Peer to peer: Why it’s essential to ‘listen, think and communicate’ at work

How do I communicate effectively in the workplace?   

Katie Dunsworth-Reiach - Co-founder, Talk Shop Media

It can be easy to ignore your own internal communications when your role as a firm is to communicate on others’ behalf.  Since “talk” is at the essence of public relations – and literally part of our name – we are relentless in maintaining a human connection in everything we do.

Internally this has meant focusing more money and resources on building an admired culture.

At Talk Shop Media we operate in the details and believe that when we know better, we do better. Day to day, this means we communicate in a way that honours brevity, accountability and pushing the status quo.

As a progressive PR and digital agency we have a responsibility to push creative boundaries. In my experience, developing this kind of high-performance culture can be achieved only if it’s deeply ingrained in the behaviours and values of the entire organization.

Employees at Talk Shop are each given communications and leadership training, which allows us to remain accountable and in control of our work and the conversations required to get the work accomplished.

We find starting and ending the week with brief, team-wide huddles drives internal communication and motivation. We focus on sharing struggles as much as on sharing status updates or recognizing someone who has exceeded expectations. We also embrace getting off email. We meet our clients, talk on the phone and promote using instant messaging to ask low-priority internal questions.

Our aim is to never lose touch with how to achieve our best work. And listening, recognizing and treating our people well is all very much at the core of this.

Natalie Taylor - Executive coach

“Why didn’t he do what I asked?”

“I thought I made myself clear.”

“Why do I have to repeat myself?”

How many times have you heard these sentiments or felt them yourself? Words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language accounts for 55% of the meaning in a message. Communicating effectively enhances workplace performance, creating a happier, healthier environment.

If you are finding that you are struggling with effective communication, consider these tips from a coaching tool called “listen, think and communicate”:

1) Listen. Make time to meet face-to-face. While technology makes our interactions more efficient, it lacks tone and gestures found through verbal and physical conversations. Focus and give your full attention: make eye contact, connect, observe tone and body language, and focus on your co-worker’s message.

2) Think. We often react without thinking things through. Give yourself time to process. Think through your response and how it will be received before you verbalize or send it; it’s always easier to take a pause than to take back words.

3) Communicate. Repeat what you have understood and seek clarification if you need it. Our egos can often stop us from asking questions. We make assumptions, and breakdowns in communication can occur. Before a conversation is over, make sure everyone is leaving with the same interpretation of what was said. Match your colleagues’ communication style in your delivery to elicit the best response.

“Listen, think and communicate.” You’ll be surprised how quickly communication will improve for everyone.

Dan Zitting - Chief product officer, ACL

I’ve found over the years that it’s easy to dramatically improve workplace communication by maintaining a few key “communication values”:

• Culture of clarity: Ensure your workplace values clear, honest and timely communication. All great organizations encourage and expect people to make the most of those around them through great communication. Too much internal secrecy or overly formalized channels and language in a company culture often hinder such achievement.

• Authenticity: Express exactly what you actually think and feel, not revisionist messages based on what you think a given person wants to hear. In other words, say the same thing about a relevant topic to a colleague, your boss, the CEO, your friends/clique and your spouse.

• Speak plainly: Whether writing, conversing or conducting a speech, use plain, clear language. No one knows what you mean when you say you are “looking for strategic synergy by mobilizing influential relationships,” but anyone can understand “we’re looking for great partners by getting recommendations we trust.”

• Tell stories: Stories, anecdotes and metaphors are exceptionally powerful. Any time you want to make real impact or truly influence people, use stories to bring your points to life. One good story or metaphor is better than 20 supporting charts and graphs.

• Deliver hard messages: We all have to talk about uncomfortable messages, so just come right out and say it. There is no respect or dignity in sugar-coating a difficult message for someone.