March 2017

Dear Bettie:

I’m a father of infant twin girls and a toddler boy. I have my dream job as director of corporate sales for a football franchise.  When the girls were born, I wanted to be sure I had an emergency fund. I couldn’t build it on one salary, so I took a part-time job as a recruiter.

After my first year, I did not hit my performance targets. I felt deflated. My boss hired a coach to help propel me forward. The coach spent time with organization tools, emphasizing communication and follow up: my sales position, making contacts and developing relationships took a back seat to documenting calls and streamlining calendars.

I hit a wall when the coach cancelled a meeting. A day before the meeting, she texted to verify that my office would open for our early morning meeting. I responded that I had wondered the same. I asked if we should chance it or not. Much to my surprise, the coach cancelled the meeting, saying “details matter.” What did I miss? What’s the big deal?

It Shouldn’t Be So Difficult

Dear It Shouldn’t Be So Difficult:

Your story is all too familiar. Many times in the workplace and in our personal relationships as well, we think our communication is clear. Then wham, we find out our message wasn’t received as we thought it was delivered.

According to a survey from the Hay Group, 80 percent of employers have trouble finding new employees with strong “soft skills.”

Soft skills, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Industries from engineering and finance to health care, information technology and sales, rate this one soft skill at the top of their list: communication.

Furthermore the survey found that 69 percent of Millennials claim soft skills “get in the way of getting the job done.” They’re confident in their ability to succeed without them.

Human resources directors, on the other hand, disagree; 83 percent said employees who couldn’t come up to speed quickly on the job and develop emotional and social skills would not become “high performers.”

Clear communication is essential to business success. It sounds as if perhaps you and your coach did not clarify responsibilities. When the appointment was set at your office, whose responsibility was it to make sure the office was available? One key to communication is identifying responsibility for each task to complete a project. In addition to setting clear expectations and outlining responsibilities, take heed of the following communication tips to be positioned for success.

Communicate for your listener. Communication is not about asserting yourself; it’s about getting your message across.

For the first time in history, we have a four-generation workplace, and those generations like to communicate in different ways. The best leaders and most effective communicators find out how their colleagues like to communicate and use that preferred method as much as possible.

That may mean you have to use a more formal tone in your communications even though you prefer casual interaction.

Don’t hide behind technology. Many workers use email as their go-to method of communication, but there are many times when you should just pick up the phone or walk over to a colleague’s desk for a quick conversation. Choosing a more personal, direct communication style also builds your credibility and relationship with the other person.

Understand how to “talk with” older colleagues. Workers under 50 often are unaware of what Baby Boomers learned as proper business etiquette. Even if you work in a relatively casual organization or industry, offer respect to people who are in more senior positions or have a lot more experience than you do.

When there’s no emergency, set up appointments in advance. Always confirm who’s calling whom, or in your case who’s responsible for confirming the meeting place is available.

In face-to-face meetings, be prepared and be present. Spend time before the face-to-face communication to gather your thoughts, establish the purpose and the desired outcome. Give others in the meeting your full attention. Silence your phone and avoid texting. Stay focused. Establish strong eye contact. Being attentive and participating in the conversation shows respect and builds trust.

These are great communication tips for everyone, in every walk of life. Best of luck.