Solid communication and empathy skills are essential to your career thriving on all types of terrain – smooth, rocky, muddy or rough. Careers, morale, employee retention and profits are all impacted by ineffective communication. Hiring managers report that people entering the job market for the first time are sorely lacking in soft skills such as communication, ownership and leadership skills required for productive teams. Studies also show that many good employees leave companies because their supervisors lack effective communication skills. This is hitting businesses of all sizes in the bottom line – large businesses lose more than 62 million dollars each year, while small businesses lose on average almost half a million dollars annually due to ineffective communication. It is easy to see that the costs add up across the board!

This is hitting businesses of all sizes in the

bottom line – miscommunication results in

millions of dollars of loses.

Imagine a week with 100% clear and effective communications – a week where you understand everyone and they understand you; where you achieve organizational goals without one hiccup. That would be called Utopia! While “Utopia” communications are beyond human possibility, you can greatly improve your skills and quality of life for yourself and others with more accurate and empathetic communication skills. We have worked with a manager in Louisiana for many years; he has become such an excellent communicator that he is regularly chosen to represent his organization at community meetings, employee gatherings, regulatory hearings, media interviews and other key venues. Management trusts him to connect with people and successfully deliver the organization’s messages in a clear and empathetic manner. To gain that type of trust, the following are some essential skills:

Map Out Your Messages – Before you pick up the phone or go visit with someone, map out your key messages. First, identify primary and secondary goals – what do you want to achieve from the communication? Then, jot down at least three things you want to share. Also, identify a couple of questions that will help clarify what the other person(s) perceives as the key takeaways or action items. We recently worked with a manager who was struggling and this one strategy alone made a major difference in how he came across to peers and senior management.

Use The Magic Combination – Studies reveal people remember more of what you say when you combine your words with visuals. Therefore, use visuals whenever possible to clarify what you are sharing or requesting. If you are going to explain a complex issue, use sketches, infographics, drawings, photos, PowerPoint and props to help simplify things so anyone can understand. We worked with a manager who wanted to communicate how serious his group was about detecting leaks. So, he held up a Sharpie and said, “We look for leaks as small as 500 parts per million.” Then he took the cap off the Sharpie, revealing that the Sharpie releases over a 1000 parts per million when the cap is removed. He concluded by saying, “We detect leaks smaller than those released by this Sharpie.” This type of visual makes things simple and memorable!

Empathetic Listening – Listen! Really listen, and avoid “communication boxing”. Boxing occurs when you half listen and counter every concern or question with opposing data points, which only makes it harder for others to hear you. Instead, listen to others’ points of view and make notes whenever possible of their key concerns and needs. Also, ask questions to fully understand what is important to the other person. You don’t always need to offer an immediate solution – just hear them out first. Listen to understand, instead of listening to reply!

Today, accurate and empathetic communication skills are vital to successful careers, morale, employee retention and profits. The quality of your work and life will greatly improve with better communications, and you will be equipped for all types of terrain!