Communication is a powerful skill that comes naturally to some, but not all. Even the best communicators likely had help in the development of their communication skills. Communication is intimately tied to other important career success factors, such as the ability to effectively lead others, build a powerful brand, and navigate organizational politics. If you are committed to maximizing your executive career success, you must make the effort to strengthen your communication skills.
Here are five important steps you can take to maximize your communication with others:
1. Be clear and to the point
Whether you are speaking to your manager individually, or you are presenting to an audience of other executives, know your message. This means avoiding the anxiety-induced tendency to provide unnecessary details or stray off-topic. Begin with a clear and focused message. Save the backup data and supporting details for questions.
2. Stay away from language that weakens your message
Women, in particular, need to be mindful of this. When delivering a message, do not dilute its power by making statements such as, “This may not be important, but…,” Another common message-weakening statement is, “I think.” Make a statement; don’t offer an opinion. The more powerful your language, the more likely you are to be heard.
3. Know your audience
This is critical. It is human nature to consider issues in terms of your own needs and wants, but this is ineffective if you are looking to persuade or influence others. Before you speak, know what interests and motivates the audience with whom you are speaking. For example, if you are presenting to a team of data-oriented professionals, stay away from the theoretical and focus on the facts and numbers that support your case. Likewise, if you are presenting to the CEO, be sure that you emphasize the impact on the bottom line.
4. Speak the language of your organization
Every organization has its own unique culture and language. The more closely you fit the culture, and the more proficiently you speak the language, the more likely you are to be perceived as an influential communicator. Pay attention to how influential leaders communicate in your organization and adapt your own style accordingly. Also, find a mentor that knows the ins and outs of your organization and can help you understand its values.
5. Don’t try to fake it
One of the greatest ways to dig a hole and bury yourself is to venture into unfamiliar territory without a strategy. Many executives fear that if they admit that they don’t have the answer, they will lose credibility with their audience. You lose more credibility by faking it. If you are asked a question that you can’t answer, don’t make something up. Let them know you will follow up with the response and then follow through as soon as possible.
Your communication skills can make or break your executive career. If you are struggling to get promoted, earn a higher income, or otherwise advance your career, take a look at the way you communicate with others. It can be helpful to seek candid feedback from trusted colleagues and mentors. Once you identify areas in need of improvement, prioritize them in your professional development plan. Your executive career success depends on it!