Productivity is a word that is thrown around a lot at companies and in lectures. Considering that a Google search of the word gives us 595,000,000 entries, you’d think we’d have figured it all out. And yet, time and time again, companies in every corner of the globe struggle to maximize productivity.
Experience has shown me that despite all the systems in place and all the training that is done, often times the biggest issues are rarely something complicated. One issue that I see time and time again in talking to executives is communication.
Poor communication can lead to any number of issues at a company from lack of trust to low morale to attrition. All simply because people don’t realize their words have a bigger impact than they realize.
It is not uncommon for billion-dollar companies to have their CEOs talk about their 5 or 7 step credos in speeches to their investors and employees. Words such as loyalty, respect, trust, integrity, and the like are thrown around to impress people, the only problem is words are just words. If your actions don’t reflect what you said, you’ll come across as disingenuous, a charlatan, or worse, a liar.
I learned of the power of language in Tony Robbins’ best-selling Get the Edge, written way back in the 90s. However, in this day and age of “snowflakes” and a whole generation of people who are offended by microaggressions, it takes on even more importance.
If there’s one skill we could all benefit from learning more of, it’s communication.
Here are five ways to communicate better with your team:
#1 Choose the Right Words
Every language has a plethora of words that allow us to accurately portrait what we want to express. This is true in business and at home. We have slang, lingo, and idioms on top of both powerful and simple adjectives, verbs and nouns.
The right word will convey the correct image. It’s no wonder why presidential candidates have speechwriters. It’s critical what they say is crafted with its audience in mind. You wouldn’t give the same speech to kids as you would to a bunch of executives. The best speakers change their words based on who’s listening to them.
Jim Rohn, the late great American business philosopher, put it this way “Well chosen words mixed with measured emotions is the basis of affecting people.”
#2 Be Concise
We have become a society that moves at lightning speed. The internet has severely affected our attention. While in the 20th century we had 15 seconds to capture people’s attention, today it’s closer to five. Long-winded speeches often bore people. Enter TEDTalks. What a fabulous concept, speakers must deliver their message in 15 minutes or less. We all have 15 minutes to spare which makes them a perfect way to absorb information. It allows challenges people to keep their message concise. Too often, when given more time, people will simply expand upon their ideas or go into more depth, but for the casual listener, speed matters.
The same is true in business. People are busy. Computers, once thought the key to an easy, more stress-free life, has made life even faster. Executives, on average, receive 187 emails a day. That’s one heck of a chunk of time. Meetings, conversations and the like, need to be kept short and to the point so as not to prevent people from getting their other work done. Emails follow the same rule.
I remember when I used to write 5 paragraph emails to people, but today I can’t even be bothered to write more than one unless it’s absolutely necessary. Chat forces me to be brief.
The best way I’ve heard the difference between the two is the speed at which they occur. Chat is like having an actual conversation where one party expects a reply quickly. Email is closer to snail mail where it goes into depth but doesn’t require an instant response.
#3 Get Rid of Fillers
A sure-fire way to come off as unprepared or unprofessional is using lots of fillers. Even the best of us use some, but there are those of us who take it to a whole other level. My son who’s 11 uses a ton of them, and I was guilty of the same when I was young. “You know” was my go-to expression and boy did I use it. For kids, it’s cute. For adults, it’s silly. The best speeches are polished. That doesn’t mean they don’t mess up, or let the occasional filler slip in, but for the most part, they are beautifully crafted. Don’t let fillers ruin what would otherwise be a great presentation.
#4 Nice and Slow
Listen to any of the great speakers of the past 100 years, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common – they speak slowly. Speed is not the name of the game when it comes to being a great speaker. It’s more about clarity and impact. The problem is many people let their nerves get the best of them in front of an audience and do exactly what they shouldn’t do, they speed up. As I learned in Chris Voss’ Masterclass on Negotiation, one of the keys to great negotiating is what he calls the “late-night DJ voice.” It’s calm and soothing and conveys a sense of comfort and trust. Don’t underestimate the power of slowing down both with your teams and your family.
#5 Body Language is Everything
At least once in our lives, we’ve inevitably been told: “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.” Great communicators understand this. Great salespeople, presenters, or parents, know one very important rule: body language makes us 70% of communication. Words account for only 5% of the impact. There is a difference between what we say, how we say I and what our body is saying.
From a young age, we have learned what not to say to avoid being reprimanded by our parents. Lying is something most of us are familiar with. As we age, we learn that the same rule applies in business and in relationships. We know we should complement our partner’s haircut even if it looks hideous. We deflect questions when we know the answers will cause conflict. Words allow us to keep our true feelings hidden in cases of “danger.”
While we may have mastered what to say, and even how to say it, most of us aren’t aware that our body betrays us. Telling a lie versus telling the truth activates two very different parts of our brains. Lying requires creativity, the truth requires memory. What many people are unaware of is that our eyes we move to different directions based on what part of the brain we are accessing.
But it’s not just our eyes that fail to keep the truth hidden. Just like in poker we all have telltale signs that reflect our true intentions.