Clear lines of communication are essential in any sort of relationship and business is no different. If your company is to ever attain financial success, effective and clear communication is a must. Many businesses, however, struggle to get by precisely because the professionals who work there struggle to communicate clearly with one another.
Everybody seems to agree that getting business communication right is a key element to growth, achieving goals and overall long-term profitability. When it comes to understanding the means by which you can bolster your existing communication regime and simultaneously pioneer new forms of communication, many professionals unfortunately flounder.
Here's how to get business communication right, and what mistakes you'll need to avoid if you don't want your signals to get lost in the noise.
Understand the signal and the types of noise
It's impossible to understand the essentials of stellar business communication (or of any communication in general) without understanding the differences between the signal and the noise. Put simply, the signal is the message you're trying to broadcast from one party to another. Maybe you're trying to inform your boss that an important deal has just been struck, or perhaps you're simply trying to tell another co-worker their email didn't go through and you're hoping they can resend it.
In other words, the signal is the pure message you're trying to transmit undiluted to its recipient. The noise, on the other hand, is the irrelevant background information, useless trivia, unrelated data, external emotion and sound pollution which could prevent your signal from getting to where it needs to go. Pushing a message through this noise successfully is essential if the desired result is to ever be achieved.
If you don't understand the signal and the noise, you'll never be able to fully grasp what it means to be a stellar communicator. Business professionals with excellent communication skills thrive when it comes to transmitting their signals and bypassing noise at every available opportunity.
Sometimes, this means understanding "the signal and the noise" quite literally. For instance, you may need to turn down loud music (the noise) in order to understand what the person next to you is saying (the signal). Other times, it may entail something along the lines of keeping your inbox spam-free so that important emails from your co-workers or boss get through to you immediately upon arrival.
There’s little doubt about it that stellar communication services can go a long way towards helping you receive more signals while ignoring the useless noise around you. Sometimes, however, bolstering your ability to receive a signal while avoiding noise begins with a cultural change that must spread across your office if your business' communication regime is going to be more effective. If the signals within your company are constantly being lost or misread, there are likely some changes that can be made that will immediately clean up the communication path.
Cut down on unnecessary noise
The best cultural change you can make in your office is to cut down on unnecessary noise. It may seem obvious to many professionals, but in some office environments, music and other loud sounds aren't entirely banned or otherwise regulated.
Ensuring that your workspace is a tranquil environment where people can focus and clearly communicate with one another is a major step in ensuring you get business communication right. When it comes to fostering such change, your leaders are going to be responsible for informing their underlings what modifications are underway in the office's culture.
If your office leaders aren’t thoroughly studying up on how to communicate cultural changes in the workplace, your efforts to bolster your communication regime will be doomed from the very start. The rank and file employees in your company take note of how their managers and bosses are behaving, so relying on lackluster communication protocols when it comes to your leaders will result in a communications breakdown across your business. When hiring managers and promoting current employees, always take into consideration their ability to understand and communicate clearly with others.
Sometimes, cutting down on unnecessary noise must be taken literally. If there's a humming light, buzzing fan, or similar source of aggravating noise in your office, your workers and their communication will suffer. Those inhabiting open offices should pay particular attention to this, as one small sound in a distant corner can carry across everyone's workspace and severely impede productivity and communication. Read up on stopping white noise from plaguing those hard at work in your office, and you'll be doing much better when it comes to everyday business communication before you know it.
Semantic noise, or noise that results from differences in understanding, whether from using too much technical jargon or simply unclear instruction can quickly sideline a signal. So it's always advised to ensure that good communication is in play by checking with the recipients that the signal was received.
A huge mistake that managers often make in communication is assuming that the message was clearly understood. When talking face-to-face with somebody, the speaker constantly looking for visual cues that the person is listening and the listener is giving cues back that they're paying attention.
Those visual cues are, of course, absent when communicating through text or email. If we assume that the message was clearly received we run the risk of it getting lost in the noise or being misinterpreted. You would be surprised by how many managers fail to end a message with a call to action, such as "Do you have any questions?" or "Please reply back that you understand."
Aside from physical and semantics noise, managers should take into account the potential for psychological noise breaking down communication. Our attitudes, internal thoughts and preconceived notions can all play into how we communicate and receive signals.
Negative emotions often lead to less effective communication. For example, if an employee is fearful of their supervisor's criticism and in a constant state of worry about being reprimanded for their performance, that's going to create a communication barrier. When people are in a state of worry it has an adverse effect on their concentration.
The same can also be said though for strong positive emotions of excitement. For example, if a manager is extremely happy about something going on in their life – perhaps a new baby – they may have a difficult time concentrating and be more likely to omit key pieces of information when sending out an email.
Psychological noise is obviously going to play a role at different points in a person’s job – that's simply life. By considering our own emotional state and that of others, though, we can more effectively mold our signal so that it's clearly sent and received.
Finally, managers should familiarize themselves with common communication mistakes worth avoiding; knowing to speak less and listen more, for instance, will often save you from communications-induced headaches. Understanding that digital and otherwise intermediated communication lacks a human element and thus must be very clear and precise is another basic step towards good communication that too many professionals ignore.
Remember that these changes must be championed by your company's leaders, as everyday employees can't be expected to know these things by themselves. Focus on tapping into the signal while avoiding ugly noise, and your business will be communicating more clearly and effectively in no time.