The life of a business traveler, especially one like me who travels to New York City regularly, appears glamorous at first glance. People always ask me if I’ve eaten at famous restaurants like “21” or the latest hot spot they’ve read about in Travel and Leisure.
Most often when I’m in New York and don’t have a business dinner, I dine on Chinese food delivered to my hotel room from a local take out place. Once my fortune cookie read, “Your talents will be recognized and suitably rewarded.” I was happy with this fortune, but it made me think.
My talents, your talents, everyone’s talents will be recognized and rewarded if we develop and use our communication skills.
There are three types of communication skills critically important for career and life success:
- Conversation skills
- Writing skills
- Presentation skills.
You need to develop each of these skills if you want to have your talents recognized. There are a few common sense career success coach points associated with becoming a dynamic communicator.
Become a good conversationalist by listening. Take an active interest in other people and what they’re saying. Show them you’re listening by asking appropriate follow up questions to what they say.
Conversation skills enhance your networking ability. Networking is an important but often overlooked communication skill. It is helpful when you are looking for a job, but it is even more important when you are happy with your situation. All people who are professional success build and nurture strong networks.
Networking is an important skill. Successful people have large networks. They have people they can call to help them. They know they can call on these people because these people know they can call on them. That’s the real secret of networking – look to help others, not just to find out how they can help you.
Write in a manner that communicates well. In general, this means, being clear, concise and easily readable. The best way to make sure your writing is readable is to read it aloud before sending it.
When I was in high school, I was the editor of my yearbook. To raise funds to cover the cost of our yearbook, we sold ads. There were a lot of factories in the town where I grew up. In the past, the yearbook staff had never approached these factories to place ads in the yearbook. I wrote sales letters to all of the plant managers. We got several full page ads from those letters.
One of the plant managers wrote back, asking if I would come to see him. When I walked in to his office and introduced myself, he was surprised. He told me my sales letter was so well written he thought I was the teacher who was the yearbook sponsor. Two years later, I was looking for a summer job after my first year of college. The market was tight. I called this man. He remembered me, and I got a job.
Preparation is the most important key to good presentations. You have to analyze your audience, prepare a talk that gives them what they want, and practice your talk out loud if you want to be a great presenter.
Presentation skills may present the biggest opportunity for getting your talents noticed. Just a few months ago, I did a talk for a local chamber of commerce. As it so happens, the Sheriff’s department is a member of this chamber. The Sheriff himself happened to be there that day. He liked my talk. About a week later, I got a call from his training office. The Sheriff asked him to get in touch with me to conduct some supervisory training for their sergeants. I never would have gotten this business if it weren’t for the notice I received from a talk at that chamber meeting.
The Dilbert cartoons often focus on poor communication. I cut out the ones I really like. Here’s one from a Sunday paper…
Dilbert approaches his boss (you know, the one with the tufts of hair that look like devil’s horns) and says, “The security audit accidentally locked all developers out of the system.” The boss says, “Well, it is what it is.”
Dilbert says, “How does that help?” The boss replies, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Dilbert, obviously frustrated, says, “Congratulations you’re the first human to fail the Turing test.” The boss says, “What does that mean?” Dilbert replies, “It is what it is;” to which the boss says, “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
There really is such a thing as a Turing test. Dictionary.com defines it as follows:
A test proposed by British mathematician Alan Turing, and often used as a test of whether a computer has humanlike intelligence. If a panel of human beings conversing with an unknown entity (via keyboard, for example) believes that entity is human, and if the entity is actually a computer, then the computer is said to have passed the Turing test.
This is pretty funny. It is also kind of sad as it is indicative of the lack of communication in today’s business world. Scott Adams, Dilbert’s creator, really gets it when it comes to workplace communication problems.
Beyond Bullsh*t, by UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor, Samuel Culbert is an interesting little book. Professor Culbert defines bullsh*t in the following way.
It is telling people what you think they need to hear. It may involve finessing the truth or outright lying, but the purpose is always self serving. And while I appreciate the role of some b.s. in keeping the corporate peace, it makes people feel beaten up, deceived – even dirty. When people talk straight at work, companies make out better because the best idea usually wins. In contrast, when people are bullsh*tting, they hide their mistakes and the company suffers. Straight talk is the product or relationships built on trust.
Phrases like “it is what it is” are not straight talk. They are part of the inexplicable jargon that has overtaken us. Dynamic communicators say what they mean, in an easily understood manner. Effective communicators don’t show off their large vocabularies. Instead, they choose words most easily understood and still get across their point.
Dynamic communicators eschew, I mean don’t use, jargon. They avoid meaningless phrases like “it is what it is” to explain something. They use the simplest words possible to get across their ideas. And they don’t bullsh*it. They say what they mean. Follow these four rules in conversation, writing and presenting and you’ll become known as a dynamic communicator.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are dynamic communicators. If you want to become a dynamic communicator, follow the career advice in Tweet 101 in Success Tweets, “All dynamic communicators have mastered three basic communication skills: conversation, writing and presenting.”
You don’t have to be a career success coach to know if you’re a great conversationalist, a good writer and an outstanding performer you will reach your career success goals. Successful people communicate well. The career advice here is simple. Develop your communication skills if you want to create the life and career success you want and deserve.
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