation, an email, a message, or something else?
- Plan your message: If this is an important conversation to you, you will take the time to decide how to deliver it.
- Monitor effectiveness: Don’t assume your audience has understood you. Effective communication means there is both a sender and receiver. “If no one’s listening, you’re not really communicating,” Falcone said. Ask them to repeat your message back to you.
Once you have your plan, Falcone said to follow the “6 Cs” of communication to deliver your message: be clear, correct, concise, complete, considerate, and courteous.
Of course, there are still many ways communication can break down. “Just because you said something perfect doesn’t mean the listener was listening,” continued Falcone. The message might not be relayed accurately if not all information was provided or if too much information was provided, due to differences in culture or word choice, a lack of focus, body language that doesn’t match your message, or distracting emotions. Recognize those limitations to avoid them.
Be a good receiver, too
Practicing good communication in the workplace also means listening to your teammates. Falcone said active listening begins with stopping what you are doing, paying attention, and showing you’re listening by asking questions, giving feedback, or paraphrasing.
You also want to avoid judgement when listening and, when they are done talking, respond appropriately. However, do not fall into one of what Falcone called listening traps. These include listening only to give advice (when the other person might not be looking for advice), tuning them out and thinking about how we will respond, or filtering out only parts of what they say.
All of these pitfalls center around a guiding principle of effective communication according to Falcone: show respect and build trust. Adopting strategies with those guidelines in mind will help any workplace improve team communication. That’s ultimately what allows people to do their jobs well and feel valued.