Communication and Connections

Tips & Techniques

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Becky S. Corbett, MSW, ACSW & Emily Tevault, MBA


Communication skills and forming strong connections are interrelated and integral to establishing your leadership brand. Effective communication demonstrates you are invested in the relationship and creating connections allows you to build successful business relationships.

Communicating with clients, colleagues, and vendors in a consistent and timely manner, fosters effective leadership. Be purposeful in the form of communication you use. If you need to have a difficult conversation, meet face-to-face or by video conference, rather than sending an email or text. What you say, how you deliver it, what you do not say, and when you say it establishes the foundation for effective communication.

How to Start the Connection: Through Conversation
Developing a connection with someone involves learning about the person; who they are, what they do, their strengths, and their passions. Before you meet an individual for the first time, research the person online, such as using LinkedIn. Identify if you have any connections—people you both know, academic links, professional associations. Learn about what they do for their current organization and what they have accomplished throughout their career. Prior to meeting, prepare 2-3 open-ended questions to get the conversation going and learn more about the person.

What You Say: Verbal Communication
Communication is what is heard and understood. Identify when a verbal interaction is necessary rather than a written message. When communicating verbally, be mindful of your tone of voice and choose your words carefully. To minimize distraction from the message you are trying to convey, avoid using filler words, such as um, like, and you know. Use care not to hide behind technology and include face-to-face interactions or video conferencing if you are not in the same location.

How You Deliver It: Written and Electronic Communication
Business writing is more formal than other forms of communication. Include a greeting and signature, and spell out full words—no acronyms, shorthand, or abbreviations. Take time to proofread your writing for grammatical errors and typos using methods such as the Read Aloud feature in Microsoft Word or print the document and read the hard copy. Obtain another reader’s perspective by asking a trusted colleague to review a draft before sending.

Electronic communication includes emails, instant messages, texts, and all forms of social media.  People tend to read quickly and take in information from their own perspective and through their own lens. This can cause a reactionary response rather than one that is appropriate. Be a role model. Pause and think before you click Send or Post. Remember, an electronic message is instant, and you cannot get it back.

What You Do Not Say: Non-Verbal Communication
Your non-verbal cues are as important as the words you say. Whether you are speaking or listening, people are reading your signals, such as facial expressions and gestures. Model positive non-verbal communication. Have an open stance to welcome in what the other person is saying rather than having your arms crossed. Lean in with your posture to indicate you are interested in what the other person is stating. Maintain eye contact to show your interest in the conversation.

When You Say It: Coachable Moments
Often times we take too long to communicate our feedback and miss opportunities by waiting until an annual review with a supervisee or until you are very frustrated with a friend or family member. A “Coachable Moment” is taking advantage of a moment in time to give an individual immediate and specific feedback. Enhance your communication style by asking for, receiving, and providing coachable moments.

How the Organization Does It: Team 360º Communication
Whether you are working on a project, process, or change management, successful teams implement 360º communication. To better communicate with all parties involved, ask questions, listen, and confirm what you have said or heard has been received. Team 360º communication avoids assumptions or fear of the unknown by being transparent within the group. Discuss and document a structure for communicating so that it is clear how, when, how often, and who to include. A timely response goes a long way in creating trust. At a minimum, acknowledge you have received a message and when the person can expect a full response or answer. To facilitate an effective team meeting, hand out an agenda in advance, adhere to the scheduled amount of time, discuss roles and responsibilities, determine next steps, set timelines and deadlines, and create meeting notes.

How We Stay Connected: Telecommuters and Remote Staff
It is now common for organizations to support part-time and full-time telecommuters. Creating a communication structure is critical for staff to work effectively and requires additional effort in a virtual environment. To form and maintain connections, designate a process for reaching remote staff quickly, such as using an instant messaging system. Allocate funds to bring staff into the corporate office for in-person onboarding, training, and annual retreats; and require webcams for low-cost, face-to-face discussions using video conferencing.

Add value to your team by sharing your network with others. Good people connect with good people. Take the time to introduce business associates who may have connections with one another. You will be amazed how much colleagues will appreciate your expanding their resources. Communication gets you going and connection keeps everyone growing.

Connectors live what they communicate.
John C. Maxwell, Leadership Author and Speaker

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