Mastering the Message
Learning to communicate
clearly, and master today’s
digital tools, can be the key
to a successful career.
Navigating a successful career in any field requires a few essential qualities that can set a candidate apart from the pack. A solid educational background provides a strong foundation. Proficiency with the latest technology is a big plus. And an internship in one’s chosen field can provide invaluable real-world experience and even lead to a full-time position.
But none of this really matters without the one skillset that makes it all come together: the ability to communicate effectively, said Diane Spiegel, an author, noted corporate trainer, executive coach and instructor for DCE’s Strategic Communication Management specialized studies program. And in today’s lightning-fast, tech-driven world, it’s more important than ever.
“The world is moving and changing at accelerated speeds, the technologies frequently change, we have a record five generations in the workplace with more cultural and ethnic diversity than ever before,” she said. “These changes demand we heighten our awareness of our communication and how effective we are in connecting with others who may not be working in the same office, state or even country.”
Modern digital communication is all about speed — people expect that you will be responding instantly and that you are always tuned in, regardless of distance. Although this can provide some clear advantages, it often leads to poor messaging and misunderstandings, Siegel added.
“So much time is devoted to staying connected, yet we often create more communication problems because fast communication can also be subjected to emotional interpretation.”
Getting the message across
With so many ways to communicate today, are we doing a more effective job of connecting with one another? Spiegel asks her students this question, and it consistently elicits the same response. “The answer is always no! The feedback focuses on our inability to combine our humanity and our electronic communication skills.”
In organizational communication, this often leads to incomplete messaging and lack of context or nuance. A simple request or comment can be turned wildly ambiguous or misconstrued altogether through ham-fisted communication.
“Here’s a commonplace text from a boss to his employee at 4:55 on a Friday,” Spiegel said. “’Need to see you first thing Monday.’ How does an employee read that? Am I in trouble? Am I getting fired? The employee spends the weekend worrying.”
If the boss had added just a few more words, the meaning would have been clear: “Need to see you first thing Monday, you’re the expert on the Smith file.”
It’s a simple example of what can go wrong in business communication, whether in one-to-one interactions or on a much larger scale. In her 25 years being a thought leader, innovator and instructor, Spiegel has identified four of the most common communication errors made by professionals.
- Not getting to the point and not being clear about the action requested. What is the ask? When do you want this action or info by?
- Providing too much detail.
- Copying too many people — just include those that need to have the information.
- Not including your intent when it is appropriate. For example: “As the intent of this proposal is to obtain the client’s business, please review with their perspective in mind.”
“When we dissect communication it really comes down to the sender and the receiver,” Spiegel said. “Am I aware of my words, tone and meaning as I send forward? Will my message be heard the way I intended it by my receiver? What is being said, how it’s being shared, and the communications purpose needs to be customized and tailored to the receiver.”
“So much time is devoted to staying connected,
yet we often create more communication
problems because fast communication can also
be subjected to emotional interpretation.”
A strategy for success
The DCE Strategic Communication Management program is designed to equip professionals with the skillset necessary to become proficient with modern communication tools. Intended for anyone from CEOs to entry-level employees, it takes a deep dive into the principles of developing and executing organizational communication strategies, enhancing critical thinking, and examining the role of storytelling, research, digital strategy and more.
“The focus of the program is to heighten students’ awareness of workplace communication and add new interpersonal skills, with the end result of becoming a more competent communicator overall,” Spiegel said.
In her course, Communication in a Diverse and Changing Workplace, Spiegel focuses on a wide range of topics, from behavioral patterns and conflict resolution to team building, leadership, constructive criticism and feedback. To master these skills, Spiegel believes it’s important to understand today’s multicultural and multigenerational workplace.
One size of communication never fits all, so for key messages “multi-approaches” should be utilized.
“By considering someone’s generational affiliation, their communication preferences and other key cultural factors, I will have greater success at effective communication,” she added. “Our abilities to not only communicate but to have a flexible and agile mindset are important supports to a career.”
With organizational-wide communication, it’s important to consider who is in the enterprise, what is the structure, and what are the best ways to share and transmit messages and information. Always meet people “where they are” and use different approaches to ensure the message is received as intended.
“It’s never one and done,” Spiegel said. “We have to say things in a learning environment three times — we try to do so in a variety of ways — and I believe the same principle applies to organizational-wide communications. We are bombarded with info, and if we can’t sort it all out we can miss hearing something that is important.”
So learn to listen closely, communicate precisely, and convey key concepts in ways that directly target your audience, whether it’s a coworker, your team, or an entire organization or market. It could be a golden ticket to success.
After all, you could have the innovative genius of a Steve Jobs, but if you can’t effectively articulate your ideas, nobody will listen.
Learn more about the Strategic Communication Management program.