No matter what field you are in, your level of management or your political aspirations, we all need to communicate effectively and efficiently.
We are not talking about the technical side of communications, the writing of code or the programing of a new app for the smartphone. We are speaking to the written and oral word, the ability to write and speak effectively and efficiently, and to be better at the arts of critical listening and thinking, of persuasion and of management.
In fact, three of five most cited problems with new hires by major corporations are communication skills: interpersonal communication, oral communication and written communication. It does not matter if the poll was taken by Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal or, as most recently, by CareerBuilder, the results remain the same. Add to those gendered communication, critical thinking and listening skills, and team work. These are all communication skill deficiencies.
On both the political and business sides, the best orators and writers are the ones who people elect or are advanced to leadership roles.
The problem is that a college education may not have provided the communication skills one needs to “advance through the ranks.” You may have wonderful technical abilities or are the most knowledgeable in your field, but if you cannot communicate the information in a concise and effective manner, you might as well be just another minion.
Having taught Communication on post-secondary and graduate levels I can say that there are few programs that teach oral and written communication skills and fewer programs to teach critical thinking and listening skills. Once the student has completed Freshman English and Speech, there is little advanced training in communication.
Programs such as Toast Masters and Dale Carnegie focus on one aspect of communication, the spoken word, and usually without the background knowledge as to why we are communicating the way we do. In fact, most programs tend to ignore the communication problems you are having in the workplace or in the political campaign.
Working with business and political organizations, I can say that one does not have to be a natural speaker or writer to communicate effectively. These are learned skills that one can excel with practice.
Why hire a Communication Consultant or Coach?
Suzanne Bates of Bates Communication tell us,
“To be at the top of your industry or profession, you must be able to communicate like a leader. In survey after survey, the number one skill determined to be indispensable to leaders is communication. And interestingly, this is the one area that holds many executives back.”
Along with other hard and soft skill training, communication training, consulting and coaching should be a vital part of your personal and organizational professional development plans. The question is not IF you will be asked to address a group of investors, the board of directors or potential donors and voters or IF you will be asked to write that strategic report. It is WHEN.
The Consultant verses the Coach
Both the consultant and coach tend to see the big picture but from different vantage points. For example, the organization hired to conduct a communication audit or provide general training for the organization is on the consulting side of the business. However, the person hired to help a manager to improve his interpersonal communication skills would be a coach.
The role of the Communication Consultant is to guide the bigger picture, to analyze the operation or project to determine how it can be improved. It is to work with the organization to improve the business and political communication.
The consultant is the person you hire to fix the problem. Tom Rubens of the Accountability Factor says she is the person with more answers than question. “Consulting, “Ruben says, “is a methodology based upon providing solutions.”
Public Personal Management reports that coaching leads to a sizable increase in training retention and up to 86 percent increase in individual productivity.
The Communication Consultant provides the services that an organization either does not have the expertise or time to preform or to see the project with a “fresh pair of eyes.” This would include:
- editing of internal and external documents and web sites;
- writing of white papers and case studies;
- general copy writing;
- writing of grants, and;
- providing company wide training in business, speech and interpersonal communication skills.
The role of a Communication Coach is to help individuals who are seeking or are already in a management position or wish to improve their professional communication skills. The coach acts as a guide for the client to find solutions and implement them.
Coaching asks the questions and allows the client to provide the answers. James Burchill, writing on a LinkedIn post, says that coaching is more personal. It is “someone who sees everything in a holistic way and works to better you rather than your business.”
Coaching may sound a bit “hokey” but the results cannot be questioned. Working with individuals, more than 85 percent of companies see notable improvement in productivity. Fortune Magazine estimated that coaching has an ROI of between 500 and 700 percent.
The reasons to hire a Communication Coach vary. According to the Harvard Business Review, they include, but are not limited to:
- facilitating transition and change management;
- using the Coach as a sounding board;
- addressing individual communication behavior;
- career and management development, and;
- improving an individual’s self-esteem.
Communication coaching helps business professionals and political candidates towards increase sales, production, contributions and votes. It will help you make money, save money and save time.
Regardless whether you are seeking a consultant or a coach, the general outcomes remain the same, improved communication skills. These general skills include:
- expressing corporate vision and mission;
- handing over complex ideas;
- motivation and leadership skills;
- conflict management;
- persuasion and influence;
- team building;
- critical listening and thinking skills.
Here are 4 suggestions for determining if you need a Communication Coach or Consultant.
Conduct a self-assessment. Ask yourself in what areas in communication do you experience the most discomfort. Do these include conveying news to your employees, peers, or superiors? How about making that presentation in front of a group of people or responding to the questions that will invariably come at the end of your talk? Do you cringe when asked to write a report for upper management? Be brutally honest with yourself.
Find the person who will tell you your fly is open. You have one or more trusted colleagues who will be brutally honest with you concerning your communication and management style. Here is the hard part: Listen without response. This may be the hardest exercise you have completed in your professional career.
Conduct a group assessment. If your unit seems to be under performing or there is unwanted tension within the group, sit down with your individual employees and have an “informal” conversation. If you can identify a one or two people who are the epicenter of the problem, seek the assistance of a coach. If the problem is more endemic to the unit, ask for a consultant.
Conduct a client/constituent assessment. This works the same way as the group assessment but the focus is on your organization as a whole. Talk with your clients or constituents. You may want to include those who you have lost as customers or supporters. Are you conveying the organization’s vision and mission statements, are you conveying the advantages of your product or position? Are you addressing and resolving the issues of your patron?
InkandVoice Communication provides Business and Political Communication Consulting and Coaching. David Rosman is an award winning essayist, editor and professional speaker. If you have any questions or would like a free 45 minute consultation, please contact us at Info@InkandVoice.com, on Skype at SageDave1 or call us at 573-999-0982.