Communication the Number One Soft Skill with Hard Results

LinkedIn recently released a report on the top ten job skills employers wanted in new hires. Communication was number One! I could have told you that. Unless you are a hermit or you are truly working alone, your ability to communicate is crucial to your success. Everything you do involves communicating to other people.

Some studies say we lose anywhere from $15,000 per employee per annum to $26,000 per employee per annum due to poor communication. Think about it:

  • Email ping pong because people are not clear in their emails
  • Misunderstandings
  • Policies that are not clear
  • Conflict
  • Quality errors

I am curious. We all communicate, and we have all been communicating since before we were born. Why are so many people so bad at it?

People talking

Thank Pixabay for Image

I suspect the following four things:

  • Lack of Emotional Awareness

It is interesting to me how many people are not aware of the impact their communication is having on others. They leave an emotional wake behind them as they move through the day, spewing whatever they think of. Or the impact of demanding a result without building the context for their team; The Why?

  • Self – Centeredness

This was a lesson I had to learn early in my career. It cost me a promotion and a raise. The principles in Dale Carnegies book saved my career. I learned how to connect with people, how to understand their needs and how to create alignment.

There is an agenda to every communication. The challenge we all face is that because we see the world through our own eyes, we assume everybody else sees the same thing we do. They don’t. When we slow down and as Stephen Covey said, “Seek First to Understand before you seek to be understood,” we get remarkable responses to our communication.

  • Not understanding the Chemistry of Communication

The way we communicate has an electro chemical reaction in your body which then produces a response, positive or negative. Just seeing the word “NO” on a screen will release cortisol, adrenaline, and other chemicals in our body. And as those chemicals reach our nervous system it shuts down and goes into Fight Flight or Freeze.  It limits our capacity to think clearly. It reduces our willingness to collaborate.

I don’t think any leader wants their team or customer in this state.

The opposite is also true. When we communicate with the behaviors and language of trust, the body responds with Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin. These chemicals hit the system and open us up to collaboration, creativity, and trust. And it is not hard to do.

Behaviors like a smile and eye contact work remarkably well. Words like, “I trust your judgement, I believe in you,” can do wonders.

  • Not having a clear outcome in mind

Lack of clarity is a major stumbling block in communication, especially the important communication. Again, it goes back to our self-centeredness.  Often we will have an outcome in mind. And, because the brain is lazy, we will shortcut the communication. A simple example from my workshops is as follows:

John: My wife and I are considering a dog. What would you recommend?

Audience: A Dachshund, Schnauzer, Poodle, Border Collie, A Golden.

John: I forgot to say I am allergic to most dog’s and my wife wants one under 20 lbs.

Audience: A Havanese, a Poodle, A Maltese

As I clarified my desires, I got better results. Think about the projects you assign to your team. Are you clear about the outcome you are looking for?

If you would like to learn about the Three Conversations for Managerial and Leadership Success, get the White Paper here.

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