There are many technically competent people in the workplace, but there appears to be a shortage of people with a good foundation of soft skills. A recent survey reveals 92% of leaders say their employees need stronger soft skills to compete in today’s marketplace. It is true that solid communication skills 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 soft skills. Hiring managers report that people entering the job market for the first time are sorely lacking in soft skills training. They score low in things such as communication, ownership and leadership skills required for more productive teams. Unfortunately, studies also show that many good employees leave companies because their supervisors lack effective communication skills training. 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 skills. 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” communication skills may be beyond human possibility, you can greatly improve your soft 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 take the lead for his organization at high-profile community meetings, employee gatherings, regulatory hearings, media interviews and other key venues. Over the years, he has gone through a variety of our soft skills training programs – stakeholder communication skills training, media skills training, leadership skills coaching, public speaking skills training, storytelling skills training and others. He has fully embraced the power of effective communication skills and now 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 Key Messages – Before you pick up the phone or go visit with someone, be sure to map out your key messages. First, identify your primary and secondary goals – what do you want to achieve from the communication? What evidence will you have that you achieved your goals? 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. Before, he was being labeled as indecisive and hesitant by his bosses and team members, and that was not good for his career or team! The message maps are making all the difference now. The maps allow him to clarify his talking points before meetings; as a result he is much more confident and is seeing a shift in how others are perceiving him.
Use The Magic Combination – Too many people rely on words or text during meetings and presentations, when they should be using more visuals with their text or words. About 20% of your brain is wired for visuals, as your optic nerves are strung throughout the middle of your brain. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that 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! It is the small things like this that can turn a bored audience into an engaged audience! When you learn to add in an assortment of visual demonstrations into your meetings or presentations, people take notice.
Empathetic Listening Skills – 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. It is amazing how much more credibility and influence you gain with stronger listening skills. There is a lot more to listening than most people realize, so investing in some solid listening skills training can make a difference for your team and career. You may be familiar with research that shows the average attention span has dropped to about 8 seconds – or that of a gold fish! This explains why listening is truly a lost art in today’s world. It is also why those with good listening skills can greatly advance their careers and improve their team’s performance. Listen to understand, instead of listening to reply!
Today, soft skills separate the good leaders from the great leaders! They separate good teams from high-performing teams! Accurate, empathetic listening skills and effective 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 skills, and you will be equipped for all types of career and life terrain!
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