Saturday, 28 November 2015

How To Advance Your Career With Superior Communication Skills

Your communication skills, or lack thereof, will make or break your career.

Evidently, there are other important factors to consider when ascertaining how far you'd go in your professional journey——qualifications, competence, executive presence/gravitas, being at the right place at the right t e, (aka plain old luck), etc.——but one of the most important determinants of career progression is your communication skills. 

If  you  cannot  communicate  effectively, you're done...unless  you seek help and are almost obsessive about making the necessary changes.

Remember that communication encompasses the oral, the verbal and body language cues.

There is always a need for effective communication at the workplace. In the UK for example, a new rule announced in August  requires public sector employees who deal directly with the public, (teachers, policemen, council workers etc.), to have a minimum ‘C’ grade in English language skills at GCSE level. To ensure compliance, managers will be obligated to test their employees on how effectively the latter communicates with the public.

Although most of us with white collar jobs in Anglophone countries may speak English fluently, there is a difference between speaking/writing English passably and truly communicating. 

In fact, there is a crisis of sorts of effective communication at the workplace, at all levels: From recent graduates and young executives, to seasoned professionals and masters of industry. 

Companies too are struggling to genuinely communicate with their staff. Savvy businesses are now challenging their corporate communications professionals to consider creative ways to trigger employee engagement. Moreover, boosting and protecting corporate reputations, internally and externally, are persistent concerns. Due to avoidable faux pas, often exacerbated by social media, communication and PR crises are rife. Case in point: The top five communication blunders in 2014 should be regarded as a cautionary tale of what not to do when handling corporate messaging.

Now as the proactive professional in this corporate jungle, what can you do to (re)position yourself as the high flyer in your pack?

1) Read frequently and extensively

This is the number one piece of advice I give during my coaching sessions.

There are no ways around it. You must cultivate a habit of reading good materials to become a good writer.

For those who loathe paperbacks or intimidating textbooks, there is a plethora of content available on the Web in different formats.

Professionals have realised that writing for cyberspace requires a different strategy——articles which are often concise and easier to understand, are combined with visuals, audios and other forms to entice readers.

Therefore  read  widely  and  even  outside your field, but  read regularly. Well-written content, (worthy of publication in the New York Times newspaper, Harvard Business Review magazines, etc.), exposes you to new vocabulary, nuances in language, writing styles and interesting structures which you subconsciously adopt to enrich your writing as time elapses.

Join online communities like Quora and LinkedIn and follow 'writing' groups. Subscribe to daily/weekly emails from blogs, renowned writers and thought leaders but read something daily, or a few times a week. It could be an article of 500 words or long-form content of 2,000 words.

Just read.  

2) Write, write, write!

Like any other muscle to be built, you need to 'exercise' your writing muscle to become a better writer. The more you write, the quicker you improve.

This is something I can personally attest to as a Blogger, business content creator and communications coach.

It's easy to make excuses. You could say that you don't have the time to write because you juggle multiple assignments.

Or that writing is not really necessary in your role as a software engineer, an accountant or an art director; that you do things instead.

Or that you could simply pay someone to write for you.

Note however that you will be required to write; you just haven't realised how often you do so.

Emails requesting information/approvals; complaints about technical glitches; proposals, reports and recommendations; memos delivering bad news, sometimes badly-written, such as Microsoft's infamous memo laying off thousands in 2014; letters of resignation in the wake of scandals; public statements of apology; etc. In your career, you may need to write them at some point. It will become challenging for you the more demanding the position you hold or the more critical the audience becomes.

But there's help. Apart from taking refresher courses in grammar, mastering business writing and crafting powerful emails will get you far...very far indeed.

Thus, get over your fear———and shame———of writing sometimes cringe-worthy letters/emails/memos/reports, etc. and just write.

Also be conscientious about brutally editing and proofreading your work. You’ll soon observe that your writing chops are becoming top notch.  

3) Strengthen your speaking skills

If you occasionally manage to wiggle your way out of writing at work, you won't succeed in dodging presentations, meetings and talks.

Yes, you’ll be required to speak regularly and no, you won't be allowed to 'pass' in such situations.

It might seem daunting, having to give presentations to your bosses or to unfamiliar crowds, or to be suddenly called upon to speak, but do so anyway. In fact, embrace  occasions to speak.

I get it: You're an introvert and feel that everyone will judge you (unfairly) when you speak. Or you may have some legitimate social anxiety about public speaking. Get professional help for crippling phobias but then go ahead, in spite of yourself, and do it.

Note that even seasoned speakers, who get paid for their talent, admit that they sometimes get nervous. In fact, many have 'rituals' they go through before every speaking engagement———short prep talks in front of the mirror, power poses, eerie sounds made to 'wake up' their voices etc.———they nonetheless prepare, channel their nervous energy for greater impact and go on to wow their audiences. 

It takes quite a bit of practice and some courage but it can be done.

Speaking slowly but purposefully, changing tone/pitch, pausing at key moments, gesticulating, repeating phrases, rhyming...there are numerous tips for giving winning speeches. TED talks are renowned for being inspiring and engaging, so watch a couple of the videos available online and learn from the experts.

Step out of your comfort zone to strengthen your speaking skills and watch your confidence grow. 

Trust me on this: You will get noticed.  

4) Discern body language cues

"You say it best, when you say nothing at all”.

Ronan Keating, British pop star.

Most of communication is what is not being said.

Even silence speaks volumes. Knowing how to discern body language cues will help you know the approaches to take, especially in stressful situations.

You'll also need to be aware of vibes you give off. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to point out telltale signs. Interrupting someone, frowning, looking away when being spoken to, rolling your eyes, grimacing, etc.——such ticks communicate annoyance, indifference or a complete disregard for the other person...which might not be your intentions.

Listening is also a skill that should be honed. When you combine active listening with observing facial expressions, it becomes a highly effective tool of discernment.

Those sensitive enough to interpret body language vibes usually save themselves grief further down the line.

Take this point seriously.  


The good news is that you already have noticeable communication skills otherwise you wouldn't have landed your current job.

However, if you’re aiming for the accelerated path to professional advancement——your excellent qualifications, experience and track record notwithstanding——you’ll need to display superior communication skills.

This is how you do so: 

Read constantly; consciously improve your writing and speaking skills: and work on being perceptive of body language vibes. Your perseverance will pay off when you get signalled out for leadership positions.

And you’ll deserve every opportunity that comes your way.

What other communication tips have helped your career? Please post your comments below.

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

1) Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.

2) You should also sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!

Recommended reading

Need further help?

Hire me for a writing assignment or communications training and let me help you get results. There are two ways to do this:

A) Send an email to:

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:              0704 631 0592

International:    +234 704 631 0592    


N.B - First image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via Second image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Third and fourth images courtesy of Iosphere;  via Fifth image courtesy of Kibsri; via Last image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan; via

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Management 201: Empowering Your Workforce

The Employees speak

Planet Earth supports at least 7 billion humans.

By 2030, according to McKinsey & Company, there will be 3.5 billion workers. Of this figure, 38-40 million with tertiary education will be in higher demand due to a dwindling supply of such professionals.

Now your company employs a few thousands, yet you are convinced that their world revolves around you, your reputation and your operations. You have even expressed an inflated sentiment that it is either your way, or the highway.

Bad idea. 

We initially couldn't be bothered to set the record straight. However, with the new, rather green C-suite team in place, an education into the psyche of your experienced staff has become necessary. 

We live in the digital age and as experienced workers, we have access to information that enables us make self-serving career decisions.

The plethora of communications devices and the prevalence of social media in this global village, means that we can easily share best practices across industries and regions.

Consequently, we have become more discerning about opportunities and have developed a keen sense of our worth. We are the driving force in our professional development and are finicky about our work/life balance. 

Simply put: We now know what we need, what we expect from our employers and why we won't settle for less.

And your top-down, commando-style management won't cut it any more.

Nor will your semblance of nurturing a transparent atmosphere; nor will your lack of true commitment to a culture of communication at the workplace.

We won't accept the status quo any longer.

The entire executive cadre needs to change the way it thinks, how it makes decisions and how it deals with its human resources.

One point should be central in efforts to create a more conducive environment for the workforce:

Empower your employees.

Although it sounds simple, this is not simplistic. You could achieve this feat by:  

1) Involving staff in your change initiatives

Don't just tell us and expect us, like robots, to execute your every command.

Involve us in the process from the beginning. Ask us questions. Conduct surveys. Use focus groups. 

Be creative in the ways you craft and distribute content, to keep us interested in your plans. Avoid making sweeping changes without our input. Some of our trusted line managers, supervisors and divisional heads will have useful suggestions about your operations, so identify these gems and seek their advice as well.

Yes, we want to know the nuts and bolts of your programmes, so adopt an effective communications strategy, which addresses the six components below:

The 'What';

The 'Why';

The 'Who';

The 'How';

The 'When/How Long';

The 'Crisis-Mode Plan'.


Note also that consistency in the delivery of timely, factual feedback ensures steady performance. So learn to give feedback, even when the outcome is unfavourable.

Don't misunderstand us: We don't want the data overload, but having relevant information will enable us handle change initiatives affecting our work.

Moreover, being prepared will reduce our resistance to change. Since we'll be convinced you know what you're doing, we'll get on board and support the company's plans. 

2) Prioritising effective communication

And we mean open, two-way communication using various formats.

Whatever meetings/forums, company videos, Q&A sessions, internal social networks, traditional newsletters, etc. are used, note that communication should be useful. The focus should be on creating a collaborative atmosphere whereby communication freely flows and insights are harnessed for prompt action.

Don't listen to those misguided executives who regard communication skills as 'soft' and not to be taken seriously.

In fact, you'd be surprised to note that the return on effective communication is well documented. Evergreen research from Towers Watson links a communicative culture to stronger financial performance. Companies considered highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders than those labelled the least effective communicators.

So there's even a business case for promoting effective communication at the workplace. 


3)  Valuing staff

This issue of value is the culmination of the previous points.

At the risk of sounding painfully repetitive, show us by your words and consistent actions that you truly care about us and we will trust you.

We  realise that your top executives are busy people juggling multiple functions in high-responsibility roles, but get them involved. Make a few accessible to staff for operations-related concerns, especially during times of organisational changes. This move will also promote transparency and fairness at the workplace, making us feel valued.


And that changes everything.

Here's how it works:

By involving us in crucial decisions impacting our work and by fostering effective communication strengthened by feedback, we see how our work contributes to the company's goals. We feel 'listened' to; that we matter; and that our worth is recognised. Trust in the leadership then becomes certain. We become emotionally attached to your company and our engagement levels soars.

Don't take the employee engagement issue lightly. It significantly impacts the workplace when present

If you nee
d further convincing, then this infographic from The EmployeeApp explains what we already know:

Effective communication - highlighted by using the desired methods with increased frequency - was linked to employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Naturally, happy employees increase productivity. 

Which company wouldn't want excellent performance from its engaged staff? 


So in this global village, whereby a few talented professionals are aggressively targeted by your counterparts, the status quo, dear Management, needs to change.

Actively empower your employees whose skills you require to remain competitive.

Remember that you could achieve this by involving us in change programmes which directly affect our work; by encouraging effective two-way communication; and by valuing us.

Do these actions consistently and then be patient.

When we are happy and engaged, we will return the favour. We would go the extra mile and ensure that your company's business performance is amplified...much to the bewilderment of your rivals because you were once the underdog. 

And you can take this assurance to the bank.                             

What other tips can you give to empower your employees? Let me know by posting your comments below. 

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below. 

You should also sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles! 

Need further help?

Hire me for a writing assignment or communications training and let me help you get results. There are two ways to do this:

A) Send an email to:

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:               0704 631 0592
International:     +234 704 631 0592   


N.B:  First image courtesy of Nirots; via Second image courtesy of Iosphere; via Third image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via Fourth image courtesy of Ddpavumba; via Last  image courtesy of Jesadaphorn; via