The 5 Love Languages was an immediate bestseller when it was published 20 years ago because people crave advice on how to better communicate with their significant others. Well, how about ways to more effectively communicate with another key person in your life—your leader at work? Here are some truisms I call the “4 C’s to Success in Business Communication.”
1. Connection – When communicating with leaders, your best chance for success is to keep the discussion connected to the business. Why should they care? What opportunity are you presenting? What problem are you solving? Why should they listen to you and/or act on your recommendation? You should be able to answer any of these questions with Twitter-like brevity. It’s also important to connect to the leader as an individual. Personalize your comments using language, images, and analogies you know will resonate with him/her.
2. Clarity – Like everyone, our leaders are busy, so respect their time by being as clear and focused as possible when communicating. They usually don’t want or need a data dump, but rather just the high-level, salient points. What are the highlights, upsides, risks, tradeoffs, and ultimately, your recommendations? If making a request, be sure it is clear; don’t make leaders guess at what you want.
3. Confidence – Communication coaches often quote Albert Mehrabian, PhD, whose work identified the impact of the various elements of credible communication as 55 percent visual, 38 percent vocal, and 7 percent verbal. Confidence, or lack thereof, can show up in all three areas, so focus not only on displaying confidence with your actual words, but also with your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. To come across as poised and self-assured avoid using filler words such as, “um,” “you know,” and “like.” Also, don’t vacillate and don’t portray nervousness by speaking too quickly.
4. Conjunctions – Choosing your conjunctions carefully may seem simple, yet it’s very impactful. Specifically, exchange the word “but” for the more neutral conjunction “and.” “And” comes across as additive or as a bridge, while “but,” can seem defensive, contradictory, or like an excuse.
Keeping these four elements in mind as you prepare for and engage in communication with your leader will help establish you as someone who influences rather than simply informs and may put you on a path to leadership yourself.