When JFK framed the decision to put a man on the moon within the decade and when Winston Churchill told his nation in World War II to “never give up”, when Ronald Reagan said “Tear down  Steve Jobs As A Communicatorthis wall,” those were communications that set a goal, drew a line in the sand and changed the future and history of nations.

When, in a time of huge, monolithic mainframes, Steve Jobs said he was going to put a computer on every desk, he set a clear goal which was to define the future of the workplace.

Each of us must strive to do the same in our own careers and business.  Be clear, be convincing and define yours goals.

“How successfully a team, department or group functions is directly related to how effectively the members communicate with one another in group situations.” So, one of the most critical skills each of us need to develop, in our personal relationships, and at work, as well, is to communicate effectively.

Effective communications are those which accomplish our goals. In the case of work, these are work-oriented goals, where effective communication can help us play a more productive role, get greater recognition for the tasks we accomplish, and ultimately, help those around us communicate better, leading to a more productive workplace.

Work on your own goals by learning to say no.

The first step in getting ahead is learning to work on your own goals. In order to move from manager to leader, you must shed many of your day to day tasks, so the art of saying no is a particularly valuable one to learn. All too frequently women are asked to “help out” at work, and they accept, even in instances where they will get no credit, and will have less time and energy to devote to their own goals. One key to avoiding this dilemma is to be very clear in recognizing which are important goals for you to accomplish and which are merely draining your energy because someone else, who actually is responsible for the task, expects your help and urges you to be a “team player” or ” a corporate nurturer”, similar to the cub scout den mother baking cookies for all the troops, except this man is not your child.

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Steve Covey suggests a way to say no without offending. ” Of course, I’ll be happy to do anything you want me to do. Just let me share with you my situation.” Then you map out in great detail your many projects, pressures and deadlines.

Although it is far better to avoid draining tasks which don’t support your career goals, there’s also a second or fall-back approach. Agree to help but negotiate for something you want in exchange. ( This will also serve to place more perceived value on your time, as it will not be free but must be paid for with something in return). You say, “I will do what you’re asking under the following conditions…”, then set them out. You may want a newer computer, more staff, a rescheduling of due dates on some of your projects…… whatever you decide would make an equitable trade. If the person has nothing to offer at the moment, if for whatever reason, you decide to acquiesce anyway, your final position is to say, ” O.k., I’ll do it this time, but you owe me one.”

Problem Solving

There are recruiters who say companies only hire one kind of person: problem solvers. Every day your company or department faces some kind of problem. If you solve it, you will continue moving up the ladder. Usually it takes a lot of communication to first define what the problem really is. If a unit is not accomplishing its goals, it could be that they have a poor manager, that they are given too great a work load, that they are understaffed, working on the wrong goals, or are not clear on how they should be focusing their energies. Usually the only way to get at the real problem is to get people to talk to you. You must not only communicate but help others communicate and share their feelings with you. As they do, the heart of the problem will become clear and perhaps the solution as well. One way to start the communication process is for you to be candid and self-disclosing. Tell others how you feel about the situation and encourage their feed back.

Team Building

According to Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D., author of Emotional Intelligence at Work, “How successfully a team, department or group functions is directly related to how effectively the members communicate with one another in group situations.”

Non-productive meetings are marked by discussions which go in circles, outbursts of hostility, anger, frustration and not much getting accomplished. Productive meetings are those where someone, perhaps a chairman of a committee or a team leader guides the discussion, clarifies points and keeps everyone on track, dealing in issues not personalities and focusing on accomplishing a goal. This positive interaction, where issues are resolved and productive plans are made, results in people feeling good about themselves and each other and beginning to take pride in the fact that they are achieving results working as a team. This is the first step in team building which rests squarely on good communication where issues are discussed openly, people may disagree without criticizing each other personally, and everyone is encouraged to express an opinion.

Once you have identified a team member’s strong points, make a point of complimenting him. “Jack, I’ve never seen anyone get to the heart of a problem as fast as you do. You have such a fine analytical mind”. Or, “Helen, you are so creative. The Christmas party was just beautiful, thanks to you.” Once someone recognizes their own strong points, and feels valued for them, he or she will be anxious to do more. And once the right person is in a particular job that makes everyone’s job a little easier and more pleasant. As more and more people find their niche, doing what they’re best at and working as a team to support the whole, pretty soon the whole place will start humming.

Focusing on doing the right things, solving problems, resolving conflicts and building teams can all be accomplished through effective communications.

 

 By Gretchen Glasscock, gretchen.glasscock@gmail.com

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