Updated: Apr 5
How you interact with others is a key factor in career success so understanding business communication is as important as your technical skills.
Different from personal communications
In business communication there’s always a “point” to be made so remember that! If you don’t know what the objective is (what are you trying to accomplish) then you still have some thinking to do or you risk appearing confused or ineffective. On the other hand, when you are the source of thoughtful and effective messages you build a strong personal brand.
It sounds a bit obvious, but “communication” is essential for effective operations. At a very basic level we communicate to:
find out what we need to do
say when it’s done
alert about problems or delays
keep teams informed an aligned
…and many other things, this is just a short article after all.
In addition to the factual items listed above we also signal emotional and other important things. Are we happy? Enthusiastic? Afraid or concerned?
Good communication is an essential and critical skill for you to succeed in business so pay attention to this as much as your professional or trade skills.
It’s not just about conversations, there are many avenues so choose the right channel! This gets a bit messed up as we switch from remote to hybrid to in the office.
Teams/Google/Slack/chat: for short notices, can send links to related material as well. Group channel as well as one to one.
On line meetings: The medium that can be one-on-one conversation, team discussion or group meeting below.
One-on-one conversations: for constructive criticism and individual training, sensitive or complex exchanges.
Social media: for broadcasting all kinds of information and creating forums for interactive exchanges
Team discussions: for real-time group collaboration or for stand-ups and scrums. Avoid using these for updates on projects that don’t overlap or where a large portion of attendees are unaffected.
Group meetings: Train or update an entire group at once. Always have a clear agenda with expected outcomes.
Email: for simple updates and questions where you want to have a record or trail of the exchange
So then there are many WAYS to communicate and they each have their own good and bad features to keep in mind. As we switch around the environment this will keep evolving but the real point here is that your value as a technical professional is either enhanced or otherwise by how well you communicate with others.
Recognise the channels that you use the most and learn how they are best used for what you're doing. Some channels (like text/chat) might feel like dealing with your friends but this is BUSINESS communication so keep that in mind or you might come off as a bit odd.
The rules or "best practices" are changing quickly and there are lots of ways to get this right so keep learning and adapting. If you want, "Communicating" might even be an opportunity to actually reach out to a few colleagues and actually ask what works for them. Your chance to build creds over and above your tech skills.
Consider your audience
There is always a “sender” AND (at least one) “receiver”, and how well they connect determines the effectiveness of the communication. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your message is if the receiver can’t understand it or even want to understand.
Things to consider about the receiver:
Do they want “the summary”, or do they want something “in depth”?
Do they like formal or informal, personal styles?
Do they favour complex or simply phrased messaging?
What kinds of words make an impact for them? For example, do they think about doing innovative and exciting things or are they more motivated by avoiding risk or just “getting it done”?
Just a few things to think about. There are many complex and complete courses, podcasts and other materials on just this very aspect of communications.
You still need to talk.....
No matter the favourite channel you will still need to talk to someone at some point (sorry about that). Whether in person or on-line, camera on or off, these interactions have a LOT more going on "around the edges" than text. The messaging is more complete and it also has personal impact over and above what you might think of as the core technical or functional point.
A few things to keep in mind if you want your message and your brand to have an impact.
Short, familiar words are usually a better choice than long, unfamiliar ones.
LISTEN. Listening shows that you care about the others in the conversation and also helps you tell whether or not you are actually getting your message across.
Listen to understand, not just to formulate a response. Communication is about receiving as well as sending.
Don’t interrupt. Its rude, disrespectful and it ticks people off.
Avoid opinions, stick to the facts. Opinions make it personal - sometimes OK but usually not.
Anticipate what questions may be asked and have your answers ready.
There's more out there
This short article is just an awareness thing. You may have the best and most awesome technical skills but these skills are only part of the equation in a working environment so spend some time on communications in the same way you would treat any other job skill.
References and related content
Some useful further content....