Effective Communication In Business Needs Much More Than Language Proficiency

Effective communication encompasses a verbal, written, and process-driven communication framework with clearly laid standards and operating procedures. 

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Communication is an essential lever of any business engagement that has often missed its true impact, and get lost in translation. In the context of contract management especially, effective communication holds the key to its success. It ensures ease in managing contract deliverables, from service delivery, to seamless client engagement and desired transparency. The defined communication protocol is thus an essential requirement for a seamless engagement that builds trust and transparency, and it must be put in place along with the contract set-up stage. Effective communication encompasses a verbal, written, and process-driven communication framework with clearly laid standards and operating procedures. 

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A great oratory -or, for that matter, oral and written communication- proficiency does not necessarily suffice the requisite communication standards- this requires a defined communication protocol or framework in line with the contractual needs. Often notions like “I said,” “She said,” or “I have sent the mail,” or other informal communications are considered by many as adequate, but for sure, these do not meet the necessary standards. Effective communication requires good information management with everyone in the loop with defined action points, and the transmission must be closed with action items acknowledged or agreed upon.  

Good process-driven communication is necessary with a result-oriented approach emphasizing effectiveness, transparency, timeliness, and situational needs. Therefore, it is essential that contract personnel strictly adhere to a protocol that requires more than written and verbal communication skills. A suitable protocol needs role-based skills, defined engagement guidelines, and an escalation matrix with each process-related defined touchpoint. The protocol should have a clearly defined process for communication under normal day-to-day operations with a well-defined engagement matrix and escalation matrix for crisis management.  

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People often fail to deal with exigencies as their crisis communication has gone awry. Disaster management needs very elaborate crisis communications protocols. Therefore, it is imperative to draw a line between routine communication and crisis communications. In specific to crisis contacts, besides adhering to given operating procedures as laid out in the protocol, it is necessary to use tactical communication effectively. How to deliver the bad news or decimate miscommunication, or, for that matter, to control overzealous communiques when dealing in contingency environments are instances where tactical communication plays a key role, and it should be addressed in the data-driven world of today. The ensuing pressures often push people to push information that may be inaccurate or incomplete. The process should thus outline clear guidelines by adhering to the integrated management best practices. 

Depending on each person's role, the requisite communication competence should be defined. For example, the ground-level workforce needs only basic written and speaking skills. Still, in the project leadership quadrant, be it a supervisor, manager, to general manager, each level requires specific skills for effective communications management. For example, people in the supervision tier are supposed to manage their staff, wherein practical verbal communication matters more than written communication, whereas for the managerial roles, written and oral proficiency to tactical communications are critical. In client engagements, besides oral and verbal language, proficiency should be in role-centric communication competency, which is not what effective communication means. My emphasis on process-driven communication refers to defined points relating to service delivery, client engagement and escalation, and more towards crisis management. Technology, up to some extent, can provide some direction. Still, more so, it is the company protocols that should clearly define the process-driven communication touchpoints.  

In my 25 years as a CEO, I have seen how bad communication negatively impacts the business, be it in client engagements or my internal organizational dealings. Due to poor communication, I refer to this common problem as an example of being "lost in translation.” Indeed, the inability to derive the desired impact as well as strong pushback from clients are the expected outcomes when failing to communicate. Industry professionals need to take giant leaps in this direction to master the art of effective communication, as this alone can win most battles. 

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Tariq Chauhan

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Tariq Chauhan is a Harvard Business School alumnus and a professional entrepreneur, with over 26 years of diverse experience in international banking, technology and asset management, real estate and a track record of building and establishing companies across the GCC, USA, UK and Asia. Since 2010, Tariq has been at the helm of EFS Facilities Services Group, leading as the Group Chief Executive Officer and as a member of EFS’ Board of Directors. Tariq has led the evolution of EFS Facilities Services’ business portfolio and spearheaded the company’s expansion into 23 markets across MENA, Turkey and South Asia, and supervised the growth of its workforce to more than 12,000 professionals globally.