Clear Communication is important when working collaboratively. Team members get their points across more effectively when they are straightforward and speak without clutter. The best communicators also change the mode of communication to fit the listener’s needs (communicating one-on-one, via email, in a meeting, or through some other method as needed), and successfully navigate the obstacles of working in virtual teams. These people have developed the skill of not just relaying their message, but choosing the best method for it to be transmitted.
A high score in the Clear Communication category indicates the ability to get to the point clearly and concisely over many different mediums. You are skilled at transmitting ideas and put in effort to understand others. This ability is a powerful asset for developing people skills and executing projects. Clear Communicators are likely accomplished collaborators, capable relationship managers, and skilled at achieving buy-in. Below are some examples of exercises to improve your Clear Communication:
- Get rid of sentence-fillers. All those “ums” and “uhs” subconsciously come from a good place – linguists suggest that we use them to avoid uncomfortable silences while we search for the right words. However, these fillers can be getting in the way of us appearing confident, and can harm our efforts when trying to persuade others. If you have a presentation, practice through the words you’ll use to avoid the need for fillers. If you find yourself in a casual conversation and can’t find the right words, try to catch yourself before the “um” slips out, and just pause instead. This can create more cohesion between your thoughts, and keep your conversational partner from tuning out.
- Know what kinds of questions will get you the answers you need. Oftentimes, it’s easy for us to quickly ask “yes/no” questions, when what we’re really searching for is a greater context. Asking an open-ended question can give us more useful specifics, while also providing us with a greater quantity of the kind of information we’re looking for. Instead of “Did you follow up with Carla yet?”, you might find that what you really want the answer to is “How did your conversation with Carla go?” This way, you can open up a dialogue about the project, how people are feeling about it, and what obstacles they foresee in their paths. If, however, you’re just looking for a quick, straightforward answer to a quick question, keep your phrasing simple. Instead of a potentially accusatory “Do you remember what we talked about on Friday?”, instead, ask, “How far is progress on Task X?”
- “Think about a person on your project team who does not seem to understand the team’s goal even after multiple communications. Try a different communication channel. Different people process information in different ways. Let’s say you have sent her an email five times and she keeps asking you questions that are clearly answered in the email. Some people are visual; they might want to see a chart, so try sending that person a chart. Other people are verbal and will do much better from a conversation. If you’re in an environment where you can do so, walk down the hallway and sit in front of her. If you’re in a virtual environment, call her on the phone. Figure out some other way to communicate your message to her.” - A Sixth Sense for Project Management, Tres Roeder.
For more information about how to improve your communication skills, see A Sixth Sense for Project Management, pg 69.