Monday, 31 August 2015

Business Communication: 3 ‘Rules’ For Effectiveness









As professionals, we need to ‘stand out’ to remain competitive – and thus relevant - in our careers.


No one is excluded from this requirement: From the newly-appointed CEO, to the enthusiastic greenhorn, we constantly seek ways to update our skills, increase our knowledge and strengthen our portfolios.


And globalisation - the interplay of international trade, technology transfer and socio-cultural exchanges in our daily lives - is to blame for this mad rush for professional development. This has become evident as careers become increasingly fluid and competition becomes rife.









Although there may be differing opinions about the benefits of, or woes from this powerful force, one constant is indisputable: the inevitability of change. People, processes, ideas, ‘best practices’, employment trends; they all change.




Consequently, the way we communicate and how we do so in business circles have also evolved. Gone are the days where content could only be delivered by faxes, letters emails and the press. Rapid advances in technology have resulted in various options from which to choose: communicating by video calls/online meetings, (Skype, GoToMeeting etc.); using business communication tools and connecting via social media apps, (YouTube, Periscope, Vine, etc.). We have also become creative with our communications and at our disposal are different formats for disseminating information: e-books, images, videos, blog articles, infographics, podcasts etc.




Nonetheless, we can distinguish ourselves from the pack of educated, competent professionals and remain relevant in our careers.



Here's the simple, but often underestimated advice:



Demonstrate communication skills which ensure that ideas/initiatives/innovations are presented in ways that generate trust and lead to acceptance and action.




Since communication is only effective when it achieves a goal, three 'rules' of communication should be noted for best results:




1) Tailoring communications for the audience






Whatever the content being delivered, whether it is a speech, presentation, proposal or report, the first point to consider is the audience. Are its members university-educated or high school certificate holders?Do they engage more with visual content or do they prefer a text-audio combination? Know beforehand what is likely to resonate with them and then tailor your communications to suit the group's preferences.




For example, the language and style you will use when giving a seminar to a group of PhD holders will differ significantly from how you will address a group of rank and file employees. Using the appropriate language and format will lead to acceptance of your content.  




2) Prioritising brevity, simplicity and clarity







“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”.

- Albert Einstein. 



Yes, your audience knows you have a lot of 'important' information to share, and that you must acknowledge the 'village' that helped you achieve X,Y,Z but please get to the point! Be brief. If people want more details, tell them how to get them. The more you waffle on, the quicker they tune off. Don't expect anything meaningful to be achieved in this situation. 



You also need to present your information in simple terms - without the jargon and ambiguity - so that your recipients understand your message. You don't need to use 'big' or redundant words to appear clever. Take a cue from Einstein’s quote about simplicity. 



Finally, tell them what you want them to do at the end of your delivery. When your call-to-action is clear, assumptions and conjectures are eliminated. Because they know what is expected of them, they will be empowered to support your goals.  




3) Providing timely and factual feedback







Let's assume here that feedback is virtually guaranteed when everything is on track.


 
But what happens when 'all hell breaks loose'?



It doesn't matter if the unpleasant situation was a result of your actions, lack thereof, or was beyond your control; you will need to provide feedback. But the feedback should be timely and factual, (meaning no delayed recaps or speculations), in order to be effective. 



Whilst no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, the sooner the true state of affairs is known, the quicker the resources - natural, human, technological, etc. - could be mobilised to tackle the problem. Timely and factual feedback is crucial in a crisis and when merged in this blog's six-component communications strategy, it can make a difference between how the crisis is 'contained' and how it escalates to disastrous proportions.  




Conclusion 






So  as  we  strive  to  become  more competitive in our fields, let's become better communicators.



Due to the availability of numerous communications tools and different types of content to inspire, captivate, motivate or persuade, we will be spoilt for choice.


Still, by using the three 'rules' of business communication listed above, we'll be able to cut through the 'noise' in our fast-paced environment and get the business results we seek.




Now it's your turn. What other 'rules' have been effective in your business communication? Kindly post your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.




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



1) Share this article in your social media networks by clicking on the icons on the left side or below.


2) 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 


Overcoming Our Phobia Of Formal Writing 
  




Need help with crafting your business content?  


Hire me for a writing assignment, some consulting work and/or coaching sessions in communications.  


Contact me by: 


A) Sending a direct email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com

B) Calling for advice and a free consultation:

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



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N.B-  First image courtesy of Jesadaphorn; via freedigitalphotos.net. Embedded tweet courtesy of author’s Twitter account. Second image courtesy of Hywards; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via freedigitalphotos.net. 



Friday, 31 July 2015

How To Become An Exceptional Employer






It takes a little effort to be a decent human being.




When we were children, we were taught principles which later became values and shaped our characters: Respect everyone; be considerate; be charitable, do onto others as you would have them do onto you, etc.




As adults, due to societal pressures and the prioritisation of 'self', we often struggle to adhere to the admirable tenet of being our brother's keeper. On a subconscious level however, we all want to matter. We want to be of value to someone or something and we desire to be treated with dignity.




It's no wonder that such a quest for worth extends to our careers.




Fair or not, we look to our employers to be 'decent' entities.




We are realistic: we know that they are in business to make money - a development that serves our need to be employed. We realise that due to globalisation and its impact on our careers, at some point we would become expendable.




We also understand, as some researchers in organisational behavioural science have echoed, that lifelong employment might no longer be possible and that we are retained to the extent that we can provide value to organisations. In exchange, we are rewarded with reasonable compensation packages, as well as training and resources to be efficient in our roles in order to be employable elsewhere, should the need be.  (Coyle-Shapiro, 2000).




Nonetheless,  for the duration of our stints in companies, we believe that employers could rise above the status of simply being 'decent'; they could become exceptional.



The rewards? Our increased engagement  leading  to less absenteeism, reduction in turnover and increased customer satisfaction - factors which translate to higher performance at the workplace.



In a nutshell, as a prospective exceptional employer we want you to:






1) Show us that we matter to you



It's not always about the money. As Badgeville's infographic below illustrates, 70% of us are more motivated by non-monetary rewards at work.



 



Surprised to know that 83% of us prefer recognition for our work than rewards or gifts? Or that 90% of us find a fun work environment "very or extremely" motivating? What about the revelation that in every age group, opportunities for growth are a more motivating factor for staying in a company than pay increases?




Well, armed with those statistics, you could differentiate your company from the pack and earn yourself  committed and loyal staff.






2) Prioritise clear communication 







This may sound simple but do you really listen to us and then take actions to address our concerns?



Are you willing to go back to the basics to create a 'listening culture' that would benefit us both?






We also value factual and timely feedback. Therefore,  promoting an atmosphere whereby communication is prioritisedfrom top management to new entrants, empowers us in our roles and prepares us for future crises.




Note  this:






So say what you mean and mean what you say. Take two-way jargon-free communication seriously...and you won't regret it when you notice increased productivity at the workplace.





3) Uphold fairness and promote transparency
  

You should neither have 'inner circles', nor a preference for promoting the interests of certain C-suite executives to the detriment of your workforce.









While experienced professionals bring a wealth of experience and much needed insight to the company's operations, these three groups of executives cause havoc by their behaviours and must be swiftly weeded out when consistent complaints are made by the staff. (There should already be an functional communication channel via which employees are encouraged to express their dissatisfaction).



When incidents of discrimination and harassment have been reported, we expect you to do the following:





- Launch an independent investigation;

- Strongly renounce the offence;

- Discipline the perpetrators by adhering strictly to sanctions listed in your policy without fear or favour;

- Compensate the victim appropriately by offering whatever financial, legal or psychological aid (i.e. therapy) that is required  for his well-being.





In order words, we want you to be fair. The employee handbooks and other corporate manuals were penned for a reason - to support the vision of the company as it relates to the humane management of its manpower.





Rules should not be waived because the CEO  plays golf with the Chairman twice a month; nor because the chief operating officer and the chief financial officer were roommates at university; nor because the HR boss comes from the same town as the technical director.





For other issues relating to compensation packages, promotions and career development, we also request that you be transparentCareer progression must be based on competence and experience; no one should be denied a coveted spot because of age, gender, ethnicity etc.





Being fair and transparent would make you more credible. When we trust your leadership, we will support you in ways you wouldn't imagine.








Conclusion



Now we realise that the points above might appear impractical to some. Others would reckon that they cannot be implemented due to historical or cultural influences or because of business concerns like cost reduction and lean management. 









Still, you should ask this question:



"How important are our talented staff - in whom we have invested Xamount in Yyears to train, develop and handle large/complex projects - to our operations this year?"



Since we drive your productivity to levels envied by your rivals and boost your reputation, the truth is that losing us to competitors by simply being 'decent'  would be easy.





To retain us, you need to become exceptional. It doesn’t matter if you are a large organisation or a small business; you’ll need to evolve. It takes courage, a commitment to change and a culture of continuity to ensure that new processes 'stick', but start the process anyway. When we see the efforts being made, we will be encouraged to go 'over and beyond' what is expected.




And that's a promise.







Kindly post your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.






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



1) Share this article in your social media networks by clicking on the icons on the left side or below.


2) 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. Never miss an article again!






Recommended reading










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N.B- First image courtesy of Cooldesign; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Ammer; via freedigitalphotos.net. Embedded tweets courtesy of author’s twitter account. Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussion Forum #3 - What Is The Best Career Advice You Ever Gave Or Received?







You will spend a great chunk of your waking moments at work.




It's one of those facts that either instils the feeling of dread - if you absolutely detest your current job - or excitement, if you love what you do or are fulfilling a lifelong passion or purpose.





In essence, most of us need to work. Whether we work for corporations, for our businesses or for noble causes, we are 'sacrificing' the gift of time for various goals. And that is fine. It is a good thing to become financially independent; it is a gift to be able to work to support ourselves and families or to be able to toil for a greater calling.




And because successes or failures in our careers impact our personal lives so deeply, it is no wonder that there is an abundance of discussions about work/life balance, employee engagement and other work-related issues in the employment relationship.




Nonetheless, a unifying thread among all professionals is the desire to succeed. This statement holds true even though the definition of 'success' varies across geographical locations and among different cultures.




Since we often need help to achieve our career goals, either as experienced professionals or as 'newbies', we may have given valuable advice to others or may have received insightful suggestions that quite frankly, changed lives.




And that is what we want to discuss.





Before you jump into the discussion, kindly note the guidelines below.







Guidelines for discussion forums




1) Only comments related to the topic would be approved.


2) Please edit your comments for clarity before posting.


3) About the language: it should kindly be kept professional and 'clean' as inappropriate contributions will not be approved. Comments written as personal attacks will also be rejected.


4) Comments submitted after the deadline will not be published.





And now over to you...





Discussion Forum #3 - What Is The Best Career Advice You Ever Gave Or Received?



(29 June 2014 - 28 July 2015 at 23.59 West African Time).








Someone may have helped you out and that act was a defining moment in your professional life.  



Or you may have seen some signs of impending ‘careercide’ based on your experiences and may have given some advice which saved someone's career.  




Whatever the case may be, sound direction given at the right time, by a trustworthy person, has made someone excel and we want to know all about it. So kindly start sharing and let's all learn from each other.




Cheers! 




Recommended reading


Discussion Forum #2 - What Would Make You Happy At Work?

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N.B -  Image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Animation courtesy of gifgifs.com.




Friday, 29 May 2015

The Case For 'A Culture Of Communication' At The Workplace








You haven't been living under a rock for the last decade so you know that often, people take something for granted about communication in this fast-paced era.




They sometimes forget that communication has become increasingly relevant to careers and businesses.




At the workplace, gone is the now 'archaic' top-down communication style from ages passed.



'Archaic' only because the advent of social media, as well as the prevalence of numerous online platforms, with their impact on the communication styles of  professionals and companies, make any method of communication, without true engagement, obsolete.




Not only have new technology, smartphones, tablets, ‘smart’ watches, (Apple watch anyone?), other internet-enabled communication devices and the explosion of mobile apps made the exchange of information instant and reliable, another trend has come to stay:




The rise of the content.




Content, which broadly speaking, encompasses varied communications, has become a fixture in organisations and among professionals.




Today, the use of storytelling to increase 'followership', or to attain 'influencer' status in an industry, or to boost business results, is evident in the various types of content produced and disseminated in cyberspace - blog posts, articles, images, videos, infographics, podcasts, graphics etc. 




As is explained in this post, savvy brands now use content to tell powerful stories to improve their results. Others use communications  to boost their reputations as well as to build trust in their organisations and among external stakeholders.

 


On the professional level, executives perceived to have excellent communication skills, influenced by the content they consumeare considered effective leaders and are rated highly in their careers. 




Good communication is now indispensable because it influences a wide range of workplace issues such as trust, commitment and performance. Today, employees need to be treated as the valuable, indispensable assets that they are in the productivity wheel. Therefore communicating in ways that respect their contributions makes them more efficient in their duties and more likely to stay in a company.



There is thus a case for nurturing what I would refer to as 'a culture of communication' in an organisation. In simple terms, this means infusing systems and daily operations with simple and clear communication, strengthened by feedback channels at every level, that it becomes second nature to all: From the new entrant to the CEO.




Although culture changes are serious endeavours and differ in degrees of complexity, there are considerations to note when developing this 'culture of communication':
  


1) Management commitment 










Without genuine commitment from top management, a move towards a communicative culture will crumble after the initial 'buy-in'. 




Not only should  the  CEO  approve  the change, but employees who are passionate about the change and understand all aspects of the change programme should be selected as the designated spokespeople. These professionals should consistently answer questions, clarify issues and be prepared to address resistance to change efforts.




The CEO himself should support the change agents publicly when required and regularly inform all employees about the progress made at key periods. This could be done via emails/newsletters, on notice boards/the intranet, or in short videos. His participation will underscore the point that the new culture is not simply a fad.  





2) Clarity of key initiative 







What new communications initiative will be launched to usher in the 'culture of communication'? 




Whether it is a new 'open door policy' between levels, or a new software whereby employees could make suggestions or lodge complaints, or a new system of feedback whereby all issues must be acknowledged and addressed in 24 hours, there must be a constant:




The initiative must be penned in simple language, devoid of jargon and easily understood by all levels inside the organisation.





3) Flexibility and adaptability







It is possible nonetheless that the perfectly-penned communications project which showed a lot of promise, may need tweaking as time elapses. 



For example, a newly-launched internal social media app may initially have been well-received. However, bug issues, the need for frequent updates and a slow network may soon make it an annoyance to handle.




Employees may prefer being involved in the company's branded social media accounts or the creative types may be interested in crafting content about their experiences that could be posted on the company's website. 



Whatever the adjustments that are required, note that adapting to change but remaining committed to the overall goal of an improved transparent workplace is necessary.




Being flexible would also mean letting go of the fear of failure and discarding what doesn't work over time, to prioritise what does.  




4) Patience and consistency in delivery 




Developing a 'culture of communication' would take time.



Because communications programmes involve the 'human element'; (the attitudes and behaviours of all involved in the process influence the outcomes); there may a tendency for Management, over time, to label them as impractical causes with intangible benefits.




But patience is needed even when the 'return on investment' is slow to materialise or bottom-line results, difficult to measure.






Likewise, consistent nurturing of the 'culture of communication' will pay off when new 'habits' become established.



This is how it will work:





Improved communication at the workplace highlights a perception that the company truly cares about issues impacting its employees' careers and well-being, (which in organisational behavioural science is termed 'perceived organisation support'). These informed professionals, now empowered, become appreciative of the empathetic atmosphere and will become more engaged at work. Remember that research has shown that employee engagement leads to multiple benefits for the organisation, including 51% higher productivity, 9% higher shareholder returns and higher levels of trust in management.



In a nutshell, there is always a business case for improving communications at the workplace.




Conclusion









While the idea of a 'culture of communication' may not be new, it is nonetheless necessary for companies seeking to improve productivity and to become competitive by wisely managing their human resources.


However, if you are unconvinced about the numerous benefits of good communication to the organisation, then retaining your most talented employees should be the impetus you need to promote this culture at the workplace. Simply put, your staff - the most informed and talented lot whose engagement you cherish - would leave you eventually if they don’t believe they truly matter because you don’t communicate in ways they appreciate.


So as communications trends emerge and technology continues to evolve - with the Internet becoming more powerful and social media blurring the lines between accessibility and privacy - you must adapt to the dynamics.


In such a chaotic environment, are you ready to cut through the 'noise' and develop a culture of true communication in your company?


Let me know how you intend to do this by posting your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.  


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



1) Share this article in your social media networks by clicking on the icons on the left side or below.


2) 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. Never miss an article again!
  


Need help in writing?

Hire me for a writing assignment, some consulting work and/or coaching sessions in formal writing and communications.


Contact me by: 



A) Sending a direct email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com 


B) Calling for advice and a  free  consultation:



Nigeria:             0704 631 0592

International:   +234 704 631 0592    




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N.B –  All images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net.