If your work or your business has been impacted by ineffective communication then you know how important it is to learn the most essential skills for effective business communication.
According to an article in SHRM, a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. What’s more, in the article, “Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money,” Debra Hamilton asserted that miscommunication costs even smaller companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.
When it comes to your carer, your ability to communicate will certainly have an impact on your future promotional prospects. So no matter who you are within your company, and what level you’re at, communication matters.
Why Business Communication Goes Wrong: Common Business Communication Mistakes
We’ve all been impacted by poor business communication. At one point or another, you’ve probably been on the receiving end or you’ve been the one responsible for ineffective communication. The impact is significant.
Some of the most common business communication mistakes that affect spoken and written communications include:
Not picking the right time
When it comes to communication, timing is everything. When you pick the wrong time, your audience may not be in the best position to hear the message. This can lead to all sorts of issues further down the line. To avoid this, unless there’s an emergency, when communicating make sure you pick an appropriate time. This is especially true when speaking to senior leaders.
One size fits all approach
Everyone is different. Whether you’re communicating with people of different levels within an organization, from different departments and teams, or even if you’re working with clients and customers from different organizations, a one size fits all approach can be problematic.
Not checking in and not having a feedback loop
It’s all too easy to assume that our message has been understood. But without checking in and without a feedback loop, there’s no way to be sure that things have been heard as intended. What’s more different people can go away with a different takeaway, leaving everyone on a different page and pulling in opposite directions.
Communication goals are unclear
Every communication serves a purpose and you should make it clear what the goal of the communication is. If the goal isn’t clear, actions may not be taken, and the same communication may need to be repeated, leading to wasted time and resources.
Under pressure, our communication suffers. It’s easy to become short and curt in your communications and this can come across as rude to your colleagues.
As well as coming across as rude, everything moves quickly and the information flow speeds up. This leaves a larger margin for error and things are more likely to be missed.
Not getting the facts straight
Having the wrong information is highly detrimental. It can cause conflict and can lead to bad business decisions.
So how can you ensure effective business communication and what are the most important skills for effective business communication?
7 C’s for communication
The 7 Cs of communication is a 7-point checklist developed by John Baird and Dr. Jim Stull. This list was developed for written business communication, but it applies to all communication in business.
What do the 7 Cs in the 7 Cs of Communication stand for?
When communicating in business, make sure your message and intent are clear, simple, and organized. Don’t leave room for people to read between the lines. This will only lead to confusion and frustration and it will increase the chances of errors.
Correct – get your facts straight
Make sure you have all the correct information. This means checking that facts and figures are right and also making sure you have the most up-to-date information. A lot of f time can be wasted when colleagues take action based on the wrong information. What’s more, when some of the information is incorrect, people start to wonder what else might be wrong and you lose trust and credibility.
Complete – Leave nothing out!
Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth questions by making sure your communications are complete. Including all the information that’s needed upfront will save everyone time.
Pro Tip: Whenever possible, whether you’re sending an email or arranging a meeting, find out ahead of the communication everything that the other party needs so that you can be fully prepared. If this isn’t possible, over-prepare, it’s better to have more information than less so you can address follow-up questions.
Concrete – No generalizations, please
When communicating in business it’s best to speak in terms of facts and figures and to keep things specific rather than general or abstract. This will also keep things clear.
Concise – Get to the point!
Another skill for effective business communication is knowing when to stop. Too often we use more words than needed ( See what I did there). Think 80 / 20 rule and keep business communication concise. Focus on the 20% of information that matters.
Be considerate and think about your audience when communicating in business.
Present the information in the best way possible and think about everyone’s level of understanding of the topic.
This means using the right tone, and the right language ( No jargon please!), as well as using the right mode of communication. Would it be best to use email, or is the topic best discussed in person? Will words suffice or do you need diagrams and data? Considering all of this is a necessary skill for effective business communication
Take the feelings and viewpoints of your audience into consideration. Be respectful. People respond better if they feel valued and respected and part of a team.
Pro Tip: When communicating about a difficult issue or problem that has occurred, keep things solution-focused and avoid apportioning blame.
5 More Skills for effective business communication
As well as the 7Cs of business communication, 5 additional skills will make you an effective business communicator.
Communication isn’t just about talking. Failing to listen fully can cause unnecessary misunderstandings, leading to mistakes, and not listening can also hurt business relationships.
To put the 7Cs into practice fully, it’s critical to be prepared when communicating in business. This way you will know and understand your audience and the best approach to take, as well as being ready with all the required facts and figures.
Master the art of effective preparation.
Flexibility and adaptability
Since a one size fits all approach isn’t effective you need to be willing to be flexible and adaptable in your approach.
The more authentic you can be when communicating the more people will trust you and engage.
Sheryl Sandberg explains it best in the following video:
If you want to make an impact with your communication, as well as using facts and figures, storytelling is extremely powerful.
How many stories have you heard and how many have you remembered? On the other hand how many data points and facts and figures do you remember from the many presentations you’ve sat through?
If you need to make an impact and you want your message to be remembered, using stories to convey the message may be a good starting point.
A study found that even if the recipient didn’t like the messenger, they were likely to listen to the message if told in the form of a story.
Researchers of the study concluded that people typically focus on two qualities when formulating an opinion on someone: warmth (friendly, trustworthy) and competence (skilled, intelligent), and telling stories seemed to enable the messenger to do both.
While humans have told stories since time began, it’s a skill that many of us don’t take time to develop. The good news is that it is a skill that you can learn. Developing the skill of storytelling will add a feather in your cap when it comes to having the important skills for effective business communication.
Whatever your career or business goals, developing your business communication skills will help you get there. From landing your dream job to stepping into a more senior role, to having a better relationship with your colleagues, to winning over clients, the answer lies in effective communication.
Learn more about communication: