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How to Prevent Poor Communicators From Harming Your Business

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Surely you've had an employee, client or colleague who's talented beyond belief and a zealous, hard worker. But this person is ultimately a failure because of one colossal gap: communications.

It’s a mistake to overlook the damage poor communicators can cause. They don’t get promoted, so they stagnate. They upset customers. They struggle to manage people. They don’t team well. They can’t sell. They cause confusion, errors and rework. 

It’s hard on everybody -- obviously hard for the person who gets fired -- but it's also painful for all the people who've suffered through the person’s tenure.  And hard on the bottom line. Turnover is expensive.

But it's completely avoidable -- once you decide to elevate communications arts and skills to an enterprise requirement. That doesn't mean holding employees and new hires to standards of hold-the-audience-rapt eloquence. It doesn't even mean “gift of gab" -- although that makes for a great dinner guest. And it definitely doesn't mean they should all become grammarians or walking dictionaries -- you can crowdsource a good editor in minutes.

Here's what we mean:

Be sincere

Or to put it another way, speak from the heart. 

What’s the opposite of sincerity? That ubiquitous, stilted “business speak” that obscures more than it reveals with lazy jargon. All passive, never declarative, it evades clarity. It's indecipherable, and worse, it's insincere.

At the heart of good communications is sincerity. Many people think it can’t be learned -- if you don’t feel it, you’re faking it. But sincerity is as learnable as any other virtue like empathy, respect, generosity or kindness. Sincerity is also one of the most likeable traits a person can have, and who doubts that likeability, when married to talent, is a leading indicator of a successful employee?

Keep a smile in your voice

Your smile changes your attitude and your voice. Science says that your smile triggers scientifically measurable activity in the area of your brain where happiness is registered. We’re not brain scientists, but if just smiling makes you happier, how could the “sound” of your smile fail to have an effect on the person hearing it? 

Even over the phone, a smile can be detected and can influence co-workers and customers. It can boost confidence, calm fears, soothe anger, offer sympathy and soften resistance. There are words that do this, too, but to be convincing, they need to be reinforced and validated by a corresponding emotion in the sound of a smile.

Edward G. Brown

Written By

 Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of a culture-change management consulting and training firm for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group.