If you’re running your own business or you’re in a leadership or decision making position; you’ve probably already noticed how important information is to the success of your work. Sharing knowledge is crucial in uniting a company – and it requires a wide range of skills in order make that knowledge sharing effective and meaningful.
We’re going to take a closer look at some key communication skills that can help you to improve and control the flow of information. Use them regularly and you’ll start to master the art of business communication.
In your bid to be successful in business, learning how to tap into the information around you is key to identifying the challenges and opportunities ahead. So how do you do it?
If you discuss communications skills with successful entrepreneurs, there’s no doubt that they would rank the ability to listen effectively as highly important to their businesses. Whether you’re listening to a market, a supplier, or a customer: these people are a valuable source of information and listening is the key to unlocking it.
Unfortunately, just because we are able to listen doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the skills to do it well. This is especially true when you face the challenge of running a business and juggling multiple priorities at any given time. So if you want to focus on absorbing the valuable information that surrounds you – why not take some time to brush up on your listening skills with these simple steps?
If you want to get good at absorbing information from around your business then you need to get good at listening. It’s particularly challenging if you’re used to multi-tasking your way through phone calls, emails, and taking part in multiple conversations at once. If you want to improve your listening skills then it’s time to practice the art of giving one speaker your full attention and switching off the distractions.
Reflect the attention you are giving with your body language: focus on the speaker’s face; put down your phone; and give them your full attention. It can be as simple as closing an office door so you aren’t disturbed, but showing people that you are focused on what they have to say will encourage them to share more information with you, more regularly.
Reactions are key
Of course it’s not enough to just listen – the next step in improving your communication skills is some practical action to demonstrate your interest in what you’re hearing. It’s important to engage both verbally and physically – two examples would be head nods and affirmative sounds.
If the information you receive is surprising or shocking, you will need to keep your emotions in check and ensure you react from a purely business perspective. Failure to react will imply you’re not paying attention, so it’s worth practising if this doesn’t come naturally to you.
Repetition provides clarity
If you’re absorbing a big piece of information, you can take the opportunity to repeat back what you’ve just been told to sense check you’ve understood it correctly. This serves a double purpose: reassuring the speaker that you are paying attention, whilst giving you the opportunity to check you’ve got the details straight.
If you’ve repeated back what you’ve heard then you may discover there are a few things you would like to know more about. Choosing some pertinent questions to ask is another great way to demonstrate that you are actively engaged in the conversation while increasing the amount of information you are actually gathering.
Physical as well as verbal
Listening has a physical as well as a verbal aspect. You’re probably already aware of the importance of body language, and if you’re cast in the role of listener it’s key that you use yours to reflect the interest you take in what is being said. On the flip side if you’re talking, you can read body language to uncover the truth about how people feel about your message.
Being able to read body language can give you some clear pointers for finding unhappy people who don’t feel confident voicing their opinions, and you can then work to understand the opportunity to get them onboard with your agenda.
Information flow is a two way street. As a business leader, it’s important to gather information and just as important to be able to effectively share knowledge with your staff, your market, and your network. So what are the steps for making sure your message gets out?
The first stage of any information sharing exercise is to be clear what the message is that you’re trying to communicate. Think bite-sized chunks and try to break it down into manageable quantities of information so that your audience has a chance of absorbing it. Once you’ve worked out what it is you want to say, you can optimise the way that you say it. Here’s our simple list of ways to improve your information sharing skills.
Consider your audience
The better you know your audience the more effectively you can tailor your message to them. You can maximise your ability to get your message across by giving appropriate context to your communication; positioning it in a way that makes it easy to understand; and involving your audience in any solution-finding exercises.
A good understanding of who you are communicating with is essential to make any of these stages effective. By investing some time upfront in getting to know your audience you can make your information sharing even more powerful.
Represent your brand
When you have spent time and money investing in a brand for your business, it’s important to ensure that every element of your communication strategy supports that brand and goes further in actually bringing it to life. Your brand will affect the way that you communicate your information and the language that you use to communicate it. As well as understanding your audience, it’s important to consider how you will bring your brand to life in the information that you share.
Your brand will strongly influence the language that you use to share your message, but you must also consider your audience and make your choice of words appropriate to them. It’s all too easy to turn an audience off by using words that they may interpret as pompous or tactless, so it’s worth planning ahead to ensure you can articulate the information you want to share with an appropriate choice of words.
Target your content
A well planned exercise in information sharing really should aim to be ‘short and sweet’. Even with the most attentive audience in the world it’s worth assuming they have a short attention span and bore easily. This will keep you on your toes and make sure you invest time upfront in being succinct in what you are trying to communicate.
Strip the information back to the core and then work out how to make it meaningful for your listeners, with the appropriate context. Involve your audience in the message to enhance the stickiness of key information points.
We’re in this together
Would you like to share a problem or an opportunity with your listeners, or are there simply some key facts that you want them to understand? Whatever the message is that you’re trying to convey, if you can find a way to involve your audience through collaboration you will find it’s much easier to get them to buy into it.
It’s much easier to engage people in solving a problem if they have helped to design the solution. When you’re planning your communication, include some well placed questions that canvas opinion and encourage input. You could get great results and in the meantime it’s a great way to check that your audience is still paying attention.
Being a successful leader in business requires that you become a conduit for information: using what you learn to drive your business forward and empowering the people around you with the knowledge that they need to achieve more.
If you would like to optimise your ability to manage that flow of facts, then brushing up on your communication skills is a great place to start. Being a leader who wants to listen and share information is a great position to be in, and the simple steps outlined here could offer the opportunity to grow your communication skills further and set you up for success.
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