Communication is a discipline that has potent impacts on our careers. What we say and how we say it is an indicator of our:
- grasp of business issues and objectives
- commitments and loyalty to the team
- ability to see beyond our own self-interest
We may want to think that some things we write or say at work will be taken with a grain of salt, but that would be naive for employees and bosses alike.
What’s the point?
It’s easy to get lost in the onslaught of information, data, and voices that pierce the quiet we need for clear thinking. When we do, we allow ourselves to get distracted from what really matters in our work.
If you want to stand out as a real asset in your career, you’ll get serious about zeroing in on bottom line messages that convert confusion into clarity.
The biggest complaint that leaders have about managers and employees in their organizations is that they don’t have a big picture perspective that drives their performance.
Whether or not you have that perspective shows up in what you communicate and how.
Consider these two scenarios:
1.) As the boss, you regularly communicate to your work group how you continue to track data on group and individual output compared to industry and national norms, assessing how effective the team is in terms of corporate goals and achievement. (Wow, that’s a mouthful!)
The boss gives no clearly stated reason for crunching all these numbers. As a result his/her manager and employees are left to draw conclusions about the boss like s/he:
- Is a control freak
- Doesn’t have enough to do
- Wants the “mystery” around this data to drive employee performance
- Is using this analysis to avoid leading
- Has a secret plan for the future
It isn’t unusual for supervisors who are more comfortable with data than people to believe that gathering hard data will give them answers to otherwise “soft” problems. So they allow themselves to get lost in that sauce.
2.) As an employee, you’re asked to explain to your boss or colleagues what took place at a project meeting you attended as the group’s representative. Your explanation is about agenda items, who was there, what certain individuals said, what you said (if anything), and when the next meeting will be.
This kind of summary is essentially a data dump where the details and not the point of the meeting are what’s communicated. The result is perceptions that label you as:
- Lost in the details and boring
- Unable or unwilling to identify what mattered
- Lacking in summarizing skills
- A weak team representative
If, instead, you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff at that meeting, it is a sign that you do the same when it comes to your work. That’s how you build your communications credibility.
Look past yourself
Too much time spent in the sauce can drown a career. That means, to improve your communications effectiveness, you need to avoid:
- Getting caught up in the details for detail’s sake
- Getting lost in the drama of workplace relationships
- Keeping book on what others have said or done
- Keeping score on who’s got a leg up on whom
Refocus yourself so you can see how your work makes a difference, no matter how big or small, by:
- Explaining your work in terms of its impact on the company
- Offering your ideas as ways to improve things
- Telling your boss/employees/coworkers about concepts and processes you’ve learned that can help the team
- Summarizing the input and feedback swirling around and suggest actionable next steps
At work we all need someone who can turn the clutter of words into a clarity of understanding we can act on. So avoid getting lost in the sauce. Instead become the strainer!
Photo from Marken Phreely via Flickr