By Jan Richards
Becoming a great communicator takes learning, practice, and the ability to forge on, even (and especially) when you reach your personal “growth edge.”
For example, many people – including many leaders – have a fear of public speaking. Yet this is an essential part of management communications.
Others have a very difficult time listening well, and want to jump ahead to get things done before they fully understand a problem or challenge and its causes.
If you’d like – or know you need – stronger communication skills, here are a few places to start to build or enhance them:
1. Observe and listen
This is a skill many people think they have, but may not. And so, get feedback on your observational and listening skills.
Stop. Watch. Listen. Learn.
Practice taking in information from multiple sources and summarizing it. This often leads to more informed and better decisions or outcomes than does “sole-sourcing” your information.
Choosing to use fewer sources of information may be efficient, in some cases. But more sources of information may make your decisions and communication far more accurate and effective…even if it takes more time to reach that point.
3. Write and speak
Seek opportunities to write and speak, especially if you dread it.
Go where your communication discomfort is highest and get rid of it through learning, planning, practice, improvement and experience.
If you’re in a leadership position, you need to have comfort and proficiency with writing and speaking, among other vital leadership skills.
4. Study experts
Find a few people who excel at the skills you need, or skills you aren’t confident about yet.
Study experts and figure out what they do especially well. Then start to practice.
Step by step, you will improve, and build your confidence, as well.
5. Seek coaching and feedback
Find a good coach and get focused feedback and improvement advice. Then make sure you implement it.
6. Coach someone else in the skills you’re working to master
Often we learn more – or learn best – when we teach others. For example, after you’ve practiced a new skill for a while, help someone else who’s learning these skills.
This will help you realize how much you’ve learned and improved, while it also helps someone else (and that’s always a good thing, for many reasons).
7. Review and reflect
Learning is enhanced with regular, high-quality reflective time. Take the time for it regularly.
Reinforce and accelerate your learning through periodic review of your progress.
Jan Richards mentors and provides online training for leaders and teams who want to change or improve, but the desired change hasn’t happened yet, for any of many reasons. An experienced entrepreneur and business consultant, Jan has led many teams and businesses through major change and improvement projects. She is based in the always-rapidly changing Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area. Her clients include large and small companies, primarily in tech, biotech, financial services, and telecommunications. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a BS in journalism from Iowa State. She was a national examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years. Prior to starting her consulting business, Jan worked for seven years at Apple Computer where she worked on and led teams that improved key business processes in product development, manufacturing, distribution, finance and administration, and sales and marketing. To learn more, visit her website at http://jan-richards.com