Communication: quality not quantity


Are you tired of hearing, "communicate, communicate, communicate"? As managers, communication seems to be the cure for everything that ails our team. So we communicate - a lot. But I submit it's not simply how often (yes, you have to do it a lot, quit whining) but also how well you communicate that really matters. This brings me to an interesting list I found the other day.

Each year, Decker Communications, a developer of presentation and communication skills in the US, puts out a list of the best and worst communicators of the year.

This year's list, while heavily US-centric makes an interesting point. The people who made both lists didn't suffer from a lack of communication - in fact you couldn't shut most of them up. The issue was how thoughtful and effective they were in getting their messages across.

Normally, these lists are thought of as the domain of those who "speak publicly" for a living, but most of us don't do that. We speak on the phone, on webmeetings and conference calls or in small team meetings. So what can we learn from the best (folks like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and Lady Gaga) and the worst (Texas governor Rick Perry, author Greg Mortensen and Bank of America's Bryan Moynihan)?

I recently interviewed Ben Decker, the President of Decker Communications, on this very topic:

What can we mere mortals learn from your list of best and worst communicators?

If you had to put themes to them:

The best are very passionate, real, and authentic. We mere mortals tend to be more closed off in high stake situations vs. when we're around friends or family. These best communicators don't hold back, they help their audience understand where they want to go and paint the picture in words. Starbuck's Shultz in the vision for his company, Jobs in how his products would change the world, Chris Christie in cutting through the noise and getting to the real bottom line.

The worst are closed off, not transparent, and have some major behavioral distractions. We all need to be aware of what we're putting out and how it can be perceived, the problem is most of us don't get feedback on things we're doing or how they can detract or inhibit us from connecting us with our audience.

Things like fillers of 'uh' or 'um', or even eye communication in looking away or having darty eyes have a huge impact on trust and connection. That comes down to awareness of what we're doing.

We often think of presenting as "public speaking", but most of us now communicate through technology or to smaller groups. What are the communication tips we need to keep in mind when communicating virtually?

As we tell our clients every day, there is no such thing as 'private speaking'. We all need to realize that how we come across over the phone or even one-on-one is considered 'public speaking'.

That's describing in person communications, but of course virtual communications which includes web meetings, conference calls, and even webinars. What is the experience like? If they don't get to see you and it's just a voice over the phone or computer you'd better have energy in your voice to keep them tuned in and get a sense of the passion and energy in what you're saying.

I was very encouraged this week working with a Google exec who has 120 employees worldwide, that any conference call or meeting has a visual picture of the participants involved. They're all on Google+ and immediately see each other to talk through a challenge or issue. That's the best way if it can at all be an option.

How the heck do you sound authentic, if the real you is scared to death and nervous?

Get feedback, get on video, use an audio recorder for your next conference call to hear yourself. The problem is most people think they 'sound' scared to death and nervous yet they sound fine.

That is a challenging situation because it takes away confidence and doesn't allow that person to be as 'authentic' or as good as they could be. Do some things you didn't realize you could do such as: smile, speak louder, move and show more passion. That's when it gets fun for all of us to realize you can let loose and speak with the passion and feeling you have and get to the point to influence your audience.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He's passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today's virtual communication technology. His books include The Long-Distance Team - Designing Your Team for Everyone's Success. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.

Older Comments

This article is very accurate. I know many leaders and managers who communicate well, but only to groups. When it comes to one-on-one communication, fear, hesitancy or arrogance show through and prevent authentic two-way communication.

The true path to authenticity is being willing to expose at least some vulnerability and uncertainty, as well as to actually be curious about people, their emotions, their motivations and the perceptions. Without these characteristics and attitudes, it can be very difficult to lead or manage effectively.

All of us who want to lead or manage need to examine our internal believes, interests and dialogue to see if we have the ability to lead or manage. This isn't happening often enough.

Valerie Iravani San Diego, CA